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Why Online Dating Is So Unsatisfying
July 19, 2010 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Dan Ariely on why online dating is so unsatisfying. posted by AceRock (159 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
In fact, when we do surveys to understand what people do, the basic trade off is for each six hours of searching for people and emailing them, you get one cup of coffee. And it's not as if people enjoy online dating, it's not as if they have fun searching people and writing blurbs for them.

Speak for yourself, Dan. The process was time-consuming and occasionally frustrating, but at no point in my online dating days did I think "Hey, y'know what would make this better? If I lowered my expectations, stopped putting as much effort into figuring out which people I like and which people I didn't, and started meeting every person with a picture and three poorly-written sentences about herself." I exchanged some really fun emails and met some very cool people, even if we didn't all end up clicking instantly.

And, I should mention, it's not like the tree never bore fruit: I married one of them three months ago.
posted by Mayor West at 12:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


that first link has some really interesting ideas. it had occurred to me, as I suppose it does to everybody, that describing yourself by these factors as though they represent the idea of you was not really adequate for finding a date, but that guy really got into the nitty gritty of why it doesn't work and proposed some at least interesting alternatives.
posted by shmegegge at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2010


I've been pretty satisfied with it myself. I've met some neat people and I have, through the magic of seeing someone's profiles before contacting them, avoided some real nutbars.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


And because of that, I think actually people become much more superficial than we think they are.

I think that's less superficiality and more of a societal issue. Now, I wouldn't doubt the test results. Certainly, if you show pictures of people to someone and ask them what they "want," they're going to go for the societal ideal. Same reasoning why the reports of kids screwing on college campuses are so mismatched between the sexes; men want acceptance with a larger number, women with a smaller one. In our culture, the standard of beauty happens to be tall men and slim women. However, how many of these guys pointing out the skinny girls (I don't really have experience picking out men, bear with me here) are pointing that out simply because they're socialized to automatically think and respond "ah, thin equals pretty." Socialized to, as opposed to whatever actually turns them on, which is as varied as the women themselves are.
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on July 19, 2010


Part of the problem is that people are unable to effectively communicate about themselves online. Profiles follow Sturgeon's Law (90% of anything is crap) amazingly well.

Often, people have to resort to pictures because the profiles are cut/paste jobs/unreadable/misspelled/unfinished/etc.

"I would like to find the love of my life, but at the same time cannot spend a half-hour writing 7-8 paragraphs."
posted by unixrat at 1:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


This guy makes a LOT of assumptions that I haven't found to be true. Maybe it's because I've only tried OK Cupid, which seems more fun and quirky and less desperation-tinged (to me) than Match and eHarmony, but I found the whole experience fairly exciting and fun. Even going on a bad date just meant I had a good story to share with friends later.
posted by chowflap at 1:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think he's confusing people using online dating to find things they're looking for rather than things they're not looking for. It's a huge boon to know that someone is highly religious, not interested in dating people of your gender, wants a gaggle of children, etc before you invest any time with them. Maybe it's superficial that I don't want to date a fundamentalist Christian six inches taller than me with three kids, but that's hardly unique to online dating.

Six hours for a cup of coffee actually sounds pretty good. Maybe it doesn't sound good to him because he's good at approaching people, establishing rapport, and dealing with rejection. I'm terrible at those things. I could easily go out three weekends and spend two hours at a bar or volunteer event or whatever and not successfully ask someone out.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't think he's doing it right.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:05 PM on July 19, 2010


Yeah, what chowflap said, including the OKCupid plug. My first instinct on reading the headline "Why Online Dating Is So Unsatisfying" is, because you are doing it wrong.

I think a lot of people expect the website to do the work for them. As if it were some sort of magical place where connections are arranged by HTML coding unicorns.

The real life dating process itself has to function - the website just helps you connect. And to be honest, there is some selection bias for failure. All the folks on any website have found real life dating to be insufficient in some way, and are trying the web as a second - if not last - resort. Thankfully, online dating seems to have shed the stigma of newspaper personal ads, but it's still online dating.

It works, but like anything, only if you make it work. As for unsatisfying...um, isn't that part of the process? It's like fishing - if it were really about catching fish, they wouldn't call it fishing, they'd call it catching.
posted by Xoebe at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think it a total of six dates with three people to find my lovely GF. We've been together for over a year and live together very happily.

But, as I've said on a couple of these threads, you really only get out of it what you put into it. I spent a lot of time on my profile, so did my GF. When I searched for people, I weeded out religious people, short people (much love, though, short ladies), and anyone on the conservative spectrum. Focus your geographic area, and in Boston you're down to just a few hundred people. Weed out inactive profiles, profiles without pictures, sports fans, Bon Jovi fans, people who can't spell or have bad grammar, and people whose favorite activities include more than one inane TV show (or one, if it's Three and a Half Men), and you're basically down to a handful of people.

Six dates later, schmoopy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


The problem with online dating is that it can lead to real world first dates. blech.
posted by Babblesort at 1:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Socialized to, as opposed to whatever actually turns them on, which is as varied as the women themselves are.

That's the feel-good answer to be sure, but it doesn't really jibe with the results of the study in the second link:

“...whereas less attractive people are willing to accept less attractive others as dating partners, they do not delude themselves into thinking that these less attractive others are, in fact, more physically attractive than they really are.”

The obvious retorts to this are, well, obvious, but better to read the linked piece than have me repeat the rejoinders here. The poster chose his/her links well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why is Big Think so excited about shoving text in to that tiny box? And would it kill them to hire an editor? Or did they think "hey, he's a professor, he'll be eloquent," and then the professor get someone to transcribe his ideas word for word?

They've paid for someone to make a snazzy layout (except the damned text box that isn't a separate document, but it's formatted that way), yet didn't check to see if two and a half pages of text that was crammed into a YouTube-sized view portal was concise. Simplify that down to the basic ideas and remove the superfluous text ("So I think it's a really bad, it's a really bad system.")

In summary: if they like their little box, try bullet points. Or at least, like, don't let stuff go in without, hey, some editing, you know.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's really kindof funny to watch Metafilter tell this guy he's wrong that letting people talk about things they "encounter" together online might be a fun and educational.

He's basically saying profiles often don't tell you much about a person, at least, not the stuff that you often want to know when you're looking for people to date and mate with. Fairly common observation, really.
posted by namespan at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


But, as I've said on a couple of these threads, you really only get out of it what you put into it. I spent a lot of time on my profile, so did my GF. When I searched for people, I weeded out religious people, short people (much love, though, short ladies), and anyone on the conservative spectrum. Focus your geographic area, and in Boston you're down to just a few hundred people. Weed out inactive profiles, profiles without pictures, sports fans, Bon Jovi fans, people who can't spell or have bad grammar, and people whose favorite activities include more than one inane TV show (or one, if it's Three and a Half Men), and you're basically down to a handful of people.

This comment shows that, as many others have said, it's the daters who are the problem, not the dating site concept. I'm in Boston, worked very hard on my profile, and narrowed it down to a handful of people. Half of them were not interested in me, and I was not interested in the other half. AH found someone so easily because he has better instincts, or knowledge, or luck, or charm, or an age bracket, or something, that I don't. We all have different opinions, as Mr. Ariely does, on the subject because of who we are, nothing more.
posted by Melismata at 1:31 PM on July 19, 2010


Socialized to, as opposed to whatever actually turns them on, which is as varied as the women themselves are.

Doubt it. Oh, I totally believe the range of turn-ons is broader than the (shall we say) narrow range of types presented as Teh Hot Chick in the media, but it may not be as broad as the entire population, and it's really unlikely there are veritable bubbling cauldrons of steaming attraction that have been simply papered over by socialization.
posted by namespan at 1:34 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing that online dating has taught me is that 1) so many guys think that defining themselves as "laid back" is attractive and 2) I could never be with the kind of guy who would describe himself as "laid back."

What's interesting about profiles is that they tell you a lot about 1) a person's self-perception and 2) things that the person doesn't necessarily mean for you to know, namely, things revealed through word choice. For example, it's not that I couldn't be with a guy who is, in actuality, "laid back." It's that the kind of guy who talks about how laid back he is and who uses the easy phrase "laid back" isn't going to have much in common with neurotic, intense, hyperverbal me.

I actually met a guy who is now a close friend of mine on a nerve date in Brooklyn in 2006. Still the best first date I ever had. Instant friends. We had that rare, "I totally get you right away" connection. Tried to be more than friends 3 times, and it never quite worked, but I'm glad to know him.
posted by millipede at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


He's basically saying profiles often don't tell you much about a person, at least, not the stuff that you often want to know when you're looking for people to date and mate with

But profiles do tell you stuff about people that you want to know when you're looking for people to date and mate with. Political persuasion, religiousness, attitudes about kids, etc are things that really are important (how many askme questions have there been about "I'm an atheist and my wife is Christian and It's Not Working" or "I want kids and he doesn't" ?) and not immediately obvious just from looking at someone. There's plenty more in compatibility, to be sure, but getting the real deal-breakers out of the way before you even sit down for coffee seems like a good thing.

Criticism in the form that "X is not a magic bullet" isn't terribly insightful. Many people don't find dating satisfying; the fact that online dating doesn't fix that isn't revelatory.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:40 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


The plural of anecdote is not "data." That said, OKCupid is where I found the woman I'll be marrying in May. So I found it pretty darned satisfying.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2010


Imagine you went to 50 people you really like and 50 people you only like so-so, and you asked all of them to fill this profile, then you took this 100 profiles and you tried to sort them out into piles. Turns out we’re terrible at this! Right? So this is kind of an initial observation that something is going wrong in this, in this market.

It’s an interesting idea, but then a lot of people come across very differently in the context of a romantic relationship than they do as friends or acquaintances. Who's to say that, in case of discrepancy, the formulaic answer is the one that’s off?

Similarly:

it’s the complexity and the completeness of the experience that tells you if you like a person or not

Agreed! But "liking" someone doesn’t mean they’re a good match. If you’re in for the long haul, maybe those factors on paper mean more than your instant intuition. After all, the author just posited that “we’re terrible at this!” Maybe he’s wrong about which part. Maybe those paper differences are divisive on a level that doesn’t show up for months. Religion? No kids wanted? What’s that – he/she’s a Scientologist?? Oh, but you two both like Beck. Well then.

As for height or thinness, I think the psychologists are pretty good at ferreting out what we like from what we say we like. We, on the other hand, are pretty terrible at abstracting from intuition. You just *like* that taller guy. He’s funny! You just like that skinny girl. She’s quirky!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think Ariely is really interested in online matchmaking. He starts with the story about his coworker, who is incredibly busy (associate (?) professor at Duke), probably socially awkward, but, to Ariely, likeable (I assume). The associate prof doesn't want to go on a lot of dates, he just wants a safe way to find someone to love. He's probably less interested in BMI and income, or even age, than he is in "personality".

What Ariely puts forward is that an important part of personality is how we interact with, and react to, complex stimuli like ideas, art, and other people -- and this is currently not describable with multi-select database fields.

