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David Mitchell on online dating
August 5, 2013 3:09 AM   Subscribe

For my generation, a proper grounding in dating chutzpah, like the teaching of English grammar, had been removed from the curriculum. I'm not sure Michael Gove is the man to put that right. A lot of men my age went into the world thinking that the only way you got a girlfriend was to find a way of copping off with someone at a party. And the level of drunkenness often required by both individuals in order to make that happen can impair judgment of mutual compatibility. I'm not saying I approve of arranged marriage, but it sometimes works better than getting hammered, having a cry, drinking through it, throwing up and then returning to the party's chaotic closing minutes saying to yourself: "Right, who's left?" Which is why I usually stopped at the throwing-up stage. David Mitchell on online dating.
posted by ersatz (81 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think we should listen to the man as he's married to Victoria Coren who is Konnie Brooker Huq levels of out of his league.
posted by fullerine at 3:27 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't really believe that, post the era of widespread ballroom dancing, such a formal and artificial way of piloting a relationship was what anyone actually did.

This is exactly how I felt as well. I am nearing 50 and have never been on a date, and still find the notion somewhat odd.( I have had two long-term relationships, including the one I'm in now, and a couple of short-term ones, never requiring going on a date.)

As an aside, this blog on online dating is quite funny.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 3:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


David Mitchell is the only celebrity who I really, really wish I was friends with, and everything new he does just leaves me progressively more despondent that this will never happen--and that my actual friends will just keep getting more and more annoyed by the number of things I forward to them that involve David Mitchell.
posted by Sequence at 3:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's 2013 and this guy has just discovered online dating?
posted by octothorpe at 4:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amusing theory that flirting with fakes might at least teaches guy to flirt. All those fakes will become artificial intelligences that optimize what they tell each gender and orientation though, creating an experience even less connected with reality.

See also : Why Online Dating Sucks for Men
posted by jeffburdges at 4:03 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm another Brit of a certain age who has never been on a date and wouldn't have a clue what to do on one. I'd be absolutely rubbish at such a semi-formalised way of trying to fake appeal. As the man said, in our day you just tended to socialise and hope some nice woman would be kind/drunk enough to overlook your more egregiously repellent characteristics, at least for a while. And that was hard enough.
posted by Decani at 4:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm with you, octothorpe. This sounds very 2005 to me.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's 2013 and this guy has just discovered online dating?

No, it's 2013 and the BBC's flagship current affairs programme Panorama was about online dating last week, which prompted David Mitchell to write this column.
posted by rory at 4:06 AM on August 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've seen the sentiment from non-Americans before that they don't get dating but no one has really explained how else to meet people. I met my wife when I was in my thirties, it's not like either of us were going to a lot of parties by that time in our lives. Dating, and online dating specifically, seem a lot more realistic for anyone who's not twenty years old.
posted by octothorpe at 4:16 AM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think we should listen to the man as he's married to Victoria Coren who is Konnie Brooker Huq levels of out of his league.

It just proves that for women there is no "out of his league" when it comes to smart, funny men.
posted by billiebee at 4:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [46 favorites]


It just proves that for women there is no "out of his league" when it comes to smart, funny men.

I don't think I've ever said this before, but I wish I could favorite this a million times.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


octothorpe: "I've seen the sentiment from non-Americans before that they don't get dating but no one has really explained how else to meet people."

I don't really know what you mean. I'm an American, I'm married, and I've dated, but I've never met anyone through dating. All my dates have been people who I met as non-dates, and then asked out on a date. Do you mean "how else to get to know people better", or are you using "dating" to mean exclusively blind dates and online dating?

Also, as far how to meet people (and get into relationships) in the UK back in his day: it's all right there at the top of this page, in the big quote pulled from the linked article.
posted by Bugbread at 4:41 AM on August 5, 2013


Damn Victoria Coren for getting to David Mitchell before I had a chance.

And no, she is not out of his league. He's funny, smart and deeply sarcastic - three things a lot of women find irresistible (myself included, in case it is not obvious).

In fact, David Mitchell is one of my (very, very few) celebrity crushes. I even occasionally tune into Would I Lie To You and definitely not for Jimmy Carr's jokes.
posted by kariebookish at 4:42 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


In Britain "dating" is much less of a thing, so "online dating" probably has far lower of a profile than it does in the US.

My impression is that young folks here just hang out and hook up and form relationships in an informal kind of way. "Dating" is more of a thing that you do when you're older and people in your age group are mostly too busy with their own lives to be part of some amorphous ever-changing social scene that facilitates random hookups.

