Online dating sells itself based on one, simple theory: volume. This, again, goes to the Amazon model of dating I mentioned in the last post. But here it shows the potentiality of the model. Your local bookstore can only hold a finite number of titles, while you could theoretically purchase any book ever written through Amazon. If you’re willing to sacrifice immediacy for access, then Amazon is absolutely the place to go.
There are three basic deficiencies to the Amazon model, however, that apply to online dating.
First, you have to know what you are looking for. Quite simply, you cannot go to Amazon and tell the search engine, “I’m looking for a book.” You have to tell it that you want a book about American history or a book by Lawrence Weschler. Dating sites are pretty good at limiting the selection in the obvious ways (geographic area, physical characteristics, etc), but they’re not good at figuring out the secondary reasons people choose what they choose. So, for instance, if a non-religious person doesn’t want to spend time with a religious fundamentalist but doesn’t mind someone who is a liberal Christian or a self-identifying but not-really-active-at-all Muslim, they have to weigh the risks of being matched up with a bunch of super-religious folks v. missing out on that great person who still says, “Eh, I’m Hindu, but whatryahgonnadoaboutit?” This leads directly to the next problem.
Second, you can’t really browse when you’re dealing with online purchasing or dating. I once saw an episode of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson where he was talking to an author about said author’s book. I ran to the bookstore at lunch to get the book, which wasn’t there. I did, however, end up going back to the office with a copy of Craig Ferguson’s Between the Bridge and the River, which is one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. It just kinda happened that way. Other times I’ve gone to buy books, but then decided I didn’t want the book I originally intended to purchase, but walked out with a few different books. Maybe some were new discoveries and maybe some were books I’d forgotten about, but the act of going to a book store caused me to notice things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Even the best search engine cannot make the connection between, “You saw this author’s non-fiction book on Craig Ferguson’s show,” and, “You should buy Craig Ferguson’s novel.” We simply notice things that are deal-makers and deal-breakers that computers cannot notice and cannot duplicate. And, as such, we get to the third big problem.
The, shall we say, purchasing decisions, for online dating have to be made on incomplete and often incorrect information. This is the tyranny of unmet expectations. Online profiles contain the other person’s best (I’d hope, I suppose) attempt to sell. Then there’s the extended conversations before a meeting when there are plenty of opportunities to build the other person in to something that they are not and are not attempting to be. We create the image of the other in our minds, anyway, and in this situation it’s almost impossible to create a realistic image, unmarred by the intersection between desire and reality.
It is, in short, almost entirely impossible not to be disappointed by the person who arrives the first time you meet someone with whom you originally connect via internet dating.
Now, this isn’t the standard tale of finding out that hot chick you’ve been talking to is actually a 56 year-old trucker or a weirdo living in his parents’ basement. Such people, I’ve no doubt, exist. But you’re probably not going to run in to them on match.com or eHarmony or OKCupid. People on internet dating sites are usually pretty honest. They’re just honest in the way that anyone is honest while dating and that’s a large chunk of the problem.
Any time we go out on the internet we use an edited persona. Any time we go on dates we use an edited persona. This combination is, y’know, bad.
So you choose only the pictures that flatter. And try to say only the things that make you seem interesting and intelligent. And since the whole sending emails thing allows for edited thoughts, then you could potentially cause the other person to only know exactly what you want them to know.
Now, chances are that they’re going to be making up shit about you, too. So by the time you actually meet that means that they’ll be super surprised when your shit don’t smell like fresh baked cinnamon rolls and your smile isn’t a goddamn rainbow what lights up the sky and makes unicorns smile. You will, instead, be an ordinary human being who is awkward and makes mistakes and says stupid things and occasionally snorts when you laugh.
This isn’t usually a problem. People have been saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and snorting when laughing for as long as humans have been around and yet humans have managed to survive and procreate for at least, oh, two or three hundred years now. So that’s a pretty good track record.
