Why Online Dating Is a Nonstarter


Shy BookGirl Age: 32 Divorced Smokes: Occasional Cigars
Shy BookGirl
Age: 32
Smokes: Occasional Cigars

So I’m not a big hit with men. Just putting that out there. I had my first date, American-style, at the age of 32. And yes, I’ve been married, but it was for political and legal reasons. No rings. No reception. Most importantly, no cake. Most of my oldest friends still don’t know it ever happened.So what’s a geek girl to do?

Online dating, I was sure, would open new worlds of possibility to me.

So last year I paid the fee, posted some pics, and called myself “Shy BookGirl.” (And no, I don’t smoke pipes. I’m not that cool.)

It didn’t help that my first two messages were from 60-something Asian men who wrote long paragraphs in broken English, detailing their meditation routines.

Perhaps something about my gooey-soft face screams “Bleeding Heart Ready to Dole out Green Cards?”

Been there, done that. No thanks.

I survived the trenches. And I’m here to tell you that online dating is a nonstarter. And here’s why:

1)      Potential suitors get the least relevant information first. Age. Income bracket. Past relationships. Imagine a first date like that. These are the last things we find out about a person. In real life, compatibility and character come first. Because in a relationship, that’s what matters most. Take me: I’m 32 and divorced. Online, that’s two strikes against me in the first five seconds. Game over. If you get to know me in real life, you find out pretty quick that I’ve only had one relationship. Ever. I am woefully clueless about how dating really works. These are still liabilities, I admit. But not the ones you’d guess from those stats under my photo.

2)      You can tell absolutely nothing about your chemistry with a person from their profile photo. But you think you can. And that’s the real problem. We all think we are high-functioning FBI profilers. When, really, we’re not. Sorry. Men tell me they look at profile photos and decide how badly they want to sleep with the woman. Women look at profile photos and assess cuddliness, reliability, general charm, and how badly they want to sleep with the guy. But attraction is an unpredictable thing. I’ve been attracted to people in-person for whom, had you shown me their photo, I would have said, “Are you kidding? Next!”

3)      A lot of really cool people can’t spell for shit. I know some of them. And they are artsy, witty mischief-makers, and I love them. Their brains don’t organize well around static rules. Consequently, their spelling is for shit. And in print, they look pretty dumb even though they are, in fact, brilliant. They just color outside the lines. If we’d met online, we probably wouldn’t be friends.

4)      Most people are not good writers. And even if they are, their writing voice has nothing to do with their in-person conversational style. Let’s face it. The greatest essayists from the last century, from Alice Walker to E. B. White to George Orwell, spent years honing their textual voices. And if the pros—who handle the written word with artful control—are never really themselves in print, how do you think a mechanic or a deep-sea welder is going to come across through typed language?

5)      You can too easily rule out entire classes of people. This is probably the saddest thing about online dating. I had to go through checklists about race, religion, age, lifestyle habits, physique—it was just depressing. It’s like building your avatar for a videogame. Except you’re building your ideal partner—by deselecting what you don’t want. How am I supposed to know? The next guy I fall in love with just might be a five-foot, 110-pound smoker who is a Latino Haitian Muslim. How would I know? I checked as many boxes as I could.

So what happened?

Pretty much what happens in real life. But somehow, it managed to be more demoralizing. Men who’d dropped me just a sentence or two wanted suddenly to meet up. Booty call, anyone? Men to whom I was attracted ignored my messages. And the nice guys? All two of them? I simply got cold feet. It’s hard enough to learn how to date in your thirties. It felt impossible to do that online.

So I took down my online profile. My stress level dropped. My happiness shot up. So I’m single. Cute guys sometimes turn me down.

I think I can live with that.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what happened when I did finally go on my first honest-to-god date. But for more critiques of online dating, check out Alli Reed’s brilliant experiment in online dating that proves it’s all about the profile photo and nothing to do with genuine connection: “Four Things I Learned from the Worst Online Dating Profile Ever.”

Published by M.C. Easton

Novelist and teacher.

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