Thus, "Dating" (online or off) is a thing that people discover, perhaps, in their late thirties, or after a divorce, and they may well find it strange and awkward.
posted by emilyw at 4:43 AM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


It just proves that for women there is no "out of his league" when it comes to smart, funny men.

as long as you are smart and funny enough to have your own successful comedy media franchise you mean?
posted by fistynuts at 4:50 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


anecdotally, I've heard online dating can be a great way for professional men on the rebound to have one-off sex with women seeking long-term relationships.

Brutal, but probably the biggest problem with online dating as a system. Great article!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:52 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


as long as you are smart and funny enough to have your own successful comedy media franchise you mean?
posted by fistynuts at 12:50 on August 5 [+] [!]


No.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:56 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


You all say that but when Josie Long rocks up with Frankie Boyle on her arm you'll be sorry.
posted by fullerine at 4:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someday, one day, I hope we can put a moratorium on articles about how hard dating is from people who are married or otherwise partnered.
posted by jenlovesponies at 4:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


As someone who's been doing a lot of online dating recently, I really like it. I don't know if I'll meet THE ONE, but I'm just enjoying it for what it is.

Almost all of them have been fun nights out, fully in the expectation that it's likely to be a one-off. If you want to see each other again, it's a bonus.

Apart from the one I went on with a girl who looked exactly like my sister (she had a different hair colour in the photos)... Even her mannerisms were quite similar. Turns out her mother and my grandmother were from the same village in Ireland, so I didn't need a geneticist to tell me to knock that one on the head.

However, I did like the idea of introducing her to my sister, just to see what happens...

Anyway, the main thing I've gained from online dating is confidence to chat to women in normal social situations. I don't mean hitting on unsuspecting people on the bus or sleazing on girls in nightclubs, but just having the confidence to say hi when someone clearly likes you. Or ask for a phone number if you're getting on very well.

If only I had a penny for every time a friend has said "Why didn't you talk to her?!", I'd probably be very rich, with a big car, and able to attract pretty materialists.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 5:02 AM on August 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Someday, one day, I hope we can put a moratorium on articles about how hard dating is from people who are married or otherwise partnered.

FWIW I posted it because I found it funny, not because of its stance on (online) dating.
posted by ersatz at 5:08 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's 2013 and this guy has just discovered online dating?

It's 2013 and this guy has just discovered David Mitchell?

Blinking owlishly at technology is a big part of his schtick.
posted by dubold at 5:19 AM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think a better point to make is that any dating site that you pay to be a member of has its financial incentives all wrong. Internet dating is great (and why I'm married) but I would never ever pay for a site.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:24 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


anecdotally, I've heard online dating can be a great way for professional men on the rebound to have one-off sex with women seeking long-term relationships.

Brutal, but probably the biggest problem with online dating as a system. Great article!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:52 AM on August 5 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

Oh, god yes. Yes. Brutal in its truth. The twinge of recognition was almost physical. :(
posted by Salamander at 5:24 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a better point to make is that any dating site that you pay to be a member of has its financial incentives all wrong. Internet dating is great (and why I'm married) but I would never ever pay for a site.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:24 AM on August 5 [+] [!]


Wait, what? Why??
posted by Salamander at 5:26 AM on August 5, 2013


Wait, what? Why??

Well, the theory is, any site that makes you pay is invested in keeping you around, so they'd make it harder to meet people. Of course this notion was popularized by a blog post on noted free dating site OKCupid so, grain of salt (especially because you can only jerk people around for so long before they stop paying for your paid site...)
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:32 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Young people: OKcupid
Over30: match.com
Complete lack of sense: Tinder
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:36 AM on August 5, 2013



Someday, one day, I hope we can put a moratorium on articles about how hard dating is from people who are married or otherwise partnered.

FWIW I posted it because I found it funny, not because of its stance on (online) dating.


I didn't mean on the blue. I just meant... in life.

To be fair, I didn't even know the guy was married until people upthread brought it up.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:37 AM on August 5, 2013


Wait, what? Why??

