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Is online dating destroying love?
February 7, 2012 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Is online dating destroying love? We are doomed, perhaps, to be unsatisfied creatures, whose desires are fulfilled only momentarily before we go on the hunt for new objects to scratch new itches. Which suggests that online dating sites will be filling us with hopes – and disappointments – for a good while yet.

Last millennium 72% of us met our partners at school or university, at work or in networks of family or friends. The other 28%, presumably, met the loves of their lives by tripping over them as they lay in their own filth outside a Black Country pub. Or such were mating rites in my day. The internet is revolutionary because it renders it easy for us to make contact with people we don't know and, better yet, those who don't necessarily live within the Dudley travel-to-work area/look like trolls/cite assembling Airfix models as their favourite hobby even though they're 43, etc.

...

Online dating is, Ariely argues, unremittingly miserable. The main problem, he suggests, is that online dating sites assume that if you've seen a photo, got a guy's inside-leg measurement and star sign, BMI index and electoral preferences, you're all set to get it on à la Marvin Gaye, right? Wrong. "They think that we're like digital cameras, that you can describe somebody by their height and weight and political affiliation and so on. But it turns out people are much 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. And it's the complexity and the 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."
posted by modernnomad (124 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
The answer to "Is online x destroying y" is always no. Transforming? Sure, constantly, and sometimes unrecognizably. But not destroying.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:07 AM on February 7, 2012 [32 favorites]


Hah. If you want to experience unremitting misery, try involuntary celibacy.
posted by planet at 6:07 AM on February 7, 2012 [41 favorites]


Are Non-Arranged Marriages Putting The Tradition Family At Risk?

Marrying For Love: Is It Just New Age Hokum?

Fire: Bad?
posted by griphus at 6:10 AM on February 7, 2012 [107 favorites]


Dating was pretty much always unremittingly miserable, but maybe that's just me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


New miseries, new potentials - that's what I'd expect. The point would be to take as much advantage of the new potentials as possible while minimizing the miseries. In which case, honestly, being aware of the "ooh look new shiny!" tendency of the internet is useful, yes.

Although I was trying to set up an OKCupid profile a while back and I kept bogging down on the questions - I kept thinking, for example, "I am not spiritual and wouldn't date a conservative religious person, but if a radical religious person wanted to date me I'm sure we could work something out", so I'd check "not that important" on the little "is this question a big deal to you" thing.....and eventually OKCupid would come back with "have stronger opinions! We can't match you!" And I felt like, yes well, your questions are necessarily reductionist and I can't have stronger opinions, indeed I'm a bit worried about anyone who does have really strong opinions in these matters. So I gave up and deprived the world of my many charms.
posted by Frowner at 6:13 AM on February 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


Is new thing destroying old thing?

J-school is destroying writing, that's for sure.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:15 AM on February 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't even feel like finishing the article since I'm already so irritated. "The internet is ruining love by facilitating meaningless flings!" ... so do bars? "These sites promise you'll find love without being hurt!" ... and weight loss pills tell me I won't need to work out to drop 50 lbs? "Profiles are generic and so useless!" ... then people need to learn how to be honest about themselves and write more interestingly.
posted by brilliantine at 6:15 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't read the article. I read the description of the article and the description made it seem too dumb to read. Online you are choosing people based on a few stats, facts, and pictures. Offline you are choosing people based on... how they look. Then in either case you talk to a human being and find out more about them and go from there. That's it. So the difference is that you are trading real life's initial filter of who you happen to encounter for self selected filters of what matters to you. That's definitely not a step backwards.
posted by I Foody at 6:21 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm halfway through, but I get the impression that the writer just wants to sneer at how only horrid nerds find relationships outside of the people they happen to meet at school and work. Something something lawn.

This looks like a job for User 141041!
posted by lucidium at 6:26 AM on February 7, 2012


The internet is revolutionary because it renders it easy for us to make contact with people we don't know and, better yet, those who don't necessarily live within the Dudley travel-to-work area/look like trolls/cite assembling Airfix models as their favourite hobby even though they're 43, etc.
A positive article could so easily have been based on the above. "Internet dating is great because you can find someone who fits perfectly with you rather than forcing you to choose from the dolts who you happened to be born near!" That's something about Internet dating that's actually new.

Instead we get the same old "but people can't be reduced to NUMBERS!" complaint that has been leveled at every dating service. "Internet dating" != "Internet dating services". You can meet people in online fora, social networks, etc.
posted by DU at 6:27 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I met my girlfriend on OKCupid, we've been together for almost a year now and I'm crazy in love with her.

Hard to take this article seriously, you know?
posted by gmonkeylouie at 6:28 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, folks, don't dismiss the article based solely on the ridiculous bullshit about how online dating has ruined love. Wait until you get to the sexist bullshit about how women's sexual desires are setting them up for disappointment, and then dismiss it!

Online dating has also become a terrain for a new – and often upsetting – gender struggle. "Women are demanding their turn at exercising the right to pleasure," says Kaufmann. Men have exercised that right for millennia. But women's exercise of that right, Kaufmann argues, gets exploited by the worst kind of men. "That's because the women who want an evening of sex don't want a man who is too gentle and polite. The want a 'real man', a male who asserts himself and even what they call 'bad boys'. So the gentle guys, who believed themselves to have responded to the demands of women, don't understand why they are rejected. But frequently, after this sequence, these women are quickly disappointed. After a period of saturation, they come to think: 'All these bastards!'"
posted by SugarAndSass at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


(Disclaimer: I've never dated an Internet, but I would let my sister marry one. Also, I met my wife at school where I accidentally called her fat within an hour of learning her name.)
posted by DU at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've never understood why I catch such an enormous amount of flak for meeting my MeFite partner online while it's perfectly permissible to chat up a cute girl/guy in your class/dorm and try to sleep with them first week of college. I mean, I have my partner's entire posting history! We emailed for months before we dated! I know he understands how to use proper grammar and doesn't think Ayn Rand is, like, so amazing! What's not to like about that model of meeting people?
posted by Phire at 6:30 AM on February 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Not just how people look, though, Foody. There's a lot in actual interaction. For me, the mind-bogglingly irksome part of online dating was chatting with someone a bunch in order to convince someone that I'm an actual thinking human who isn't just a creep, and then finally meeting them and there's no chemistry whatsoever. Over and over again. It's been a terrible grind.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:31 AM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well.... by this logic:

"When you look at their profiles, they're all the same," wails channelchris in her blog. "Charming, sporty, generous, funny, 'no mind games', good-looking, sensual ... They practically guarantee you'll be on cloud nine."

You could also say first dates are ruining dating.

When used as a tool, an addition to the "normal" way of finding love... I can't see what the point of this article is. It's not as if no one is allowed to meet at work, in social circles or at the grocery any more, and on line dating is the article writer's only option. I've had some really good relationships as a result of on line dating and I highly recommend it.

For all the "flaws" this article points out with online dating, you could also bewail the fact that careerbuilder, monster, etc. are ruining job searches. What happened to networking, nepotism, and cold calling companies?! It's a tool you can use in addition to previous methods of locating a job. It's not like it's your only option, and the same with OkCupid, Match, etc.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:32 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Online dating is, Ariely argues, unremittingly miserable. The main problem, he suggests, is that online dating sites assume that if you've seen a photo, got a guy's inside-leg measurement and star sign, BMI index and electoral preferences, you're all set to get it on à la Marvin Gaye, right? Wrong. "They think that we're like digital cameras, that you can describe somebody by their height and weight and political affiliation and so on. But it turns out people are much 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. And it's the complexity and the 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."

So he decided to set up a website that could better deliver what people want to know about each other before they become attracted.
So, a guy flogging his new online dating website is badmouthing existing online dating sites.

Most people seem to have a supply of horror stories about online dating dates, but I never had any really terrible experiences. Yes, I had an a lot of dates where there was no real chemistry and I had to resort to bland small talk until it was over, but it never got worse than being trapped by a dull uncle at a family party.

Being rejected is hard, and periods where you don't get any responses are hard, but the actual dating didn't have any real disasters. And eventually I met someone beautiful and intelligent who miraculously was interested in me...

Though I have to say I don't have much faith in the matching systems, either OKcupid's question matching, or eHarmony's personality matching. I found the best way was to just look for people with interests in common, without worrying too much about match percentages.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:35 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although I was trying to set up an OKCupid profile a while back and I kept bogging down on the questions - I kept thinking, for example, "I am not spiritual and wouldn't date a conservative religious person, but if a radical religious person wanted to date me I'm sure we could work something out", so I'd check "not that important" on the little "is this question a big deal to you" thing.....and eventually OKCupid would come back with "have stronger opinions! We can't match you!" And I felt like, yes well, your questions are necessarily reductionist and I can't have stronger opinions, indeed I'm a bit worried about anyone who does have really strong opinions in these matters. So I gave up and deprived the world of my many charms.