I believe it's similar to one of the fundamental challenges of the economy. Everything, everything, is measured in terms of dollars -- but that's not what life's really about. However, the things we really need to be happy are currently just about impossible to describe concisely, let alone quantify.

Ariely mentioned some kind of (I assume prototype) dating service/web site -- does anyone know where to see that?
posted by amtho at 1:42 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I dunno. Online dating as a replacement for real-world dating would of course be unsatisfying. But the use of online tools as an early stage of real-world dating works pretty well. As others have mentioned, the value of being able to prescreen potential partners for deal-breaking traits ahead of time cannot be overestimated. It's a monster bummer to find out you've taken a climate change denier out to dinner halfway through your salad. Better to know stuff like that ahead of time.

Also, for a guy like me who can't help but be turned off by a partner that uses language and grammar poorly and can't help but be intrigued by someone who writes powerfully, a format where I can begin getting to know a woman through her writing is mighty damned useful. At this point, I know enough about myself to know that I can't stay interested in someone who uses "lol" as punctuation. Again, better to know this kinda thing up front.

OKC has been pretty useful for me. Aside from the screening and connecting aspects of the site, it's also been interesting to test different ways of presenting myself on there and analyzing the resulting responses. Sure, it's generated some awkward coffee dates but it's also generated some pretty damned good times.

So yeah, to this University Professor of Behavioral Economics, this semi-employed English major must also say "Ur doin it wrong."
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I guess I never think about this because I'm barely 5'2", but I had no idea height was such a thing insofar as whether a girl wants to date a guy. Is 5'9" really that short? My dad is shorter than that! The last boyfriend I had was 5'5"ish--that felt short. But not too short. Huh. I had a boyfriend once who was 6'3" and I felt like a little kid holding his hand on the street.
posted by millipede at 1:45 PM on July 19, 2010


All the internet relationships I've seen grew out of non-dating forums. They've been universally good. I think it may be because people got to know each other before they even thought about F2F.

Can't say I know anyone who had the same experience through dating-specific encounters.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I loved online dating and, even though I met and married my wife through Lavalife and am now 100% out of the dating pool, I still kind of miss it.
And I agree with those who said the author wasn't doing it right. The questionnaires and profile blurbs and height and income stats are all useless and should be ignored. I always searched by location (close to me) and age range (fairly wide above and below my own) and that's it. The resulting profiles were skimmed for initial physical attractiveness and obvious red flag wackiness, and that left a large pool of potential dates, every one of which I would contact and hopefully arrange a real life meeting.
If I had relied on questionnaires for compatibility or computer matching I never would have met my wife. We're too different.
posted by rocket88 at 1:48 PM on July 19, 2010


The thing that online dating has taught me is that 1) so many guys think that defining themselves as "laid back" is attractive and 2) I could never be with the kind of guy who would describe himself as "laid back."

It's not that we think it's attractive, it's that we're trying to avoid people like you. :-) Seems win-win to me.
posted by callmejay at 1:49 PM on July 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


Here's my theory:

Online dating is unsatisfying because *dating* is unsatisfying.

Dating, as in actively seeking out someone you think you might connect with, is a lot of work and sucks most of the time. Organically just happening to meet someone and thinking you might have fun together is a lot less shitty, on- or offline.

"Dating" of either type means trying to force the issue, which sucks, which is why it's almost a dead practice among younger people in the real world.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:49 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


The thing that online dating has taught me is that 1) so many guys think that defining themselves as "laid back" is attractive

What would you have me to do- go to a high-powered office job with this blown-out flip-flop and missing salt shaker? Now do you want some shrimp or not?
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:51 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I never think about this because I'm barely 5'2", but I had no idea height was such a thing insofar as whether a girl wants to date a guy.

Certainly relative, but there are so many giant/dwarf (practically) couples out there you have to wonder. From the women I hear the explanation that a big guy makes them feel smaller/more ladylike. But of course, the same explanation is on offer for slight women -- makes their man feel bigger/more powerful.

It's a monster bummer to find out you've taken a climate change denier out to dinner halfway through your salad.

Especially if there's (until that point) chemistry! Yeah. Priceless info.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


So online dating are incredibly important, it could be central and crucial and we need to create them because it’s really a miserable situation for most single people. At the same time, the ones that we have created, and they all look the same basically, they’re no real differences between them, the ones that we are creating are just not that useful.

Pretty bad transcription.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:57 PM on July 19, 2010


Maybe someone should do an study of opinions on online dating with a breakdown of interviewee variables - age, gender, education, economic status, etc. I know that when I was younger I could imagine falling in love with any of six men sharing my elevator. Online dating would have been a no-brainer then. Now I reverse the Groucho Marx quote: ''Anyone who joins an online dating site would not be a match for me."
posted by Surfurrus at 1:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The experience of online dating is a lot different than one would guess by looking at surveys and pondering the meaning of search criteria.

I met my wife on an online dating site after many months of being a member and about 10 other first dates. I had met my previous girlfriend after only a couple of months and a handful of first dates. So you could call me a satisfied customer.

While it's true that it can be frustrating to devote many hours to getting to coffee, we have to compare it to the alternative. Obviously, if the alternative is opening your front door to millions of gorgeous members of your preferred sex who want to date you, online dating does not match up. However, the alternative is for too many of us fervently trying to strike up conversations with random strangers in bars and book stores, asking our friends to set us up with their friends, joining clubs and groups, and all sorts of similarly inefficient ways to find mates. Dating sites are a vast improvement compared to that.

Dating sites may offer height and eye color and various other shallow characteristics, but so does real life.

I will say this, though. After a number of really boring first dates with little chemistry, I decided to let my subconscious take more of an active role in my search. Instead of poring over profiles searching for ultimate compatibility, I tried to just go through a whole bunch of them really fast and see what caught my attention in a non-obvious way. Somehow, my wife's profile really just felt right, even though nothing specifically jumped out as the reason I was interested. So I sent her a message, she replied, we chatted a couple of times, met for drinks and that was it. We've been together over three years now, married for more than one. We know several other happy couples who met online also.

tl;dr: Online dating has its downsides, but so does real life. Recommended, would buy again. A++++++++++++
posted by callmejay at 2:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Some sort of magical place where connections are arranged by HTML coding unicorns.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's not that we think it's attractive, it's that we're trying to avoid people like you. :-) Seems win-win to me.

Yeah, except self-described laid-back guys used to message me all the time. What, they're too laid-back to notice that I'm not? Or laid-back guys enjoy sending messages and not getting responses? Doesn't really seem like avoidant behavior. Smiley face right back.
posted by millipede at 2:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Online dating is unsatisfying because *dating* is unsatisfying.

See, I kind of disagree with this. Actually going on dates is a lot of fun. You get to meet interesting people, share ideas, learn about other people's lives and hobbies and passions, with the added bonus of occasional sexy times, and the possibility of something long term.

(I actually miss dating. Sigh.)*

What sucks is the process before the first date: chatting people up in, what, bars? Bookstores? That's the part I'm clueless about, and what Online Dating shortcuts around.

Online Dating is probably a misnomer. It's not dating, it's filtering.

* All that being said, my partner is a friend-of-a-friend connection.
posted by generichuman at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the internet relationships I've seen grew out of non-dating forums. They've been universally good.

Which is the point of the lecture -- get people to do things together, and they'll end up being more than friends.

Your Ukranian grandmother knows this.
posted by sleslie at 2:10 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


As much as I'd love to just say "you are doing it wrong", I have friends who have struggled with it. I've never had problems, but I don't doubt that it's because I had some good profile stats working on my side: 24 year old thin female, attractive (I like to think), intelligent, and not (too) crazy. I started the online dating process and went on four dates over the course of two months. The second date resulted in a several-week-long thing, and the fourth date resulted in a soon-to-be happy marriage.

That said, one of my friends has struggled with it for years, and as far as I can tell he isn't "doing it wrong" in terms of his profile. He just meets ladies, goes on dates with them, and it really never leads anywhere. My fiance worked for 6 mos to find me. I think there are many factors that go into how successful you are with online dating. The fact that you aren't particularly photogenic could have a devastating effect, but there isn't ONE THING.

I relied HEAVILY on the information provided in profiles. In fact, I wouldn't even respond or be interested in someone who left sections blank. As someone above said, there's no way in hell I want to go on a date with a climate change denier. I wanted to make sure we have things to talk about (common interests such as movies/music/TV/food/activities, etc), and I liked to think of questions (about their job or something they do that I've never tried) to ask them to make things more interesting when conversation lags.

The compatibility percentages on OKC will not help you find someone who is exactly like you. They help you find someone who will work well with you in a relationship. I can't speak for other websites, but that's how OKC does it. As I mentioned above, I went on four dates total. The second date dude was about a 65% match and the "relationship" ended terribly. My soon-to-be hubby and I had a match that was somewhere in the 80s and we (obviously) do pretty well together.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2010


Ah, the old, "I'm a professor and we're soooo busy we can never meet people so I'm reduced to online dating." That's what the Ivy prof told me, except that her rush to get off the site before "her graduate students saw her on there," kinda vibed weird to me so I Googled her and there's a recently published article about her and her husband in the top results. Whoooops!

And vital stat fudging is the topic of this month's OkTrends.
posted by The Straightener at 2:20 PM on July 19, 2010


Short version:

Fuck this guy. Online dating has saved my social life and boosted my confidence.

Long version:

So, I got out of a very long-term relationship about 4 months ago. Pretty much no friends, no job, and no hope. My only marketable strength is being quick with a joke and writing clever-ish messages.

Most people who meet me think I'm boisterous and extroverted, but I'm horrendously timid about introducing myself to women. It's insane, as I spent a majority of my adult life with women working in bars. Probably because I'm 6'8" and not terribly "suave". I swear to god half the time I would do it I felt like, "HELLO I AM LENNY! CAN I TOUCH YOUR FACE!?!??!"

Fuck me, it was miserable.

I've been out with about 12 women since the breakup (which is really a crazy amount of women to meet romantically in 4-ish months). I think I average about 3:1 messages/responses. This is an astonishing ratio if you've ever tried to do it in real life.

There have been 2 women that were wildly different than they presented themselves and kind of crazy. The others that I've met have been accomplished, charming, beautiful women. Two of them (who I ended up seeing a few times) we're to my mind wildly out of my league. I said as much after a few dates and they both reacted the almost identically: "Really?!? I think you're funny and handsome".

I can't put into words what confidence that gives a man.