I met my partner on OKCupid, and her experience of paid sites was not good. The biggest problem with any online dating (for a woman) is sexual predators. A good free site will kick them off if you report them - they have zero value. A paid site is less likely to - they spend a lot of money.
posted by EnterTheStory at 5:39 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Showbiz_Liz is correct, but it's more than that. I've had friends on pay sites get no messages at all, no replies even, then as soon as their 6 months membership is up all of a sudden 4 or 5 interested people. Maybe it's a coincidence, but it had happened many times on many sites. I just don't trust the economics of it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:40 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hadn't seen the okcupid article, so I went looking. Seems they got bought by match.com and took it down.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:49 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's 2013 and this guy has just discovered David Mitchell?

Never heard of him but Wikipedia tells me that he played John Hodgeman in the UK versions of the Get a Mac commercials.

The UK Justin Long looks kind of frightening.
posted by octothorpe at 6:14 AM on August 5, 2013


I met my wife through OKCupid. It makes so much more sense than randomly asking people out, hoping that someone clicks; and it avoids the uncomfortable creepy factor. "Oh, here's a cute girl at the bookstore! Let me try to chat her up!" For guys who have no interest in "partying," it's the difference between permanent celibacy and a relationship.

I say that to say this: when we were on OKCupid, it felt like there was a serious effort to match us up. I got many matches, along with our compatibility statistics (no smoking! light drinking! reads voluntarily! 88% compatible, 0% enemy!). On match.com, it was always this odd situation where the people you couldn't see because you hadn't paid enough were supposed to be so much better than these ugly harridans. Come on, just send us some money...
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:20 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


And, having learned that okcupid was bought by match.com, I suppose you should just kiss that goodbye. :(
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:21 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh man. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this article, and online dating in general. I'm an American living in Northern England and the online dating scene here is atrocious (to me, ymmv). I find that most men's profiles approach the subject as the written equivalent of going to the pub to get wasted in the hopes of landing something good by the end of the question prompts. If the amount of pictures of beer and beer-drinking weren't evidence enough, the general noncomittal stance and lack of any information relating to what it is the men are seeking repeatedly suggests to me that this whole process is just painfully awkward and stigmatized and generally scary, uncharted territory here. It doesn't have to be! And articles like this sort of help, but they also sort of hurt.

"They seek to make money out of loneliness and sexual frustration but their services threaten the existence of those very feelings."

This is the second sentence of the article and I find what he's said here to be part of a general framing problem with online dating. The assumption is that the customer base for all online dating services are lonely, frustrated individuals who are forced to resort to the despair of online dating, in the hopes of being whisked away from it all, with their loneliness and sexual frustration left in the dust. While it may be true that the majority of the participants ARE lonely and/or sexually frustrated (I can only speak for myself, oh god) we should not be solely defined by those characteristics.

"It's not the same as selling food or porn, which satisfied customers return to buy more of."

When I go to the shop to buy food I may be hungry, but I am not driven there by starvation and lack of all other options. And yes, to go back to the second sentence of the article, the procurement of the food I am seeking does threaten the existence of those hunger pains. Same goes for porn, so to speak. Sustenance and release are recurring needs and so the visits are more frequent. Maybe purchasing a car or seeking a place to live would be better analogies, in that people are looking for different levels of commitments or purchase/rental arrangements.

That is to say, I don't subscribe to an online dating site because I am driven by the desperation of my unfulfilled needs any more than I spend weekends at car dealership lots because I am consumed by shameful longings to get from point A to point B. It may be true, but it's a ridiculous framing and it just serves to make seekers feel bad about their motivations by reducing down to the saddest common denominator. And shining bad fluourescent lighting upon it all.

The next paragraph he outlines some negative perspectives on online dating (i.e., that some people view it as a final hopeless gesture, a last resort for the ugly or dysfunctional). Then he flips it by saying that if you believe that, you'd be "railing against the tide of general chat." That "everyone is saying that internet dating is the future." Oh thank God! I seriously thought we were going to go there with the whole ugly, horny people in their sad basement dwellings trope. (Even if it is for comedic purposes, hasn't that been done to death by now? Plus, Mitchell is way funnier than that.)

But then he tears it down again. And again and again. First by pointing out a contradiction in the claim that there's "no shame" in online dating (nevermind that he's equating shame with stigma, using funny but pointless analogies about soup-eating and ambulating). This is followed by another (anecdotal) example of how professional men may be using these places to fulfill their immediate sexual needs by preying on women who are there for something more long-term. Silly us, we should be ashamed. Or at least more careful (I agree with others above that it is a sad truth, but no more so than at the pub I presume). And then lastly a paragraph of exposé of the trickery and deception that the "horny and alone" might experience at the hands of the very people who run these sites.

