Online dating does not work.
This might come as a surprise. There are online dating ads all over the place touting the advantages of site X or Y. They say things like, “1 out of every 5 relationships start online.” And there’s a commercial every twelve minutes wherein a conventionally attractive and demographically desirable couple talks about how they met on [insert website here] while sitting next to a lake and holding hands, riding bikes, or sitting somewhere quirky and hipster-ish with their foreheads touching, smiling at each other. Also, there’s usually giggling. Giggling is big, especially if it follows some sort of supposedly self-deprecating joke and/or, joke at the other half of the couple’s expense.
To be fair, this is a massive improvement over the eHarmony commercials wherein eHarmony founder guy did all the heavy lifting. I’m reasonably certain that they started having conventionally attractive, demographically desirable couples talking to each other in book stores or walking through gardens because Mr. eHarmony Founder Guy is creepy. As fuck. Srsly. There’s no way he tests well.
Now, as I’ve said, I was Best Man in a wedding that happened because of match.com. I’m also pretty sure everyone has at least one friend, co-worker, or second cousin that met someone on the internet. So I’m perfectly willing to admit that online dating works for some people. But online dating doesn’t actually work, mostly because it’s not designed to work.
The goal of any business is repeat customers. If your business model involves dating, you need to get people to date, not get married. If you’re running a subscription service you need to get people to keep re-upping on their credit cards. If you’re running a free site you need to get eyeballs on the ads. Moreover, if you want people to think, “I should sign up for that site,” you need to convince them that there is just a whole shitload of people out there waiting with breathless anticipation to receive their lame emails that say, “Hi, U R hot,” or, “Wanna see my penis?”
So if you’ve got, say, a subscriber base of 15 million, but half of them actually go out and marry the other half, what do you have? A whole lot of unpaid bills for server space and tech support, that’s what. The goal, then, has to be to keep a large percentage of that 15 million people around at all times. A few going out can be balanced by a few coming in. But everyone going out means no one comes in.
Whenever people talk about this they tend to discuss the obvious problem. The class action lawsuit against match.com is a good example of the discussion. In broad strokes, match claims it has 15 million members. This is probably technically true, in that there are undoubtedly 15 million profiles on Match at any given time. But a large number of those profiles aren’t from paying members or are owned by people who haven’t signed in since that one night they set it up on a dare.
Now, my experience with Match is admittedly anecdotal and I know that anecdote is not the same as data. But I’m aware of this and I’ve never had a problem. There’s really a simple, three step process:
1. Avoid profiles with no pictures.
2. Avoid profiles that haven’t been active for at least three weeks.
3. Avoid sending emails that contain the words “U R Hot” and “Wanna see my penis?”
Also, it helps if you’re aware of a couple things going in. First, not everyone is everyone else’s cup of tea. This is obvious to anyone who has ever been around, y’know, people. But by the time people see messages like, “This person matches you 98.583% according to our patented matcherator technology,” they forget that stuff like that has fuck-all to do with the reason people make the decisions they actually make (bracket that thought off, as it’s a huge part of what I actually want to talk about). Second, people tend to be busy, forgetful, and lazy. So perhaps that person you just emailed did think , “I should email back,” but then got busy and didn’t get around to it. Third, there’s a pretty good chance that the person on the other end has heard your extremely-obvious-and-oh-so-witty joke based on their user name or whatever as an icebreaker eleventy-billion times. You are not a special and unique snowflake, satchmo.
But, whatever. I’m not here to talk about frivolous and quixotic lawsuits. I’m here to talk about the other problem with dating websites. It’s a much, much bigger problem in my humble opinion.
Dating websites are designed to keep their users discontented. They’re all based on the Amazon model of internet presentation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this model, but it’s not designed to make people happy, it’s designed to get them to buy shit.
Think about your Amazon purchasing experience. You log in to the site. The first thing you see is an ad for a Kindle, most likely. On my page I can then scroll down and see a row called “New for You.” Below that I see “More Items to Consider,” “New For You in Books,” and some other stuff. The whole idea of it is, “You bought Thing A. So chances are you’ll want to buy Thing B.” It’s exceptionally effective, as illustrated by the fact that I bought a goddamn book whilst simply trying to paint a picture of what the front page looks like.
Now, you can never have too many books (until you’re boxing them up to move, at least), so the only real damage this does is to your credit balance. However, let’s say that you’ve just decided that, say, HotCuban4U is the greatest thing since sliced bread, so you pop open the email screen and send, “Hey, UR Hot. Wanna see my penis?” Then, once you’ve done that, you see on the next screen, “You should also consider contacting PuertoRicanGirl3, Hot-To-Trot-4u, and PRTWLF5407.” All of the sudden HotCuban4U doesn’t seem so hot. Or quite so, y’know, for you.