One of the women I went out with for a bit wrote me this note after I asked her why the hell she was on a dating site when she was so incredibly beautiful and smart (this was an honest question and not a lame pickup line. I'd already met her), and in the process nailed the problem of meeting people in any city:

"I hate the "how is it possible that you're single question?" It has an underlying question of "whats wrong with you?" :)

While I do think I am a great catch I do not fight off the boys in real life. They are not lined up at my door taking numbers. We live in a city of public introverts. And as we get older and don't have the school connections and extra-curricular activities of younger years, it's hard to meet people. Its not like anyone in this city mingles out in public. Rarely do you see people mingling at the bars. The funny part is, it seems to be everyone's (by everyone I mean the single 25-35 crowd...ie. us) biggest pet peeve. If one were to go out and just start talking to random people, 9 times out of 10, they will be super friendly and chat right back. But nobody seems to take the first step. "

posted by lattiboy at 2:23 PM on July 19, 2010 [24 favorites]


Also, I guess I never think about this because I'm barely 5'2", but I had no idea height was such a thing insofar as whether a girl wants to date a guy.

I'm about the same height, and the reason I'm only into tall guys is because I don't want my future kids to be as short as me. Or, at least, that's what I tell my friends when they try to judge me for being shallow.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:28 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Happily married to a woman I met on Match. Enjoyed the process of getting there way more than the drama-fraught minefield of meeting people through friends.

Someone needs to put out the Harold & Maude version of online dating. You get 3 dates, then you're banned. Then people will take the damn time and do it right. When something is free it isn't valued or treated carefully. I think for a lot of folks it's quit after 3 dates anyway.
posted by scarabic at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2010


As someone who hasn't dated in 14 years [since college, when I met my ex-wife] but is about to start again, online dating _seems_ like a good way to handle the initial meeting. There's no way I can approach a total stranger and just start up a conversation in real life. Doing some simple filtering and then meeting people who are at least interested in meeting me seems like a vast improvement. It's good to hear that at least some people have some positive experiences here. My expectations seem to be in line with what I'm reading here -- filtering out certain things works well, finding the "right match" not so much, but at least the former should reduce the frequency of disastrous dates.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:36 PM on July 19, 2010


millipede: I know a 6' tall lady who only dates short (sub-5'9") dudes. Like, will not even look in the general direction of a tall dude.

Love is a battlefield, seriously.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having done the online-dating thing, spoken in favor of online dating, and gotten married through it, I still think Arielly has a valid point.

I tried out a number of dating sites. I recall that a couple were ridiculously over-parameterized, to coin a phrase. That is, they were very oriented towards extracting multiple-choice, searchable criteria from you and not much else. Conversely, I tried a couple that only tried to cover a few of the basics with these multiple-choice criteria, and I had better luck with them. He's right that those criteria don't really tell you what a person is like; OxFCAF is also right that they're useful for telling you who to avoid. Ariely's point seems to be that it would be nice if you could pre-empt the first "getting to know you" date through some kind of online interaction that shows you what that person is like, and I agree. It's not a matter of lowering your standards, but a matter of being able to apply your standards earlier in the process. From his perspective, six hours per cup of coffee is excessive, and that's a valid position to take.

There's another aspect of online dating that he doesn't get into, but some folks here have hinted at: a lot of people view it as work. Sitting in front of a computer, plowing through a list of 100 candidates, sending e-mails, checking schedules, etc. I'm not saying it shouldn't be some amount of work, but I can understand not wanting to associate dating with that kind of administrative overhead.
posted by adamrice at 2:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, if you're a smoker who wants to find a woman who'll admit to it (almost none of them do), here's a tip:

Smokes: when drinking
Drinks: often

posted by lattiboy at 2:41 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


People spend more time deciding what they want in a car than they do seriously chewing over what their long-term mate will be like. I'm not talking about the idle wishlist things that sound like Jane Jensen's "Luv Song" ("... not too much into entymology ...") but a sober consideration of the personal characteristics of someone they would marry and be with, til death do us part.
posted by adipocere at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2010


Adamrice makes a very valid point. Between these academic statistical reviews, discussions about paragraph content, and the downright frightening use of the word 'filtering'- online dating is sounding a heck of a lot like project.

My own experience falls in the middle: It's not 'bad,' in the sense that I met some interesting women. It's not 'great' in that in general, there was no wonderful chemistry. They all seemed, well- fine.

The whole point of dating (if you're goal oriented, anyhow) is to meet someone better than fine.

And in that respect, I agree with the naysayers. It's a lemon market, where 'just about the same as you'd meet at work or the nearest bar' is outstanding.
posted by mrdaneri at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2010


[is carefully making note of everyone in this thread who is single and sounds cute]
posted by JanetLand at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck this guy.

What the hell? He's not coming to your house and taking online dating away from you, he's experimenting with another model.
posted by namespan at 2:56 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


That was interesting. I've enjoyed online dating at times, and at other times it has really grossed me out. Like, I don't want to shop for a human being the way I shop for a camera, you know? I liked his ideas for creating an alternative.

One funny thing: they transcribed "yenta" (matchmaker) as "Yentl" (Barbara Streisand movie).
posted by serazin at 3:03 PM on July 19, 2010


If you're having trouble with Online AND Real-Life dating, remember that YOU are the common factor.
posted by hellslinger at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


As much as I'd love to just say "you are doing it wrong", I have friends who have struggled with it. I've never had problems, but I don't doubt that it's because I had some good profile stats working on my side

This can't be ignored. I don't think you can treat all singles as a homogeneous block as far as what they can expect from online dating. Some people look great on paper. Some people defy the categories and are better off avoiding being pigeonholed.

People spend more time deciding what they want in a car than they do seriously chewing over what their long-term mate will be like.

Yeah, but nobody deludes themselves that the car they stumbled on in that ad was "meant to be" in a way that the one they would have found had they looked the week later isn't.
For wisdom on this theme, I direct you to Tim Minchin.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's advice for anyone getting into online dating: Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away. Deal breaker lists are either strawmen representations of your exes or totally imagined stereotypes.
Someone upthread mentioned that she filtered out guys who identified as sports fans or who likes certain TV shows. While I'm sure you're doing them a favor by not dating them, I don't think you're doing yourself any.
Like I said before, if I had read a description of my wife before I met her, complete with her favorite books, movies and TV shows, I never would have contacted her. And vice-versa. You find love in very unexpected places.
posted by rocket88 at 3:10 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away.,,
Someone upthread mentioned that she filtered out guys who identified as sports fans or who likes certain TV shows.


Blah. Nobody should be attempting a Seinfeldian quirk parade. What you pre-select for are values. There is not one thing wrong with finding someone with the same set of values. You don't owe the issues your personal life as a battleground.

The rest, sure, throw to the wind. Absolutely.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:12 PM on July 19, 2010


If one were to go out and just start talking to random people, 9 times out of 10, they will be super friendly and chat right back. But nobody seems to take the first step.

Reconcile this with the epic Schrödinger’s Rapist thread, and you'll have learned a lot.
posted by LordSludge at 3:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


What you pre-select for are values. There is not one thing wrong with finding someone with the same set of values. You don't owe the issues your personal life as a battleground.

My values include not ever speaking or writing the phrase "I listen to all kinds of music except country/metal/rap and country/metal/rap".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


One funny thing: they transcribed "yenta" (matchmaker) as "Yentl" (Barbara Streisand movie).

Serazin, thanks for pointing this out - I actually work at Big Think (though not as a transcriber) and this error, despite being kind of fun, is now fixed.

Thanks also to filthy light thief for the point above - totally fair. The box is a limitation of our current system and we're working on it!
posted by ersherr at 3:35 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away

No.

Compromising your core values in order to secure some companionship, ZOMGPLZ any companionship, is a pretty excellent way to drastically up your odds of winding up in a frustrating, unfulfilling relationship. Never say never? Nonsense. There's no way I could ever really enjoy extended dating with a creationist, for example. Or a gal who takes astrology super serious. It just won't happen.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:36 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


1) so many guys think that defining themselves as "laid back" is attractive

You maybe don't notice this because you're looking at the men's profiles, but so many women say they're looking for a guy who's laid back. Of course, at least 80% of those, IMX, are looking for a guy who's laid back and ambitious...
posted by robertc at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2010


Yeah, I compromised in favor of ANY RELATIONSHIP PLEASE GOD ANY once. I'm out of debt (well, those debts) now and over some emotional issues that came out of it all, and I'm pretty much in NEVER AGAIN land.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2010


(I hasten to add that entertainment preferences don't, to my mind, count as "values" - ruling someone out based solely on book, film or musical preferences is pretty damn silly. Gal I'm running round with now has a soft spot for Twilight that I'm certainly happy to tease her about, but would in no way see as grounds for dismissal. And she, in turn, enjoys me in spite of my hopeless Superman habit. We meet in the middle with Buffy. Works pretty well. Things like this are tiny to the point of near irrelevance. The values I were referring to above are the big things.)
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:42 PM on July 19, 2010


Political persuasion, religiousness, attitudes about kids, etc are things that really are important (how many askme questions have there been about "I'm an atheist and my wife is Christian and It's Not Working" or "I want kids and he doesn't" ?) and not immediately obvious just from looking at someone.

These things are a small subset of the span of things that need to line up to make a good match. They're easy to focus on because they're weighty in terms of importance AND they're easy to clarify. But if they're necessary, they're not sufficient, not by a longshot.

So you've got this vast muddled space in which the problem of telling people what you want and signaling what you've got to offer is near intractable for many (if not most) people, even when they're not being lazy or lying. Maybe you're an exception if you've got a high degree of emotional intelligence, capacity for probing introspection, studied ability to carefully assess other people, and good writing skills, but for everybody else, this might remain a problem, and experimenting with ways of solving it seems as good a passtime as a lot of stuff people study.
posted by namespan at 3:44 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I did OK Cupid for a while many years ago, and you know what? I felt too weird to ever message any of the chicks that I thought I fancied. Not that I thought online dating itself was weird, I just didn't want to be that "Oh god some creep has messaged me on OK Cupid, what a creepy creep" guy. Thing is I wasn't a creepy creep, and wouldn't have come across as one, but had the feeling that, by messaging somebody on a dating site, somebody who hasn't messaged you, well, that is just inherently creepy and stalkerish behaviour. So I had the stupid thing for a few months and then packed it in.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, except self-described laid-back guys used to message me all the time. What, they're too laid-back to notice that I'm not? Or laid-back guys enjoy sending messages and not getting responses? Doesn't really seem like avoidant behavior. Smiley face right back.

Well, I'm laid back but my wife is Type A. It works for us.

I wouldn't have messaged any women who said they were looking for someone ambitious or, frankly, anyone who came off as judgy as you seem to be in this thread, but I can't know if you like laid-back guys unless you say so. Hence, I announce that I am and let you decide. Seems reasonable to me.

More evidence for the idea that the criteria are more to weed people out than to select them in, I guess.
posted by callmejay at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2010


Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away.

Sorry, that does not compute. Music is such a huge part of my life - I cannot imagine dating someone who didn't already have a connection to music that I really cared about (I care about an awful lot of music). I've gone on dates with girls taller or bigger than I am (I'm exactly "average American male height") and that has not led to desire. etc.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty firmly ensconced in the "weirdo-American" demographic - not that I'm not eminently presentable, respectable and productive, but that e.g. I don't own a TV and neither do a large number of my friends; or even more core, I consider e.g. a night of psychedelics, exotic music, conversation and kinky sex to be "still the best use of my time" (though it's been over a year since the last time that could be described as that, sigh).