When I experimented with online dating a bunch of years ago, I bogged down on the physical questions. I mean, sure, I can describe my ideal woman just fine -- but I realized that I was intensely uncomfortable with giving min/max heights and weights. This was in the era of the Nerve personals; hopefully the interfaces are better now, but that aspect of it just made my toes curl.

But women's exercise of that right, Kaufmann argues, gets exploited by the worst kind of men. "That's because the women who want an evening of sex don't want a man who is too gentle and polite. The want a 'real man', a male who asserts himself and even what they call 'bad boys'. So the gentle guys, who believed themselves to have responded to the demands of women, don't understand why they are rejected.

Awww, won't someone think of the poor nice guys.
posted by Forktine at 6:36 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think there is probably a case to be made that the current dating site state of the art in terms of the application of what are essentially a set of technologies designed to optimize display advertising (see OkCupid, unless you're more than 25% my enemy in which case go fuck yourself) to meeting people is not really the ideal. This article doesn't make that case, of course, but it could be made and if it were, I would agree with it whole heartedly.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dating used to be so much simpler back when everyone was on cocaine.

It was expensive and dramatic, but it was simpler.

And we were all so THIN.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


My eyes are rolling so hard that I'm afraid to move my head lest the gyroscopic forces tear it off and send it soaring low earth orbit.
posted by atrazine at 6:43 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Everyone's not on cocaine? Hell of a memo for me to miss...
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:44 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my wife's best friends is married to a guy she met on the internet ten years ago. Now, granted, internet dating wasn't established back then the way it is now, but they still felt obligated to tell their parents they met at a bar because that was more "normal."

I also met my first serious girlfriend on the internet, waaaay back in 1997. When I brought her home to meet my parents for the first time they happened to have friends over and my mom (who barely knew what the internet was) introduced us by blurting out "They met on the internet!" in a weird semi-panicked tone of voice I've never heard her use before or since.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:44 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great.
I just now linked my OKC profile in that metatalk thread.
I'm always doin it wrong.
posted by newpotato at 6:46 AM on February 7, 2012


sexual encounters as perishable and substitutable as yoghurt

Looks like my "wrongest and most unpleasant metaphor of the day" contest ended early today!
posted by escabeche at 6:54 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I met my wife of five years on the internet (via OKCupid). There's a good chance I'd still be single without the internet, as I can be terribly shy in real life.
posted by drezdn at 6:56 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just returned from a vacation where I met quite a few awesome men. Not a single one of which I would have given a second look at if I had seen their (honest) profiles online.
Dating sucks. Going on exploratory dates with someone you know only through a brief description, a micro photo and some questionably truthful stats sucks harder.
Accidental meeting and clicking in real life is hard to beat
It would be nice to say that being broader minded about who to meet up with IRL is the answer, but both time and a positive attitude towards stranger dates are limited quantities with me it seems.
posted by newpotato at 6:59 AM on February 7, 2012


I agree that the article is overly dismissive, but I think there's a grain of truth there.

I've had three boyfriends including my current one, and I met all through the traditional ways. I have done a lot of OK Cupid dating, and I found it rather un-soul-satisfying and mind-numbing. It was good for finding hook-ups and friends with benefits, but quite bad at finding anything more. I can't say I didn't have fun -- because I did enjoy the flings -- but I was looking for something more long-term.

My current boyfriend probably wouldn't have passed my OKC screening process if I'd seen him online -- he always takes rather unflattering, corny pics, tends to sound a bit too earnest in writing and would be extremely bad at flirting with me. Yet he's absolutely wonderful in real life and I'm glad I was lucky enough to bump into him.
posted by peacheater at 7:02 AM on February 7, 2012


If by "destroying" you mean "failing to instantly solve all problems with," I guess.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:09 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I felt like, yes well, your questions are necessarily reductionist and I can't have stronger opinions

A friend was setting up an account, and said, "Damn, I don't want someone with 'a few extra pounds', I want someone fat!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:11 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is Netflix destroying film?

Is Amazon destroying book-reading?

Is petfinder destroying pet adoption?
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:11 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


So I generally find these hand-wringing articles annoying, especially when it's such a brief overview of different opinions as to just be a drive-by angsting.

Yet this one misses what I think is the most important concern in this area - whether online dating allows for certain types of screening that may change the nature of love/relationships. In short, this is the J-Date critique.

I'm a Jewish man married to an Islamic woman. There's not that many of us out there in the US. And there's no website that facilitates this type of relationship, although there are countless many for Jewish Singles looking for other Jewish Singles (the entire * Mingle genre, for example). Even on sites that don't explicitly focus as such, the ability to screen and search by race/religion exists on all major dating sites.

The long-term effects of this worries me. I obviously knew my wife wasn't the same as me when we met 11 years ago - we're of different races. Yet I'm not sure I would have ever met her had I been dating online. I especially wonder if I would have met her if I had started my dating experiences online, using such a profile/search experience. Maybe people who've dated previously will be more broad-minded, but the data from OK Cupid don't strike me as particularly encouraging.

For me, love is inherently based on sharing my life with someone distinctly different from myself in fundamental ways. Certainly some of this is present in all relationships and interracial/interfaith relationships have never really been standard anyway. Yet I'll bet that they become less common in the long run. And for me, that changes love.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:17 AM on February 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


The answer to the question the linked article's headline (and in the FPP title) is "No." Or optionally "Duh." It would be a great and thought-provoking question, if this had been written in 1998.

Which brings me to a question I occasionally ponder: at what point did meeting romantic partners online lose its stigma? There was a time when it was seen as the sign of the socially inept weirdo that you had become interested in someone before meeting them face-to-face (and I do not mean 'interested' as in 'fallen totally in love' but rather 'thought this person seems smart and funny... I wonder if we could meet up for coffee?') From about 1995 to 1998 I was dating someone I had met online and who lived over 3,000 km away. We were rarely in the same city and 95% of what we came to know about each other was through a computer screen or over the phone. People figured I was loopy to be committed to someone whom I saw so rarely. I occasionally thought about John Donne's line, "More than kisses, letters mingle souls."

In 2001 my divorced father remarried to someone he had met online and who was about the same distance away (he retired a year later and moved to join her) but few people seemed to think it unusual. Now it is is just one more way people meet, and the idea that two people met through OKCupid or whatever is not seen as unusual. Indeed, I have been living for a couple of years with someone whom I went to university with but whom I lost touch with for twenty years -- we reconnected through Facebook.

So: when did this shift?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There IS one tiny portion of this argument that I've heard in other sources, though; the notion that "with unlimited available choices, you may not ever stick to one." Although, I think that may be as much a function of "people not really knowing what they want" as it is "the internet making you spoiled for choice."

Offering the anecdota that of the three best relationships I've had, one I met online and one I met via the paper precursor to online dating (personal ads in a weekly paper). Those are also the two exes who've stayed close friends. And I would NEVER have met them if not for online/personal ad dating, and God, my life would have been so much poorer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on February 7, 2012


Which suggests that online dating sites will be filling us with hopes – and disappointments – for a good while yet.

Much like offline dating has been doing all along.
posted by Gelatin at 7:20 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are many really horrid online dating sites, well most simply recycle subscriptions into online advertising, which you might justify as recruiting potential mates, or you might declare mild fraud.

Imho, there is vastly more effort put into actually "doing the job the customers pay for" by the OK Cupid guys, but the product still comes off extremely weak because most dating site customers ask for the wrong product, namely a broad but shallow perspective on potential mates.

I presume our current dating site model works well for people with very specific kinks, or critical constraints, like religion, mostly because such people ignore the irrelevant breadth of information available about possible dates. And most people who visit dating sites are simply needing to go hangout offline anyways.

There are various reasonable approaches for simply "hangout offline" type sites. Yet, all basically revolve around your interests, social circle, or schedule directly, while mostly treating people along some limited "introduction" dimension.

Examples :

Facebook has almost completely monopolized the social circle based dating site effect, people routinely use it hooking up with friends or friends.

There were two schedule based sites called iamfreetonight.com and crazyblinddate.com that scheduled short meet ups after work, both appear defunct now, but presumably similar shall reemerge.

