Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Life Online: Slim Pickins

This post is late for a number reasons, among them that I've been extremely busy with work-related writing and, more importantly, the fact that there's just not much to report. After almost three months of this experiment, it's becoming increasingly clear that my life online is quite similar to my life that beautiful women want very little to do with me.

As you may recall, back in January I set the goal of going on at least one real-life date with someone I met online per month, beginning in March. As I watched the calendar days slip through my fingertips – and my page hits on Wood's Stock plummet – I felt a chilling mix of both desperation and shame as I realized that I would not meet this goal.

"What will I write about?" I asked myself. "I can't expect people to read a blog about how I'm NOT dating online!"

It's been terrible. One night I got so in my head about it that I nearly sent out a dozen shotgun messages that said simply "Hi! I'm Ben. Lunch on Saturday?"

I resisted that admittedly bad impulse, instead holding out hope that I could buy myself enough time. But alas, here I am at the end of March, head hung in shame, with nothing to report.

Not that I haven't tried. Per my quotas, I have attempted to engage at least one woman in online conversation per week. These are women who share similar interests with me, who I find attractive based on the photos they've posted and who, quite honestly, I could imagine myself getting to know and having a relationship with.

They do not respond. Ever.

In a way it's worse than real life, because IRL she's just a pretty girl who doesn't want to talk to you. Online she's a pretty girl who loves reading, quotes Voltaire, enjoys mountain biking and sipping hot chocolate and is looking for a nice guy who she can hopefully spend the rest of her life with.


And before you're tempted to latch onto that "...who I find attractive bit..." and accuse me of calling the kettle black, I always respond to anyone who takes the time to reach out to me. Remember Lynn? She got a fair shake.

There are actually two women who are currently engaging me in conversation. I would've Hail Mary'd them to squeeze a date in before the end of the month – and still might – but they both live in Layton. That's a long drive for a cup of tea with someone who doesn't particularly interest me, all for the sake of feeding the ravenous whims of the internet.

The other obnoxious thing is that ever since I started this project, everyone has felt inclined to brag to me about their online successes. This ranges from the innocent and sweet "My husband and I met online" to the sub-textually insulting "Online dating is soooooo much fun. I meet sooooooo many great guys through online dating."

Granted, we're still in the early stages and I remain an online-dating amateur. Understanding that, and accepting that my online footprint will likely require several rounds of revision before I find myself sifting through beaucoup de rendez vous, I solicited some advice from the most relevant sources: women who had scorned me.

"Hi!" I wrote. I felt the exclamation point would help convey tone. "I messaged you a little bit ago and I take it you're not interested in getting to know me (not a problem, I respect that) but I was wondering if you'd be willing to give me some feedback on my profile."

"I'm relatively new to the online dating game and would love some constructive criticism. Is there anything I should change or do differently? (I'm asking with 100% sincerity)." I added that last parenthetical to try to make this come across as genuine and not the ramblings of a deranged killer. I doubt it worked.

"Thanks!" Again, tone. "Have a great day."

I sent out six of those. And wouldn't you know it, I got one back.

"Hi!" See, it's not just me. "Thanks for the message. As far as I can tell there's nothing wrong with your profile." I found this encouraging, since "your profile" is basically just code for "you."
"It's very cool that you're in journalism and you have some good pictures. The only suggestion I'd have is maybe include a little more detail. Maybe some more about your interests or life goals or something." Knitting, I live to knit.

"One thing I definitely would suggest is don't put what you're looking for in a girl. Girls looking at your profile don't want to be told how they should be. They want to know what you're like, your basic personality, your interests, etc."

"Having said that, I am also terrible at online dating. I got my profile about two weeks ago and am actually planning on deleting it relatively soon. I've actually ignored pretty much every message I've gotten on here since I joined." I'll take the fact that I broke through the wall as a "win," I also get the impression that half of the people on online dating websites hate being on online dating websites.

"But in any case, you seem like a really nice guy and I wish you the best of luck!" Read: you don't seem like you want to make a suit of my skin.

So that's the lesson for March. In the online world, much like the off-line world, you just gotta keep on keeping on. I've added a few photos to my profile and am currently in the process of trying to expand my self-description, which is by far the most uncomfortable aspect of online dating. (Do I really "love" Thai food? That's seems like such a strong word but I clearly don't just "like" Thai food).

And hopefully by next month, we'll really have something to talk about.

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