Do online dating websites work? Okay, it’s time to have an open and frank discussion about the battle of the sexes and the dating game. It’s far too complex, scary and difficult for mere mortals – so let’s bridge the gap by asking both men and women what doesn’t work when it comes to online dating.
To explore this topic, I pulled aside two individuals who I knew were hunting for a long-term relationship using online dating websites, and asked them about their experiences with the services. The two services used by these individuals were OKCupid and Match.com, two of the largest and most popular dating websites on the Internet.
What I learned from carrying out an interview of a female and the interview of a male trying to dig into this intriguing subject was that using the Internet for dating is equally painful for men and for women, but for very different reasons. Ironically enough, if you could take the best of those women and the best of those men, and place them in a big room where they could sit at a table and ask each other questions in person – you’d probably have 4 or 5 new match-ups by the end of the night.
The problem with online dating is that you can’t see the person’s face when they’re telling you about themselves. You can’t watch as they smile, and that smile spreads up into their eyes and transforms their face into one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen – a thing that warms your heart and makes you realize you want to spend more time with the person. No…online dating involves just cold, shallow text. Not much else.
Online Dating is a Woman’s Worst Nightmare
I think it’s hard for guys to comprehend the world of online dating from a woman’s perspective. As far as a guy is concerned, women have it made. They have the choice of the litter. All they have to do is get online every day, sitting on their princess throne and file through the dozens or more profiles of men who have messaged them throughout the day. They then flippantly toss out all of those well thought out, carefully crafted messages from most of those poor schmucks, and then they log onto their Facebook accounts to complain to their girlfriends that there are no “good men” left in the world.
Unfortunately, the reality is nowhere near that fantasy. To get some insight into what women go through on these dating websites, I pulled aside one of my family members who I knew had spent some time on these sites looking for her future spouse. By the time of this interview, she had already given up and moved on, finally discovering her future husband while visiting old friends at her alma mater. Her responses completely surprised me.
Ryan (RD): What year did you sign up with an online dating website and how long did you keep your account?
Anonymous Woman (AW): I can’t remember the exact year I signed up… I think it was either 2006 or 2007. I was active on the account for a week…if that.
RD: What were the majority of messages that you received from guys like?
AW: Creepy. I got some commenting on my picture telling me how “hot” I was….or how “good” I looked. Actually, now that I think about it, that was how most of the messages I got started. I don’t know, maybe some girls might think of that as a compliment but personally, I would have preferred a simple message like, “Hey, would you like to talk? I saw that some of your interests were the same as mine,” or something along those lines.
Also, some of the messages I got were from a few guys that ranged from early 40’s to late 40’s and I was maybe 19 at the time. That was one of the main reasons I called it quits. It made me SO uncomfortable that guys so much older than me, older than most of my siblings (all of which are 8 years plus older than me), were sending me messages telling me that I was “hot”. I am getting terribly uncomfortable just thinking about it.
RD: Did you get ANY messages from guys that seemed nice at all? Worth meeting up with?
AW: No, but the creepy messages most likely ruined it for any decent guys that might be around. Those messages made me run far, far away from online dating. In hindsight, I suppose if I had stayed active with it for a little longer MAYBE I would have encountered a “nice” guy.
I have to mention that I did get maybe a message or two from guys that seemed okay, but once I checked out their profiles, it didn’t seem like we had anything in common so I didn’t bother. That’s one of the issues I see with online dating though. Words on a page can only tell you so much and often, they are not the best “first impressions”. Personally, I think there is so much more to be gained from talking with someone face to face – you are able to read their body language and listen to intonation in their voice, which are much better indicators than online messages or profiles.
RD: From your experience, do you think dating sites can be at all useful for girls?
AW: Sure. I know people who have had great successes with online dating! It just wasn’t my thing. I have a strong preference toward meeting people in person FIRST, instead of online first.
RD: If there are guys looking to actually get the attention of a girl on these dating sites, do you have any advice for them?
AW: Do your best not to be a creep. Please. Remember that a simple message can go a long way. You’re much more likely to get past the initial message if you can get a girl to first start talking to you based on interests.
