Friday, December 20, 2013

My Life Online: Last Call

photo(5)
 
Erin: A fellow INTJ. That's rare.
Me: The few, the proud, the misanthropic :) How long have you played the accordion?
Erin: Um...since 2011. Yeah, I think that's right.
Me: Awesome. That's on my list of dream instruments, between the banjo and the bagpipes.
Erin: I want to play the banjo too. I love the bagpipes, but don't have the lung capacity. That's why I went with accordion.
Me: Yeah, I've heard the pipes are brutal. Still, I feel like I owe it to my Irish ancestors.
Erin: Irish eh? I've got Scottish ancestors, and British but no Irish.
Me: Well, I owe it to my ancestors to war with you over Protestantism then, but you can't always please those guys :)
Erin: Protestants rule, Catholics drool! (Except for the new Pope. He's pretty cool.)
Me: Right! Seriously, Francis is such a class act. Did you see he made TIME's Person of the Year? I was really worried they were gonna go with Miley.
Erin: Oh man, I agree. So you play the ukulele, anything else?
Me: I play the piano and a little guitar. I used to play the saxophone (and still could, technically) but it's been a long time. What about you? Anything besides the accordion?
Erin: Piano, guitar, a very little violin, ukulele and percussion. Now to the important stuff: what are your top 5 favorite bands?
Me: Oh geez, that question sucks :) Um, Blind Pilot, Guster, Carbon Leaf, The Civil Wars and...Ra Ra Riot? Your turn.
Erin: Beatles, Weezer, Said the Whale, the Shins, The Hush Sound and Woodkid. So many more...

And that was it, the last Tinder conversation I will ever have. We were reaching the natural point where an IRL meet up would be suggested.

You like Weezer? Let's discuss Weezer over a cup of coffee. One of your profile pictures is a Star Trek halloween costume. Let's discuss whether Original Series or TNG is superior over a cup of coffee. You have hair? Let's discuss the merits of conditioner over a cup of coffee.

There was just one problem, I wasn't interested. So sue me.

I'm sure Erin is a perfectly fine person. She plays the ukulele so she's clearly an enlightened soul. But after a year of these largely repetitive non-conversations, I'm exhausted. I'm tired of hearing about someone's five favorite bands/movies/books or long explanations of their profile picture, taken during the six months they built orphanages in Cambodia (as if to say "oh, you don't want to meet me? Well I'm a better person than you anyway." Everyone is passive aggressive in the internet age).

But even though I've largely become numb to the concept of human emotion, and skeptical of the advantages of social interaction altogether, there was a part of me that felt motivated to push the conversation with Erin just see if I could score one last date before closing the curtain on My Life Online.

I was actually about to suggest Saturday brunch (because nothing suggests irresistible masculinity like Eggs Benedict) when I realized I didn't know what city she lived in. A quick glance at her profile informed me that she was 41 miles away.

Now, as a rule, I don't believe in the concept of deal-breakers. So what if they've kept a lifetime's collection of toenail clippings in a jar by their bed? Who cares if they were acquitted on six counts of manslaughter due to a technicality? The only question that matters, really, is whether or not I'm interested and feel relatively safe from physical harm in their presence (although there's a degree of flexibility in that last one).

But a one-hour drive (in inversion weather, no less) to have an awkward first date with a person I'm not actually interested in for the sole purpose of generating fodder for my blog? That seems bad for both of us. Oh, and did I mention the drive would culminate in Utah County, the worst geographic location on Earth?

Yeah, call me shallow, but "pass."

And that, in a nutshell, is my experience with online dating. It's not that I've wanted for opportunities. I've "matched" on Tinder, my pictures have been "liked" on Match.com, I've been "viewed" on OkCupid and from time to time I would receive a message on my niche online dating website (hint: It wasn't Purrsonals.com, the dating site for cat lovers).

The problem, ultimately, has been me, and my personal disinterest in the act of dating. Yes, a relationship sounds nice. Yes, I feel like I'm "ready" for love. But if you approach online dating expecting the internet to cure your social weaknesses you are bound for disappointment.

It still comes down, as it does IRL, to your capacity to engage and communicate with another human being. Online dating can remove, or at least weaken, certain barriers, but the task still falls on you to put yourself out there, seek meaningful connections and follow through with persistence and patience.

