Ask a group of people about their experiences with online dating and you get a myriad of answers. Gay, straight, male, female, still single or happily in a relationship, almost everyone has a story, even if it’s about someone else. And while there are those that most would consider “successful” stories-the ones where the happy couple met 7 years ago online and have been married for 4 years and have two beautiful babies…we can probably all agree that the more interesting stories are the ones that leave us wondering what, exactly, is wrong with the world?
There’s the guy who showed up in dirty jeans, admitted immediately that he never looks at profiles beyond the pictures, and when his date informed him she had gone out with 4 guys while trying online dating responded with “Seriously? I mean how long does it take to find someone.” Or how about the tagline on a profile that says “I would like to have a pretty woman to be with me so that I can be very happy.” Sounds pretty catchy, right? Maybe there’s the chance taken by a well educated and articulate woman with a career she is passionate about, when she decided to try one of those free sites in an effort to be open to new experiences, only to end up with a gym shorts wearing bushy eyebrowed guy with no job, no car and very little intellect who hung around for three months, leaving her feeling rather embarrassed that it had occurred at all, yet glad that she had been able to provide him with food and shelter, at least on the weekends while they were dating. What about the guy who, as soon as he received a phone number, called three times trying to meet up in the next hour, and when finally the first date occurred, revealed that he was committing tax fraud on his state taxes, was awaiting a bootleg copy of P90X from China because it was cheaper that way, and oh by the way when he carries his cell phone in his pocket, he turns it off because keeping it on can cause infertility. How about the guy who shows up to the jazz club already on his way to drunk, seats himself and his date in the front row next to the band and then proceeds to talk so loudly that not only is his date embarrassed, but he is slipped a note from another patron in the club asking him to shut up. There’s the story of a first date that was short and only ok, but ok enough to say yes to a 2nd, only to have it cancelled because he went to happy hour with his friends first and got too drunk to take his date out. There’s the guy who won’t meet up with the girl because she won’t give out her phone number until they’ve met in person. There are the stories that don’t just border on scary but actually start to creep over that line, where the guy drives the girl who knows nothing about him into a sketchy part of town and makes a supposed joke about having a duffle bag in the car that she would probably fit in. There’s the classic 2nd date where the guy asks the girl if she will bring over some needle nose pliers, only to learn as she arrives that they will spend the next two hours putting together an Ikea bookcase and he will, in the midst of it all, call both his mom and sister for their opinions on whether the door is supposed to be 2mm off at the bottom, and then when he finally gets around to starting to cook dinner for her and she offers to help, he asks her to wash the dishes-the week’s worth of dishes covering the entire counter with crusted on oatmeal needing to be scraped off. Sometimes it’s just a simple story about a guy who initiates a conversation, and responds to all of the girl’s follow up questions, but never once asks another question about her, leaving her to wonder why so many men are so inept at conversation and leaving him wondering why she stopped replying.
If you ask me for my own stories, the worst you will get is that on a 3rd date with a guy I met online, I realized halfway through that I really just wanted him to leave so that I could curl up in bed and read the latest Entertainment Weekly magazine (feel free to use that as a test on whether you want to keep dating someone or not). And the best I have, which is a story I love, is that my own best friend, David, met his husband, Greg, online and there was a perfect email exchange between David and me that occurred when they first had contact and it wrapped up shortly after their first date. Last summer we read that email exchange together during his speech at the wedding reception, recapping those initial moments and feelings that eventually turned into a beautiful love story.
Knowing the horror stories, albeit sometimes hilarious adventures, that can come from online dating, what is it that makes so many people continue to return to it? Why do we feel that a website is able to match us with potential partners better than we are able to do on our own? A quick google search of why to try online dating will reveal statements like “It’s easy to find the kind of person you are looking for” and “You can make a great first impression every time.” Well, thank you, internet. It’s good that we all know we’re not supposed to believe everything you say.
For most people, it’s often hard to meet anyone new just by chance in our often times too busy day to day lives. Oh sure, there’s always the possibility that your office will catch on fire and a plethora of attractive firefighters will arrive on scene, and the one who happens to be single will help you escape by sweeping you off your feet. But in the far more likely scenario where that probably never happens outside of your dreams, and the only new people you encounter are the occasional new waiters hired by your favorite restaurant (the one you have on speed dial because of how often you get take out), online dating continues to sound like the best possible scenario for meeting anyone new. It’s also a somewhat safer environment for the more reserved or fearful, who want to hide a bit behind the screen. It can be a faster way to sort through those you are not compatible with. But it can also be overly exhausting and draining, and leave a lot of single people feeling as if they are simply paying money to be rejected.
Those who only have successful stories seem to enjoy trying to convince the single people in their lives that there is no reason not to try it, either again or for the first time. After all, it worked for them! But for those who have had less than stellar experiences or have known friends and family who have, it’s easy to find these success stories as a mixed bag. Who exactly do they think they are, finding love and happiness online? But oh, maybe, just maybe, the 164th time will be the charm, since it somehow worked for someone else. It’s a bit like a raffle, I suppose. Someone is going to win, and it definitely won’t be you if you haven’t bought a ticket. It must be the hope, the ever so slight possibility, the off-chance that it could happen, that continues to draw even those who have sworn it off multiple times before, right back to it, not quite like a moth to a flame, but close.
When David and Greg sent out their save-the-dates, they made a video. It was a reenactment of their first date, and the song playing over the scenes was Rihanna’s “We Found Love in Hopeless Place.” I’d say that sounds just about right.