There should be interest based sites where one person advertises events, like going to hiking, seeing some concert, etc. and others express interest.  You could avoid the crap online "don't click" dates by creating group events, ala "I'm looking for a matched group of men and women to walk 3 north miles along the beach from Carrer de Meer starting at 10am."
posted by jeffburdges at 7:20 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Women are demanding their turn at exercising the right to pleasure," says Kaufmann. Men have exercised that right for millennia. But women's exercise of that right, Kaufmann argues, gets exploited by the worst kind of men. "That's because the women who want an evening of sex don't want a man who is too gentle and polite. The want a 'real man', a male who asserts himself and even what they call 'bad boys'. So the gentle guys, who believed themselves to have responded to the demands of women, don't understand why they are rejected. But frequently, after this sequence, these women are quickly disappointed. After a period of saturation, they come to think: 'All these bastards!'"

"Nice guy" gets dumped after on-line romance, then justifies the dumping on her behalf.

Ever has it been thus.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


There should be interest based sites where one person advertises events, like going to hiking, seeing some concert, etc. and others express interest. You could avoid the crap online "don't click" dates by creating group events, ala "I'm looking for a matched group of men and women to walk 3 north miles along the beach from Carrer de Meer starting at 10am."

Have you heard of the site whydon'twe.com? This is exactly what it does for one-on-one dates. (As for the group events: that's kind of the point of meetup.com.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2012


Dating sucks. Going on exploratory dates with someone you know only through a brief description, a micro photo and some questionably truthful stats sucks harder.

Your personal experience certainly serves to rebut every other testimonial to the usefulness of online dating! Glad we resolved that quandary.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2012


Married nine years and two kids later I'd say online dating works out just fine thank you very much.
posted by zeoslap at 7:28 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Is communicating by the so called 'post mail' destroying the traditional spring-time may-pole ribbon-dances, sole font of all love that is pure and true? Heironimosch B. Fuddydudd says 'yes.'".
posted by mhoye at 7:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Have you heard of the site whydon'twe.com?

How About We

posted by sweetkid at 7:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh. Dating sucks, online dating sucks, relationships suck, breakups really suck, lets not even talk about all the sucking of marriage and divorce and...

Yeah. It's the human condition. We get it. The one criticism I think the religious people make, that isn't widely understood, is that there is suffering in the world, and it's not just for other people. Find what good you can.
posted by effugas at 7:31 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I catch the paperboy, but things don't really change.

Therefore, I don't believe in modern love.
posted by COBRA! at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read recently that the question in a headline can always be answered with "No". The question should be a hint that the article following generally boils down to a socially acceptable way to have an un-news article in a news publication.

So, I'd have to say No.
posted by cheap paper at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dating sucks. Going on exploratory dates with someone you know only through a brief description, a micro photo and some questionably truthful stats sucks harder.

Your personal experience certainly serves to rebut every other testimonial to the usefulness of online dating! Glad we resolved that quandary.


Well, luckily I wasn't attempting to rebut every other testimonial to the usefulness of online dating and was just adding my own to the mix. You okay with that?

The most important significant amazing long term relationship of my life happened as a result of an online dating site. That doesn't mean that online dating is more pleasant/easier/more successful than IRL meetings for me. Nor do I expect everyone's experiences to mirror my own.
posted by newpotato at 7:38 AM on February 7, 2012


Online dating isn't destroying love. It's giving people like me a chance to meet someone when they never would otherwise.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:40 AM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The main problem, he suggests, is that online dating sites assume that if you've seen a photo, got a guy's inside-leg measurement and star sign, BMI index and electoral preferences, you're all set to get it on à la Marvin Gaye, right?

What? Online dating sites do not assume this. Anyone who assumes this is a crazy person.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:42 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is sort of a philosophical problem with online dating, but it's a philosophical problem with How We Live Now, so it doesn't seem like a reason not to use online dating services - anyway, the idea that all problems - and all people - are subject to a bit-by-bit analysis and that you can create a list that accurately represents a person, and that this is the most true source of knowledge about people. Turning people into technology, I suppose, or commodities. That you can absolutely simplify sexual and social attraction into a list of clearly-defined qualities, to better aid you in matching the like ones just as if human relations are an assembly line. (Which is actually one of the premises of a favorite novel of mine, Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand...but I still disagree.)

It seems like there's a whole story here about modern institutions (the hospital, the school, the prison, the classification of people into ever finer-grained categories in order to move them around and control them) and modern warfare (the IQ test) lurking in the background and adding up to OKCupid.

There's something too that I can't quite think out about truth claims...like, you get aggregate data from OKCupid, and it gets turned into sort of a mechanical truth claim, "men are like this, women are like this, and then into a set of norms and standards, so you're either conforming ("Piercings! Cigarettes! Light BDSM! Neil Gaiman! Amanda Palmer! Tiny tophats!") or rebelling ("Piercings! Vanilla sex! Suede loafers! Geology!") and the choice between the two is depressing.

It's like, there arises a whole set of boring common-sense truisms and cliches about how to present yourself online, and those truisms and cliches work, not because everyone wants a fun-loving person who laughs a lot and is sincere, GGG except for [X], etc, but because knowing that you are supposed to say those things is a way of signalling that you are smart enough to negotiate social norms and neither weird enough nor trouble-making enough to deviate from them. It's not about your sincerity, but about showing that you know that it's correct to describe yourself as sincere.

Which again isn't really an argument against online dating, since you can often mostly beat the cliches/'common sense'/etc if you're careful and thoughtful.
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on February 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


//"I'm looking for a matched group of men and women to walk 3 north miles along the beach from Carrer de Meer starting at 10am."//

I met someone a while back that was running a site like this in DC, but I can't remember the name of the site. But it was very much a "I want to go to this concert tonight but none of my friends are into death metal" type of site to find people with similar interests, it did not even need to be a "date."

I'm just glad I met my wife the old fashioned way - a blind date in college. We didn't even have cell phones, you just had to trust people to meet you when you arranged to meet somewhere.

#nowgetoffmydamnlawn.
posted by COD at 7:48 AM on February 7, 2012


Someone should make an app that notifies you when someone who is on okcupid and compatible with you is at the same bar you're at.
posted by empath at 7:50 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


OKC reinforced that many of my friends are also people I should sleep with*, and that the woman I ended up marrying was in fact an excellent match for me.
So now I have a happy marriage, and lots of sexyawesome friends.

Hurray for the future!

* I didn't, OKC just said I should.
posted by Theta States at 7:50 AM on February 7, 2012


...the notion that "with unlimited available choices, you may not ever stick to one."

Real-world products, in our hypercapitalistic society, get over that hump by developing brand devotion in their customers. Brand devotion is critical in online marketing; maybe the problem is that everybody who dates is advertising poorly, resulting in minimal brand recognition. This happens when multiple brands are too similar, resulting in a choice based on something other than characteristics of the product. Just look at the number of households who will buy a vehicle simply based on the manufacturer's logo, i.e. passing on a Mercury to buy a Ford; online dating profiles need to identify themselves as the one and only, a brand for which there is no logical alternative for the lifetime of the product, even if the similarity to competing products reduces the value of making that brand-devotion choice.

And, online dating users only really need to find ONE customer willing to reach that level of devotion. I suppose, to find that one critical 100% devoted customer, each product will have to be tested by an enormous amount of potential customers, resulting in a number of disappointed buyers who will, eventually, become devoted to an entirely different brand, for reasons totally unknown or entirely absurd reasons from the point of view the rejected brands.

However, eventually most brands develop their highest level of devotion, and the customer base stagnates. Sure, things are great with the existing customer base, and the demands are met by the supply, more or less, with some quarters being better than others, but the lack of growth becomes disappointing and sometimes the marketers will get a wild hair that there's the possibility of keeping the current devoted consumers while connecting with a younger, more attractive customer base. But, then they start hiring Terry Crewes to star and getting the Tim and Eric guys to make commercials, and then the devoted customer base might be turned off, disappointed, or completely reject the product for abandoning the things that resulted in such brand devotion in the first place, potentially losing that relationship in the process. Maintaining a devoted customer base over the lifetime of a product is a difficult prospect, something people train all their lives to figure out.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I met the woman I am married to on OKC, and I am deliriously happy. So, I am skeptical of his conclusions, shall we say.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:53 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maintaining a devoted customer base over the lifetime of a product is a difficult prospect, something people train all their lives to figure out.

