I tried online dating for a couple of months. A friend talked me into it. I did want to meet some new people outside of my circle. I'm not really into the bar scene. I'm shy. I was also just curious about what it's like.
It turned out to be a fascinating social study. It was an eye-opening experience. It was fun, but also a bummer. For reasons I won't go into now, I decided to delete my accounts (I was using two different sites), but I will say that I learned some very interesting things.
First, some context:
One of the sites I was using was OKCupid. It's hugely popular. It has hundreds of millions of users from around the world. Most of them are in North America. In general (according to research), the site's users are better-educated, younger and more progressive than the norm. I mention this because I think it's significant considering some of my observations.
So, here's what I took away from the experience (speaking in generalities, of course):
- It's a real bummer when loneliness and anuptaphobia compel you to reach out to someone who's not even your type and they reject you. Ugh.
- When I first set up my profiles, I received quite a few messages. It was a nice ego boost. Then I made a change to my profile and the messages dropped off sharply. It's too depressing to say what the change was.
- People think I'm weird. I don't know why. I didn't feel like a weirdo before, but I do now.
- It's amazing how much people are willing to put out there. I often get comments here from people telling me that they're surprised by how much I'm willing to reveal of myself in my posts. This is nothing compared to what people seem to be willing to share on dating websites. It's downright shocking sometimes!
- Related to that last point, there are a lot of people out there I could never have imagined existing before. Wow. Just when you think people can't surprise you anymore…
- In this day and age of advanced technology, a surprising number of people don't seem to have a decent-quality photograph of themselves. So many dark, blurry, grainy, red-eyed photos! It's kind of encouraging, in a way!
- It's very common for people to use group photos for their profile pic. In fact, some people have nothing but group photos on their profile. And they usually feature the same people or at least one obvious best friend. How are we supposed to know which one is you?
- One more thing on the topic of photos: many people seem to have one very well-rehearsed pose. They may have ten photos of themselves and they look exactly the same in each one - same facial expression, same angle. Fascinating.
- People are really into avocados. Avocados bring people together.
- Good-looking people want to be made to feel like they're interesting. Interesting people want to feel hot. This isn't necessarily a universal, but I see it a lot.
- Most people think they're geniuses, which is awesome.
- Everyone loves someone who can make them laugh. I'm no different. A sense of humor is such a great thing. But suddenly I'm feeling like I should enroll in stand-up comedy classes at Second City or something. There's serious pressure to be funny!
- People are really into movie stars and Hollywood blockbusters. This is one area where I'm definitely on the outside. Maybe I am a weirdo.
- Most people don't seem to have a career and a surprising amount of people don't seem to have a job at all. No judgement. Times are tough. Just an observation.
- Conventionally attractive people are lonely too. There are a lot of people who seem to have everything in the world going for them on there. I would have thought they would have no problem meeting people - that they'd have to beat 'em off with a stick. I was surprised at first, but then I saw it frequently enough that the surprise wore off. Kinda changes the way I see the world, to be honest.
- People's phones are very important to them. On OKCupid, there's a section of each profile with the heading "Five Things I Couldn't Live Without". So many people included their phone on the list and often it was at the top. Once again, I'm on the outside. I still don't have a phone and have no plans to get one. This seemed to be mind-blowingly weird to everyone I met. After I mentioned it to one girl I had been exchanging messages with, she stopped writing! It was a deal-breaker for her!
What are five things you couldn't live without?
- It seems vegetarians are more sexually geared.
- More young people are religious than I would have guessed. Again, no judgement - just an observation.
- Here's the biggest surprise: people are more racist than I would have ever guessed. If you think we're living in post-racial times, think again. And this is where it's interesting to keep the demographics of OKCupid's membership in mind. Even among people who are young, better-educated and supposedly more progressive, there is a surprising amount of racism. I saw it in a variety of forms (some of them very surprising). A lot of it is subtle. But some of it - going back to my earlier point of how much people are willing to put out there - is wide open for everyone to see. Race still matters to a lot of people.
In the end, I'm glad I did it for the learning experience. I honestly see some things differently now. If you've considered trying it, but never have, I'd recommend it. Even if you don't find love, you'll undoubtedly learn some interesting things about the world.