Thursday, March 21, 2013

{digital get down} THE STIGMA OF ONLINE DATING...

As a single gal with a lot of single friends, I spend a fair amount of time talking about dating. It's that great commonality between unattached kids in their 20s and 30s -- we're looking for love, for companionship, for at least someone who won't steal the memory card out of your camera to delete incriminating photos or bring you to a college football game only to leave you alone in the stands to go explain himself to his girlfriend. (Not that either of those things have happened to me...)

The point is, despite the horrible-but-eventually-hilarious stories that dating inspires for all of us, we still do it. Recently, in the wake of some of these stories, the idea of online dating has seemed to come up again and again. Eyes roll. Groans of "ughhhh not that..." come from all of us.

For me, and for many of us 20-and-30-somethings, online dating carries with it a serious stigma (or three). It's a sea of desperate people. No one is honest. It signifies that you've somehow given up on traditional courtship methods. You can't meet anyone in real life so you've resorted to algorithms, odds and messaging strangers.

All of those traits are highly subjective and debatable, depending on to whom you are talking. Personally, I've never engaged in any online dating. I have no profiles on Match or OK Cupid; I don't have any geo-locating hot-or-not apps on my iPhone, and I've never been on a Grouper date.


Click through to keep reading...

Here's the thing: I count myself amongst those people who view online dating as a form of giving up.  In my mind, no guy I would want to date would want to date online. I feel like dating online says to the world that you have exhausted every effort to meet someone wonderful IRL, and the Internet is all you have left. 

Here's the other thing: That's not necessarily true. Like, at all. Just because a person is dating online, they may not have given up on meeting someone naturally -- they're simply adding another channel for potential. Expanding the pool of possibility. For more reasons than it's even worth listing, dating online is an extremely helpful, valid and fruitful form of expanding a person's romantic efforts.

Just not for me. 

My thoughts (and current total aversion to) on online dating stems mostly from the simple fact that almost none of my close friends do it. Aside from the occasional Grouper date, most of my friends (both single and in relationships) have held fast to in-person courtship techniques. They meet (or at least try to) at a bar, at school, through friends, at a concert, anywhere but behind the veil of a computer screen.

To try and gain a more well-rounded perspective on the online dating stigma, I reached out to a generous handful of my friends for their thoughts. My intention was to have a selection of quotes, similar to this post, to provide some insight beyond my own ranting and raving.

Interestingly, only a sprinkling of my friends even responded. Out of the ones who did, most of the replies were short and to the point -- something along the lines of, "I don't and I won't, sorry I can't help." My friends seemed to be backing up my theory.

Even when I implored them to share more ("Yes, but whyyyyy??") I didn't get much. One friend who has never online dated said she believed the process of creating and maintaining a profile to be too time consuming, and would rather try her luck with her naturally-given charms at a bar. (Though most of us are not blessed with an Australian accent, so...)

Another friend said she had never and had no plans to so. Her only stipulation was if she perhaps moved to a new city (presumably where she knew less people) and was looking to date seriously.

I got two replies that were a bit more revealing, and show two pretty different but equally reasonable perspectives:

A guy friend said...
I guess I would hope that we would all be able to find someone we are compatible with through normal human interaction and conversation, and not through cyberspace. It seems to me that online personalities could too often deceive or confuse, so that when you end up meeting the person you're potentially horribly disappointed or even more frustrated by the whole process.
A girl friend said... 
I have been on and off JDate for a few years. I have found that most people are good at email, bad at real life conversation. This is obviously discouraging but isn't all dating discouraging right up until its encouraging? I fluctuate between being into it and not, but I think at the end of the day, if we want to be a part of the game we have to go where it is being played (more and more on the interwebs these days...). I have seen a number of online success stories and I have seen "meet cute" fails. If we are trying to find "true love" online (or anywhere) then we must go into any and all situations with an open mind.

I think many of us still believe in the romantic notion of a great "origin story." We still believe in that spark of chemistry that comes from locking eyes on someone for the first time that simply cannot be replicated online. Frankly, I find it an incredibly endearing quality of our generation that so many of us refuse to be corralled into keeping up with today's tech-savvy dating ways, and instead still lean upon that glimmering hope that the right person will waltz right into our lives in the flesh - somewhere, someday.

But then again, who's to say we can't have both? Because in fact, a lot of people do. You go through your days, thinking and not thinking about how just around the corner your soulmate could be ordering an americano and wondering where you've been all their life. Then you get home and sift through potential matches as sourced through the Internet, considering that one of them may be your soulmate, and simply does not have time to step out for an americano around the corner because they are so busy being gainfully employed, actively socializing with friends and engaging in hobbies / physical fitness.

So where does this leave us? Me -- I'm torn. I see both sides. I feel stupid at times for denying myself a possible path to love. But frankly, I'm just not that lonely. A fulfilling social life (as well as a best friend / roommate to come home to) keeps me from spending too much time lamenting my lack of a fulfilling romantic life. (Note: this is a double-edged sword.) Sure, I lay awake at night sometimes wondering where-oh-where Mr. Right could be, but I'm still not convinced he's online.

