For several months now, I’ve had a profile on OkCupid.com. No, I will not tell you the profile name, and no, you could not guess it from information off of this blog. And anyway, I’m honestly not there to find a date. I am, however, very interested in their matching algorithm, and have spent hours answering questions and looking at the public answers given by other singles all over the country.
You see, I have had a theory for several years now that dating sites are inherently flawed on a lot of levels. To put it simply, I think they are less effective than going out and meeting people face to face — even for the incredibly awkward or unattractive. I haven’t really done much research into the topic, though, so I was pleased to see that OkCupid has done some of the work for me. But more on that later.
In a nutshell, here’s why I intuitively believe dating sites don’t work:
- Too much information. I know… we’ve all been burned by discovering that someone we loved or were growing to love was really just not right for us. But I don’t believe more information is helpful. In fact, I think it reduces our chances of finding a match. Just as an example, here’s a small sampling of my own dating profile: Divorced, atheist, doesn’t want children, doesn’t want marriage. With just those four criteria, as many as 94% of available women on some dating sites would rule me out as a potential match. And yet, three out of the last four women I’ve dated seriously have known all that about me, and dated me even though they said they wanted marriage and kids, and even though they said they “weren’t sure” about God. The fact is, most of us know what we think we want, but when it comes right down to it, who we end up falling in love with is entirely different. Too much information closes off too many avenues too soon.
- Chemistry. There’s no denying it. Sometimes, you get within ten feet of a person, and for no good reason, your body goes ape-shit. You don’t know anything about them. They’re attractive, but not the most attractive you’ve ever seen. There’s just… something. This just can’t happen on dating sites. To put it another way, dating sites do it backwards. They get us all worked up because someone is a great match for us “on paper,” and then hope that we’re also genetically differentiated enough to have a chemical spark in person. Sadly, when I did try a few internet dates a couple of years ago, that was the norm, not the exception. Looked good on paper, and no chemistry in person.
- People can lie on dating sites as easily as in person. Except for the really exclusive sites that insist on background checks, referrals, and personal interviews, it’s easy to lie.* Women lie about their figures. Men lie about their income figures. Oh, and being married. And having kids. People lie on the internet, and there’s not much to keep them from lying. Sure, people can lie in person, but savvy observers of human nature can spot lies relatively easily in person. Online, it’s much harder.
So in a nutshell, that’s why I think dating sites are a waste of time. It’s not that nobody ever meets and falls in love, but it seems set up to increase failure, not success. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, OkCupid has done some of their own stat-gathering, and come up with some more reasons why pay sites in particular don’t work.
- Most of the profiles are dead. “After some dickery with a legal pad we discover, in the best case for eHarmony, 1/13 of their users are on the yearly plan, and the rest subscribe 6 months at a time. Thus the minimum average monthly fee is $29.18. They have at most 719,652 subscribers.” That’s the real number… not 20,000,000, like the ads claim. That means that 92% of EHarmony subscribers are ghosts. When we break that number down across the whole country, we see that for most people, there are only a handful of real, active, compatible people in their city. By comparison, in an average night club, there are probably at least twenty or so genuinely single people who are actively looking.
- Pay sites want you to message ghosts. As you can see from this flowchart, pay sites make money in any case except when subscribers message subscribers. In terms of marketing, dating sites want you to be the bait that entices someone into pulling out their credit card. You are paying to advertise for them.
- The desperation feedback loop. It’s hard enough for a man to entice a woman into responding on a pay site. Depending on the estimates, most men face about a 1 in 10 chance of getting any reply at all. And that includes replies such as “Thanks for the nice letter, but I’m seeing someone, and just haven’t taken my profile down yet. Good luck.” So, what do most guys do? They write more letters. They get frustrated with the lack of responses, so they spend less time writing more letters. Less time means more impersonal means less chance of a response.
- Being overwhelmed. On the other hand, women receive dozens, sometimes hundreds of letters, and as many as 90% of them do not fall within her specified criteria. (See above — too much information.) Whether they’re pricing themselves out of the market or not, most women have high expectations from a dating site. So they filter out guys who aren’t “Mr. Perfect,” and then get frustrated when no guys are “Mr. Perfect.” Then, they stop reading their email, and there’s another dead (and sometimes still subscribing) customer for guys to write to and not get a response.
Get Out There
I just don’t believe there’s a better alternative than putting your happy face in front of people. Here’s a personal example. When I was in my mid 20s, I was in a local coffee shop and saw a girl with fantastic eyes. I stared for a minute, realized I was staring, and then looked away. But I was hooked. Every few minutes, I caught myself staring absentmindedly in her direction. Rather than doing the brave thing and going up to her, I did the wuss thing and left the coffee shop.
And it was a good thing, too. Several months later, I was dropping a casual acquaintance off at her new apartment, and who do you think was her new roommate? Yep. The girl with the eyes. I accepted the invitation to stay for a while, and within three months, she and I were dating. We dated for nearly five wonderful years, and have stayed friends since. The kicker? If I had gone up to her when I first saw her, she’d have turned me away. She was in the middle of a divorce. But she saw me looking, and remembered me when I walked into her apartment. Crazy, huh?
The point I’m trying to make is that chemistry happens in person, and regardless of how much Game you have or don’t have, good things happen to people who get out there. It’s not always about trying, either. It’s just about being human — putting yourself in proximity to other humans and letting biology take its course. Sure, Game helps, and being confident, fit, and attractive helps, and you should do everything you can to make yourself as attractive as possible. But in the end, being attractive doesn’t help if you’re sitting at home typing to a ghost on the internet.
Getting a date isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not the hardest either. The longer I live, the more I come to believe that dating sites are a way for people to avoid going out and talking to strangers. Especially in the world of FOX Scary News at 11, we have grown to fear other people, and that’s a shame. Most people are really awesome in their own way, and most single people would love to have someone in their life.
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* Forgive me for being politically incorrect here, but what is it about a person who’s seriously obese that makes them think their date isn’t going to notice? I recall one date in particular where I was under the impression (from the profile picture) that the girl weighed around 140 pounds. When I met her, it was more like 250. I’m probably setting myself up for hate, but I’ll tell you that I ended the date early. She asked me if it was because she was fat, and I said, “No. It’s because you lied about being fat. What was I supposed to do? Say, “Oh… Gee… the first thing you told me about yourself was a lie, but I’m sure you’ll never lie to me again?” Yeah. Right. It goes the same way for men, of course. But we all know, internet profiles are largely lies.