Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Life Online: First Impressions


To put it simply: I suck at dating.

There's any number of factors that contribute to my failure, such as my introversion, my social anxiety and my general disdain for everyone and everything. But even so, at the end of the day I don't have any glaring facial scars, I'm educated, I'm employed, I bathe and floss regularly, but I'm really bad at meeting people.

You've all heard the cliched "definition of insanity" and as much as that little pillow-case quip irritates me (to no end) it has a point. In 26 years of existence I've had a whopping two girlfriends, both of whom lasted not-quite-three months. Time for a change to the old status quo.

So, since I'm a 21st century man in a 21st century world, I relented and did something I swore I would never, ever do.

I joined an online dating website. Actually, I joined two.

First, I dipped my toe into the waters of modern romance by signing up for OkCupid, because it's free. That was roughly four months ago and, to put it lightly, I don't have much to show for it.
Then with the new year approaching I decided that fortune favors the bold (and also, that I needed something to fill the void left by A Quarter Century) so on January 1, 2013 I actually paid money, real money, to join a niche dating website.

Because of the unique disclosure circumstances that accompany my profession I can't tell you precisely what website I joined, suffice to say that I tried to pick one where I would potentially encounter the kinds of people who are most like myself (hint: It's not J-Date, although I have a friend who did very well there).

It really is too bad that I can't tell you, because a lot of the potential comedy of this experiment is the absolutely bat-crap crazy shenanigans specific to this particular online dating service, and the bat-crap crazy clientele it serves. I can only hope that my vague references come close to capturing the madness.

For example.

Every dating website has some messaging feature, and this one is no different, so that you can strike up a private conversation with a potential lover and gauge your interest without the terror of meeting up IRL (that's online-dating lingo for "In Real Life". See how quick I'm catching on?). BUT, not only is this website's mail server (which you pay for, remember) vastly inferior to OkCupid, Gmail, or even freaking Hotmail, this site also utilizes something called "Flirts" which are like Facebook pokes (don't worry if you don't know what that is, you really shouldn't) that come in fun, flirty shapes. Essentially, it's like the sparkly sticker that a fourth-grade girl attaches to a "Do You Like Me? Check yes, check no" note before slipping it under her desk to the boy sitting behind her who puts wadded paper into her hair when she's not looking.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.32.28 AM

Yes, we're all adults here, some of us very-much-so, and yet we're apparently supposed to send these to each other. And you can't tell from this screenshot, but some of them are animated gifs for EXTRA special emphasis.

But that's not all.

When you date online, it is customary to fill out some sort of website-sponsored survey that is then used to match you to other people via computer algorithm and also let your suitors know a little bit more about you. They ask you about your political views, religious affiliation, hopes, dreams, willingness to sleep with someone on the first date, etc.

On THIS site, for reasons I can't quite explain, every third question is designed to gauge whether or not your apartment is messy. I get that for some people, tidiness could be a deal-breaker, but I apparently did not realize how key an issue this was for [niche group I can't disclose] and the lengths to which people will go to in hiding their sloppy habits from the online world. Furthermore, I wasn't aware that asking someone 17 times if they're messy will bring out the truth like a silver bullet.

The other problem, I'm now beginning to realize, is that unless I'm willing to open my search parameters to encompass all of North America, I've pretty much seen, in less than three weeks, every fish in this sea. This is unfortunate because A) like McKayla Maroney, I am not impressed and B) I saved $16 by paying for 6 months in advance.

Also, since this particular website caters to a niche clientele (Hint: it's not SeekingArrangement) I have literally, LITERALLY, a 100% compatibility rating with every, single, female user that pops up on my screen.

But...I press on. As any good researcher of the human condition, I have set personal quotas to make sure I maximize the potential gain from this experience. In theory, I'm going to send a message to at least one new person each week and, in increasingly less-likely theory, meet one person IRL each month beginning in March (I am NOT dealing with Valentine's day. No sir).

I've managed to send my obligatory one message each week. But as for receiving I've so far accumulated three flirts and two messages, one of which is from a girl who followed me from OKCupid. I'm not sure how I feel about that last bit, but I'm pretty sure I don't like it.

Other quick thoughts, there's a lot of people without profile pictures. Really? Listen honey, I know that one of the appeals of online dating is that you can get to know a person's interests and hobbies before you meet them, but that doesn't change the fact that the only thing anyone cares about is what you look like. That's just life, babe, especially on the internet.

And man alive, you would not believe the awkward profile pictures. This is your one chance to grab the attention of your potential life partner. Is appearing with your cat really the most strategic choice? Or that photo of you in full stage makeup and wig for some community production of Seussical? You're profile says you're not interested in just another hookup but the mirror shot of your cleavage would suggest otherwise.

Also, when you don't have a picture on this particular site (Hint: It's not HotOrNot) then you are given the silhouette of a large, androgynous mass that comes across as very threatening. I received a smiley face flirt from one such amorphous blob. I did not respond in kind but I suppose it was nice to read that Username_here is happy with her life and her job. It's tough for faceless people to find work these days.

So, this is my life now. Instead of looking for love out and about in the bright, exciting world, I'm lurking amongst the creepers and sex criminals in the dark recesses of the world wide web. It really is a brave new world, isn't it?  Check back every month as I chronicle my slow descent into madness.

Oh yeah, the picture at the top of this post? That's my profile pic. What do we think? Does it portray that I'm a professional who enjoys the outdoors and WON'T make a suit out of your skin?

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