And it's hard to advertise for that. I got very close twice with OKC...

I meet a lot of people in my life. Time time time time. Give it time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2010


Okay, just about done shitting up the thread, but I had to say a few more things that I believe will help people new to this:

1) Copy and paste is your friend! Don't just start spamming people, but you should sit down, right one REALLY good message and use some variation on that. If you feel like somebody is very special, write a note especially for them. This template should:

a) sum you up succinctly and why you're worth knowing

b) lay out what you like (generally) in a man/woman, and how this man/woman is a good example of that

c) be 3 paragraphs or less

d) say you'd like to "meet" or "get to know" the person*

If you don't do this you'll end up writing incredibly impish personal messages shamelessly picking through their profile for some kind of common interest. It's also fucking tiring.

2) Don't get hung up on how clever/funny/witty somebody is in their profile. I thought I'd found my SOULMATE a few months ago based on the profile. When I met her, I almost feigned food-poising to escape the boredom and horribly shitty personality in front of me.

3) Men: Don't use winks, star ratings, nudges, pokes, or whatever. Shit is tacky and women don't generally appreciate it.

Women: Please don't think messaging somebody first is beneath you. Guess who's on a website looking for dates? You are.

4) If somebody doesn't respond to you, don't bother them. Ever. If they have a soul, it makes them feel bad. It also makes you look pathetic.

5) Remember: This is just a fucking date! As I said above, I've gone out with 12 women on probably 40 dates. Sometimes it was dinner, sometimes it was a concert, sometimes it was making out on a public beach at three in the morning on Thursday. Some sucked, some were amazing. All of them (even the bad ones) involved me getting out of the house and conversing with another person. This is something (generalizing here kids!) a lot of people on Metafilter could stand more of.



*I suppose this is debatable, but every woman whom I've asked about this has said they hate it when guys endlessly chat them up without asking them out. Also, it drains the first date of any conversation topics. If you ever do meet you'll both be talking the finer points of eminent domain law over your drinks.
posted by lattiboy at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I did OK Cupid for a while many years ago, and you know what? I felt too weird to ever message any of the chicks that I thought I fancied. Not that I thought online dating itself was weird, I just didn't want to be that "Oh god some creep has messaged me on OK Cupid, what a creepy creep" guy. Thing is I wasn't a creepy creep, and wouldn't have come across as one, but had the feeling that, by messaging somebody on a dating site, somebody who hasn't messaged you, well, that is just inherently creepy and stalkerish behaviour. So I had the stupid thing for a few months and then packed it in.

But somebody has to send the first message!
posted by phatkitten at 4:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


My deL breakers are perfectly rational and I will never give them up. But your deal breakers are pointless and will only prevent you from finding anyone.
posted by smackfu at 4:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


After a few runs through the kabuki sorting processes of online dating, whose goal seems to be to match the person someone is pretending to be with other person someone else is pretending to be, I decided to post an "anti-ad" which got exactly two replies. One of them was the love of my life who apparently found my ad by searching for "misanthrope" and "atheist".

So, uh, worked for me.
posted by fleacircus at 4:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also…
"This is an astonishing ratio if you've ever tried to do it in real life."
Yeah, that's because you're 6'8". It's nowhere near the same for average-height guys. Women five-foot-nothing want guys 6, 7 feet tall. It's hilarious. I can understand a 6' woman preferring a taller guy, but even the midgets can easily snub 95% of their dating pool and still have a male:female advantage. Why is that? Are they nipple fetishists or something? Gonna get some belly-button lovin'? I don't understand it, but then again, I no longer have a horse in this race.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 PM on July 19, 2010


After a number of really boring first dates with little chemistry, I decided to let my subconscious take more of an active role in my search. Instead of poring over profiles searching for ultimate compatibility, I tried to just go through a whole bunch of them really fast and see what caught my attention in a non-obvious way.

This is exactly what I did; I set up a search with very vague parameters and just skimmed through pages and pages and pages of results. Somewhere around page 150 a guy's picture/summary caught my eye - we're very happily dating now.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 4:34 PM on July 19, 2010


I have, through the magic of seeing someone's profiles before contacting them, avoided some real nutbars.

You may be interested in a magic rock I have for sale. Imagine all the tigers it's going to keep off your lawn.
posted by DU at 4:35 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


...avoided some real nutbars.

Consider this: I briefly dated someone who claimed to be an atheist, but I later found out she believed in ghosts.

ow my head it hurts
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:45 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


[is carefully making note of everyone in this thread who is single and sounds cute]
posted by JanetLand at 2:48 PM on July 19


Me too.

Women: Please don't think messaging somebody first is beneath you.

Okay, well, then can you explain why all of the 75 times I've done this, I haven't gotten an answer? Believe me, I get the whole "women can make the first move" memo in spades, and I do it. And it gets me absolutely fucking nowhere. So what's the deal?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Online dating is not better or worse than regular dating. The problem is that people who don't have the dating skills for much regular dating end up having many, many, many horrible dates that skew the stats.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away.

Or make them actual deal breakers. During my brief stint at online dating I had two absolute requirements: female, non-smoker. I should probably have added "single" and "weighs less than I do" (I'm 6'3'' and about 195. I don't think I'm being out of line here). These are deal breakers. A tri-athlete with the sexual appetite of a porn star and the brains of Madame Curie would be a non-starter if she smoked.

There is a difference between a deal breaker and a preference. Throw the preferences away; keep the deal breakers.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may be interested in a magic rock I have for sale. Imagine all the tigers it's going to keep off your lawn.

I don't understand what you mean. I look at profiles, and if I see that she's into acupuncture or Jesus or the Green Man, or that she thinks Sarah Palin is just the shit, well, I didn't just spend the gas to drive downtown to hear about how the earth mother will bring down the big pharma conspiracy. I understand some people think that a shitty date's better than nothing, but that's not how I prioritize my time, and I do get out often enough that I don't think I'm being overly selective.


Consider this: I briefly dated someone who claimed to be an atheist, but I later found out she believed in ghosts.

You dated Sam Harris?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:56 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


frankly, anyone who came off as judgy as you seem to be in this thread

Listen, guy. Everybody has their indicators of what they are and are not attracted to. As I said, whether a guy used the phrase "laid back" was the issue, not whether he actually was what that phrase usually means. I get that online dating worked for you and now you're happily married and thus feel as though you are in a position to comment on the online dating behavior of people who have not yet met their mates, but it's not "judgy" to be attracted or not attracted to certain attributes. Some women aren't attracted to short bald guys. Some men aren't attracted to overweight women with bad teeth. The phrase "laid back" is my short and bald. The phrase "laid back" is my overweight and bad teeth. Jeez. I've dated a wide, wide, wide variety of physical, mental, and emotional types. The thing they have all had in common was that they were unusual somehow. They saw the world in a unique and offbeat way. The kind of guy who says the same thing that 85% of online daters say is not the unusual guy I go for. It is not "judgy" of me to be aware of this.
posted by millipede at 4:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Take your list of deal breakers and throw it away. Deal breaker lists are either strawmen representations of your exes or totally imagined stereotypes.

How do you know?

I have a lot of deal breakers. They actually matter to me, and I'm in a much better position to judge this than you are. I'm well aware that I would have a larger pool of dating prospects to choose from if I "took my list of deal breakers and threw it away." But I don't want a larger pool if I have to ignore my actual priorities.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The phrase "laid back" is my overweight and bad teeth.

I'd respond to your criticisms, except I'm so laid back I'm going to let it go and just roll with it.
posted by geoff. at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


So you've got this vast muddled space in which the problem of telling people what you want and signaling what you've got to offer is near intractable for many (if not most) people, even when they're not being lazy or lying. Maybe you're an exception if you've got a high degree of emotional intelligence, capacity for probing introspection, studied ability to carefully assess other people, and good writing skills, but for everybody else, this might remain a problem, and experimenting with ways of solving it seems as good a passtime as a lot of stuff people study.

I don't see the problem.

Or, if this is a problem, the solution is: meet them in person and see what they're really like.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:06 PM on July 19, 2010


When I was briefly single about half a decade back I halfheatedly tried the online dating thing at HotorNot and few other place, but the people who responded to my pictures weren't any better-looking than the people I picked up in bars or at work, so I figured why watse gas.
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on July 19, 2010


(also, I am of the opinion that people who have long com0plicated qualifications for dating someone are actually afraid of intimacy and are using their little lists to avoid heartbreak. sad, really.)
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on July 19, 2010


Okay, well, then can you explain why all of the 75 times I've done this, I haven't gotten an answer? Believe me, I get the whole "women can make the first move" memo in spades, and I do it. And it gets me absolutely fucking nowhere. So what's the deal?

You said before that you sent 100 messages and got 20 responses.

Those are fine results. As I said in that thread: a lot could happen with 20 people! From that point on, you only need a 5% success rate...

You're complaining because your expectations as a woman are so high to begin with, that when you get results that are more like what men routinely experience, you see it as a failure.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:13 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


also, I am of the opinion that people who have long com0plicated qualifications for dating someone are actually afraid of intimacy and are using their little lists to avoid heartbreak.

Again, I don't understand why people are being so judgmental of people they don't know who have dating preferences. Someone who has so many qualifications that they rule out everyone may be trying to avoid heartbreak. But I can apply a whole bunch of qualifications from the outset on OKCupid, still go on dates, and then let things progress naturally -- why shouldn't I?
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:16 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suppose this is debatable, but every woman whom I've asked about this has said they hate it when guys endlessly chat them up without asking them out. Also, it drains the first date of any conversation topics. If you ever do meet you'll both be talking the finer points of eminent domain law over your drinks.

Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes to this. Three or four messages should be more than enough to decide if you want to meet up for coffee, where you get to actually decide if you're interested in dating the person.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with online dating: I find it almost impossible to forecast whether or not I'll be attracted to someone without meeting them. It's not just about looks, either: things like physical chemistry and micro-expressions and whether they seem kind are really important to attraction and impossible to tell online.

I remember reading somewhere (maybe in Freakonomics?) about how most people semi-consciously "decide" whether or not they're attracted to someone in a very, very short period of time, and then get to know the person better and use that information to decide whether or not they want to get to know them better. But the author pointed out that in online dating, the process is reversed - you get to know them first (on a superficial level, at least) and then decide later if you're attracted to someone. Which just makes the whole thing feel really contrived and forced to me.

Although I have to say, I just got on okcupid and it is fun! I find that, as a non-hideous woman with a profile that I put some thought into, I get a good number of messages from guys I find interesting. And I'm a sucker for the quizzes - my dating personality result was shockingly accurate.
posted by lunasol at 5:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, I don't understand why people are being so judgmental of people they don't know who have dating preferences.

Jaltcoh, there's preferences and there's preferences. When somebody bases dating decisions on which version of Star Trek they prefer, or something equally trivial* are people avoiding intimacy out of fear of rejection or fear that the idea they might like somebody outside their subcult would shatter their identity.

