Recently I came across an article by Siarhei Karotki called ‘It’s time to take online dating seriously’, claiming that in the US, online dating is ‘booming and might even be bigger than porn’.
Any claim that uses the word ‘might’ suggests it doesn’t really hold any water, but since I met my husband on match.com it sparked my interest.
I had mixed feelings when I started online dating. I didn’t like the idea of selling myself online (self promotion doesn’t come naturally to me), but on the other hand my friends who were on sites like dating direct were having great fun and had such entertaining stories it made sense to be proactive about it.
I started off on The Guardian Soulmates and met 5 guys over a period of about 4/5 months. It tool me a while to even get my profile up and running as I had misgivings, but a couple of guys had caught my interest and as you need to have a profile to contact someone the site experience encouraged me to sign up, hand over the cash and give it a go.
I was an idiot with the first guy I met, who lived in a small town near Southend. After weeks of chatting via email, we agreed to meet and I drove 2+ hours from Twickenham to his place one evening after work. After leaving my car outside his flat we walked about half a mile on the seafront to the local pub. Sounds idyllic, but bearing mind it was pitch black and I’d only just met the guy in person, it was one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done in my life. The evening was spent listening to him talk at me for 2 hours and then promptly suggest I stay over! I made my excuses and left, cursing my stupidity.
I learned my lesson and met the remaining 4 guys on mutual territory and with an exit plan should I need rescuing. As I’d already spoken with them on email at least, before meeting them, we at least had a few things in common, so I was never nervous. None floated my boat though and it was slightly uncomfortable (although perfectly acceptable in online dating social etiquette) to say goodbye and not contact them again. What is refreshing is that everyone knows you’re there to meet a partner, not necessarily to make friends, so if there’s no chemistry, unless someone is a real ‘kindred spirit’, there’s no shame in not keeping in touch after the date.
I then branched out to try match.com. At this point I’d been dating for 5 months with no joy (to be fair, only meeting 5 guys in 5 months wasn’t the best tactic either). I was contacted by a guy who sounded interesting, we flirted on email, met and the rest is history. But I count myself lucky – it goes without saying that online dating works for some and not for others.
The experience is different depending on whether you’re male or female, too. Although I was reserved and unsure during my ‘time’ online, my husband was in his element, going out on dates 2/3 times a week and spending 5+ hours each and every night contacting new and existing (and willing!) women. He is keen to stress the time and energy you need to invest if you really want to make it work. “ I treated it very seriously – essentially I decided I wanted to meet my future wife although it was still possible to enjoy the journey. That meant putting in some serious hours after work – essentially it’s a numbers game so my tactic was to contact, then meet as many people as possible and weed out the sweet from the chav, so to speak!”.
So is online dating worth considering if you’re single? According to Mintel, the online dating market generated £80 million in 2008, up 20% on the previous year (although data since the economic downturn was not readily available). Why? Of course it follows that online dating should grow exponentially along with the growth of all other online social interactions. But the whole process of dating someone online is the complete opposite of meeting someone in a bar, where chemistry plays a huge part initially and then you find out whether you actually have anything in common. Online, you already have the shared interests, likes and dislikes, and then meet to see if there’s the essential ingredient.
Siarhei’s article references data that suggests most people using online dating services lie about their age, income or weight. Which seems a bit naive to me – if you ever meet the person you’re talking to they’re going to find out. Doh! However, if there’s one tip I’d give anyone thinking of joining an online dating site, it’s not to think that someone looks like their main profile picture. Warning bells should ring if they’re only happy to share that one picture. Looks are not the most important thing but sometimes the difference between a profile picture and the real thing means you should be able to sue them for violating the trade description act.
If you’re thinking about trying online dating, I’d recommend it. If nothing else, you’ll have some great stories to tell your mates, and you never know, you might just get lucky…