See, this is very interesting - the naturalness with which folks analogize themselves and their relationships to consumer products. I suggest that this is a comparatively new phenomenon, that "the brand is YOU!" is pretty much the result of a dramatically different interpretation of human purpose and subjectivity.
posted by Frowner at 7:59 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


From another article about the same study:
Behavioral economics has shown that the dating market for singles in Western society is grossly inefficient, especially once individuals exit high school or college, he explains.
I thought part of the fun of the "dating market" is its inefficiency. But maybe I'm just not desperate enough to understand.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:07 AM on February 7, 2012


It seems like there's a whole story here about modern institutions (the hospital, the school, the prison, the classification of people into ever finer-grained categories in order to move them around and control them) and modern warfare (the IQ test) lurking in the background and adding up to OKCupid.

I totally agree with what you're saying here — there will be a larger story to be told, when we finally write the social history of the Internet, about the way the postwar quantification of the self turned into a new, endemic kind of voluntary, preemptive self-quantification. Sure, all those OKC multiple-choice personality quizzes can seem like an expression of the worldview bred into us by generations of standardized tests: if only my #2 pencil is sharp enough of course I can find love!

But (this has already been said above, but bears repeating) the idea that this can be reduced to "now we've quantified love!!1!" really founders on the basic fact that no one actually uses an online dating site as their only, or even their primary, input in the "decision" whether to fall in love (or have sex or do whatever other actual human-relationship activity together beyond meeting over coffee for an hour). Dating sites are a new way to find people to meet, that's all; in terms of how we live our lives as feeling subjects they're still embedded in a much larger world of social practice. They're introduction services; no one really believes them to be a panacea for all aspects of human relationships. Even Alain Badiou should know better than to believe that a few silly hyperbolic ad slogans can encapsulate a new social reality.
posted by RogerB at 8:11 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um, the most recent study published shows that 21% of people met their last date online while only 8% met their last date in a bar.

It's been 17 years since online dating officially became a "thing" or business model to be imitated, Ricochet Biscuit.

I've worked with the OKC blog guys, and between their constant presence in online digital media, the evolution of Friendster, Myspace, Facebook and Twitter into the ubiquitous social media explosion that's common today, and the proliferation of niche dating sites post-Millenium, I'd say the online dating stigma's almost been swept out the door completely now.

In about 10 years, the offspring produced by the first wave of online daters will start hitting the dating/marriage market themselves in earnest (some in as little as 5 years); by then, I think it'll be more like 50/50 odds of meeting someone online - and ZERO stigma whatsoever, at least socially.

Ariely has some cogent thoughts about the paradox of choice, as always. However, it's more of an issue that people tend to associate the online dating experience more with window shopping than job-hunting; it's more like the latter than the former, but people tend to conflate one experience with the other. You can't DATE every single person who's interesting to you (or even just sexually attractive) online; they're not goods to be bought and sold, so to speak. Rather, online dating profiles are closer to job listings that you see and are qualified for, then you apply, and after a couple of interviews, things move forward if it's a good mutual fit for both parties.

Changing this too-prevalent mindset from one where people are seen as experience goods to one where finding dates requires the same amount of time, effort and dedication that job-hunting does will help people move past the unrealistic expectations that lead to articles like the one posted here, I think.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:28 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, guess i'll toss my stories in here. ;) Had several girlfriends in the past, who i've met either at college or at a goth club i used to go to. Moved to a small town half an hour from the twin cities to stay with who i was dating, and after the break up, it became almost impossible to find a date. Those in town were either not available, polar opposites, or the age difference too much. Decided to go online to see if i could meet anyone. Most of the results were either no interest, fake scam profiles (so many russians), said too far at half an hour away, etc. I'm sure it works for others, but for me, who doesn't see the point in lying on them, just doesn't work it seems. There is probably the fact that i'm pretty much an odd duck, and since i've got my share of baggage to say the least, there is less of a chance that someone will bother and instead go to the next profile. Eight years single and i've pretty much given up looking, i'll do it off and on, but the rejection just got too much.

On a different note, i've made a good deal of good friends from more world friend type sites. So there is that.
posted by usagizero at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2012


Is online dating destroying love?

No...it is not.

I AM! Now that my Love-B-Gon 9000 Orbital Platform came online! It circles the Earth, firing rays of apathy and contempt upon the world!

LOVE IS DOOMED!

MUH-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAA!!!


God, there's just no science like mad science, is there?
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:32 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


lucidium: "I'm halfway through, but I get the impression that the writer just wants to sneer at how only horrid nerds find relationships outside of the people they happen to meet at school and work."

This particular nerd is very happy that the internets allowed him to find his geeky wife I'm not sure how that would have happened otherwise.
posted by octothorpe at 8:38 AM on February 7, 2012


Online dating isn't destroying love, but I do find services like match.com and (especially) eharmony to be pretty sleazy. They profit off of people's misery not their happiness, and they tout themselves like they're some kind of governmental social service that's the only way to meet people and fall in love.

Hmm. Come to think of it, maybe the government should set up a Department of Online Dating and turn the whole thing in to a real social service, a welfare for the lonely and socially awkward.
posted by item at 8:41 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


sexual encounters as perishable and substitutable as yoghurt

Looks like my "wrongest and most unpleasant metaphor of the day" contest ended early today!


Yeah, what the fuck? Yogurt's not very persishable at all; it's full of microbes that out-compete most other microorganisms that might try to spoil it. Looks like Stuart Jeffries is an utter asshole who doesn't know anything about yogurt.

Nice job, Stuart

You non-yogurt-making ASS
posted by Greg Nog at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


At least once a day there is a post on metafilter which is basically some Guardian columnist quoting a blog about the end of something or other. I cannot wait until their deep vein of 'great things Ed Miliband says' and 'thoughts I have had about how horrible an idea Scottish independence is' columns is tapped. If that dries up we can at least turn to the 'why high speed rail to Birmingham is evil' columns while substitutes are found.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:44 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


My housemate and dear friend met his current girlfriend through internet dating, and I'm thankful for that every day, because not only is she very well suited to him (she's been living with us for two years now, and they love each other very much) she also turned out to be wonderfully well suited to be my friend. There are interests we all share, like philosophy and dissatisfaction with reality, but also a bunch of interests that she and I have in common while he doesn't, like crafts and baking and Batman. And then there are the things she's won me around to, like hugging. I am the least huggy person in the world, but now when I get home from work it's all 'HUUGS; How was your day?' So we have this lovely warm family thanks to internet dating. It is the best.

She hasn't always felt comfortable about the circumstances under which they met, though, because she's a bit oversensitive to the idea that people might find it odd. So at first, she told her parents that she met him on a train. But then he said that sounded just as odd, and if she wanted a cover story she should say she met him in a bookshop. So then she told her friends that she met him in a bookshop, but in the mean time her parents were telling everyone they met the romantic story of them meeting on the train. At this point the numerous conflicting stories about how they met became a bit of a running joke, and for their first anniversary he and I worked together and photoshopped a whole album full of photographs of their first meeting. There was a photo of them meeting on a train, in a bookshop, underwater, on the moon, in the trenches, at the Yalta conference, in a women's prison, by the Taj Mahal and at a rodeo.

Now she just tells people she met him online.
posted by Acheman at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


Even Alain Badiou should know better than to believe that a few silly hyperbolic ad slogans can encapsulate a new social reality.

Of course there isn't anything that encapsulates all aspects of human experience, but when you have a new and pervasive way of thinking about what people are and how they experience the world, and what makes for good human relations, that's a big deal. It's not so much "if only I personally can describe myself precisely enough, then I will definitely find love!"; it's the idea that people can be quantified in the same way that you'd quantify the ingredients in [oh, let's pick something nice so that this doesn't sound judgy] - a jar of delicious organic pasta sauce.

A new and pervasive way of thinking about people permeates and effects a lot more than just the moment of truth on OKCupid (which is part of the reason that it would be silly to give up OKCupid.)
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on February 7, 2012


So we have this lovely warm family thanks to internet dating. It is the best.

The guy I met on Match.com ten years ago is now very much just a platonic friend (it feels so much like he's my brother that thinking about the fact we dated actually triggers my incest revulsion response), but he is still very much a friend - he's one of the three people I trust more than anyone on the planet.

But we are also business partners; I started working with him at his theater company about 2 weeks after we broke up, and that's been wildly successful. But once in a blue moon, we've held some benefit or opening-night party or something, and some playwright or actor or whatever who's new to the company will be chatting with the two of us and ask us the small-talky, "So, how did you start working together?" And we still give each other a sidelong glance and an "uh....?" before answering, because saying "through Match.com" is kind of a weird answer for that. (My friend once answered with what is now both of our standard response: "We dated, we broke up, and we got over it.")