*yes it is trivial. STFU dorks.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on July 19, 2010


*I suppose this is debatable, but every woman whom I've asked about this has said they hate it when guys endlessly chat them up without asking them out.

Too bad there's nothing the women could do about that.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I agree with those who said the author wasn't doing it right. The questionnaires and profile blurbs and height and income stats are all useless and should be ignored.

I kind of thought that was his point, actually, that filters are often useless, that height/weight/etc filters are worse than useless, and that dating sites that cram you into income categories aren't doing anybody any favors because the things that matter aren't considered important factors by the major dating sites.

So yeah, he "wasn't doing it right" because he was doing it the way dating sites *think* you should do it. It's not a surprise that the people who have different results use OKC and other sites that rely less on sorting by waistline and more on getting you to just start having a conversation with someone.
posted by stefanie at 5:23 PM on July 19, 2010


Too bad there's nothing the women could do about that.

It's true, we can ask the fellas out too, but you know, socialization is powerful stuff. You pointed out upthread that we shouldn't be upset to get similar results as men, but the thing is, women don't really get the chance to practice experiencing rejection on the same level as men. Most men I know who are moderately successful romantically seem to have learned by age 25 that, if a woman turns them down or ignores them, it's nothing personal. But since most girls are still not really socialized to make the first move on guys, rejection can be a lot harder to take.

I'm not using this as an excuse, or to say it's right for women to expect men to approach them all the time - I think it's incredibly important for women to learn how to take rejection too. But just trying to point out that the emotional and pride stakes can be higher for women than men.
posted by lunasol at 5:29 PM on July 19, 2010


>Okay, well, then can you explain why all of the 75 times I've done this, I haven't gotten an answer? Believe me, I get the whole "women can make the first move" memo in spades, and I do it. And it gets me absolutely fucking nowhere. So what's the deal?

You said before that you sent 100 messages and got 20 responses.


That was two years ago. The 20 guys either just responded with a "thanks for asking about my dog" and took it no further, or we just didn't hit it off.

I re-set the clock again this year, and now we are at 75 emails and no responses.

Does this earn me your permission to be a little pissed off yet?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


there's preferences and there's preferences. When somebody bases dating decisions on which version of Star Trek they prefer, or something equally trivial* are people avoiding intimacy out of fear of rejection or fear that the idea they might like somebody outside their subcult would shatter their identity.


Yeah, but how does the dating behavior of this subset of people affect you to the point where it's appropriate to instruct them on what to do instead?

People do dating in different ways. It's a very personal thing, and a lot of these preferences really can't be helped. Your "trivial" may be someone else's "essential" and vice versa. I think height is a ridiculous parameter, but apparently others do not--would I advise that they change their preferences and would I judge them and say they are avoiding intimacy out of fear of rejection? No, because there is no way I can know that. There is also no way you can know that regarding other preferences. Either way, what's it to you?
posted by millipede at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2010


Yeah, but how does the dating behavior of this subset of people affect you to the point where it's appropriate to instruct them on what to do instead?

I have to listen to them bitch an moan (on mefi, in bars, from younger people at my job etc), so yes I have earned my right to mock you mercilessly.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on July 19, 2010


I have earned my right to mock you mercilessly.

Nope. Wrong.

(Maybe you should hang out with other people if you find yourself irritated to the point of mockery with the current people with which you surround yourself.)
posted by millipede at 5:43 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, well, then can you explain why all of the 75 times I've done this, I haven't gotten an answer?

Empress C, I must apologize for the lameness of my sex and borough.

I'm also on OKC, the number of women who've approached me is fairly small, and I've answered every one of them - on the theory I should encourage this desirable behaviour - though, unfortunately, none of them have led to even a meeting.

That said, OKC has been pretty good to me - I am still there so it hasn't been a 100% success but it has kept me at least in civilized company.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:45 PM on July 19, 2010


millipede:first of all, who died and left you boss? You say something on line, you risk mockery, that's the fucking rules. And, no, we don't really have much choice who we're surrounded by, unless we become hermits...which is well, why people use onlinde dating services, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on July 19, 2010


(Maybe you should hang out with other people if you find yourself irritated to the point of mockery with the current people with which you surround yourself.)

You're the only one allowed to mock people here, then? Please clarify these rules. Thanks.
posted by enn at 5:47 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]



millipede:first of all, who died and left you boss?


You did.
posted by millipede at 5:47 PM on July 19, 2010


ooooh, that's telling me.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2010



You're the only one allowed to mock people here, then? Please clarify these rules. Thanks.


Having a dating preference is not the same as mocking. The former isn't judgmental about other people's lifestyles--it's just related to whether you feel you'd be compatible with a person who has certain attributes.
posted by millipede at 5:51 PM on July 19, 2010


ooooh, that's telling me.

A stupid question deserves a stupid answer. Let's move to memail henceforth if this has to continue, okay?
posted by millipede at 5:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having a dating preference is not the same as mocking.

No, it's not, but claiming that everyone who doesn't fit your dating preference couldn't possibly be unique or unusual in any way is mocking, not having or expressing a dating preference.
posted by enn at 5:54 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


nahh, you look silly enough already.
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on July 19, 2010


claiming that everyone who doesn't fit your dating preference couldn't possibly be unique or unusual in any way is mocking, not having or expressing a dating preference.

Okay, I should have worded that differently. I guess what I'm drawn to is something that is, to me, indicated by a uniqueness of verbal expression. The phrase "laid back" is so commonly used that it is, by definition, not unique.

Oh my god. I don't even DO online dating anymore. How did this thread even happen.
posted by millipede at 5:57 PM on July 19, 2010


nahh, you look silly enough already.

I'd say we look equally silly, if that, and that's discounting your goofy facial hair.

You know what? If it's really going to make you a happier person to mock people, far be it for me to care. I don't even know you. I'm out.
posted by millipede at 6:03 PM on July 19, 2010


There goes everybody's night's sleep.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on July 19, 2010


I remember reading somewhere (maybe in Freakonomics?) about how most people semi-consciously "decide" whether or not they're attracted to someone in a very, very short period of time, and then get to know the person better and use that information to decide whether or not they want to get to know them better. But the author pointed out that in online dating, the process is reversed - you get to know them first (on a superficial level, at least) and then decide later if you're attracted to someone. Which just makes the whole thing feel really contrived and forced to me.

This exemplifies what I found to be the biggest drawback of online dating: It took all of the fun and exciting aspects of meeting a potential romantic partner in real life and replaced it with the formality of a job interview.
posted by The Gooch at 6:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


most people semi-consciously "decide" whether or not they're attracted to someone in a very, very short period of time

Perzactly. That's the real trouble with online dating- the informational bandwidth isn't there (as noted above- microexpressions, body language, etc- all the stuff that allows you to make those judgements in, like, a second.) It's enough to figure out if you're interested in finding out, but it does make for some deadly times when you show up and either both think 'hell no', or one of you does... but yet there you are, still drinking coffee...

I believe people when they say they met the loves of their lives online, months or years before meeting in person... I just cannot grasp it at all. I wish I didn't have the (for lack of a better word) standards that I do- it would make my life easier- but I know from bitter experience that trying to override them, whether its in the name of 'well but they're such a cool person' or 'fuck it, we're drunk, let's do it' will only end in disappointment (for at least one of us).

I should throw out my dealbreakers? I should just say 'what the hell, I'm a regular dood, I can date anybody'? Yeah, I've tried that. So really, I guess, given what a picky, picky freak I am, online dating's probably the best thing ever. Where else am I going to meet another reasonably-attractive, non-joiner, who shares some of my many fringy interests, who also doesn't like to go to bars alone?
posted by hap_hazard at 6:09 PM on July 19, 2010


Hah, I'm on OKC as we speak and can see the undoubted MeFi hits from males in other parts of the country...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:10 PM on July 19, 2010


(I'm actually off to see some live music in Williamsburg in a few minutes if anyone, male or female, is interested! :-D)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:12 PM on July 19, 2010


Women five-foot-nothing want guys 6, 7 feet tall. It's hilarious. I can understand a 6' woman preferring a taller guy, but even the midgets can easily snub 95% of their dating pool and still have a male:female advantage. Why is that? Are they nipple fetishists or something? Gonna get some belly-button lovin'? I don't understand it, but then again, I no longer have a horse in this race.

Dunno why women should be any more rational in their attraction criteria than men. Think about what you (and/or what most guys) find hawt -- does that make any sense??
posted by LordSludge at 6:13 PM on July 19, 2010


I think for some people there is a lot of truth in the idea that their stated preferences for a partner... aren't necessarily what they actually want.

I have conversations sometimes, about cultural ideals of beauty, and how unfair they are, all those anorexic models etc. And of course there's truth in that.

But I always say- look around you! (well, unless you live in a major metro area) - look how people look! FAT PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY GET LAID ALL THE TIME! I'm not going to bring peopleofwalmart into this because I don't have to- if you've ever been in a US small town or suburb, you know it's true - there are hell of 'not-conventionally-attractive' people out there breeding like there ain't no tomorrow!

So yeah, there's what people say they want or find attractive, and cherish in their Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue or whatever, and there's the reality, which appears to say that those alleged ideals aren't affecting noticeably affecting anybody's behavior.

Except maybe in online dating. But maybe that's part of why it doesn't work that great for a lot of people.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:21 PM on July 19, 2010


jonmc, give it a fucking rest, you're being a dick.
posted by cortex at 6:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think for some people there is a lot of truth in the idea that their stated preferences for a partner... aren't necessarily what they actually want.

Or what they want isn't particularly enlightening with regard to what they get.
It is a sexual marketplace, after all.

Your comment sounds a lot like griphus', to which I responded that he should check out the second link, which seems to argue against.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:26 PM on July 19, 2010


Does this earn me your permission to be a little pissed off yet?

Yes, permission granted.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's the real trouble with online dating- the informational bandwidth isn't there (as noted above- microexpressions, body language, etc- all the stuff that allows you to make those judgements in, like, a second.) It's enough to figure out if you're interested in finding out, but it does make for some deadly times when you show up and either both think 'hell no', or one of you does... but yet there you are, still drinking coffee...

But the same thing can happen if you meet someone on the street or in a bar and set up a date.

With online dating, you're likely to start out with a lot more essential information. For all the criticism of "dealbreakers," what are the chances you're going to be a good match with someone who has incompatible religious views, shares none of your taste in movies/TV/books/music/art, and has wildly different attitudes about relationships than you do? Probably about zero. You routinely get this information on dating sites. It's really, really useful.

Trying to find people to date offline is what's lacking in "information bandwidth."

I believe people when they say they met the loves of their lives online, months or years before meeting in person... I just cannot grasp it at all.