This shameless future of general chat tide is summarized in the next paragraph, "So, behind many online dating profiles, there's just a stranger dishonestly typing bullshit to attract the desperate. On top of that, the websites are generating pseudo profiles." Well, now I do actually feel a little bit bad about myself. Not really, but again = framing problem. Because I'm either a liar or desperate, right? (Oh shit, maybe I'm both!)

All that said, I think the rest of the article is just great...funny, insightful and spot-on. I generally love David Mitchell anyway and this just goes toward that fund. I especially liked the last paragraph. And basically where he took the whole thing. I just take issue with that start. I know it's meant to be funny, but I find it so cringe-tastic. Again, it makes online dating out the be the very thing he said we're all saying it's not. Granted, he admitted he doesn't understand. And he is a comedian writing a story about online dating. Even if it is all in jest, how are we supposed to feel when we fill out our profiles, earnestly, because we're looking to meet somebody new and do something interesting this weekend? Something other than going to the pub to get wasted and grab somebody at last call on the way out.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:30 AM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Internet dating destroyed my sense of myself as someone I both know and understand and can also put into words (previously)

Internet Dating is a Numbers Game
posted by jeffburdges at 6:34 AM on August 5, 2013


The "UK Justin Long" to which you are referring is Robert Webb, and if you don't know who Robert Webb is and you're in a thread about David Mitchell...

well, my friend, you're missing out on the greatest cringe TV comedy show in the history of television.
posted by aabbbiee at 6:41 AM on August 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Internet dating is a disaster imho. Just choose some sociable hobbies and join mixed groups that do them. You'll meet dateable people as your social circle expands.

There are several plausible approaches to straight online dating though : Allow women to initiate contact with men, but prohibit men from contacting any women unsolicited. Just arrange face-to-face meetings by schedule, interest, larger groups, short duration, etc., no online wooing. Real world friends must run your profile for you, just cuz that's funny.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:47 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the article - "if you want someone to go out with you, asking them out is not an insane first step. But, like with algebra, the logic needs to be pointed out for all but the most gifted."

Wow. I had originally thought that I was socially awkward and clueless in my younger years. I didn't start dating until my twenties and I didn't get laid for the first time until I was almost thirty. According to this guy, however, I was a veritable genius. I thought the hard parts were finding someone appropriate to ask out, getting the nerve up to risk rejection, getting them to say yes, and then having the date go well and lead to something more. Apparently just having the idea of asking someone out in the first place qualifies me as "gifted". Woo hoo! Go me!

Seriously, is British culture really that different from American culture, such that asking someone out on a date is an alien concept?
posted by tdismukes at 6:53 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just choose some sociable hobbies and join mixed groups that do them.

Yeah, that would be great if social engagement weren't at such a low level in the modern era. There are, essentially, no sociable hobbies in large parts of the US. Unless "going to church" is a sociable hobby. Or "drinking a lot of alcohol." Furthermore, isn't it a bit creepy to try to curate your hobbies to make them "sociable?" Just about the only hobby-like activities that my wife and I share are cooking, reading, and travel. None of those are things that are very "social." My more obscure hobbies (making missions and maps for video games; playing Go; learning new programming languages) are just about as antithetical to anything that leads to a relationship as I can imagine.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:00 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've really never dated (or rather had to 'date'), luckily, so the whole idea of online dating is at once mysterious and here-be-dragons.

But as a Brit, I'm left utterly baffled by the US concept of dating someone non-exclusively. I'm non-exclusive with which supermarket I shop in, what washing up liquid I buy or which airline I fly with. Non-exclusive dating always struck me as a great way to end up feeling utterly shit about yourself.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:08 AM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


i think i'm one of the few people in this world that really enjoyed my time spent online dating. though i'm a woman, so that definitely helps. for me, it felt like a giant buffet of people i could date and for entry, all i had to do was just send them a message that was reasonably charming.

it also taught me a lot about what i want in a partner, what my dealbreakers were, and i got to meet a lot of really interesting people with different hobbies and backgrounds and jobs. i can't think of another way to do that aside from like prostitution or maybe bartending.

my current boyfriend's online dating experience (who yes, i met online), was vastly different than mine. it was like a buffet, sure, but it was closed most of the time.
posted by kerning at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2013


Non-exclusive dating always struck me as a great way to end up feeling utterly shit about yourself.