Then there was the time a playwright we've worked with for years was hanging out in our office, and was lamenting about a recent breakup and talking about how he was considering starting to date again. "I've even considered doing things like Match.com," he said. "But I don't know - have either of you ever done that?"

"Uh....yeah."

"Really? How'd it work for you?"

My friend and I looked at each other, then I said, "Well, it's how I met this guy -- so it didn't do much for my love life in the long term, but it was a great business networking tool."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the general premise of the article is wrong. I met my current girlfriend via on-line dating. We have been going strong for almost 2 years. In my experience, the only thing that makes on-line dating different is the way we meet. Rather than meeting people in bars/church/school/work, you exchange emails up to a point you are comfortable enough to go meet that person in real life. At that point, the on-line interface ceases to be important. The idea that this new avenue to meet people is destroying the old ways of meeting people is nonsense.
posted by RedShrek at 9:08 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I met my girlfriend on OKCupid, we've been together for almost a year now and I'm crazy in love with her.

Hard to take this article seriously, you know?


4.5 years, engaged, going to be parents by this time next week. And I met her on, wait for it, The Guardian's dating site.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Met my girlfriend online. She said she switched to online dating because she kept hanging out with coworkers (at her tech company) and wanted to date guys other than nerds. Instead, she got me. Hah!
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:23 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I met my boyfriend through online dating. His and my online profiles were telling in that they said virtually nothing about us and he didn't even have a picture of his face. I have no idea what drove me to contact him. Eight months in and he knows me better than I thought anyone could. And his face? Gorgeous.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 9:27 AM on February 7, 2012



Met my girlfriend online. She said she switched to online dating because she kept hanging out with coworkers (at her tech company) and wanted to date guys other than nerds. Instead, she got me. Hah!
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:23 AM on February 7 [+] [!]


Is this what "eponysterical" means?
posted by d. z. wang at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've been dating online since 2006, when I was sending messages to random girls on Myspace. Mor recently I've met people through OKCupid, craigslist (both sketchy and non-sketchy sections) and even this very site. (Both of the mefites I went out with posted in that thread. BUT WHICH ONES?)

I'm a little shy, I dont have a huge social circle, and I'm not to everyone's tastes, so online dating is the most reasonable method for me to date. Furthermore, there are huge benefits to dating people outside of your social circle -- if it goes well, great! Now you can get a whole new circle of friends! If it's terrible, not too bad either; nobody you care about will ever know!

Sure, dating is hard. I went on 20 first dates last fall; only four of those led to second dates and only one of those people has been really long-term. But every one of those experiences was valuable, whether it was for the experience of meeting new people or the butterflies of blossoming romance. Even the dates that went poorly were instructive.

And hey, maybe you'll get laid.
posted by modernserf at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I generally agree with the theory that online dating is just another tool in the overall toolbox (which can also include work, friends of friends, bars/clubs, church/synagogue, other social activities and hobbies, etc.) of ways to meet romantic partners, and if people are finding it a useful way to find potential mates I don't necessarily see why, beyond being new, this particular method deserves the intense scrutiny it gets compared to other methods (probably not nearly as likely to see a "Is meeting people at the gym destroying love" type articles)

Now at the risk of contradicting that statement, what I found internet dating lacked for me was the ability to account for the intangibles that are impossible to determine based on a photo and list of common interests. Specifically, I'm almost positive that had my wife and I been on the same online dating site instead of meeting through work we would have never matched up: She's just outside of the 5-year age range in either direction I tended to limit my searches to, she has two children from a previous marriage which would have immediately taken her off my radar if she was just a profile on a screen, and the list of common interests we share or similar tastes in music, books, movies, TV, etc. is pretty minimal. Yet we've been together now, mostly happily, for over a decade.

On the other hand, I can think of one woman in particular who I met through an online dating site who appeared on screen to be my absolute perfect match in terms of common interests (and she was attractive enough as well), but as nice as she was and as well as we got along the whole thing felt not unlike dating my sister. At the end of the day, I think we tend to overestimate how important having a partner who likes "Great Expectations" and "30 Rock" as much as you do is in finding a romantic partner.
posted by The Gooch at 9:32 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Offline you are choosing people based on... how they look.

And how they move. And smell. And sound. Or what kaibutsu said.

I just returned from a vacation where I met quite a few awesome men. Not a single one of which I would have given a second look at if I had seen their (honest) profiles online.

Hint hint. Y'all just need to improve your Internet skillz. Or else stop being so superficial. (*kiss*)

Hah. If you want to experience unremitting misery, try involuntary celibacy.

Or sexual repression because you think you are a freak. Internetz FTW.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:36 AM on February 7, 2012


the whole thing felt not unlike dating my sister.

hot
posted by Greg Nog at 9:38 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The idea that this new avenue to meet people is destroying the old ways of meeting people is nonsense.

I wouldn't go as far as to call it nonsense. The article is bollocks, but I think there is something larger in the "Rise of the Screens."

I mean, didn't you used to see kids playing on your street when you grew up (I still do, but I think my neighborhood is an anomaly)?

The Internet has (so thankfully) pulled a lot of TV watchers away from the Tube, but combined *with* the Tube, it's also kept a lot of people out of bars, clubs, bowling alleys, softball fields, library book clubs, and free concerts in the park, etc.

It's not specific to online dating, but the Internet in general, and the continued "insidization" (driven by virtualization) of modern culture, has negatively affected the number of people you can meet out and about IRL. No?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not specific to online dating, but the Internet in general, and the continued "insidization" (driven by virtualization) of modern culture, has negatively affected the number of people you can meet out and about IRL. No?
...unless you were a weird kid who didn't fit in. In which case, you made your friends online, and internet friends beats no friends any day of the week.
And isn't the whole point of online dating to meet people in real life?
posted by modernserf at 9:48 AM on February 7, 2012


At the end of the day, I think we tend to overestimate how important having a partner who likes "Great Expectations" and "30 Rock" as much as you do is in finding a romantic partner.

Tomato, tomahto. For me, it's the other way around. A compatible romantic (read: sex) partner is much more important to me than sharing aesthetic preferences. And politics/class issues is probably more important than sex. (That's right, sexy right-wingers ... you'll have to convert in order to fuck me.)

The thing, as everyone knows, is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution for romantic love. The Internet has enabled millions of different sorts of new relationships. It's inevitable that the older forms of relationships will be diminished, if only slightly.

For example, typing and writing is now likely a much more important skill in attracting a romantic partner. Talking on the phone is much, much less important. Is that good or bad? (Good for me. I think :s) Neither, really. Just different.

But you can't be surprised when the guy with a great phone personality who can't type (or correctly construct real-life personalities from digital/virtual personas) is miffed at the cultural shift.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:57 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


What did bother me about online dating was the idea that people were marketing themselves. That's why my profile contained almost no information besides my love of cheese and books.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:06 AM on February 7, 2012


Honestly, online dating helped me, a bored student at an all women's institution, refine what I really wanted from people. In general! Not just guys! The ability to write in complete sentences, for one. To be able to hold a conversation and expose excitement and curiosity about things. I tried hanging around in coffee shops/bars in DC, looking all available in real life, and...mainly took notes on whiskeys and graduate school apps. OKC has taken off in a huge way among the people I know who have just graduated from college, and I think it's helped some of my friends sort out who they want to be and who they would like to be friends with in the future.

It's not like people who do some sifting through online profiles are locking themselves in their basement and never seeing the light of a bar again, dum dum duuuuum. You can actually do both at the same time! I'm much more okay with OKCupid than I am with the concept of dating someone at work (?!) or of pulling someone out of the gutter after last call...
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:17 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a black woman. My boyfriend of 14 months is a white guy 12 years my senior. He's a busy single parent, a bit shy and I guarantee, never would have approached me in real life (He says he's just never been good at the spontaneous come-on).

I'm a Brooklyn native who hasn't lost the permanent scowl I developed growing up. (Read: Not very approachable.) Not to mention that my guy had never had a serious black girlfriend before me.

Online dating has, I believe, provided opportunities for folks like us to come together in a way that's rather comfortable for the shy and/or unapproachable and/or new to interracial dating. (You send an email. You don't get one back? Oh well.) It's also allowed people to step out of comfort zones a bit. It's fraught with peril? Dating generally is ... but I'm pretty happy with my interwebs experience.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh man I should confess that years ago a friend and I set up a fake Craigslist Ad for a princess looking for the Magical Smokes Panda in this Target Women and got serious responses back, from people who somehow thought "Magical Panda" was a serious inquiry? So it's true, we might have ruined dating. And marriage. And pandas. To the cute guy in Arlington and the GMU student: I'm sorry! We were young! Your responses were charming!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:32 AM on February 7, 2012


My own experience of online dating is that it's entirely more trouble than it's worth.