I can't grasp your inability to grasp it. People sort through profiles to find ones that are appealing to them, have some online communications, then arrange to meet in person for a first date. It might be a pretty mundane process, but it's efficient. From that point on, it's just like any old dating.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its much cheaper than buying drinks or dinner to chat. Unless you hate bars, in which case its essential.
posted by sfts2 at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2010


Your comment sounds a lot like griphus', to which I responded that he should check out the second link, which seems to argue against.
But that study- which I feel like I've seen before, probably here- is in the context of speed-dating. Which, it's my impression, is full of people even more insufferably picky than I am! So I don't know how applicable it is.

I'd guess the scale of choosiness goes something like
The Bachelor or something > speed dating > online dating > real life

So yeah, my theory might not actually work for online dating that much. But on the other hand, I've done a lot of online dating, and met quite a few people who described themselves as - and appeared in their profile pictures to be- "average" weight, who turned out to be , um, well overweight. (which I guess might be average these days, but it still seems like cheating to use the term. )

Apparently the theory being that when they showed up, guys would be like, "OK, she looks fine, whatever." And according to them, that actually worked at least sometimes. But then again, they were still out there dating, so...

Not that there's anything wrong with weighing extra. It's just not my thing, and I am totally not trying to be a dick about it. Although maybe I am anyway, and if so I am sorry. Not talking about anyone's value as a human being, just about what I am able to find attractive.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:00 PM on July 19, 2010


I can't grasp your inability to grasp it.
It's not the online part- it's the 'months or years' bit. Meeting someone online: totally cool. Starting a relationship online, without knowing if there's chemistry: insane, unless you really don't care about chemistry.

And that's the thing- it's really that important to me, and I can really tell if it's there, in real life, in, like, seconds. Not always, no- and there's probably a lot of false *negatives*, where I don't notice people who would actually be interesting if I got to talk to them (or get a whiff of pheromone, or whatever...)

I'm not talking about 'are they cute', I'm talking about 'am I attracted to them', which is a different thing. If I think someone looks interesting, I'm right... They might also be total psychos, or just annoyingly quirky, or god knows what all else... but they're definitely interesting.

So that's where the online filtering is great. But it tends more towards false positives- people who seem like they'd be interesting, because of all the stuff they wrote in their profiles, but aren't.

Don't get me wrong. I've done online dating before, and I will again. It just has its annoyances. But it's not like real life doesn't have 'em too... they're just slightly different.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2010


I'm sorry, I missed your "months or years before meeting in person." Then your comment makes much more sense. (But how many people do that?)
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:11 PM on July 19, 2010


Well, in 2007 the Sexuality Research and Social Policy recently published an article about the sexual tendencies of women who date online.
According to the stats a staggering one-third of women in the U.S. have sex with a person they met online on the first date. The US study, which surveyed 568 women, also found 27 per cent of respondents performed oral sex on the first date.

Dan must be doing it all wrong.
posted by joey! at 7:43 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


... the author pointed out that in online dating, the process is reversed - you get to know them first (on a superficial level, at least) and then decide later if you're attracted to someone.

Except that there is the danger of 'cyberfantasy' - i.e., the illusion that the online person (the *Perfect* Match) is automatically attractive, so a ftf meeting is by default a romantic one and neither person admits the error (until weeks/months later when it is a mess.)
posted by Surfurrus at 8:21 PM on July 19, 2010


According to the stats a staggering one-third of women in the U.S. have sex with a person they met online on the first date.

Why staggering? That study seems not to be about dating; that is about sex. And, yes, online 'matching' is very good for that.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:27 PM on July 19, 2010


I tried online dating and it didn't work. I think it works well for people in big metro areas where the numbers are there for sifting through and finding people to date. Outside of those areas, and it can get kind of sparse.

The bigger issue for me, though, was that (as others have mentioned) the online dating reversed things in a way I found uncomfortable. I want to first find a spark (aka chemistry/smells good/pheromones/etc) and only then get to know the person. Reversing that led to uncomfortable situations where the intellectual and flirtatious spark was there on the screen, but in person there was less than nothing.
posted by Forktine at 8:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I want to ask these guys: how many people meet the genuine loves of their lives shitfaced in a bar at 24 and live happily ever after? I mean, that's what most people think of as the alternative. (Or maybe they don't, it's just what I expect is the most common answer.)

But if you think using either is a waste of your time and/or money, how much money have you blown on bad dates, bar tabs, expensive dinners and whatever else people spend money on? How many hours have you wasted on small talk just to be "nice" when you'd rather be masturbating/watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer/reading Metafilter?

I mean, online dating is only as "desperate" as this:

- you don't have the time, money or inclination to go to the same five spots you already go to, hoping some new person will walk in the door because it's a Tuesday vs. a Friday

- you're at the age where trying "new bars/hot spots" with your single friends sounds like hell, is too expensive, or you're not into drinking as a means of finding a romantic partner

- you've slept with/dated all your friends, all your friend's friends, and every person you found attractive at work or school (or know enough to know better, that person's wrong for you)

If you don't like online dating sites, fair enough; the Internet gives you lots of places to find awesome, smart people.

For example -- I met my fiance right here on Metafilter. I'm sure someone will chime in and say they met through WoW or Second Life or whatever. There's somebody for everybody, seriously - if you look for dates in your area/friend circle, isn't that online now as much as it is in real life? Otherwise, why'd this site just get an IRL top nav link?

Hap_hazard, to your point, we chatted for about six weeks before we met and hugged each other. The SECOND I hugged him I knew I was going to fall in love with him, so that first few minutes thing - the chemistry bit - is mostly correct.

But do you guys not think that hearing someone's music, reading someone's writing or seeing a photo of a person you've never met could make you fall in love -- or at least feel inspired to seek that person out? Well, then. Hollywood would like to show you something... as would Shakespeare and every mixtape you ever made for a girl/boy in high school.

Before the Internet, one of the greatest love stories I can think of was that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Their courtship was conducted almost exclusively by letter and her Love Sonnets from the Portuguese speak of the intensity and passion of that love without sugar-coating it; her insecurities litter the page along with some of the most frequently quoted passages for modern wedding ceremony readings. How else would a shut-in female intellectual have ever found the love of her life - then flee to Italy after a quick wedding, have a son, then live the rest of their lives together until her death - without Robert having FELT A DEEP CONNECTION WITH HER BECAUSE OF SOMETHING SHE WROTE?

Internet dating goes back forever, it's just faster now. They're not love letters any more, they're "possibly like" emails, because frankly, we have quite a few more opportunities than before.

FYI, Sys Req, I'm an HTML-coding unicorn (on the cob)... FOR REAL.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:12 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ugh, I messed up a sentence because of a stupid tag:

Both free and paid online dating sites are equally stigmatized and equally popular, for some reason. But if you think either...

I'm a really CRAPPY html-coding unicorn who's got eyestrain.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:14 PM on July 19, 2010


I went onto a lower rent dating site once, the sort of place where a lot of the mens' profile pictures were of their biceps and/or vehicles with spoilers. Since I was between biceps and/or vehicles with spoilers, I put the best - ie: Least likely to elicit the response 'Hey, I think I saw this pic on The Smoking Gun website!' - picture of myself, but sort of blurry so as the mitigate the odds of someone who already knew me recognizing me on the site, and a bunch of sort of rambly stupid crap much like what I post here lamely making fun of myself or common annoying things other people put on their profiles, such as "I love mind games. And kerplunk!" After getting three responses from a pretentious local musician/arteest with no discernible sense of humour, someone who may have had some mental or personality issues "Are you an attractive single who's looking, like me?" and someone who knew me already (Frankly, Amy, you had no call to be all 'Layne? LOL', considering you looked like you were melting thanks to all the Photoshop blurring you did in your picture), I realized I would not be successful because I didn't have enough guts to contact anyone myself, and the awesome profile I made to keep away the dummies was pretty self-defeating as it would also drive away anyone who wasn't looking for a sort of smug jerk who thought he was Oh So Clever. It was too bad, as I had noticed that a really nice and pretty girl who worked at the nearby Shoppers' Drug Mart that I bought most of my groceries at was on the site, and who seemed to like me, even though of course, it was her job to be nice to the customers, and if I were presumptuous to assume she liked me and I was wrong, I would have to find somewhere else to buy my Coca-Cola and frozen pizza. Besides, her profile said she liked Country Music - and not the awesome alternative classic kind I liked - and her spelling was poor. So I said, Fie Upon Thee, internet dating site and closed my profile and prepared to die alone and unloved but Oh So Clever.

Moral of the story: Yes, buying most of your groceries at the Shoppers' Drug Mart is sad, but sometimes you will meet your future wife there and after she makes it clear she in not in the habit of asking out customers she will ask you out in front of the freezer case and since you don't know her stance on smoking you will buy a huge pack of nicotine patches that you will never open, although you probably should have even if she is okay with you smoking, because hey, smoking isn't good for you, dummy. Also, the odds of success when it comes to the internet dating thing is entirely dependent on what you bring to it. Much like the 'real' dating thing.

Is 5'9" really that short?

NO

Yes.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Women five-foot-nothing want guys 6, 7 feet tall. It's hilarious. I can understand a 6' woman preferring a taller guy, but even the midgets can easily snub 95% of their dating pool and still have a male:female advantage. Why is that? Are they nipple fetishists or something? Gonna get some belly-button lovin'? I don't understand it, but then again, I no longer have a horse in this race.

This is a joke right? That was sarcasm?

"Gosh, you know, he's so tall.. maybe he deserves a taller woman? What if he thinks his manliness is weakened by my 5'2 stature? What if there's a leggier woman that is exactly like me in every way except more attractive and more successful? Oh god I bet there is, I better just toss this one back out to sea and cast my line out there again. I'll show you someday, genetics."
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:44 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


robertc: "You maybe don't notice this because you're looking at the men's profiles, but so many women say they're looking for a guy who's laid back. Of course, at least 80% of those, IMX, are looking for a guy who's laid back and ambitious..."

Unpacking what I mean when I ask for laid back...

1.) I don't want to date somebody who is neurotic. Being nervous on a first date is natural, but I don't want to deal with 'first date nerves' and some guy's pre-existing paralysing feelings of inadequacy. Too much pressure.

2.) I don't want a guy who expects me to "complete" him. I feel like laid back indicates a certain level of contentment with himself and his life. Happiness, contentment and self-esteem are all attractive qualities.

3.) On a practical level, arranging the first date is going to be easier if the guy is laid back about where we go or what we do. It gives us more options.

4.) It helps if there are further dates too. A laid back guy's "sure, I'll try anything once" attitude can lead to a much more romantic life.

5.) I have a life-plan, but no life deadlines. I would be a poor match for a Type A guy who feels like a failure if he hasn't achieved X by age Y. Laid back works better for me.

6.) I am a product of my upbringing and I have the fear. Specifying laid back feels like I am slightly reducing the odds that if it doesn't work out the guy will react badly and decide to stalk/rape/kill me and increasing the odds that he will deal with it politely/gracefully.

But...

