Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Life Online: Meet Cute



Back in 2009, OkCupid released a series of reports studying the way its members interacted with each other. They found that on average, women were more likely to respond to men who engaged them on the basis of their interests or personality as opposed to just their looks. The report included specific phrases that increased the likelihood of a response (it's nice that, fascinating) or decreased the likelihood of a response (sexy, hot, cutie).

The site found that women respond positively to male self-effacement, with men who included phrases like "sorry" or "awkward" as opposed to boastful bravado increasing their odds of a reply by 30 to 40 percent.

OkCupid also looked at the way people of different races interact and match with each other. You can read a concise breakdown of those results by Lisa Wade here, but the long and short of it is that if you're going to try online dating it helps to be a white man. The officials OkCupid sum up the game as such:
"White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else—and Asian and Hispanic women prefer them even more exclusively. These three types of women only respond well to white men. More significantly, these groups’ reply rates to non-whites is terrible. Asian women write back non-white males at 21.9%, Hispanic women at 22.9%, and white women at 23.0%."
One would think, then, that I am well-suited to finding romance in this relatively new medium. I am, in fact, a white male, I absolutely hate myself and I would never, ever, begin a correspondence with the kind of "hey sexy lady" nonsense of my protein shaking, tank top wearing peers.

But wait, that's not all I have going for me. Apparently Salt Lake City has been ranked 20th on the list of most romantic North American cities by MissTravel.com (shout-out to my colleague Wendy for sending me this report). Sure, good ol' SLC fell behind notable travel destinations like San Francisco (no. 1), New York City (no.2 ) and Las Vegas (no. 4), as well as three cities in Canada (really? Canada?), but still, number 20 is nothing to sneeze at.
 “All cities are not created equal,” says Brandon Wade, Founder & CEO of MissTravel.com. “Picking the right destination could mean the difference between finding a platonic connection and falling in love.”
So even though last month we learned Salt Lake City was the single most superficial city in the U.S., apparently SL,UT is a hot travel destination for the star-crossed lovers on MissTravel.com.

What is MissTravel.com? I'm so glad you asked.

While I support doing away with the stigma attached to online dating, I also acknowledge that sites like MissTravel are the reason that stigma exists in the first place. On this particular niche dating website, attractive young singles are paired with older generous gentlemen who are more than willing to pay for the travel expenses and lodging of their youthful paramours (you can see a handy video explaining how the process works by clicking here).

The young ladies get to see the world at little or no cost to them, the generous men get a chance to put their wealth to good use facilitating cultural experiences for the next generation. For whatever reason, these "couples" have chosen Salt Lake City as their 20th most popular destination.

MissTravel.com, where "Beautiful People Travel Free!" Trust me, it's not as bad as it sounds (it's exactly as bad as it sounds).

As for me, I already live here in la vingtième ville de l'amour and thanks to my aforementioned demographic identifiers the online dating world should be my metaphorical oyster. Except it isn't, as I've described in the very blog series you're currently reading.
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This is the "Social" folder on my iPhone, which functions as ground zero for the My Life Online project. As you can see, I have the apps for my two free online dating services, OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, free dating app Tinder and then LinkedIn, which is kind of like online dating for a job, which is also kind of like prostitution.

Savvy Wood's Stock readers will notice that one is missing. That is because the imbecilic overlords of my niche dating service (hint: it's not GothicMatch.com) have apparently written off smartphone use as a passing fad not worth the effort of creating a mobile application. I would find this egregious lapse in basic consumer knowledge shocking if not for the absolute programming ineptitude manifest on said website, but since I can't tell you what website that is, there's no sense beating a dead horse (simply put, it's awful).

Now, remember a few months ago when I predicted that the boffo success of Tinder would lead to the tinderization of other online dating sites? As with most things it appears that my prediction was completely accurate and bordered on divine prescience. About two weeks ago the OkCupid app received an upgrade that included a very familiar swipe left/right pattern.
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Add that to the already-existing "Meet Me" feature on Plenty of Fish (more widely known by its street name POF.com), and it would appear that the Midas touch of Tinder is alive and well, proliferating its way through the landscape and giving people even more opportunities to make snap judgments based on little more than a person's appearance.
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But believe it or not, it was not these new exciting features that led to my latest online date. It was, in fact, my original niche dating service (hint: it's not 'StachePassions) and a few serendipitous turns of events. To tell that story, I need to go back a few years.

In the summer of 2009 my girlfriend Katie dumped me and moved to Chile. I spent a few weeks flailing, briefly going out with Sarah the vegetarian and Mary the Idahoan before eventually meeting Cami the cute tennis player who had recently called off a wedding. We met on a Saturday night, thanks to an outdoor viewing of Fast and Furious that mutual friends had put together, and immediately hit it off.

The next Saturday I took her out on our first date and we proceeded to spend 14 inseparable days together. She met my family, I met hers. Then, exactly a fortnight after our first date we doubled with a friend of hers and when I dropped her off that night I told her I wanted to slow things down and just like that we really never spoke again.

Flash forward three and a half years and it's December 2012. I was covering a Christmas event at a local elementary school for work and while there I noticed a teacher's assistant with gorgeous curly dark hair who I knew I had met before but whose face I couldn't quite place. After the event we chatted and it came back to me that his was Chelsea, Cami's friend with whom we had double-dated on that fateful night three summer's prior.

We exchanged pleasantries -- Chelsea had recently moved back to Salt Lake City after a stint in the Midwest -- and with that, we went on our respective ways.

Flash forward six months to three weeks ago and a message appears in my inbox.

Chelsea: Oh hey, I think I've seen you before... :)

She had seen me before, but I assume she was being either flippant or coy. We talked about mutual friends from college and I invited her to join me and my band of merry men for an evening of sushi and Star Trek, to which she generously relented.

I learned two things from this experience. 1) It's considerably easier to meet up with a stranger from the internet when they're not actually a stranger from the internet and 2) My success rate online is increased dramatically when I'm not the one initiating a conversation (remember Tess?).

Because we men are really just drooling beasts waiting to be told what to do. Should I ever enter into a mature, adult relationship (which past experience would suggest is unlikely) I imagine it will be due to a woman saying to me "Ben! You're going to date me now!" to which I will most likely nod in submission and say "Yes ma'am."

That's the dream.

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