On the average, you'll write someone about 3 emails before meeting them. And on top of that, there's often a phonecall step to set up the date. Anywhere between all those emails and phonecalls, there's the possibility that she won't return your email. This is what I call eFail. You wrote a perfectly good email -- no glaring errors, nothing untoward, maybe even a few witty touches -- but didn't get one in return. Fucking sucks. Basically, someone poked their head into your life just long enough to make you feel like crap. Now, I used to get a relatively high response rate to my emails, but then again, I'd also spend a lot of time on them -- sometimes upwards of an hour. But let's say she does agree to go on a date. Well, there's still the chance that, having made plans, she'll flake out at the last moment. Happens all the time. After all, she has no reason to care if you're disappointed -- she doesn't even know you.

But okay, let's assume you didn't eFail, she doesn't flake out, and you actually do get to meet each other. Uh oh! Looks like she used an overly flattering photo that de-emphasized some unattractive features. Or maybe one from a couple years ago, before she put on some pounds. Or maybe it was even photoshopped. Oh yes, this happens. I'd say about 65-75% of the time, "the goods were not as advertised". Now, this is certainly no worse than a dude lying about his height or income or whatever -- I'm not saying that dudes are more honest than women -- but I'm writing about this from the perspective of a guy, and this was my experience.

But okay, let's assume she's as attractive as she was on the site. Great. But what happens now? Well, a lot of times, you don't have a damn thing to talk about. No matter how compatible OkCupid thought you were, no matter how many of the same books you enjoyed, no matter how much you liked each others' writing styles, there's just no spark. Nothing. No fizz. Flat. Damn, well, you just wasted a whole lot of time on something that didn't pan out -- not to mention all the time you spent on other girls who you didn't even get to meet.

Basically, this is because the entire process that OkCupid hawks is absolutely worthless. The profiles, the photos, the algorithms, the interminable email-writing process, none of those things will give you any sort of an impression of how likely you are to get along with somebody.

My (admittedly one-sided) take? Online dating sites like OkCupid exist to give men increased opportunity, and women the illusion of control. Basically, if a woman is anywhere near attractive, she gets slammed with tons and tons of dating requests from dudes she doesn't know. Assuming she's game -- and why else would she be on the site? -- she wants to try at least one of them out, but how to choose? Well, she's given all of the aforementioned selection criteria -- photos, profiles, emails, etc -- except, haha, it's all completely, 100% arbitrary! None of those things tell you if you're going to get along with somebody. But they fill the important role of making a woman feel like she has some kind of control in the situation, and won't pick a loser or rapist. Most of the time, this doesn't end tragically, because, despite what shows like 20/20 will have you believe, danger does not lurk around every corner, and most men are not rapists or mass murderers. Even (gasp) online.

So who does this system benefit? A very small number of people.

First group? A category of people I like to call the Super Alphas. Not just alpha men or women, but super alphas. They're the coolest, the prettiest, tallest, best-socialized, most well-connected, and often richest people on there. These people don't need any help. But their very presence distorts the market. I actually came up with this theory to describe why dating in NYC and LA sucks, but it's just as relevant for OkCupid. The very presence of Super Alphas makes people want to hold out for one. Who cares if the sexiest girls never like you when you meet them, or the handsomest, smoothest guys only like you for one night stands? Those super alphas are OUT THERE, super alpha-ing, which means that you have the chance, however unlikely, of snagging one. This makes people less likely to do what they refer to as "settling", but which people in prior generations would have simply called "finding somebody". And I think this is what the OP is getting at -- finding someone to love is not like buying a fucking camera. How many wonderful people look shitty on paper? Or don't have an arsenal of great photographs? Or aren't skilled at coming up with the Perfect Witty Email in less than 24 hours time? Lots and lots of people. But sites like OkCupid tantalize us with this vision of perfect people. And lets just say for a moment that these perfect people are actually as perfect as they say they are. Well guess what? They don't need you! They get plenty of laid. In fact, you're better off not even wasting your time with them.

What other group of people benefit from OkCupid? Well, there are the 'Players' -- both male and female. The male players are just slick bastards. They've mastered The Game. They know all the things to say. They have Tactics. This isn't most men -- although lots of men like to think this describes them. Mostly, women enjoy themselves around these guys because they're just that good. In fact, having talked to a number of women who've had innumerable online dates with clueless nebbishes, I think half of them would actually appreciate being on a date with a solid player. As for the female players? Well, I don't want to spend a lot of time here. But I'll just say that they know what they want, they know what they've got, and usually they're not interested in a terribly deep relationship. They usually get what they want, but then go on complain to their friends over brunch about how they can't meet a decent guy. I know, because my girlfriend and I have to sit at tables next to them and overhear their conversations.

And finally, you have normal people who actually find a good relationship over OkCupid. I'd say this happens more from random chance than anything else. You put enough people together, inevitably some of them will click. But here's the thing -- that click had NOTHING to do with the OkCupid ritual. It happened because two people actually took a chance and went out and met each other! Wow, surprise surprise, sometimes people are just compatible! Imagine that!

So yeah, I dunno. The conclusions in this article are bizarre and WTFy -- LoveSex? Huh? -- and I think the real solution is actually a lot simpler. Get people to meet each other! The best place to meet someone is at a house party or fun social event. Towards the end of my online dating stint, I actually had a lot of luck with plain old Craigslist. I'd post an ad to the effect of, "Hey, I'm going to see this badass cello player in concert, who wants to come with me?". And guess what? I'd get quality responses. At that point, there was no "witty email banter" phase, because it was just a matter of working out the details of where and when we'd meet. There's actually an intriguing new online dating site called HowAboutWe that's pretty much entirely based on this idea.

I dunno, what ultimately worked for me maybe wouldn't work for everybody. I eventually met my girlfriend through an unrepeatable series of coincidences that almost didn't happen. But none of them would have happened if I hadn't gone to a random party where I only knew one other person, and then chatted up a random girl because she was cute. 7 months later, I'm dating a friend of a friend of hers. 7 months later, we're still dating, and it's the best relationship of my life.

Damn, I guess I have no moral to this story except to say that the more time people spend out with random people, chatting them up, and the less time they spend behind a computer trying to compose THE PERFECT EMAIL, THE PERFECT PROFILE, or find THE PERFECT PICTURE, the more likely they are to actually find someone.

And that is my advice, however biased.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


I've always known in about the first minute of in person meeting if I was going to end up dating someone. So I eventually learned with internet dating to get to that meeting as quickly as possible.

Well, I barely go on dates anymore and am contemplating being forever alone, but... shrug.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:47 AM on February 7, 2012


desires are fulfilled only momentarily before we go on the hunt for new objects to scratch new itches.

The Buddha said ...

ah the hell with it.
posted by Twang at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2012


For me, the mind-bogglingly irksome part of online dating was chatting with someone a bunch in order to convince someone that I'm an actual thinking human who isn't just a creep, and then finally meeting them and there's no chemistry whatsoever.

I met my husband on a not-dating-related message board. We spent months reading each other's posts on [topic] and by the time we actually got around to the banal getting-to-know-you chatting through email, we were already very attracted to each other on the level of personality and intellect. By the time we met we had tremendous chemistry.

I suspect I would not fare nearly as well trying to find a partner through a dating website. If I were back in the dating pool (heaven forbid!) I'd find a couple of good message boards with a number of active members of my preferred gender, and get really involved with posting about the topic.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2012


I think of meeting people through things like OKCupid kind of like going to bars. You throw a lot of things/emails at the wall/profiles and hope something sticks. It ends up being a numbers game more than anything else. Whereas if you meet people through shared interest sites like Metafilter (or Reddit or Ravelry) then it's much more like meeting people through friends, where you already have something in common to jump off from and you're much more likely to be compatible with them.

Like I said, I met The Boyfriend through Metafilter, and some of the coolest people I've met in this city I met through MeFi meetups. I've also made a few friends through Meetup.Com and shared-interest-events like WordCamp. My shot-in-the-dark seeking-platonic-friends classified posts, however, netted a few dinner outings but no one I actually got along with.

Just as there are different ways of approaching offline dating/making friends, so there are different ways of approaching the online version. It's not always a black and white line.
posted by Phire at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2012


I am with the concept of dating someone at work (?!)

