Here’s the thing about online dating: as much as it sucks, you can meet some horrible people, and it is soul-destroying, it is also addictive.
Who doesn’t want to spend a few hours a day seeing who viewed them, who wants to meet them or–maybe, just maybe–chatting with someone who could eventually turn out to be your soul mate? And if not your soulmate, maybe they might actually be a real person instead of some scam trying to sell you another site or take your money in some other nefarious fashion.
In a previous post, I took some time to highlight the differences in the online dating experience for a man versus that of a woman. That post was titled “Men Are From Bars, Women Don’t Want To See Your Penis,” mostly because I think I’m rather clever. It’s relevant to today’s discussion, so go and check it out and I’ll wait right here until you get back.
Okay, so now that we’re all on the same page…here’s a quote I’m going to steal directly from a profile on Plenty of Fish that will illustrate a point probably far better than I could:
“I’ve done that online phase where you skip past people because there’s one thing wrong with them simply because there’s 200 others online, but I want to connect with and invest in one special guy.”
As much as it may be overwhelming and a lot of work, who wouldn’t feel at least a little flattered that there are 200 more lined up and waiting? Each one of them interested in you on some level, any one of them potentially that life partner or soul mate you seek. But how do you really know which one? How can you be sure the next one in the queue, or the one after that, or the forty-fourth one down the road isn’t actually the one?
How can someone realistically decide which messages to respond to and which to ignore or delete, let alone who to actually meet person?
I’ve heard multitudes of stories from both men and women about people who seemed great online but turned out to be something different in person. Sometimes it’s a matter of being caught in a lie–about age, height, body type, relationship situation–but other times, it’s “what happened to this person’s personality?” When there’s so much choice, we find ourselves trying to judge which one might be which based on some pictures and a few words. It’s too easy to think “this one has a crooked tooth, let’s move on to the next one.” Or “his shirt is untucked. Next!” With the danger of disappointment and so much choice before us, who wouldn’t choose to live vicariously online instead of taking a chance in person?
Which brings me to the second meaning of anonymous: people don’t really know who you are when they view your profile or they view yours.
I’ve discussed in other posts this can encourage people to behave badly. If it wasn’t for that degree of anonymity, would there be as many dick pics being sent? Would women be called names for not responding with the hoped outcome if we were going to see each other at work the next day? Would we ghost the friend of a friend we met for that one blind date?
You may not know it if you’ve read some of my other posts, but I do want to have some modicum of faith in humanity. I’d like to believe, despite so many people thinking the curtain held in front of them by the dating sites allows them to behave in questionable manners much the way sitting in a car gives carte blanche for nose picking, that people are good, on the whole. I’d like to believe that, given the choice, we would all behave in a respectful manner toward each other.
Unfortunately, the perhaps unintended side effect of online dating (and let’s face it, social media and the internet in general) is the erosion of such hope.
Yet, I return to the world of online dating, hoping against hope to one day find the ideal partner. Someone whose tooth isn’t crooked, whose shirt is tucked in; someone who is the same height, weight, age, and level of single they claim to be. And I keep going back, again and again, rejection after rejection, my messages deleted because my beard is too long, or my head too bald, my eyes too close together, or my nose too big. It’s okay, though, everyone, because you don’t really know who I am and I don’t really know who you are.
And that’s really the problem, isn’t it?
Endnote: That quote from earlier about skipping past people because one thing is wrong and there are 200 more waiting? I chatted with that woman. We agreed we’d like to see each other. Talked about when to do so. Then she ghosted me.
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