7.) I don't want a guy who is okay with stagnation. I'm going to grow and change and I'd like a guy who will grow and change also. I'm not massively bothered by what his goals are, so long as he has them. 'Keep trying new things' is a totally acceptable goal. (However, as a woman, specifying you're looking for an 'ambitious' man in your profile usually reads as "Hi, I'm a gold digger!" so I usually scope out the goals/stagnation thing on the frst date.)

phatkitten: "But somebody has to send the first message!"

I usually just save the guy's profile. It'll either give him the confidence to approach or result in a jokey message from him calling me out for my cowardice in not straight up messaging him. Either way, conversation achieved!

I've had way better results with this than with sending the first message myself. It seems to throw people, presumably because girl-asks-guy is still somewhat unusual.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:53 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


the latin mouse, thank you for that tip. As another single woman in the same unresponsive boat as EmpressCallipygos, I recently gave up on sending messages to guys. I hadn't tried saving to favorites (OKC's version of "saving a profile") because I assumed it would be even more unremarkable than a message... but your saying otherwise gives me a wisp of hope.

That said, my giving up on dating sites also meant I wrote a sort of "anti-profile" that mentions my cats running around naked all the time, one who takes showers with me (it's true), and seriously considering carding their combed fur to make knitting thread from it, so, ahhh, we'll see how many responses I get. Sadly, I think the fact that I'm 5'11" is a bigger barrier than jokes about making sweaters out of cat fur. (Men used to message me just to preemptively disqualify me based on my height alone. These were not men I messaged. They would write just to say "you sound neat, but you're too tall!!" Sigh.)

Also, if only there were more than twenty-odd men in Southeastern France on OKC... (There are lots in northern Italy, but cross-country dating gets complicated pretty darn fast. I've messaged a few neat-sounding guys there, two replied — this was many months ago, and the last responses I've had — but communication sort of petered out due to the complexity of just setting up a first date.)
posted by fraula at 5:58 AM on July 20, 2010


The bigger issue for me, though, was that (as others have mentioned) the online dating reversed things in a way I found uncomfortable. I want to first find a spark (aka chemistry/smells good/pheromones/etc) and only then get to know the person.

Maybe it depends on whether you're more likely to have a physical spark or an intellectual spark with someone. Theory: those who have an easier time with the in-person spark should using online dating, and those who are better at sharing lots of traits in common with people should use IRL.

For instance, when I read your comment, I just think: well, considering that one of them has to come first, I'd rather initially filter people out with an online interface than by going through life constantly trying to pick up an in-person "spark" with women* and only then trying to find out what they're all about. Why? Because among the things I value, physical chemistry isn't at the top of the list. There are other factors that are a higher priority or that I at least want to know about first. I'm happy to let the physical chemistry either happen or not.

People are so apt to criticize online dating for leading to poorly balanced priorities or improper time sequences. But that begs the question of whose priorities and time sequences are actually best. It's different for different people. Not everyone is as good as you* at finding lots of people you have lots of common with.

* I also have no idea how to do this without coming off as creepy, and I'm not particularly interested in cultivating this skill.

** Not directed at anyone in particular. But in general, I find that critics of online dating consistently idealize IRL as a way to find people who share your interests, values, life goals, views on relationships, etc.

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:22 AM on July 20, 2010


the latin mouse: It's not that being "laid back" is a bad thing. It's that the phrase is so overused on dating sites that it's become meaningless. Am I laid back? Sure! But I can't think of anyone I know who wouldn't agree that they're "laid back."

When I see a dating profile that starts out "Well, I'm pretty laid back..." I'll usually quickly move on to the next profile -- not because I'm uninterested in someone who's laid back, but because I read it as: "I don't want to bother thinking of my own ideas, so I just reach for the easiest, most innocuous cliche that's available."
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:27 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jaltcoh: EXACTLY. Thank you.
posted by millipede at 7:31 AM on July 20, 2010


I think people are just surprised that "using 'laid back' in your profile" is a deal breaker that makes you completely uninterested in the person. Like you are reading way more into their choice of words than they put into them, because you are bringing a lot of bad history to the table.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 AM on July 20, 2010


you are reading way more into their choice of words than they put into them, because you are bringing a lot of bad history to the table.

Nope. No bad history. I just find that I am most compatible with people who put a lot of care into their choice of words. Words are very important to me.
posted by millipede at 7:56 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had an overall positive experience with online dating, even if it didn't ultimately end up in a match for me (I met my wife at a previous job). To me the biggest positives were:

A) Meeting women who even though in some cases lived just a few minutes away from me, I can't imagine having met under any other circumstances since we didn't travel in the same social circles

B) Knowing that anyone I contacted was actively looking for a partner, unlike real life scenarios like a bar or party where you can't just automatically assume that someone you're interested in is even in the market

What online dating lacked for me though (and I write this knowing that what I'm about to mention is probably the exact thing that many people hate about trying to meet people offline and drives them to dating sites) is the whole dance of attraction: Meeting someone you find yourself attracted to, oftentimes in a scenario where you weren't even necessarily actively looking for someone in the first place, taking those first exciting, scary, precautionary steps of gauging whether or not the attraction is mutual, the joy at getting the indication that it is, then taking those first shy steps of asking her (or him) out on a real first official date, having the long-awaited first kiss, etc.

As I mentioned upthread, to me online dating took away this aspect of dating that I enjoy so much and replaced it with something with all the romantic atmosphere of a job interview.
posted by The Gooch at 8:25 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What online dating lacked for me though (and I write this knowing that what I'm about to mention is probably the exact thing that many people hate about trying to meet people offline and drives them to dating sites) ...

Yep.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:42 AM on July 20, 2010


As I mentioned upthread, to me online dating took away this aspect of dating that I enjoy so much and replaced it with something with all the romantic atmosphere of a job interview.

I actually don't mind the job interview analogy. The early stages of dating have some resemblance to job interviews, and I'm fine with that. But part of the challenge, and part of the fun, is trying to make the early conversations go beyond that.

It's the other things you've described that (as you said) sound to me like someone explaining why they love going to the dentist ... except worse. "You mean some people actually like that??"
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:47 AM on July 20, 2010


yay thanks for linking to the papers
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:46 AM on July 20, 2010


Online dating is such a crapshoot. You know what's shitty about online dating? Writing someone an email, and having them not respond. And I'm not talking about the first email. That's not a big deal, it's the equivalent of hitting on someone at a bar and getting the cold shoulder.

But you know what sucks? Say you've already sent an email to them, and received one back. Then you write back, but they don't respond. Or worse, they've sent you two emails back, and you've sent them a thirds, and they never respond to it.

And you didn't say anything bad or wrong, didn't say anything creepy, you've looked over the email a few times and can't find any serious glaring problems with it. And you don't know what the hell you did in that email to justify her breaking off contact. I mean, okay, maybe there was some awkward phrasing, maybe a sentence or two that could have been reworded. And then you think, "really? this is it? an awkward sentence? some bad wording?" All the things that could have been. We could have met, gotten along, could have changed each others' life. Or not. But we'll never know, because of an awkward sentence, or she was in a bad mood that day because she ate some yogurt and it gave her gas. Or maybe you waited a day to long to send the email and she thinks you're a goon because of it. It's all so ridiculously arbitrary. Honestly, it's not only turned me against online dating, but the entire process of emailing.

And yeah, I know. "Just let go." "Don't take it personally." "You'll find your one true love." But you know what? I haven't found my one true love. I'm 32 and I'm lonely. And I'm never going to do online dating again.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:24 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the other things you've described that (as you said) sound to me like someone explaining why they love going to the dentist ... except worse. "You mean some people actually like that??"

I think for some people (like me), it's the biggest sexual thrill: The unexpected new encounter or long-awaited conquest finally coming to fruition.

I am married and have zero interest in hooking up with anyone online.

However, what The Gooch describes as the "dance of attraction" is what I really miss about not being single anymore. There's that point when you are hanging out with or talking to a woman you find attractive and you can tell you're both into each other, and you're both sexually attracted, and, well, it's darn exciting to feel that develop in real life, especially if you've wanted it to happen for a while... I guess the addition of the online medium seems like it adds a level of opacity between two people.

Anyway, yeah, I get the appeal of online dating, and it certainly seems more likely to produce a lasting relationship, but it seems to lack some of the spontaneity and excitement of the old-school variety.

I suppose it all comes down to where you are best: are you best talking to people face to face or writing letters? I'm pretty 50-50, but for me I probably prefer the dynamic nature and direct conflicts involved in a face-to-face discussion. If you prefer written communication, meeting someone online makes sense, because the communication is going to start that way, i.e. probably not with video chat.

Some people look great on paper. Some people defy the categories and are better off avoiding being pigeonholed.

Also, this a million times. I actually look good on paper, but how many people do you know who seemed very attractive in 2D, then got less and less attractive as you knew them. You might even like the person a lot and think they are objectively beautiful, but there's something about their personality ... there's no easy way to demonstrate a "great personality" or "hilarious comebacks" in a flat profile.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:43 AM on July 20, 2010


You breeders and your complexities. Gay dating sites are so much simpler! Just sign up and BOOM it's a dude who wants to mess around.

I keed, Manhunt and the like are a whole different discussion.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:06 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I totally agree with lunasol and the others who pointed out that you don't know if you would be willing to make out with/sleep with a person unless you meet them in person. To me, that's the flaw in online dating. How insulting is it to like a person over the Internet for their personality and then get grossed out by them in person? It's gotta come off as pretty mean to have "led them on" and get interested in their personality and then in five minutes of real life, dislike them. And unfortunately, using an online dating site means that you're not looking for platonic friends, so the part where you'd want to sleep with them is important.

THAT is what I'd like the original link fellow to fix, thanks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:50 AM on July 20, 2010


Meetup.com, people. You organize things on the internet and then you meet in real life!
posted by smackfu at 11:57 AM on July 20, 2010


(Not that there aren't a lot of socially awkward people, but at least you aren't on a one-on-one date with them.)
posted by smackfu at 12:00 PM on July 20, 2010


Meetup.com, people. ... (Not that there aren't a lot of socially awkward people, but at least you aren't on a one-on-one date with them.)

See, that doesn't resonate at all for me. I would much rather go on a one-on-one date with someone who might be socially awkward (potentially leading to something more, even if they're socially awkward) than go to a big meetup and have it practically guaranteed that I won't hit it off with anyone romantically.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:23 PM on July 20, 2010


Hmm, I've found that if you just go with the intention of making friends you eventually end up finding people to date, either their friends, or people who get to know you a little better and vice versa, then start something romantic.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I've found that if you just go with the intention of making friends you eventually end up finding people to date, either their friends, or people who get to know you a little better and vice versa, then start something romantic.

Easier said than done by the introverted male.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2010


Aw, shoot, forgive the clueless advice.

I didn't think about how exhausting and frustrating it must be for introverts to meet lots and lots of people in the hopes of meeting the one person they actually want to hang with.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:30 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meetup.com, people. You organize things on the internet and then you meet in real life!