Kinda winds up feeling that way sometimes, yeah. But really, unless you're poly or something, most people I know will either make things exclusive or break it off within a month ir two, and in practice many "non-exclusive" relationships actually are, just cause it's hard to meet people to date!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:12 AM on August 5, 2013


I need a photographer to get on OKCupid picture of myself with a bowl of fruit.
posted by bswinburn at 7:51 AM on August 5, 2013 [28 favorites]


my current boyfriend's online dating experience (who yes, i met online), was vastly different than mine. it was like a buffet, sure, but it was closed most of the time.

Yes. Or to refine the simile a bit, it was like an automat where none of the doors would open. I never got anywhere at all with online dating, aside from an extremely brief fling (like, two days); her choice, not mine.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:55 AM on August 5, 2013


Oh what, so, Mister fucking ocean colour pants doesn't get internet dating? Well, quelle fucking surprise.
posted by Lorin at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


aabbbiee: "well, my friend, you're missing out on the greatest cringe TV comedy show in the history of television."

I am doing excellent shopping.
posted by boo_radley at 8:04 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


(nevermind that he's equating shame with stigma, using funny but pointless analogies about soup-eating and ambulating)

Is he? There's neither stigma nor shame in eating soup, being a confessed soup-eater, etc.
posted by kenko at 8:19 AM on August 5, 2013


Internet dating is a disaster imho. Just choose some sociable hobbies and join mixed groups that do them. You'll meet dateable people as your social circle expands.

This has pretty much never worked for me so abandoning that whole thought process and switching to online dating was both a better experience and more effective at actually finding people to date. I guess it probably works better for people who are naturally social, but in my experience hobby groups were mainly made up of people who were already in a relationship, people who were single but weren't my type, and people who were single and my type but were not interested in dating me. Online dating makes it much easier to completely ignore the non-single, filter out the ones you're not interested in, and figure out if any of the ones left are interested in you, all in a non-socially awkward way and non-convoluted way.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:28 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Complete lack of sense: Tinder

I heard Tinder described to me by a friend as making more sense than traditional dating, because of its lightweight nature (i.e., traditional dating services are freighted with the expectation of being a vetting path for a relationship, whereas Tinder is just a way to meet people who are (in some way) available, with where, if anywhere, that leads to being left to the individual parties).

Mind you, this is from a friend; I haven't been in the dating pool since about a year ago.
posted by acb at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2013


as long as you are smart and funny enough to have your own successful comedy media franchise you mean?

No.

Hey, did you hear the one about the comedian with the successful comedy media franchise who married a women who was out of his league? When he asked her why she ever went out with a schulb like him she answered, "Because of your comedy gold."
posted by Room 641-A at 8:50 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Online dating was SUPER FUN for me. I went from being a sad, lonely, nerd with no sense of how to behave in a relationship to a some what normal person in the course of a year. Online dating (and my own drive to make it a good experience!) helped me cope with a few problems I had endured and inflicted upon others when I was still trying to find my relationship legs.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is everyone else getting some other article than the one I read? Reading this thread you'd expect this article to be about how online dating is a NEW THING that is OMG A REALLY BAD IDEA and clearly ONLY FOR THE DESPERATE AND LONELY. The article I read was about how online dating is now well established, is clearly much better than dating IRL (even though, obviously, it still has its perils of various kinds of misdirection) and how David Mitchell wishes it had been around when he was younger because it would have made his early romantic life a lot less difficult.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Going on pure looks (which I assume is the standard, here), I don't think Victoria Coren is out of Mitchell's league at all. They seem to be of comparable levels of attractiveness to me. Then again, I also don't think Charlie Brooker's wife is that far out of his league, either.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:24 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


yoink, you've discovered the big secret: a few (a lot?) of people don't actually read the article before commenting. I KNOW!

About the article and ensuing discussion: People don't go on dates? I'm actually asking; isn't that how you get to know people? Not meet people, I get that, but once you meet someone you want to get to know, how do you do that? Texting? Gchat? World of Warcraft? I'm actually curious, those upthread who said they've NEVER dated and are in long-term relationships, how did you initially get to know each other?

I toyed with online dating in the early 2000s and hated it. I'm not sure how useful as a personality improvement tool online flirting and chatting is; in my experience, the person you present online is very different than in person, and not everyone is going to like both iterations. And as we see around here, hiding behind a keyboard makes some things much easier, and those things aren't always a) especially attractive, or b) in evidence IRL. I didn't meet anyone I considered worthwhile, and spent more than one awkward first date wondering if the ladies' room had an exit to the outside. I found the person you thought you were meeting after talking online for a while was generally not the person who showed up for the date.

