Friday, September 16, 2011

How Online Dating Sucks Us In
(And Keeps Us Coming Back)

I've heard countless people say "I'm SICK of online dating!  It's just making me feel bad and I'm going to take down all my profiles and cancel my site memberships!" only to find them back online some months later.  Why?  If their souls were so crushed by the experience last time, why come back to be crushed some more?  I think this is why:

1.  Online dating seems like it will be so darn efficient!
  • You can ignore all the faces you don't find appealing!
  • You can screen out the people who don't share your interests!
  • Anyone who seems even vaguely odd in any way -- "click-delete"!
2.  It's going to be so painlessly EASY!
  • You can sit there in your PJ's, shopping for hotties/hunks, then just click on the best ones to go on the date of your dreams!  The next "The One" is going to fall into your lap!
  • No more ego-shattering rejection face-to-face!
  • No more wasting time in different bars night after night waiting for Mr./Ms. Right to find me by luck, they'll search me out, find me and contact me!
  • No more going through the endless first date 'check list' to determine how good the 'fit' is, they'll be pre-checked!
3.  You have to 'go where the single people are' to meet prospective partners
  • Realistically, without going back out to the singles bar scene, WHERE are you going to meet hundreds of adult singles in one place?
  • After a few months date-less offline and feeling isolated, the allure of just SEEING that there are some other singles out there actively looking is nothing short of a head rush.  "What, after months of not getting asked on a single date, there are HUNDREDS of singles from my area looking for dates?!?"
4.  Once you start, it's very tough to stop...
  • Lab rats will work harder and more obsessively for frequent small tidbits of food than one big meal, it's just the way our mammalian brains are wired.
  • "YOU'VE GOT MAIL!" is a 13 year old movie, but the insight is timeless -- the regular positive feedback that comes from random strangers stating they're interested in us is far more addictive than trying to meet people at the library.
  • The constant flow of new faces on the same and new sites also has HUGE appeal because it makes us feel like we aren't doomed to be lonely forever, there's a magic sack of potential new mates to reach into on the internet!
5.  Guilty pleasures
  • Let's admit it.  In real life, except for a few very bitchy narcissists, it isn't acceptable to just trash people to their faces, to say "Yuck!  I find you so abominably unappealing that I'm going to block you from even looking at me ever again!".  Especially when you've come home after having a bad day there is something deeply satisfying, if momentary, in doing so online.
  • On the flip side of that coin, online, if only in our minds and perhaps only momentarily, we can look at (and learn some intimate details) about people who either A) we'd never work up the courage to approach in real life, or B) we'd try to meet the eye of and would get shut-down immediately.  Online we can fantasize they might actually contact us and we have a chance to spend a blissful lifetime with these delectable, intriguing individuals.
6.  Online dating is just getting better and better!
  • 'Mobile apps' for our cell phones mean we can get these 'winks', 'flirts' and 'smiles' 24/7 anywhere we are!  ("Wow!  I only used to 'invest' time at home with this, NOW I'm doing it at work, too....")
  • New 'local' app features (pinpointing where we are by GPS/triangulation) mean that we can meet hot singles in the shopping mall we're at!  ("Hold on...  Why every girl who's contacting me turns out to be a prostitute?")
  • Two-way smartphone vidoe services like Facetime on the iPhone mean I can finally see him/her live before committing to meeting in real life!  ("Ahhh...  How come I imagined she/he'd be so much slimmer based on the 'talking head' video chat we had?")
Oh yes indeed!  Online dating is like a dream come true!  ...until you've actually tried it for a while.
Now don't get me wrong, if you are of an age at which you can still go out to bars and clubs and have your pick of several potential mates, online dating is a breeze!  It's even EASIER to get dates online because your criteria are so simple: 

Seriously.  If you're attractive, fit and under 30 (unless you are very, very smart), that really is your entire criteria.  I'm pretty smart and, if I'm honest about that period of my life, it was all I used for many years!

Hot women in their early 30's (and if they've never been married, even into their late 30's/early 40's) have 300 criteria for a second date, thus online dating actually works AGAINST them (they cut out so many guys before agreeing to a coffee date with a very select few that they trash many who they'd find ideal if they met them at work or through friends).

Guys past 30 have three criteria to determine if they'd be willing to spend another 2 hours with any woman:  Is she...
  1. Sufficiently attractive?
  2. Funny/interesting enough?
  3. Good-natured/nice?
Similarly, if you're more mature, but you're very open-minded, the first few online dates you agree to might produce someone you are happy to settle for, but for anyone who has been through some tough relationships and has a few 'must haves', online dating really sucks.  It insidiously drains your positive energy as literally dozens and dozens of people 'click-delete' for no reason you can fathom (even many you weren't particularly keen on!) and people you'd never consider dating in a million years badger you with winks and emails. 

After a couple of years of trying it, along with many singles clubs that host cocktail parties, adventure outings and dinners-out, I have this to advise...

Want to meet potential partners 'efficiently'?  Do this Offline
  1. Stop putting in endless minutes on and off during the day and evening prowling online dating sites (DON'T cancel your memberships, just don't rely on it as your primary dating tool).
  2. Find a gathering place near you that brings together several hundred singles.  (Why waste your time talking to someone who's not available?  And why waste time at small events at which you know within 2 minutes there's no one there that you're interested in?  As adults with a ton of relationship experience behind us we KNOW we need a LARGE group of potential candidates to shop from!)
  3. Make sure it's an event that allows you to 'check out the room' so you can meet the eye of people you find particularly interesting from afar.
  4. DON'T get drunk for the first hour (or at all)!  (You'll need all your faculties to evaluate whether others are really your type or not.)
  5. Try to choose an event that warms up the group with some laughter and stimulating topics in order to give you some 'common ground' for conversation. 
  6. Try to brush up on some refresher tips about chatting up strangers before you try doing so (especially if you've spent the last many years in a relationship).
  7. Ideally try to choose an event that allows the crowd of singles to mingle afterwards for an hour or two over cocktails.  (Loosen up, just don't get plastered!).
  8. Use online tools (like the event's Facebook page) after the event to reconnect with the people you found interesting. 
Sadly, outside of some self-help or general interest seminars that aren't specifically for adult singles, nothing like what I describe in the points above actually exists, and likely never will until I get this one up and running: Is Online Dating Stealing Your Soul?

Why is online dating so frustrating?  Because it isn't a 'human medium'!  Here's the 7 Fatal Flaws with it (click for the post).

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