What about you? Do you think there's a stigma around online dating? Are you a fan? If not, why? Share your thoughts in the comments, yo.

Editor's Note: I'm thinking of committing to a "love & dating" column twice a month on le blog, so look out for more posts like this and feel free to suggest topics! (Or tell me if you think this is a terrible idea...)


  1. I've had this conversation plenty of times, and have decided to abstain for the time being. My cousin was on OkCupid, Match, and HowAboutWe and finally found a soon-to-be-boyfriend from OkCupid...but the thing is, she's also at the point where she wants to settle down and start thinking about marriage and kids, so the push to find someone was more urgent.

    Personally, I want to exhaust all my options before I start dating the digital way. Dating in LA tends to be a shitshow, but until I start encroaching on thirty, I think I'll keep to my red lipstick and witty banter in hopes of finding someone who makes me happy...

  2. A girl as beautiful and sociable as you does not need to turn to online dating. IT will happen organically. I believe in finding love the traditional way, that's how I met my hubby!


  3. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while and never commented but here are my two cents: every single girl I know has tried online dating. My best friend met her current [and first] boyfriend on match. I have tried it. a couple of times. I have never had any lasting success. There is a reason the guys I meet are dating online (ie: I can't imagine them approaching girls in real life)...Last year I went on 14 first dates and 2 second dates [both of which with guys I met in real life]. However, from a personal standpoint, it was extremely useful. I was a bit of a late bloomer in the dating world and had crippling low self-esteem. Online dating allowed me to "practice" dating, go out on a lot of first dates, practice communicating with guys I didn't know that well. It gave me the confidence to tell guys I wasn't interested, instead of sticking around only because they liked me.

  4. I think this might have a lot to do with location -- I'm in San Francisco and I can only think of 1 person who has not done online dating. It can be exhausting since yeah, you will probably end up on a bunch of boring dates before you get to one you like. But, I look at it just as a way of increasing your circle and meet guys that you wouldn't normally run into/would not necessarily hit on you at the coffee shop.

  5. Why did I join OKCupid? I moved to the city in 2010 to begin grad school and quickly landed a full-time job on top of it. Because of the industry I work in, my social life revolved around the predominantly female cohorts around me. My circle was small and with summer fast approaching (and a little more free time ahead,) I thought OKCupid would be a good way to meet people I would generally never meet and best of all, I would get to filter who made the cut and who could take their smiley-faced, DTF messages elsewhere. As I set up my profile I was completely honest about who I am and what I'm interested in (even if that meant a good book, a run in the park, an afternoon at The Met -- boring to some.) I realized that my profile reflected not only the type of person I am, but the type of person I wanted to meet. I say "meet" not "date" on purpose. I wasn't aiming to meet Mr. Right and I certainly had no interest in Mr. Right Now. As a sassy, but initially introverted girl, I had grown weary of going out with friends and feeling the tension in the room. Conversations weren't always genuine and I always felt as though I were being sized up. Nothing ruins a good cocktail like bad conversation laced with expectations.

    Cutting to the chase, the moment came when my profile went live and the messages came rolling in. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of decent people out there looking for the same things as me. Two boys in particular caught my attention (well-educated, diverse interests, go-getters, wanted to know more about my background and interests, etc.) I began e-mailing with one boy in particular who who just seemed awesome. Two weeks went by and we decided to grab a drink after work. Having already gotten the initial Q&A out of the way, our drinks turned into a 4-hour date where we shared stories and laughed like friends just hanging out (admittedly, there were invisible fireworks in the background...)

    Two years later my boyfriend and I talk about how had we not met online our paths would never have crossed. He is an economics PhD candidate and I work in publishing. Had we met at a gathering with mutual friends we would have certainly hit it off, but we needed OKCupid to bring our social circles together in the first place.

    While I admit I am an anomaly (my current bf was my first and only OKC date) I'd also like to point out that online dating is no different than joining a running club, signing up for an art class or going to an all-day music festival. They are all ways in which we aim to interact with new people. The only difference is the medium. I didn't give up on the real world, I just needed to expand it.

  6. I'm not opposed to online dating and have lots of friends who do it. I do think, however, that having so many choices available (as you do when online dating) makes my friends really willing to "throw away" people that are not perfect on paper or on a first date. I think the common thread amongst my friends who online date is that they have unrealistic expectations about a partner. They are looking for someone who ticks all of their boxes right off the bat rather than someone who you are compatible with and who you accept how they are over time....just as you would hope they would do for you.

    So online dating? sure. But be aware that having tons of choices sometimes makes you unrealistically picky (and even judgemental about other people).

  7. My thoughts line up with you--I'm glad you said something! I've always said my future man will not be the type to have an online dating profile. I feel like I just know that about him. I couldn't see us fostering an organic relationship online—because I wouldn't be being true to myself. It's too uncomfortable for me. Give me your face! In front of mine! GREAT for others and I totally encourage/support it and don't think there should be any stigma! I just have a feeling that the type of man I'll end up with will have the courage to say anywhere--an airport, a coffee shop--that he's taking me out to dinner. It won't be a question--and I'll love that.

    You must continue with a column! Love how you organize your thoughts and how you're respectful to everyone.

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