And then I met my husband playing EverQuest, so you guys do whatever you want with my opinion. After "meeting," we dated, because while I may have known Cildian, the elf paladin, I didn't know Mr. Jennaratrix very well at all, and how else would you do that? Online dating is maybe better referred to as online setting up; they make sure you meet, the dating (or not) afterward is up to you.
posted by jennaratrix at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2013


Online dating is maybe better referred to as online setting up

That's been exactly my experience. The "online" part is good for an initial intro to a larger number of people than I'd meet socially, and as someone said upthread it weeds out the non-single non-looking and lets you get at least a nominal sense of whether you'd be interested in them or not. Beyond that there's absolutely no substitute for meeting face to face, having a nice chat, and getting to know each other further.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:34 AM on August 5, 2013


About the article and ensuing discussion: People don't go on dates? I'm actually asking; isn't that how you get to know people? Not meet people, I get that, but once you meet someone you want to get to know, how do you do that? Texting? Gchat? World of Warcraft? I'm actually curious, those upthread who said they've NEVER dated and are in long-term relationships, how did you initially get to know each other?

It used to drive me absolutely mad in high school when I- who had never received any romantic interest from anyone ever, at all- told my friend "ugh I've never been on a date" and she said "yeah, me neither!" SHE HAD A LONG-TERM BOYFRIEND.

I think sometimes people go from hanging out as friends to hooking up to hanging out as a couple, and if there was never a formal First Date Situation, they just don't think of any of it as dates. They're dating, but not "going on dates".
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:39 AM on August 5, 2013


I am always mystified by women who talk about their online dating experiences as a buffet or smorgasbord. Mine was miserable. I got my share of gross messages, sure.
But as far as men willing to talk to me in my relative age group? No. I had a profile vetted by both woman and man friends, and smiling pictures, but I suspect the issue was this. I am not yet 40.
posted by oflinkey at 9:43 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Going on pure looks (which I assume is the standard, here), I don't think Victoria Coren is out of Mitchell's league at all.

Holy crap, how did I not know she's Giles Coren's sister?!
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2013


It will surprise no one here that the most frequent response to my online personal ads on either OkCupid or elsewhere is a variation on TL;DR.

Sadly, I worked in the arts in a relatively big city for seven years (well, for fifteen if you count the part time work) and never managed to meet someone in real life. Had only marginal success online, excepting one complicated relationship borne out of LiveJournal, though I keep my profiles active.

Have been trying to make connections in the real world, but I live in a small town, am recently out of work, and I just can't seem to do the things that normal people like. There's a neat little gay bar in town, and I forced myself to go to bear night last Saturday because I'm trying to shake off a funk, and since it was also a meet-up for two of the big gay motorcycle gangs, I rode my wretched old Triumph a mile up the road to the bar.

Forty-five minutes in, standing in a corner by the arch between the bar and the pool room/bingo hall/drag theater and nursing my Shirley Temple with ferocity, I was so abjectly miserable I would have fled if I didn't fear the crowd that would gather as I stomped on the kickstarter on the wretched Triumph for the nineteen solid minutes it takes to get that fucking fucker started. Fortunately, a handsy older dude latched on me out of pity and dragged me around introducing me to people, and every goddamned dude in that place was gay married to some other dude. Plus, it was bear night, so my damn nipples are still sore. Finally gave up and went out to spend nineteen minutes stomping on the kickstarter on the wretched Triumph while three policemen and two EMTs tried to intercept an older, blood-covered drunken dude shuffling around with his pants around his ankles until he staggered my way, flopped over me and the bike, and peed.

Sigh.

The internet makes it a hell of a lot easier to get one's hands on some tail, as they used to say when I was growing up out in the semi-sticks, but dating is a whole other horror. Honestly, I think I'm going to switch to the ladies, on 'count of ladies are nicer and more practical and I think it'd be easier to hypnotize myself into having a moderate facility for gender discordant sex than to find a dude who comes from the same planet I do.
posted by sonascope at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man, I just do not know about online dating. In the past just generally being open, friendly and sociable has won me all the booty I need. I met my husband asking for directions in the Parisian metro; he happened to be on his way to the same concert as me. Shyness is hard but, y'know, the more you force yourself to be social the easier it comes to you. I love David Mitchell but us tragic geeks really can meet people the old-fashioned way, I promise. It doesn't all have to be reduction to a string of 1s and 0s, check here if you enjoy x kind of sex, check here if you enjoy reading (never mind if it's Thomas Pynchon, Harry Potter or snopes.com), etc. until you barf everything that makes us human out into a neat little pile of computer chips.
posted by Mooseli at 10:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the past just generally being open, friendly and sociable has won me all the booty I need.