Just playing Mr. Counterpoint again, I LOVE hooking up with people at work. I hate work, but I love the people. I can't think of any better way to really learn about someone than to work with them closely and regularly. Great preparation for parenting. (Yes, I met my wife at work, though we no longer work together.)

On the average, you'll write someone about 3 emails before meeting them. And on top of that, there's often a phonecall step to set up the date. Anywhere between all those emails and phonecalls, there's the possibility that she won't return your email. This is what I call eFail.

And it took you all of 30 minutes (15 with a little practice).

You wrote a perfectly good email -- no glaring errors, nothing untoward, maybe even a few witty touches -- but didn't get one in return. Fucking sucks. Basically, someone poked their head into your life just long enough to make you feel like crap.

Whoa whoa whoa. No, *you* poked your head into *their* life and when they didn't respond, you got pissy. That's not how the game works.

Basically, this is because the entire process that OkCupid hawks is absolutely worthless.

Have you actually read the comments? I count a lot of OKC marriages upthread.

I think the real solution is actually a lot simpler. Get people to meet each other!

To be honest, your story sounds like you finally figured out how to make dating (online or not) work for you. People could use OKC similarly to how you used Craigslist. It's all about facilitation. It's easy to say "get people to meet each other," but, but, but ... many people are afraid or anxious to approach a total stranger or join a group of strangers in real life; they aren't afraid at all to do it online. There is the rub.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've had one LTR precipitated by online dating, and it ended for reasons completely unrelated to online dating. I've had lots of short-term relationships facilitated by online dating. Interspersed have been many other short-term relationships and another LTR which happened through more organic connections.

IME online dating is just a way to increase contact points. It's a great way to meet people, especially for those of us who don't like to be the center of attention and/or can't hear or communicate in loud bars, where a lot of connections are made. Beyond that, it's whatever you make of it.

If people are having problems forging committed relationships, I would say online dating is symptomatic, not causative.
posted by scelerat at 11:21 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Basically, this is because the entire process that OkCupid hawks is absolutely worthless. The profiles, the photos, the algorithms, the interminable email-writing process, none of those things will give you any sort of an impression of how likely you are to get along with somebody.

I've experienced the opposite. OKC's matching results in a high likelihood that I will like or get along with someone.

But there is *no* guarantee that I will be attracted to them in a romantic or sexual way. For reasons you state: photos can be deceiving; reading too much into profiles, etc. Another one: someone's smell, their voice, patterns of speech, etc. Nothing you can do about it. I try to go into those online dates with the attitude of "let's have a nice evening with someone completely new. If something comes of it, great. If not, that's ok too." People can smell desperation a mile away. I've had LTRs from these; I've had one night stands; many dead ends. everything in between too. It's the same with any sort of dating.
posted by scelerat at 11:28 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


People can smell desperation a mile away.

Quoted for truth.
posted by Gelatin at 11:33 AM on February 7, 2012


Huh; I'm remembering something another guy I met online said about online dating (not the theater guy above; this was a briefer and more casual thing with a really interesting guy who's since dropped out of sight).

He had a theory that in the early days of online dating, it was more of a good option for...well, for nerds or somewhat off-kilter people. We were the ones that were "weird" and "out-there" enough to be risking online dating, because early on it was considered to be this weird freaky thing; and so if it was the weird freaky people who were the only ones using it, then that just increased the likelihood that the weird freaky people could hit it off, because eveyrone was weird and freaky. We were all a self-selecting society, so it was more fertile hunting grounds. Then when it became more "accepted," and every yutz with ears was getting into Match.com and such, then that diluted the pool of people the weird freaks would be into, and...we had a lot less luck.

(In the interest of full disclosure -- this was a guy who wore a bracelet of fake human teeth on his wrist 24/7. He had a FANTASTIC explanation for it, and he was actually a really cool guy, but it's still a pretty good indicator that this guy really marched to his own drummer and that the standard Match.com/OKC chick may not be who he's into.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa. No, *you* poked your head into *their* life and when they didn't respond, you got pissy. That's not how the game works.

You're assuming that I contacted them first. Most of the time, that was not the case.

And it took you all of 30 minutes (15 with a little practice).

If you want to send a half-assed email, maybe. The kind women complain about to their friends and never respond to.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:36 AM on February 7, 2012


Is online dating destroying love?

No.

This was simple answers to bloody stupid and insulting questions.

Slightly longer answer: I first met my wife to be online, on IRC sometime in May or June 2000, we first met face to face on the 30th of December the same year, have lived together since October of 2003, got married on the 24th of August 2010, stayed together until she died the 7th of November last year.

Anybody stupid enough to think that our "online dating" didn't lead to "true love" can get my boot up their arse.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:39 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Once you know you can never unknown: the vast majority of women's usernames on OkC are related to their name. Even really weird ones that I'm positive cannot be related to their name... it'll just turn out their name is unusual.

Also, ladies, you are rubbish at sending out first messages, but I still like you because you're soft, smell nice and let me wear my chain and turtleneck sweater.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:41 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, ladies, you are rubbish at sending out first messages.....

Huh. Then can you explain why only ONE of the first messages I've sent out in the past year even got an answer? Because there've been a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on February 7, 2012


The profiles, the photos, the algorithms, the interminable email-writing process, none of those things will give you any sort of an impression of how likely you are to get along with somebody.

I think this is true for some people -- it certainly is for me -- but I'm not sure it's universal.

My impression of online dating was that the dynamic worked a lot like going to a bar, even if all the specifics were different. Most people had a pretty carefully prepared "pitch" and success was mostly about being glibly conversant and going quickly through a large number of candidates until you found a mutual nibble. The fact that it was in writing rather than voice and body language seemed like a fairly minor detail.

Certainly, there are people who are shy in face-to-face situations who come out of their shells online, and online dating seems like a great innovation for them, but I think a lot of the online dating hype ignores that fact that it requires just as much social skill as anything else, just of a different type.
posted by bjrubble at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2012


Huh. Then can you explain why only ONE of the first messages I've sent out in the past year even got an answer? Because there've been a lot.

Hm, I have counseled some dudes in the past. Do your messages usually go:
Hey! I see that you are a nordic ski-er. What is your favorite skiing place? What kind of fruit do you like? I enjoy kumquats.
-EmpressCalli

That seems to be generally how most people write messages and it's just atrocious. I think it works much better when you kind of just have a conversation with someone, and each paragraph (for later messages, opening messages are usually just one or two short ones) is a separate conversation.

I am, however, firmly in the show don't tell category. via text that's an interesting episode rather than straight information or questions.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:07 PM on February 7, 2012


Then again, maybe you're just shooting for the wrong kind of dudes. Online dating sure is soul sucking no matter what. :(
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2012


"Unlike in ordinary situations, where most of the people you meet are already taken and it may be unclear whether the remaining ones are available or interested, in online dating you at least both know from the beginning that you’re both seeking a relationship. This enables you to proceed directly to specific areas of concern and interest, and often to learn more about each other in an hour than you would have in weeks or months under more casual circumstances. You might think that it would be really weird to start a conversation like that with a stranger, but it’s actually a lot of fun once you relax and get used to the idea. That, at least, has been my experience. If I had approached these encounters like job interviews, I would have gotten burned out pretty fast! The reason I continue to enjoy the process is because I’m keeping it light and loose, appreciating the interaction with each new person without worrying too much about whether or not she might be my ideal match. In fact, this distinction has become increasingly blurred — I’ve become so habituated to enjoying lively encounters that I sometimes decide to meet a woman who seems particularly interesting even if I suspect that a romantic attraction is unlikely..." (Adventurer Seeks Adventuress: Three Years of Online Dating)

Net result: several dozen congenial acquaintances with whom I remain in contact (e.g. I might run into them at a concert or a political event I've emailed them about); a dozen or so new friends (one of whom has become one of my best friends); and a wonderful woman who is now my girlfriend.
posted by Bureau of Public Secrets at 12:23 PM on February 7, 2012


Look, if y'all are having trouble getting responses to online dating messages, just write a whole lot of really explicit slashfic about Downton Abbey characters. Go for the ones you don't see enough of in the show, like Anna/Thomas, Lord Grantham/his dog, Dowager/Dowager. You'll get all kinds of messages back, like "what" and "stop" and "not cool"
posted by Greg Nog at 12:29 PM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Someone should make an app that notifies you when someone who is on okcupid and compatible with you is at the same bar you're at.

