After talking it through with friends I still can’t bring myself to accept the idea that a website algorithm can find me a potential partner.
This article is not an attack on internet dating, just a manifesto as to why myself and millions of other men and women find the idea of finding a future partner/soul mate/husband/wife online to be completely baffling. I know many friends who have had success finding a partner online, many who have had relationships with people they have met online and many who find the gender ratios of young professionals in London a big obstacle to finding a partner and are exploring other options. And many use the internet to spare them the hassle of always having great conversations with unavailable people (we all have friends who fall into this category). Many young professionals find that there are not enough eligible people of marriageable age (excuse the Britishness please) in their immediate area of social group, and so must cast a wider net to find someone they can connect with. Many will find someone who live in a different city but are willing to give it a try at long distance from the get go. To these people I applaud you as they are really making an effort to reach out and find that someone special.
But as a man I feel that the concept of selling myself online to future partners to be a cop-out, as I have been waiting to meet someone and have a special connection in person, not by browsing through a catalogue, which is a slightly crude way of viewing internet dating websites.
Why am I not prepared to sign up on a website that wants to connect me to that special someone? It may be that I’m fickle and indecisive. I would most likely change my profile statement on a whim when amusing, comical or surreal occurs to me. It could be because I’m lazy, I expect things to just happen as life goes on, to just meet someone and click. This is to some extent true but rather than creating moments I simply allow them to progress as they should. Often it will involve a short moment where something funny or poignant is said, then I go back to my table where my friends are sitting and will unlikely speak to that person again that evening. Important to remember for any daters out there—one interesting conversation with someone does not mean that they are an interesting person—they might be the case but you would need to spend time together over a few weeks or months to discover how compatible you might be.
Do many dating websites allow for positive personality clashes? Not everyone wants to find a twin or soul mate, they might prefer someone who compliments them, fascinates them or one that aggravates but in a loveable way. Contrary to popular opinion, looking for potential areas of conflict as something to build a relationship on may sound like a new idea but it’s existed for centuries. Often we decide that as much as we like things about prospective partner we do also have a list of no go’s, turn-offs being equated to turn-ons. Compatibility doesn’t mean only having the same interests, it can also mean that you are understanding of where you differ. Values can be extracted through communication or through feeling. Often we are biased when speaking or writing about ourselves—would anyone out there write that they are either moody, grumpy, antisocial, angry, rude on a profile? Probably not but these people do exist! Dating websites can only go so far to check up on whether people are the people they claim to be. Often when friends have gone out with people they met online they feel let down because they have formed an opinion of the other person independent from actually meeting them. This is tragic as if they went on a date knowing very little about the person, such as us regular daters who prefer to hear about someone from them in person, then their curiosity might be piqued.
Often it’s more important to know what another person really dislikes—but alas, no dislikes section to most dating web profiles, despite some attempts to do this. When you meet someone in person and talk (conversation not messaging) you can gauge their response, you can see what their personality is like rather than rely on them to describe themselves—we always talk up what we like about ourselves and downplay our faults–this is perfectly natural but online more can be hidden whereas when you go out and talk to someone new you have be yourself, ask questions that allow you to reveal things to each other that you might be cagey in asking to someone you haven’t met before in real life.
Looking at how perspectives on dating have changed since the arrival of mass internet access provides an interesting scope of what people want out of it. Many shy and retiring people now have a way of meeting someone where before they make lack the impetus to talk to people they found attractive at bars, clubs, lectures, talks, bookshops etc. For many people it is quite hard to talk to someone you find attractive and the internet gives an outlet. There have always been shy people who find the idea of asking someone out on a date to be terrifying or alien. Often they have had to adapt or adopt a life of solitude. Everyone has an awkward older relative who has remained single forever, perhaps because they couldn’t connect with another socially awkward person in the days before the internet. Much of social interaction is moving online because of the options it opens up. I personally follow Twitter and most people I know are on Facebook and appreciate the potential for what it could open up. But can electronic displays and mathematical formula ever really match up to emotional connection?
Many people use internet sites for hooking up, for friendship, for social or sporting activities and these can provide the common ground to meet someone. But many people seem to want to rush the ‘good stuff’ and find that someone now, now, now rather than taking their time and following their instincts. Some use the internet as a way of keeping in touch with people they wouldn’t otherwise see, some use it as their main method of socialising, and each to their own. But we as a society need to acknowledge that social interaction on a face to face basis offers something that internet dating simply can’t, that of the human connection, as you get to see the response of someone when they flirt with you. So, if you are capable of chatting or flirting with someone why then would you choose a method of dating which limits the flirtations to a series of electronic communications?
Perhaps the reason I choose to date the old-fashioned way is that I subscribe to the idea of serendipity, that something good will one day start, that one day I will meet someone. This event will strike me at a time when I am least expecting it, it should hopefully take me by surprise.
Photo credit: Hearts& Love by flickr/robynlou8