So now you go to Hot-To-Trot-4u’s profile and you realize that, ZOMG, she might just be the greatest human being in the world. She’s hot. She watches all the same TV shows you do. She also likes the same pets you do. She claims to like sports. And she dropped what appears to be a reference to your favorite video game, indicating she’s actually a player of video games (and not, y’know, someone who learned one thing about Halo once and is using it as nerd-bait because she thinks nerds make more money than the unemployed “artists” she usually dates). But then you notice that she says her favorite books are the Twilight books and she watches Jersey Shore. All of the sudden Hot-To-Trot-4u don’t look like such a hotty. Or quite ready to go all trot…ty. Yeah, I should have put more thought in to that one. Sorry.
So you reluctantly go back to HotCuban4U. As it turns out, HotCuban4U is totally okay with seeing your penis, so you begin emailing back and forth and eventually work out the arrangements for a private penis viewing. Hey, it could happen. Adult Friend Finder exists, after all.
Then, the day before your big date with HotCuban4U you get an email with the new users near you. You see that MrsRedhead is pretty cute and, well, you’ve always wondered what it would be like to date a readhead. But you decide to put it off until after your big date. Then, wonder of wonders, MrsRedhead emails you.
Now what do you do?
Too much information. Too many options. Too few reasons to actually think you need to pick someone, flaws and all, and just go with it.
That’s the big problem with internet dating.
Frighteningly enough, I’m just getting warmed up.
I call shenanigans. First, that’s an astoundingly round and easy to remember number. Second, who the hell is compiling these statistics?
There’s always a shot of the female half of the relationship holding something in front of her face, then lowering it to nose level and looking off to one side. This, I think, is supposed to be adorable. Anyone have any idea what’s going on there?
If nothing else, internet dating has done a magnificent job of legitimizing itself. Ten years ago it was the domain of creepy people and urban legends. Five years ago it was something that some other people you talked to that one time do. Now, chances are every single person (by which I mean, “person who is single,” not, “every person everywhere”) has a profile out there somewhere, has had a profile out there somewhere, or is seriously considering it. This, on a certain level, makes sense. The internet is simply a part of our lives now. And the idea of just putting shit out there and talking to strangers isn’t weird. I blame Facebook and blogs. But mostly Facebook.
Judging by the number of women’s profiles that say, “Send me something more than, ‘you’re hot,’” and, “No, I do not want to see your penis,” this happens ALL. THE. TIME. To the men out there: What the fuck is your problem? Seriously. To the women: I’m so sorry. I, for one, have never showed anyone my penis. I mean, I’ve never offered to show…ah, fuck it, it’s not like I haven’t talked about this before.
Now, IANAL (actually I don’t, but that’s a conversation for another day), but as far as I’m concerned the lawsuit is a load of bollocks. If I were a judge I’d throw it out and then smack the people responsible for it upside the head. Of course, I’m not a judge and I’m sure there’s some sort of truth in advertising law under which the lawsuit makes some amount of sense.
These tips have been brought to you by common sense. Common sense is a wholly-owned subsidiary of God You’re Dumb Industries, LLC. Please monitor for warning signs and stop using common sense if you find yourself reading the fine print on contracts for the purchase of new homes and cars and avoiding those product replacement plans at Best Buy. At least, stop using common sense if you like wasting money on stupid-ass shit and enjoy being dumb.
True story: I had a random aside about the history of chariots in one of my profiles for a while. And by “random aside” I mean “three or four detailed paragraphs that I wish I’d bothered to save now that I’m writing about this.” I got emails about the goddamn chariots all the goddamn time. It got kind of annoying.
Now, imagine that you’re a woman. And your screen name is, say, “Snow White.” And ten-times a day you get an email that either says, “Can I be your dwarf?” or, “Wanna see my seven-inch dwarf?” How amusing would that be after three months and how likely would you be to respond, especially if you put a thing on the bottom of your profile that says, “Don’t email me if all you want to do is make dwarf puns.”
Band names of the day: “Virgins for Jesus” and “Seven-Inch Dwarf.” I imagine one is a bad Flight of the Conchords knockoff with an annoying hook and the other is a terrible prog-rock or death metal band.
And, I shit you not, I saw that there’s a new Lawrence Weschler book. You bet your sweet ass I got my pre-order on.
She’s not. Anyone who has to tell you they’re attractive in their user name isn’t. And a 4u? Fuck no.
I kinda have a thing for redheads. This one time I ran across a redhead’s profile and thought, “Y’know, it would be nice to date a redhead for a change of pace.” My very next thought was, “So does that mean that it goes bitch, bitch, redhead?” For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I was doing that dating a redhead would be a change from. However, I think that we should now replace duck, duck, goose with bitch, bitch, redhead.
Through the wonder of the smartphone app I have received emails from women whilst on dates.