Fifteen years ago I wrote an article about Internet dating titled Internet Dating Sites, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
It’s amazing how some things change, some things remain the same, some get better, some get worse.
After a recent 90 day, nightmarish and discouraging stint on Match, during which I found out I’m as ugly as a bridge troll, I decided to put the eight year old re-write of this back out there.
Hey! At least I was smiling!
Internet Dating Sites, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
One day eight years ago I sat down at my computer to write about a relatively new phenomenon in the exploding world of home computers and the internet. Internet dating sites and matchmaking sites were appearing out of the woodwork and their rapid growth in popularity was nothing short of astonishing.
I don’t know why I was astonished at the time. I suppose I didn’t know there were that many allegedly single lonely people out there looking for a way to find someone. Well, at least that sounds good.
The truth of the matter is, I was already picking up things about on-line dating and matchmaking that many people took years to realize later on. I did extensive research over the years, including becoming a member on some sites and I could quickly see that this was not going to be a pretty process.
Initially I thought, “Wow, what an amazing tool this could be. Just think, you can get on the internet and meet people you most probably would never bump into in real life.” The thought that I had the power to reach out even with the confines of my own little area of the desert and find someone who might live within a mile of my doorstep yet I never would know otherwise was amazing.
The fact that I was living in a relatively barren-of-life small town in northern Arizona at the time which seemed to have a rule that you must be over 85 to live there might have had something to do with my false initial hope. You see, I never have been much of the bar type. Smoke and alcohol are not my idea of good bait for the girl of my dreams.
Some of the early internet dating sites were quite rudimentary and crude by today’s standards. There are sites now where you can go to live video, live chat, see who is ‘online right now’, see who viewed your profile, and even exchange FREE initial contact of some sort. Back then you either joined or you didn’t and all you got for not joining was the ability to view, in some cases, a few teasing photos of alleged members just anxiously awaiting your message.
That was not what bothered me in my early experiences. I paid more than once to be a full fledged member of multiple dating sites. After all, I reasoned, while I am looking for the supposed girl of my dreams it would be a good thing if I knew what I was talking about if I ever decided to write about this. To tell the truth, it didn’t take me long to decide to write about it. Yet I find myself tearing up the old article and starting anew because, folks, it is worse than I ever predicted back then.
When I first started discussing my experiences with people, including some of those I met through these sites, I immediately noticed that initially the idea of finding and dating someone through cyber-space carried the same stigma as newspaper personals used to carry. Mention to a married friend that you were going to meet a girl you met on the internet and they would look at you with one of those “You got to be kidding me. Why would you do a thing like that?” looks. Easy for them to ask, they had someone to come home to.
That didn’t really bother me. Frankly I don’t much care what other people think about what I am doing.
The second thing I noticed about this was that I was immediately experiencing what is now common place in the world of online dating. I was meeting women who had lied their butts off about nearly everything on their profile including their appearance. Case in point; I met one woman at a plaza for coffee. Upon my arrival I literally walked right past her without recognizing or even looking at her until she called me by name. Why? Because the woman sitting at the table in front of me was TWENTY SIX YEARS older than the photo she had posted. When I asked her why she had posted a photo which, by her own admission, was twenty six years old, she looked at me indignantly and said, “Well, it’s still me!”
I quickly realized that this wonderful tool was not going to be used in the manner I had assumed, silly naïve fool that I was. In fact, as I write this now, I realize that what started out as a relatively minor event years ago has now grown into a perfectly acceptable form of conduct in today’s society. The anonymity of the computer and the internet has allowed millions of people to behave in a manner they might never have displayed if they actually had to take responsibility. That, in a nutshell is the quickest and most succinct way I can describe what those two things have done to modern social behavior.
In its purest form the internet can be the most amazing instrument. Writers such as I can tell you it is probably the most profound research tool we have ever had. I just completed a novel that took me seven years to write. During that time I had to study and research at least four different sciences and visit parts of the planet I had no hope of ever getting to. The internet took me there and back and every bit of information I needed was at my fingertips.
Here I had, at my fingertips, the ability to introduce myself to people who lived in my own town or hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Little did I know what I was in for.
One of the earliest things I learned aside from the deception was that women on the internet want you to live a half mile from their doorstep. You should not waste your time or money on contacting someone who lives out of state, out of the country, or in most cases, out of your immediate vicinity. They want you close by but just far enough away that you’re not like a neighbor.
