A guy I know recently changed his relation status on Facebook from being “in a relationship” to “single”. According to the usual procedure, his 150 listed friends were immediately informed and one of them reacted by publically writing not to worry because he could now join the ranks of men who (I quote) “get laid thanks to online dating”.
I’m not sure the comment comforted my recently separated (and obviously depressed about it) Facebook friend but it got me thinking about the change there’s been in online dating these past years.
When I first signed up on a dating website six or seven years ago, it totally changed my life. Within a day I went from single mum who had forgotten the mere existence of males aside her son, to being a woman who actually looked at men in the street again and, oh yes, regained her flirting instinct too. All this because of e-mails I had gotten from total strangers.
I did not put a picture of myself on my online dating profile – something that would not have gone down well today. Most men now demand it (and by ‘demand’ I mean as in ‘command’), along with a whole lot of adverbs impossible to find in one single person. At the time, the market was somehow less competitive and more flaw forgiving.
Not having a profile photo didn’t prevent me from “meeting” a lot of nice guys who sent me long, personal e-mails and read mine in details responding to them with wit and concern. After a week – and for several weeks to come – I was in daily e-mail contact with three of these men. They never once wrote about sex or sexual encounters.
Somewhere down the line, we got to the “phone contact” point. It went fine with man n° 1. We talked for hours, and went on to more explicit texting, but never actually met. (Like me, he had “multiple contacts”, hooked up with one of them and thus gallantly ended our “relationship”).
Man n° 2 I never actually spoke to on the phone, because too much e-mailing nullified all dating prospects and sent us into a friendship zone in which we stayed for several years before losing contact.
As for man n°3, he was the proof that online too, I sometimes misjudge men terribly. The first time he called he somehow got talking about his ex-wife and how she’d “falsely accused him” of “slapping her around” and that he’d had “nothing to do” with her broken nose or arm… I didn’t give him the benefit of doubt.
Despite this last “mishap”, these first online dating experiences were totally uplifting and did wonders for my then battered female ego. I ended up moving in with the next man I met online. He was the kind of guy I’d never have met in real life – or if I had, we wouldn’t have been even faintly attracted to one another. It lasted two years, in part for these reasons.
I have since signed up a few times on dating websites but the whole thing has sadly lost its appeal. Men my age are now all searching for women at least 10 years younger (!) and expect photos and phone numbers to be exchanged immediately. (And for a reason I can’t fathom many think I want a picture of their genitals). Instant messenging is preferred to e-mails and instant virtual sex seems to be preferred to the whole “getting to know” process. The trouble is, having tacky cybersex with a virtual stranger is rarely a good starting point for a relationship.
Online dating the way I first knew it has changed. The supermarket effect is worse now than ever. I feel a complete idiot filling out a search page to decide if the guy I’m looking for can have a moustache, be a teacher and like Chinese food, or spending hours answering random questions about myself so I can get a selection of “compatible” men e-mailed. And don’t get me started on the specialised dating websites, like the ones for Christians, Muslims, Jewish or Pagan singles, for Sci Fi lovers, dog lovers, farmers, vegetarians, golfers, geeks, plus-size singles… Everything is calculated, arranged – and in my eyes, ultimately, that’s not how the laws of attraction work.
I’m not saying my recently dumped Facebook friend shouldn’t give online dating a go. Nor am I saying that it doesn’t work for a lot of people (It did after all work for me for a time). But I do believe that love, like sport, is not an exact science. I think a cat lover can be a match to a dog lover, and that you can dream of a red-haired millionaire and fall blissfully in love with a blond guy on minimum wage. It’s worth keeping that in mind when playing the dating game online. Love can’t be perfect and nor should it be.