Friday, June 8, 2012

The Pros And Cons Of Online Dating

Last year, I joined an online dating website. I'd resisted for a long time, but I caved after hearing so many success stories from friends who used the site. Besides, whenever I have the opportunity to sign up for a website that will take up way too much of my time, I take advantage.

I can't tell you how many hours I've spent on this site -- and on its mobile app -- sifting through my matches, on the theory that my soul mate could log on at any moment, day or night, so I better be on there when she does. I've yet to find her, but if you happen to make contact with her on the site, let her know that I'm online right now.

So, my experience on the site has been a mixed bag so far. I've been on several dates, but none of them resulted in a long-lasting relationship, which was my hope.

Really, I'm in the same position I was in before I joined the site. That's very discouraging to me, so much so that I've started to wonder whether it's worth my while to continue using the site.

With that in mind, I've made a list of pros and cons. I was inspired to do this after I tuned into Nick at Nite recently and watched the episode of Friends in which Ross had to choose between his girlfriend, Julie, and his longtime crush, Rachel. He, Joey and Chandler created a pros/cons list, and Ross picked Rachel. But she rejected him after finding the list, and Jennifer Aniston's love life has never recovered.

Hopefully I'll have better luck with my list.

Pro #1: Using the site requires very little effort.
All I have to do is log on to the site, and instantly I have access to hundreds of single women. A lot of them attractive, too. Because there is no face-to-face interaction, at least not at first, I have no reason to be afraid to initiate a conversation with any of them.

When I'm in public and I spot a girl who interests me, I tend not to approach her and introduce myself; I simply admire her from afar and hope she notices my winning personality. So you can understand why online dating has a certain appeal for me.

And to think, I once thought it would be embarrassing for me to try online dating. At some point I came to this realization: If I'm not ashamed to order pizza on Seamless and have it delivered to me from a shop that's located only a few blocks away from me, I shouldn't be ashamed to chat online with women who are located only a few miles away from me.

Con #1: I don't have many suitable pictures of myself that I can upload to my profile.
I don't own a digital camera. I do own a smartphone, but I rarely make use of its camera. Highly unusual in the Facebook age, I know.

On my online dating profile, I have posted exactly two pictures, neither of which were taken within the last two years. I don't really have many recent photos of myself. I just don't like having my picture taken. I know what I look like. I won't forget. And in the unlikely event that I do, I have three mirrors in my home.

Of course, not having many photos of myself puts me at a disadvantage on a dating website. What I need are more pictures like the ones I typically see on the site I use: extreme close-ups of my face; pictures of myself standing 100 feet away from the camera for no particular reason; shots of myself standing in front of a tourist attraction, preferably one that's located outside the United States; photos of myself at a sporting event; pictures of myself making a goofy face while surrounded by a group of friends. That sort of thing.

Pro #2: The chances of me finding my soul mate online are pretty good.
Here's an interesting statistic: eHarmony says, on average, 542 of its members marry one of their matches every day. That's a lot of marriages. Gives me hope for the site I use.

Here's another interesting but unrelated stat: one in three divorce filings last year cited Facebook as a factor. It's wonderful how the Internet can bring people together and then tear them apart, isn't it?

Con #2: The women are not easy to please.
OK, that's an unfair generalization. I would say that many -- not all, but many -- women on the site have specific tastes. Very specific. In no particular order, they'd like to meet someone who is tall/nice/fun/honest/mature/outgoing/driven/intelligent/thoughtful/supportive/caring/family-oriented/goal-oriented/adventurous/ambitious/spontaneous/active, and enjoys the outdoors/has a sense of humor/is gainfully employed/has money in the bank/likes dogs/doesn't own cats because they're allergic/believes in chivalry/respects the fact that they're vegetarian or that they just don't like to eat whatever it is you like to eat/doesn't play games/doesn't upload photos of themselves shirtless. And so on.

These are all admirable traits, to be sure. But it is extremely unfair, as a single man on the site also looking for love, to be held up to this unattainable standard. Ladies, if you're going to use a dating website, then you need to have more realistic expectations. You only have so many guys to choose from. None of them will meet all of your requirements.

It's not a Build-A-Bear Workshop. The goal is not to create your own "perfect guy." Your objective should be to find someone who could turn out to be a pretty good guy who you can see yourself in a relationship with. And no, you can't customize him with accessories or stuff him with cotton once you meet him.

I take a more pragmatic approach to online dating. I compare the site I use to 7-Eleven: Everything looks great, and I'd be happy to leave it with any of the available options. Any one of those girls could be the Fanta Blue Raspberry Slurpee of my life.

Pro #3: First dates are cheap.
Every first date I've had with a girl I met online has taken place at a Starbucks. This is a major compromise on my part, because I don't drink coffee.

I prefer a get-together at Starbucks for the first date for two reasons: 1) It's a relaxed atmosphere, and it lends itself to good conversation, and 2) I know I won't have to spend a lot. Feel free me to call me cheap. But to be fair about this, I do let the girl order anything she wants off the menu. Money is no object if we're at the 'Bucks.

I'm not inclined to drop a lot of cash on a girl I barely know. It's one reason why I've never auditioned to be the star of The Bachelor. Just days after the bachelor meets the women, he takes them on helicopter rides, on vacations in exotic countries around the world, and eventually to fantasy suites. I can't afford any of that.

Con #3: You can't just forget about a woman if you go on a date with her and it doesn't work out.
The dating site I use is littered with girls I went on one date with and subsequently stopped communicating with, either because we mutually agreed we weren't right for each other or because they agreed on their own that I wasn't right for them. I can't even count how many girls I am 97% compatible with and have a 0% chance of going on a second date with.

I personally believe that any girl who chooses to stop dating me should close her account, as a courtesy to me. It would be the nice/mature/thoughtful/caring/intelligent thing to do.

After reading over the list a few times, it seems I didn't resolve much, did I? Oh, well, I guess I'll remain on the site for now. What do I have to lose, right? At some point, the woman of my dreams has to show up on there. Hopefully.

In the meantime, can anyone lend me some money so I can be on The Bachelor?