To borrow from familiar idiom, online dating can lead a horse to water, but it can't make him drink.
That's tough when you're a horse who is cripplingly introverted. There is a part of me that actively wants to die alone, that wants to spend every moment of my life bereft of meaningful relationships. Why? Because there is a social construct that marriage and love is an inevitability, despite ample quantifiable evidence to the contrary. To some extent, I want to prove that construct wrong. I want to be the exception. I want to point at myself and say “here is a man, by all measurements a typical, average man, whom no woman would marry.”

Because I’m angry. I’m angry that my first love felt nothing for me and my second couldn’t be bothered to edit me into her plans. I’m angry at the entire female gender for the vapid men they consistently choose instead of me. And I’m angry at myself for being guilty of the same superficial judgments as the women who reject me.

And yet for all my cynicism I remain a romantic. I believe in “True Love,” whatever that may be. I believe that one day, some random series of events will place me in a position where no amount of bad luck and introversion can protect me from the irresistible appeal of some beautiful creature.

I can’t imagine what I’ll ever say (or type, I suppose) in that scenario, how the words that have so often escaped me before will suddenly find themselves tumbling out of my head. But they will. And through a process that baffles me, that conversation will turn to dinner, which will turn into a series of dinners, made for two, stretched out over a lifetime filled with joy and heartache.

It could happen this year. Who knows, it could happen tomorrow.

And so we reach the end of My Life Online, a year-long investment into the world of digital romance that has proved to be a failure. I've chronicled that failure here for all of you, but what I did not include were the similar experiences that played out day after day in the "real world" that ultimately yielded the same results.

In that sense online dating, it would seem, was not all that different from traditional dating. And if I were to suggest a single takeaway point from this endeavor it would be to reaffirm that despite the stigma attached to online romance, it really is just another example of regular life finding its way into a digital form, good and bad, warts and all.

I've been looking forward to putting this project to bed, but before I do I thought I'd give a ruling on the various services I used in case anyone reading is still sitting on the fence.
photo

Tinder

Oh Tinder, how you tease.

By far, the most beautiful people are on Tinder. It can actually be a bit jarring to shift from the membership of a traditional dating site to the rolodex of beautiful smiling faces on Tinder, where dancers for professional sports teams and all the other women who would never talk to you IRL are one "match" away, like a carrot dangling just out of reach.

But that's also the problem with Tinder. It's more of a time-wasting game than an actual dating site and no one very few people actually take it seriously. Sure, I have friends who have met each other and gotten married through Tinder, I also have a friend who is a medium for dead spirits. The point: life is crazy, don't get your hopes up.

Odds are if you're the kind of person who might use Tinder, you've already used Tinder. If not, go for Star Wars Angry Birds instead.

photo(2)

Match.com

I joined Match in August after months of frustration with my initial subscription-based niche online dating service (hint: It wasn't FitnessDates.com). Match proudly boasts of being the "biggest" online dating service and purports to have a superior matching algorithm, which I admit for the first few days results in some intriguing suggestions. But it doesn't take long before the search runs out of new material and you find yourself cycling through a list of familiar faces, date infinitum, as it were.

Also, despite (or maybe because of) the ~ $20 monthly fee, members aren't much more willing than those on free sites to have a conversation. Although that could just be limited to the experience of 26-year-old men who are less than 6 feet tall with the word "writer" in their profiles.

You can filter your searches more specifically than free sites, but that's about the only benefit in the long run.

photo(6)

PlentyOfFish

It's hard to explain exactly what, but something about POF.com feels trashy. For one thing it feels like a free service, with a design that comes across like the website version of public restrooms: functional, tidy perhaps, but unwelcoming.

Maybe it's the fact that no matter what you're doing on the site, be it chatting with someone or editing your profile, you are constantly bombarded with images of other users. It's as if the site is saying to you "Hey, I don't want to interrupt that discussion about feudal society you're having with Claire, but have you met Sarah? And Alex and Julie and Britney and Trisha and Morgan?"

It's free, so you've got nothing to lose, but In my humble opinion you're better off using...

photo(3)

OkCupid

Comparing OkCupid and POF is like comparing your neighborhood grocer to Walmart at 2 a.m. The selection is similar and the prices are comparable, but one provides a much more comfortable shopping experience.

All things considered, OkCupid is well-designed for a free site, with search and mail features that rival Match for quality and far exceeded those of my original niche online dating service (hint: it wasn't EquestrianCupid.com) for which I paid $10 each month. That was money wasted, whereas the Free-99 price tag of Cupid feels like a steal.

If you're looking at going digital, I would suggest you start here.

And so my friends, I bid you good luck. As for me, I'm going to unplug for a while.

photo(7)

On second thought, maybe I'll hold onto Tinder. What's the harm?

No comments:

Post a Comment