RD: How did you eventually end up meeting the guy you ended up marrying?
AW: We lived across the hall from each other our first year of university. We became good friends first and we only started dating 2 years later. That was mostly because I transferred schools, but because we became friends first, we had a connection that drew us back together for a chance at something more. What we found out was that we had much, much more than friendship in store for us.
Online Dating is Frustrating for Men
Being a nice guy is probably the worst thing to be when it comes to online dating. You are a little more than collateral damage, as the large majority of guys slather, drool and stomp their way through the crowds, scaring off most of the nice girls that arrive on these sites, as evidenced by the interview above.
This experience is best exemplified by my close friend who I will call Eric. Eric has been using a couple of online dating websites off and on for the past year, with very little success. He spends time every day carefully browsing through profiles and looking for women who he feels share his same interests – beyond the dating site’s algorithm which promises to perform its own magic in matchmaking. Despite his efforts, few girls ever answer his carefully crafted, very kind messages.
RD: How long have you been using online dating websites?
Eric: Too long. It’s been about six months now. I started out using Match.com, but then a friend told me that the success rate is much better on OKCupid, so I switched over to that.
RD: How’s it going – do you get any dates at all?
Eric: It’s not. I spent hours trying to create a profile that shows people what I’m really like. No dice. Sure, I get a lot of profile “views”, but no messages. I’ve scheduled about an hour a day to browse through profiles and I look for several things. Most importantly is that she likes doing similar things that I do. Secondly of course is that the profile gives me some feeling that there could be chemistry.
RD: Why do you think they don’t answer?
Eric: I don’t know. Maybe they don’t like my pictures, or maybe I’m not being as nice as I feel I am in my messages. Part of me thinks that they’re just so overwhelmed with messages from so many guys that they just pick the few that strike them as the “best” and just ignore the rest. Women’s choice is what it’s all about I guess.
It’s weird to me because if I didn’t normally have girls asking me out in real life, or showing that they are attracted to me, I’d probably start to develop a complex or something. Maybe I’m just not really portraying myself very well in my profile or something. I’m not sure what it is.
RD: Do you think the algorithm and the other tools the dating sites offer help at all?
Eric: Some of them I guess. I mean, I like the fact that you can IM with people when they’re online if you want, but as far as the “matching algorithm” goes, I don’t think it really works very well. Like, OKCupid gives you a percentage of match or non-match you are with certain people. In some cases, I’ve read the profile of a 90+% match and find myself wondering what in the world the developer is smoking.
In other cases, I’ve seen profiles that have a 40-50% match with mine, but from the profile I can see pretty easily that they would be perfect with me – common sense of humor, common belief system, everything. So, I really don’t think it’s a proven science quite yet. They try – and I’m sure most of it is just for marketing.
RD: Do you have any advice for women out there who use online dating sites and might be reading this?
Eric: Yes. Stop ignoring all of us. You know, guys get accused a lot of being superficial and basing everything on looks, but I can’t help thinking that most of these women just file quickly through a guy’s photos and then fly right on to the next one without actually getting to know what the guy is like. It’s so frustrating, because you know, I think a lot of really nice guys out there could make for amazing boyfriends who would treat these lonely, single women like they deserve to be treated. Instead, you know, I think a lot of them are still hung up on hunting for the bad boys, the smooth-talkers. I don’t know what more a nice guy can do, but I do know it would be nice if some of these women would at least give us a chance to show what we have to offer.
Sleepless on the Net
So there you have it – the whole story from the female perspective and from the male perspective. What is shocking to me is how different each perspective is from each other – with women claiming there are nothing but creeps on these dating sites, and with guys claiming there are plenty of nice guys. Obviously, there’s a disconnect somewhere.
Thankfully, I’ve been happily married for a decade and a half. I met the love of my life my second year of college, and was married before I graduated. The extent of my online dating was chatting to a few girls at other colleges over the now-archaic IBM-mainframe based chat network. In the end, I met my wife in person, at a party. The old fashioned way.
What’s your take? Why is there this disconnect between the sexes when it comes to online dating. Is there some magical solution that would make all of the nice girls and all the nice guys of the world come together more easily?