It is called Grindr.
posted by Forktine at 12:56 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


also okc has a thing now called locals where you can put out a broadcast and people nearby can send you a message about meeting up. or just creepily show up where you're at and call you out by your username (yes this happened.)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:01 PM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read Ariely's book (where he talks about online dating) last year. His primary anecdote is one of his graduate students. This student apparently kept reems of spreadsheet data on every prospect: every profile viewed, every message sent and recieved, every first date (there were precious few second ones for reasons that will become evident shortly). Then, when student actually gets a date, instead of doing something fun, or casually sitting down for coffee or beers or whatever, student presents the lucky lady with a 100 question quiz for her fill out to ensure she really has all the qualities of his perfect mate. (Because apparently, the questions the site asks for a profile aren't sufficient??)

Anyway, the presumed conclusion of grad student's story to me was: "Wow, what a psycho. If I got the 'wife application' on a first date, I would run out of there so fast!!!" But Ariely took out of that story that grad student still wasn't finding out the right things to find his perfect mate. (I still maintain, that his approach probably scared her away even if she does exist.)

In any case, my anecdata is that I met some losers through OKCupid, some interesting men with whom I nevertheless didn't click, and about a year and half ago, a superhot ginger guy who's now my awesome boyfriend. So I win. :-) Also, while you can't filter out all bad dates through online profiles, I *did* filter out the sort of guy whose profile consisted entirely of Ayn Rand quotes and the other guy whose prose read like that of a LOLcat. So, also win.
posted by Kurichina at 1:34 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shouting "Christina! Christina! Christina!" could've been a coincidence!

"Attention bar patrons, I am seeking contact with user christinachristinachristina. Will she please step forward?" not so much.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:35 PM on February 7, 2012


"CRISTINACRISTINACRINA! I have come to seduce you - reveal thyself!"
posted by Think_Long at 2:08 PM on February 7, 2012


I wonder what the MeFi-to-OKC overlap ratio is (compared to, say, Match, or alt.com, etc..)? I've seen several dozen (of which I am one) just by handle and post topics. Early OKC adopters were fairly geeky, so I'd guess a fairly large pool....
posted by Dreidl at 2:41 PM on February 7, 2012


Have you actually read the comments? I count a lot of OKC marriages upthread.

I don't think we should count those mrgrimm. That's anecdotal evidence, reported from an online community...that gets this...spends lots of time finding or sharing links of interest across the Internet. Hardly impartial.

I was hoping for a link to a real study finding out the success of relationships that began online vs. those that began offline. Something that combines OKCupid Blog with what the US Census Bureau does.
posted by FJT at 2:47 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you actually read the comments? I count a lot of OKC marriages upthread.

I don't think we should count those mrgrimm


Well, and my point is not that people never meet each other on OKC. What I'm saying is that, when people DO find someone over OKC, it's not because OKC or traditional online dating is an especially good way to find somebody; it's just that, when you have that many random people meeting each other, statistically speaking some of those people will get along with each other.

And I'm not saying that online dating is horrible and that nobody should do it. I just think it's incredibly time-consuming relative to what I was able to get out of it. I'm in favor of anything that gets people away from their computers and in front of another person. The more you do this, the more likely you are to find somebody. I just think OKC (and other sites) are an inefficient and unpleasant way to do this.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:21 PM on February 7, 2012


Heh. I met my sweetie through Craigslist casual encounters. Neither of us expected to fall in love, but we did. LURVE.

That was six years ago. We kinda like telling people about how we met.
posted by jet_silver at 8:27 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I met my boyfriend on Plentyoffish.com. We've been together almost 4 years, living together almost 3. Without online dating, we never would have met. So my answer to that question is "no."

Sidenote: I met my first serious boyfriend in 1992, via the IU VAX network. I also dated several people whom I met via online BBSes. Back then, most of the people I knew thought it was really odd to meet guys that way - I ended up telling people we met "through friends," which was kind of true.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:35 AM on February 8, 2012


Heh. I met my sweetie through Craigslist casual encounters. Neither of us expected to fall in love, but we did. LURVE.
That was six years ago. We kinda like telling people about how we met.

Ha, the same thing happened to friends of mine. Craigslist for some casual sex, and 5 years later they're married!
posted by Theta States at 6:02 AM on February 8, 2012


gmonkeylouie: "I met my girlfriend on OKCupid, we've been together for almost a year now and I'm crazy in love with her.

Hard to take this article seriously, you know?
"

Me too!

And duh, of course numbers are not a sufficient measurement of compatability (although in my case they were remarkably accurate). Which is why it's a good thing that on dating sites you're allowed to click a button that merely says "Send Message" rather than "Marry Instantly"

If anything, online dating allows you to create relationships that are far less likely to be superficially based. The people I've had the best relationships with were people I met via an online dating site. If I had met them in real life I might not have dated them as they didn't look like my "type".
posted by Deathalicious at 6:45 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And duh, of course numbers are not a sufficient measurement of compatability (although in my case they were remarkably accurate).

Totally the same for me, too. I think the key is not "OMG OKCupid has mapped out love!", but to look at it like: "OKCupid has pre-filtered out anyone that does not support gay marriage, is not pro-choice, doesn't want children, has obvious racist views, needs to smoke cigarettes indoors, and who wouldn't date larger women."

The key for me was strategically using the "Mandatory" requirements for the important stuff and skipping over most of the bullshit questions. (Would I really care if my date was in to romantic comedies and/or enjoyed heavy metal music?)
posted by Theta States at 7:46 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is a meta-analysis of over 400 studies of online dating basically confirming Afroblanco's criticism that online dating makes people picky and unrealistic :

Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, Sprecher. Online Dating:A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Assoc. Psych. Sci. (pdf)

See : rochester.edu press release and sciencedaily.com article
posted by jeffburdges at 8:44 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awww, won't someone think of the poor nice guys.

Goofyy wipes face, looks up. Oh! I'm sorry. Were you saving them for something else?
posted by Goofyy at 11:30 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Internet makes it easier for people to find like-minded people, in politics, religion, any number of special interests and love. People seem terribly specific about the details of the partner they seek. I think cultural differences are driving changes in relationships and marriage more than the Internet/online dating. The easy (relatively) availability of abortion, birth control, and divorce hve made a huge difference. The Internet reflects the change in the culture.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 PM on February 8, 2012


I tend to agree with afroblanoco and the Association of Psychological studies paper linked above. I've done online dating for about ten years now-- from craigslist to match to eHarmony to OKCupid. I had one decent relationship come out of it in a decade. A few decent-to-regrettable one nighter's, and about ten thousand wasted hours of emailing, waiting and phonecalls.

What I really regret now, are the handful of reasonably attractive, RIGHT THERE IN REALITY, girls I kind-of-knew but never really pursued because I was busy hoping that MsZapFingers2004 was going to write me back that day.

I'd underline Afroblanco's well said point about exposure to superalphas (as much as I despise the misuse of primatological concepts). It's a sort of fantasty game that single people get to play, like an insidious lottery.

And yeah, I know dozens of counterexamples and Match.com marriages (a good friend of mine works for Match in an undisclosed but strategic capacity). As I always tell him, the plural of anecote isn't data.

Does online dating destroy love? Well that's just bad copy. Does it distort perspectives in such a way as to reduce finding meaningful commitment in realistic relationships? I think you could argue that point.
posted by mrdaneri at 8:52 PM on February 8, 2012


s/b 'anecdote.' alas.
posted by mrdaneri at 8:53 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right; the people in here who reported success with Craigslist actually inspired me to poke my nose in and see what was on offer there.

And then seeing that the very first ad listed was titled "I Love To Eat Russian Ass And Pussy" inspired me to abandon that plan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


mrdaneri: "And yeah, I know dozens of counterexamples and Match.com marriages (a good friend of mine works for Match in an undisclosed but strategic capacity). As I always tell him, the plural of anecote isn't data.

Does online dating destroy love? Well that's just bad copy. Does it distort perspectives in such a way as to reduce finding meaningful commitment in realistic relationships? I think you could argue that point.
"

It works both ways. Your stories of distorted perspectives are also anecdata. In fact, I'm guessing there is plenty of data out there on people who have gotten married after meeting online, and I'm guessing that is a large and increasingly larger number. So probably easier to prove the reverse, honestly.

Also, it's assuming that there aren't other equally distorting effects from encountering people in person rather than online.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:45 AM on February 9, 2012


that the very first ad listed was titled "I Love To Eat Russian Ass And Pussy" inspired me to abandon that plan.

Wow, that's bigoted. What the hell do you have against Russians?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2012


EFF : Six Heartbreaking Truths about Online Dating Privacy

ITWorld : Looking for love, finding privacy violations

And I enjoyed SMBC's Valentine's Day comic too, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:35 AM on February 12, 2012


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