Since I'm an introverted female and lousy at small talk (am much better when there's actually something to talk about, like baseball), I was thrilled to see a meetup that purported to meet in a hotel bar and watch a Red Sox game. I went. Everyone ignored the game (literally, everyone left before it was over) and just stood by the bar making meaningless small talk. There was one older guy sitting near the TV; I went over to him. "So, when is Jerry Remy coming back, anyway?" I asked. "I dunno," he replied, "I don't follow the Sox. Thunk.
posted by Melismata at 2:40 PM on July 20, 2010


Woops missing quotation mark after Sox.
posted by Melismata at 2:42 PM on July 20, 2010


Well, yeah, it does seem like online dating is probably best for introverted people who don't make small talk, since you can spend an hour writing each email, and spend days picking who to contact.

But online dating also seems like the common suggestion for everyone nowadays, and personally I've had much better luck just hanging out with people at semi-organized events and finding someone who I click with. And I'm not super extroverted, but it's easier for me to have a starting point to talk to "strangers" in a bar, and just being both at a meetup is suffiicent.
posted by smackfu at 2:45 PM on July 20, 2010


There's that point when you are hanging out with or talking to a woman you find attractive and you can tell you're both into each other

The problem I have with not-online dating is that I never have that point. There have been several occasions when I've found out that certain women used to be really in to me.
posted by robertc at 3:48 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it depends on whether you're more likely to have a physical spark or an intellectual spark with someone. Theory: those who have an easier time with the in-person spark should using online dating, and those who are better at sharing lots of traits in common with people should use IRL.

For instance, when I read your comment, I just think: well, considering that one of them has to come first, I'd rather initially filter people out with an online interface than by going through life constantly trying to pick up an in-person "spark" with women* and only then trying to find out what they're all about. Why? Because among the things I value, physical chemistry isn't at the top of the list. There are other factors that are a higher priority or that I at least want to know about first. I'm happy to let the physical chemistry either happen or not.


You are probably right. I find the intellectual connection easy to make (well, you know what I mean -- assuming that there is a basis on which to make it on, of course), whereas I only get that total package spark -- the combination of pheromones and intellect and cuteness and whatever -- with a few people. So all that online dating does for me is get me excited about anyone who can write well, which tells me zero about how we might connect in real life.

That said, if I were to be single tomorrow, I'd probably try online dating again on the principle that one should be open and willing to try any tool at one's disposal.
posted by Forktine at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh, I just thought of another reason I prefer the sequencing of online dating: I take a long time to figure out if I actually have physical chemistry with someone else. Several of the comments here make it sound like it's something that's not just exciting but immediate. For me, I assume it's going to emerge gradually (if at all), no matter how I meet people. So if I'm going to do something first, I'd rather it be the more clear-cut, rational things, like disqualifying anyone who says she only dates Christians.

To be clear, I'm not saying I never have an instant physical attraction to anyone -- of course I do. But in my experience, there's a big difference between the instant physical attraction and the enduring one.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:49 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's that point when you are hanging out with or talking to a woman you find attractive and you can tell you're both into each other

...

The problem I have with not-online dating is that I never have that point. There have been several occasions when I've found out that certain women used to be really in to me.


Hm. Here's a suggestion: just assume that they are into you. I wouldn't recommend that to most people, but in your case, what's the harm? If you're not able to read signals from the other party, just take it as a green light until you get a red one. It will likely help with your confidence as well if you can visualize/imagine a women being "into you." Dream it, and they will come. Ha.

So if I'm going to do something first, I'd rather it be the more clear-cut, rational things, like disqualifying anyone who says she only dates Christians.

It's actually not that hard to do this IRL. You can figure out people pretty quick (though I suppose, if not). Ask inocuous questions like "What do you think of astrology?" (fwiw, I think it's bunk, but my wife is totally into it) and you'll likely figure out their general religious views. Make a quick passing comment about health care and you'll figure their general politics. Etc.

I also totally agree on the physical chemistry/attractiveness curve as well, but I think it takes actual physical time with a person to determine whether that's for real or not. The first time I met my wife, I wasn't interested and neither was she. The attraction between us took months to build. (Perhaps I am just more of a tactile sexual person than others ...)

You just need scads of those social opportunities, which is very difficult in today's TV land (i.e. a shitload of perhaps interesting people are home watching TV instead of out attending book clubs, playing home poker, or joining and bowling leagues). I was lucky and met my wife at work.

But in my experience, there's a big difference between the instant physical attraction and the enduring one.

Oh good lord. You don't even want to know about marriage. Try having an "enduring physical attraction" ... for 20+ years.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2010


me: So if I'm going to do something first, I'd rather it be the more clear-cut, rational things, like disqualifying anyone who says she only dates Christians.

mrgrimm: It's actually not that hard to do this IRL. You can figure out people pretty quick (though I suppose, if not). Ask inocuous questions like "What do you think of astrology?" (fwiw, I think it's bunk, but my wife is totally into it) and you'll likely figure out their general religious views. Make a quick passing comment about health care and you'll figure their general politics. Etc.

Oh, I realize that I can do those things.

But I don't want to.

I don't like talking about astrology. It's boring to me, and just bringing it up in conversation implies you believe in it. But I'm happy to see when people refer to astrology in their profiles because this lets me know they're not compatible with me and I should hide their profiles.

Health care? That's something I could talk about in conversation ... but you know what? I'm tired of talking about health care, and I've been on a semi-hiatus from following news and policy. However, I'm still interested to know about a potential partner's political views as background context without needing to actually get into a political debate.

But that's all aside from the main advantage with online dating: efficiency. You're saying I could learn the same information through in-person conversations. I know. But it would take a whole lot more time. And since it would take more time, I would be exposed to a much smaller number of people, which would translate to overall worse results. If I think of how quickly I can find someone on a dating site who's reasonably compatible with me and mutually interested enough for us to go on a date, I can't imagine how long this would take to accomplish offline. The former takes a few days (and is actually a fun pastime I can do in the privacy of my own home), while the latter would, optimistically speaking, take months and involve dramatically changing my in-person interactions with people in all sorts of real-life settings in a way that I'm simply not willing to do.

Of course, it's eventually a good thing to have conversations where you learn more and more about someone through a gradual process. I'm not at all trying to devalue the uniqueness of in-person conversations. That's not the question. The question is what's the best way to do the initial filtering of who to have those conversations with.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I'm happy to see when people refer to astrology in their profiles because this lets me know they're not compatible with me and I should hide their profiles.

Interesting. I'm thinking that we have 2 different outlooks on social interaction. I actually like to talk to people about things they are interested in, even if I am not. That's a fascinating part of sexual interaction for me--finding out what turns people on, intellectually and physically and yes even spiritually ... and then (honestly and sincerely) parsing that data to interact with that person sexually.

I mean, if not, don't you just end up talking to (and having sex with) people like yourself?

However, I'm still interested to know about a potential partner's political views as background context without needing to actually get into a political debate.

It doesn't have to be a debate. Virtually anything that you are interested in AND is shareable/relatable will indicate scads about someone. "What do you think about that Mehersele verdict?" "You think that the courts are gonna let Prop 8 stand?" etc.

I guess I'm saying there must be something you want to talk about.

But that's all aside from the main advantage with online dating: efficiency. You're saying I could learn the same information through in-person conversations. I know. But it would take a whole lot more time. And since it would take more time, I would be exposed to a much smaller number of people, which would translate to overall worse results.

You're making a rather big assumption that quantity improves efficiency. I might disagree, but I concede your point in general. For some people (in fact, lots) online dating is an invaluable resource. If I were single now, I would use it myself.

You're saying I could learn the same information through in-person conversations. I know. But it would take a whole lot more time.

Actually, I'm going to disagree slightly. I know it's not easy, but if you put in an effort you can find places to meet women. I think that you would gave far more information about 7-8 people in 3 hours at a wine/book club (depending on context, of course--not a club of pregnant mommies) than you would about 7-8 people thru 3 hours of messages and chats online.

I know, I know, you're point is that, in that 3 hours, you can review/message/electronically interact with, lets say, 500 people, even tho that's a high estimate. As opposed to 7-8.

What I might contend is that the value of the info you get from the 7-8 people IRL is equal or greater than the value you get from the 500 people online.

The former takes a few days (and is actually a fun pastime I can do in the privacy of my own home), while the latter would, optimistically speaking, take months and involve dramatically changing my in-person interactions with people in all sorts of real-life settings in a way that I'm simply not willing to do.

Well there's the rub, of course. If it works for you, kudos! If you'd very much rather spend 3 hours chatting online or reviewing/messaging 500 people than chatting IRL with 7-8 people, then there's really no issue for you.

There's a spectrum of success for online dating, but it just seems like it works for some people and just not at all for others. If it doesn't, I thought some of the links were interesting for examining why that is (though I didn't see any solution for the "problems.")

One of the coments on the main article was interesting and counterintuitive. Sometimes too much choice is a bad thing:

The paradox of choice
The hazards of too much choice, which links to:
Can there ever be too many flowers blooming? (PDF):
The logic behind the presumption that if some choice is good, more choice is
better seems compelling. But what might be called the “psychologic” of choice tells us
something different. In the last decade, research evidence has accumulated that there can
be too much of a good thing—that a point can be reached at which options paralyze
rather than liberate (Schwartz, 2004). And when there are too many choices, two
different things happen. First, satisfaction with whatever is chosen diminishes. And
second, people choose not to choose at all.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite the cutesy title of the Atlantic article that slides from "Toothpaste" to "Dating," I wouldn't at all assume that choosing a mate is liking choosing a tube of toothpaste. If I spend more than a few seconds in the grocery choosing a tube of toothpaste, I'm probably not doing myself any favors. But who's to say what's the the right or wrong amount of choice to exercise in choosing a mate? I just saw your comment so I haven't had time to look at the research, but I find it hard to see how they could make such personal judgments on behalf of other people.

The application of any research about the paradox of choice is going to be limited by the question of how many people you're inclined to be compatible with. Just because the paradox of choice applies to someone who's relatively generic and malleable and gets along smashingly with most people they meet, doesn't mean it'll apply to some of the more idiosyncratic folks out there.

Well there's the rub, of course. If it works for you, kudos! If you'd very much rather spend 3 hours chatting online or reviewing/messaging 500 people than chatting IRL with 7-8 people, then there's really no issue for you.

Yes, I'm not trying to make an argument against your preferred way of doing things. I'm more responding to the thrust of the FPP. Admittedly, I haven't read the article! But I've seen a lot of attempts to explain why online dating is not as good as traditional dating (which inevitably make some predictable fallacies: idealizing traditional dating and only highlighting the annoyances of online dating; viewing online dating as a mainly "online" process rather than normal life that happens to start online, like using Craigslist to get an apartment or using Travelocity to fly on a plane, etc.).

The problem is that too many people think if something is suboptimal for them, it's suboptimal for everyone. (I'm not referring to you here.) I have no interest in arguing that online dating is the best thing for everyone on the dating market. But it's the best thing for me. And if that's the case, since I assume there are many other people like me, it's probably the best thing for a lot of people. Which means that broad-brush arguments for why online dating is suboptimal are wrong.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2010


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