These days, there is no doubt that online dating is pretty darn popular. Sites like Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid and others boast millions of members, all searching for potential love or even prospects for dating. And, because Internet is king, using it seems like a useful and practical way to find a date.
That's why when I came across a video on the New York Times blog, Economix, about how online dating makes people seemed superficial, I couldn't resist watching it and facing some of my opinions about online dating bubbling to the surface.
Now, I should preface this by stating the following: I have dated online through various different sites. And, I've met some cool guys, a few of whom I dated for a short while and/or remained friends with.
So now that I've put that on the table, I'll continue.
The professor in the video explains that he'd become interested in online dating after a colleague was trying but failing at it. This prompted him to enroll in it and examine profiles of people he was attracted to and others he felt "so-so" about it. And, it's about 1:30 into the video he makes an interesting observation: online dating sites assume that people are easy to describe "on searchable attributes" (height, body shape, political or religious affiliation, etc.). However, he makes a great analogy by saying that in reality, people are more like wine:
...When you taste the wine, you could describe it, but it's not a very useful description. But you know if you like it or don't. It's the complexity and completeness of the experience that tells you if you like a person or not. And this breaking into attributes turns out not to be very informative.
Ding, ding, ding! And the moment of clarity enters.
While he goes on to talk about what dating is (real experiences with another person) over an interview (which is what he seems to consider online dating to be), and some of his opinions may be shaped by his own experiences (how could they not?!) I couldn't help but see his point. Truth is, while it's been interesting to go on dates from online, I do -- and this could be me being old school here -- wonder if the whole internet dating thing has made me (1) lazy and (2) limited in my dating scope.
Now, let me break it down:
The Lazy Factor: Even five to seven years ago, I channeled a bit more effort into meeting guys: joining clubs or sports, attending lots of citywide events, going to mixers with friends... Basically, very social environments where there was an automatic opportunity to meet guys that had the same interests I did. By doing this, I had the chance to talk to a guy live and determine if there was chemistry enough to see each other again. No trading tons of messages, no going by photos. Now, I have a real, live meeting to base my interaction off of. Kind of knocks two birds out with one stone, if you ask me. Besides, I know how much or little time goes into the online profile. Heck, I get so impatient with those things that I don't really include as much as they would like you to. I mean, 3000 characters? Eek! No, my habit has been to scan photos before I keep reading. And, I wouldn't be surprised if tons of guys are doing the same thing.
Limited Scope: OK, while I'm being honest, here: I do have things that I consider to be deal breakers for me. And, in reviewing profiles, I do try to see if I can scan them for these attributes. In the process, I may have very well removed many men from my radar, but it's the reality. Just like I'm not a match for every guy that comes across my profile (otherwise, none of us would be single), so is the same for every guy I stumble upon. Of course, we may come across that one profile with the funny quote, clever joke, intelligent response that may get us to look again. But, if he or she wasn't missing a lot of our other criteria, is that someone we'd contact?
All that said... Dating, like all else is trial and error, whether you meet someone in person or through a few clicks of the mouse. But, to be honest, I miss the days when you meet someone in a chance kind of way or by being at the right place at the right time. And in some ways, online dating reduces that. Sure, it gives you new chances to screen prospects or faster ways to date. But in some ways, I still like the idea of a cool story about the first time I laid eyes on a guy.
While I've checked out online dating to broaden the ways I meet potential dates (and haven't dismissed it entirely since I get the value), I still do put myself in social situations to meet guys -- without using my mouse. But as the internet gets more sophisticated, I'm sure so will dating. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.