BY Bex Olver
I have just ended a stint of internet dating. I hop on and off the internet dating merry-go-round intermittently. It’s a great invention in some ways (being able to peruse hot men without looking like a crazed staring woman? WIN!) but in others it drives me crazy. I don’t spend longer than about two months on any given site because I get completely ticked off with its artificial reality and I end up needing time away from it.
I’ll let you into a secret; internet dating (read: any dating) is a bit of an alien concept. I haven’t dated properly for nearly ten years and since becoming single, I’ve had three dates. The thought of having to get to know someone again from scratch is quite baffling and makes me feel mega awkward. All that promotion work for oneself is exhausting, too; getting the level of keen-ness right, all the waxing and beautifying and new outfit purchasing… I get tired just thinking about it all.
I wonder if I’m the only one that finds internet dating a bit bizarre?
First of all, it doesn’t tend to be free (which is a bummer). You go to the effort of setting up your profile and picking out the best pictures of yourself and writing a witty, engaging spiel about how awesome you are and then wait with bated breath when the whole thing goes live. I sometimes feel that it’s me against the website, like I’m sat behind my computer and on the other side of cyberspace are all the dating website guys hanging out together having a beer. It reminds me of Miss Congeniality when Agent Matthews is trying to choose which agent goes undercover at the Miss United States pageant and all the agents are sat passing judgement as they’re put through the swimwear simulator. I have to remind myself that everyone is doing this individually and not tag teaming up with others on the site.
It’s like the equivalent of those early school discos I went to as a kid; boys on one side and girls on the other and the message facility is in the middle. Who will make the first messaging move? Is it preferred for a guy to make the first move and fire off a message? Does a girl doing the approaching put guys off? What if someone messages you and you’re not interested in them? Do you reply and say thanks but no thanks? Or do you just ignore the message entirely? Granted the last option is not very mannerly but you’re not actually seeing the person on the other side of the message so it’s so much easier (I know; I’ve been on both ends of the non-response on a few occasions).
If you manage to get through the minefield that is messaging you go on your first date. Which isn’t actually a first date in the proper sense. It’s more like an audition to see if you’re allowed to get a first date. I learnt after meeting two chaps that I’d potentially been doing this first date lark all wrong; a friend goes for coffee or a drink for an hour to work out if there is any chemistry, whereas I went on full length dates with two guys; one was the best date I’d ever had and one was the worst date I’d ever had. Imagine my amazement when I realised I could have just given him an hour and then skipped off for a beer with my friends!
Skype is a good option and I did this with a recent date. We had two Skype chats before we met and it really took the pressure off meeting in person. By the time we met in the appointed record store (I like to mix it up), I knew we’d get along and that he was cute enough to make an effort for. I wouldn’t do it with everyone; any iffy vibes AT ALL and I’d have blamed a dodgy webcam and cried off. Fortunately, it was his face I saw when I answered the video call…
And then, of course, there are the purists who, when they find out you’re venturing down the internet dating path pull a face and say, “Yeah, I’ve thought about it, but I think I’d like to meet someone ‘naturally’. Y’know, all this internet stuff feels a little forced…” I can understand how people can feel a bit icky about internet dating, but it has moved on since it’s ‘just for saddos’ days. There are still some crazy people on there, but you could just as easily bump into them down the local pub.
And therein lies the thing that drives me crazy about internet dating. It very easily becomes a forum for people’s issues and it can be a BIG forum for negativity. I hear horror stories about guys who send vindictive messages to girls because they think they look conceited or full of themselves from their photos. I have a friend who replies to all messages he receives. He politely wishes people luck with their search if he’s not interested and one woman went nasty on him because he wasn’t attracted to her. When did it become OK to do these kinds of things?
And this is why I have reservations with internet dating. It can be quite a good medium for making you feel a bit crap about human nature. However, it can also be the catalyst for meeting pretty amazing people; be they future love interests or future friends and that’s why I paid my money (only for a month, though), picked my best photos, wrote about my love of music, crafting, movies and all that jazz in the most comedic way I could.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Featured image by TheRealDavidFrancis on Flickr