How nice for you.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:07 AM on August 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Shyness is hard but, y'know, the more you force yourself to be social the easier it comes to you.

Funny story: that's exactly why online dating was valuable for me, despite the fact that I've never actually had a relationship result from online dating.

I had exactly one relationship in college which formed from a friendship and after it ended, I realized I had NO IDEA how to date. I wasn't meeting people in person due to my, oh, crippling social anxiety, so I thought, ok, internet.

My first online date- at age 22 mind you, not a child- I was so utterly petrified of interacting with men in a dating scenario that it took me months to work up the courage to reply to a message. That's how awkward I was. I basically forced myself to go on a date with that guy. Then I went on a few more. And it got easier and easier. And now, I'm able to casually approach people in real life as you must have approached your husband, but I was not capable of that before online dating. I wonder if I ever would have become capable of it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the past just generally being open, friendly and sociable has won me all the booty I need...Shyness is hard but, y'know, the more you force yourself to be social the easier it comes to you.

I think like_a_friend's response is about the politest possible. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that you have unexamined privilege in the looks and/or extraversion departments, and while I am sure you didn't mean it that way, the second statement of yours I quoted comes off as pretty condescending.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dating sites are a time and effort saver for those who are attractive in the local context, not a paradigm changer for those who are unattractive or who dislike dating in principle. That it requires men to be assertive, yet patient and polite, and enables women to be picky, is a nice reflection of how sensible people meet offline.
posted by MattD at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not familiar with David Mitchell/Robert Webb? Peep Show is amazing, but if you only have a few minutes, check these out-

Clips from That Mitchell and Webb Look:

SS Officers

Jane Austen

Football, Football, Football

What's the question?


Homeopathic A&E (Emergency Room)

Refreshing Beer Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

And if you've got slightly more time to waste, here's Season 1, Episode 2 (Part 1) which starts off with my favorite reality show, "People Buying Houses And Then Living In Them"
posted by dubold at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hans....are we the baddies?
posted by like_a_friend at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Be attractive, don't be unattractive, but the online medium naturally makes 'attractive' a less rich experience, so it herds people into judging a book by its virtual (and rather literal) cover. This means for instance (on average, for straight people): be white, don't be nonwhite (see [1]-[3]).

I think a big issue is that online dating psychologically encourages one to be pickier on looks, but given a more liquid 'market' of sorts, it becomes far less likely (than offline) that you can go 'out of your league'. Moreover, important characteristics in the real world are not screened for online (probably for profit reasons) and hence there will be more online than offline, e.g. players, pathologically needy, blatant narcissists, etc.

Some newer websites are trying to counteract this by using a matchmaking mechanism. Requiring Facebook login is an interesting trick; reducing anonymity will discourage certain bad behaviours. Perhaps a modest salve for say OkCupid would be to publicly display the number of matches over time.

On another note, I would guess online dating is more effective if you don't share mainstream tastes and you understand the typical preferences of others. For instance, a woman with no preference on male height ought to find relatively high success explicitly searching for short men.

[1] Coffee Meets Bagel's analysis of exclusive race preferences.
[2] OkCupid's uncomfortable truths
[3] Speed-dating has similar results. Presumably more liberal Columbia graduate students are quite similar in racial views.

PS. Race is of course not the only major factor, just one that makes me question online dating in the same way I question tipping. Age is very important; women:men is 1:2 in their twenties, and 2:1 in their forties. Women are in demand in Silicon Valley of course, men in New York (infographic).
posted by helot at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]



I've seen the sentiment from non-Americans before that they don't get dating but no one has really explained how else to meet people. I met my wife when I was in my thirties, it's not like either of us were going to a lot of parties by that time in our lives. Dating, and online dating specifically, seem a lot more realistic for anyone who's not twenty years old.


Yes; people in Australia have told me that Australians don't date, but I've been on dates? My problem with online dating, and I admit this may be a personal problem, is my low sucess rate. its very easy to be charming when you're just in text, but when they meet you and they find out that you're, well, like a non-famous David Mictchell it all tends to fall apart.