But, then, back in the dark ages of the early 1900s that person you were trying to impress when you accidentally farted didn’t have an entire internet full of additional potential dates hooked up to a small device in their back pocket. They also hadn’t gotten used to an edited version of you that was half reality, half imagination, and half careful presentation in the period before you finally met in person. They weren’t, in short, expecting the world of you. So if you couldn’t deliver the world, they weren’t as disappointed, nor were they probably so prepared to run and try for Option B.
Disturbingly enough, this is the ideal potentially disastrous scenario.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I started the whole internet dating thing at the same time I was engaging in that other great, dehumanizing internet-based activity: a job search. The activities, I quickly realized, were remarkably similar. You create a document that attempts to list off all of your strengths and make you seem really great. You search for the perfect job so that you can best use your talents in a place you will love. Then you prepare a cover letter to let them know how much you’d love to work with them in the future and you send the whole thing out.
You sit there, waiting for the email response that says, “Yes! Come in! Say hello!”
But nothing happens.
And nothing happens.
Then some more nothing happens.
So you move to Ideal Job 2.
Then you eventually discover you’re on Random Job You Applied For Because It Was There Number 34,286. You. Just. Want. A. Fucking. Job.
So, basically, what I’m saying is that if you do the internet thing long enough, those profiles you just ignored the first time you looked start to look pretty good after a while.
When it gets right down to it, “I decided to email you because all the awesome people wouldn’t email back,” is probably a somewhat worse thing than, “Wow, you aren’t nearly as awesome in person as you were in my head.”
At least, that’s my theory.
Well, the second Amazon model of dating. The original Amazon model of dating was, “Wait until a tribe of warrior women drag you in to the woods and drain you of all your reproductive fluids.” This has a certain appeal, I will admit.
Okay, I’ve run in to one. But that particular incident was odd and I never did figure out what the hell the other person’s game was.
That said, there are still scammers. But they’re rather easy to spot. They usually have exactly one picture that looks a little too much like a modeling shot or it came from stockimages dot net. They also can’t usually write well, but not in the way that a large number of people can’t write well. It’s not terrible text speak and third grade level grammatical mistakes, but obvious English as a Fourteenth Language stuff. And, at least for the women, the profiles are way over the top in ways that I can’t really describe to people who haven’t seen them.
On the internet I’m brash, loud, and kind of an asshole. In real life I swear slightly less and spend way too much time forcing jokes that really aren’t funny. But the brash, loud, and asshole thing is right on.
Even me. Weirdly, it’s usually because I’m trying to be combative and unlikable. Erm, more unlikable than usual. For science or something. Seriously, I get asked why I even bother to internet date on a regular basis. By people I’ve met that way who seemed to think getting to know me was a good idea. I think from now on my answer will be, “I wanted to piss you off.”
My goal is either to single-handedly destroy internet dating, turn every woman into a lesbian, or make every other guy look better by comparison. I haven’t decided, really.
Any time a person’s list of favorite books is an unimaginative list of Great Books I know that’s someone who doesn’t read. Also, there’s some weird correlation between “My favorite book is by Chelsea Handler” and “Geds doesn’t like you.” I can’t decide if that’s a causal thing, though. I just think that Chelsea Handler is the female Dane Cook.
Which makes some things baffling. Like when I recently got an email from someone who decided I needed to see a YouTube video of some chav singing Solja Boy[sp?] on the X Factor. So it was chav + terrible source material + Simon Cowell. I responded the only way I knew how: with Mike Doughty and Andrew “Scrap” Livingston covering Mary J. Blige.
Of course if you are like that, call me. I’d love to ruin your life.
You’d think, then, that I’d be prepared for the whole house search thing. In reality, I was simply already completely and totally turned off by the process. But, basically, the lesson is that I hate job, house, and relationship searching via the internet. It’s supposed to make things easier. It doesn’t. I’m officially pre-disillusioned for, well, life. It’s nice to get that out of the way, really.