Pay attention to what their profile says. You can learn a lot about a person just from what they wrote or how they wrote it. I have seen online profiles that looked like the person was heavily medicated when they stabbed at the keyboard in a vain attempt to spell anything over three letters. I have seen ads with enough content to make you want to go get a cup of tea, some cookies, a pair of slippers and some Nyquil.
I have seen online profiles with so little content you wonder why they even bothered. You know the ones I am talking about; “Um, hi, I like walks in the park, my 16 dogs & the color pink. If you like what you see contact me.” Wow, who wouldn’t be jumping all over that?
Some of my other tongue-in-cheek favorites include profiles with outdated photos, photos of a girl who claims she is just “a few extra pounds” overweight and she outweighs me, and profiles with nine photos, eight of which are shots of sunsets, pigs, someone riding a camel, kissing a kangaroo, your favorite beach, your relatives minus you because you were taking the photo, your car, someone else’s car, a bridge, a lake, your leg, your foot, you turned in the other direction, you drunk with twenty other women at your favorite bar, an unidentified pregnant female, a lizard biting someone on the lip, someone French kissing a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I have literally seen all of those on the internet and more. My favorite still remains the outdated photo, especially one of her ten years and forty pounds ago posted as the primary photo. I do have to say that shots of her with her ex-husband or current boyfriend go a long way too.
If the profile says “just looking”, believe it. Most of them are doing exactly that. The internet has provided a great way for people to get the attention they apparently crave without having to own up to anything, thus the existence of buttons like ‘Delete’, ‘Ignore’, and ‘Block’. What if you could do that in real life? Can you imagine? Some guy walks up to you in a bar and says something stupid and you just reach in your purse and hit ‘Ignore’. Better yet, you’re at one of those mindless weekly corporate mandatory employee meetings and you just pop the ‘Block’ button and you don’t have to listen to it anymore. Hell you don’t even have to go anymore.
Let me share some statistics with you that will simultaneously astonish you and discourage you. These are things the various internet dating sites do not want you to know. Just remember this is based on years of research and way too much money spent so I suppose someone should be paying me for this.
- On most, if not all internet dating sites, the men outnumber the women by at least ten to one. I have never figured out why this is unless it goes back to the stigma thing and many women don’t ever want to admit they found a partner on the internet. So if you are ready to go into a room where there may be four women but forty or fifty men and you think you have a shot, have at it.
- Most women who join these sites, especially the pretty ones and the intelligent and pretty ones, are immediately inundated by hits from men. Most are immediately overwhelmed. Some give up; some develop a random system of deletes, ignores, and blocks to deal with it.
- The number one complaint from men on dating sites is that most women do not respond at all to hits, inquiries, first contacts, etc.. The reason for this is obvious, see number two.
- Most of the women who join a dating site have no actual intent to meet someone. Many of them are quite happy with the cyber attention alone which their profile generates. Many of them are more than pleased to come home and find fifty six emails waiting for them in their mailbox all from men panting to meet her. (Who wouldn’t like that?)
- Internet dating sites like to let the women join for free so it will draw in the men who are willing to part with the money to join up in the hopes that one of these ‘hot women’ will contact or respond. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Sounds just like Ladies’ Night at the bar. Men have to pay a cover charge, women walk in and drink for free for three hours. The bar owner knows the women will make the men come in, and after the free drinks are over the men will fork over for drinks for the women.
- No single internet dating site is significantly better than another. They all have problems, many of them the same problems. See items 1-5.
- Internet dating sites create rude nasty people who forget how to be polite and courteous since they don’t have to face anyone. Women use the excuse, “I don’t have the time to answer everyone.” Men don’t need an excuse to send shots of their genitals to strange women.
It comes down to this. For those of us who do not go out cruising bars and sleazy singles joints, the internet held promise. Unfortunately human behavior wrecked that promise. You should understand as well, that the internet has no better odds than real life. Yes you have the opportunity to meet more people but that simply increases the odds of finding what you are looking for.
Lastly, no matter what these internet dating sites tell you, they do not give a hoot if you are single. They are not here to provide you with the girl/guy of your dreams. They are here to provide a service and make a hell of a lot of money doing it. The cyber-dating world is every bit if not more disappointing than the real world and you had better steel yourself for that fact unless you are one of the rare cases who actually finds what you are looking for. All I have to say about that is the same disclaimer they put on TV weight loss and fitness ads: RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.
Ethan Holmes is the author of six books and numerous articles.