But the only relationship advice I can remember being given was that I should "be myself" – a disastrous suggestion that, for many years, meant "silently infatuated". "Being myself" was never going to encompass saying: "There's a rather nice little Italian restaurant I've been meaning to try – perhaps I could pick you up at 7.30?" Just typing that has made me feel slightly sick, but there's no doubting the logic that, if you want someone to go out with you, asking them out is not an insane first step. But, like with algebra, the logic needs to be pointed out for all but the most gifted.

This is perfect.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:53 PM on August 5, 2013


David Mitchell is a very delightful man when I've seen him on QI.

Online dating (specifically OKcupid) got me two dates with a very charming young lady with similar reading preferences.

Date 0 was to a swordfight. Date 1 was a Victorian-style walk on the bank of the river, complete with road flares.

We'll have been together a week this Saturday. God bless online dating.
posted by mikurski at 5:38 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clips from That Mitchell and Webb Look:

I guess that I just don't get British humor.
posted by octothorpe at 7:29 PM on August 5, 2013


My favorite David Mitchell moment, the one I depend on to cheer me up every time I feel alone in the world, is this one.
posted by tychotesla at 8:58 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


For that matter all three conversations about his flat comfort me.
posted by tychotesla at 11:47 PM on August 5, 2013


About the article and ensuing discussion: People don't go on dates? I'm actually asking; isn't that how you get to know people? Not meet people, I get that, but once you meet someone you want to get to know, how do you do that? Texting? Gchat? World of Warcraft? I'm actually curious, those upthread who said they've NEVER dated and are in long-term relationships, how did you initially get to know each other?

To answer your question, I don't consider hanging out to be "dating." I have never been on a date in the sense of arranging to meet for dinner or drinks, getting all dressed up to do so, and then engaging in a particular type of interaction. I consider a "date" to be a fairly specific and somewhat artificial arrangement. When I met someone I liked, we just hung out all the time.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 1:39 AM on August 6, 2013


Something else that just occurred to me this morning about online dating...

When you meet someone in real life that you think seems interesting, they start out being an almost complete unknown. As you either hang out or date you gradually get introduced their personality, likes and dislikes, politics, and quirks; but not before you start to form a bond along the way. By the time you do learn of their shortcomings (and everybody has them), you've usually developed a certain amount of investment in your relationship with them and are more disposed to tolerate or even become endeared to those behaviors as just a facet of the person you've come to know, to adapt and adjust to each other's unique qualities as part of the getting-to-know-each-other journey.

In contrast, with online dating you find out (or think you do) all the, shall we say, "non-ideal" things in the person's profile, you get to see potential dealbreakers, minor incompatibilities, things that make you say "hmm, well, I'm not quite sure..." before you ever start to form any sort of bond. That makes it easier to pass up someone you might otherwise really like as you keep searching for That Perfect Someone. This can color first dates as well, even if the person passes that first hurdle - the pressure's on to be at your best, try to hide what you think are your less-sterling qualities, and simultaneously suss out the other person, all while making with the wit and charm and sparkle. Hard to form any sort of bond at all in those circumstances, and easy to make snap judgements that prevent any further development.

I'm not saying that online dating (or just "formally-arranged dating" vs. hanging out) is therefore no good, just pointing out a potential pitfall.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:00 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where you see a pitfall, I see a way forward. Also, That Perfect Someone is a mythical beast (or prisonyard chicken, if we want to go with Orange is the New Black metaphors*).

*I'll be here all week. Talking like this.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2013


I agree, and that was the point I was attempting to make - that "the perfect can be the enemy of the good", unless you make a conscious effort not to fall into that line of thinking. I suspect, however, that some significant percent of people don't avoid the pitfall and it's one reason online dating doesn't work out for them. Hell, I've probably vetoed a few potential partners myself...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:04 PM on August 6, 2013


Ok, I totally hear what you're saying and I agree. I also think that online dating can be very helpful in that you see dealbreakers up front and not waste your time with people that won't be a good match. But yeah, that gradual getting-to-know-you is sacrificed. Pros and cons with every approach I suppose.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2013


I'm actually curious, those upthread who said they've NEVER dated and are in long-term relationships, how did you initially get to know each other?

Talking in bed.
posted by emilyw at 1:58 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm actually curious, those upthread who said they've NEVER dated and are in long-term relationships, how did you initially get to know each other?

Get drunk, fuck, then move in together a week later.
posted by goo at 3:04 PM on August 6, 2013


jeffburdges: Real world friends must run your profile for you, just cuz that's funny

I present my single friend.
posted by goo at 3:08 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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