Why Online Dating Sucks

It's a generally accepted fact that about 20-25% of all relationships now start online. Not all of them last longer than a month, but lots of them begin. Websites like eHarmony, Match.com, and Plenty of Fish are rapidly gaining prominence in the dating market for helping people find each other and start rubbing their soft bits together. However, for every story of online dating success, there are even more tales of people who weren't able to find anyone, or who weren't able to find anyone worthwhile. I decided to brave the online dating waters in order to see what's actually out there, and I've figured out what everyone who's ever tried and failed at online dating really wants to know: why online dating really, really sucks.

Now, I didn't sign up on any dating sites specifically to do research for this article. I did sign up on some of them, but I did it because I legitimately wanted to try to date people from them, and maybe find something lasting. And as I write this, I've had some mild success: I've been on a number of first dates, and a couple second dates, but nothing that's really gone past that point yet; dating involves a lot of trial and error before you get it right with the right person. If you stick with it, there are worthwhile people out there to talk to and connect with. The problem lies in finding those people.

The single biggest problem with online dating is that it seems like every single profile is exactly the same. I've looked at hundreds of profiles across multiple dating websites, and they might use different words, but with very few exceptions they all invariably say the same things. Here's the basic pattern for women:

About Me:
I love to get out and explore the world, but I also enjoy sitting home on the couch watching TV with some good food. I'm friendly, open, and have a strong personality. I have a job I enjoy, and I'm career-focused, but I work to live, and I'm looking for that special someone to share all of life's experiences with.

About You:
I'm looking for someone who's smart, witty, funny, independent, and confident. You know when to make me laugh, but also when to take a step back and let me work things out on my own. You want to get out and explore everything the city has to offer, but you also don't mind slow dancing in the living room. I'm looking for a partner in crime! And if you're cute, it certainly wouldn't work against you ;)

Favourite Things:
Travel, nights out, nights in, reading, finding new restaurants.

I'm seriously not exaggerating here at all. If you just read profiles, it seriously seems like everyone is a carbon copy of each other. Nobody is willing to actually show their personality in their profile, and instead they all just describe themselves in the most generic way possible, which means the only thing you really have to go on is how they look in their pictures. That leads into the next problem:

Everybody tells you about themselves, but nobody demonstrates anything.. Anybody can put in a profile "people tell me I'm funny." I've seen variations on that phrase almost as often as "I'm looking for a partner in crime," to the point that it's completely meaningless. There's an old adage in the writing world that basically says show, don't tell. The same thing goes for dating profiles: don't just tell me you're funny, inject some humour into your profile. Don't tell me you're smart, demonstrate some vocabulary. Don't tell me what you're like, write your profile in such a way that you show me what you're like.

And the third, most irritating problem: Nobody has any idea how to communicate.. Most men tend to send messages like "Hey baby" and "DTF?" (for those who don't know, "DTF?" stands for "Down To Fuck?" Clearly an appropriate first ever communication to send someone). Someone I went out with recently told me on our date, when we were discussing the merits of online dating, that she'd received one message from someone that just said "Do you like giving blowjobs?" She also told me that I was the only person who'd sent her a message who'd actually read her profile first.

I want you to let that sink in for a minute: she's received dozens of messages from people, and out of all of those messages, I was the only man who'd bothered to read her profile first. Remember when I wrote Too Many Douches, where I complained about how low the bar has been set by the stupid men in our society? This is basically an extension of that. All I have to do in order to stand out in the world of online dating is take the time to read what the person I'm sending a message to has written about herself. It's depressing.

Then, on the other side, we have the women. Most women won't send the first email at all; they'll browse profiles, see one they like, and then just hope that that person decides to contact them. The whole point of online dating is to communicate with people you wouldn't normally connect with, so what's the point of looking at profiles and then not talking to anyone unless they talk to you first? Reach out, say hi; men are far more likely to respond to you intelligently if you send them a message to respond to. And men, if you're going to send someone a message, make sure it contains at least three complete sentences.

Now, to be clear, none of this is meant to say that online dating is bad, or that it doesn't work, or that you shouldn't do it. My point isn't that you shouldn't use online dating, my point is that even after all this time, people haven't figured out how to use it. If everyone puts up the same profile, and if women expect the men to talk to them first, then online dating becomes a game of looking at pictures and judging whether someone's interesting based on how they look. That's how bars work, which is exactly the kind of meat market that many people are trying to avoid with online dating.

So yes, use online dating if you feel that's the avenue you should take. But remember two things: you don't stand out by doing what everyone else is doing; and dating is meant to be fun, even when it's online. And if injecting your personality into your profile scares some people off, remember that those are people with whom it wouldn't have worked anyway, so you're really just saving yourself time and money. So be yourself, take some chances with it, and try to enjoy yourself.

Supplemental reading: Online Dating & Relationships - Pew Internet and American Life Project · Toronto Woman Injured while Writing Fake Profiles for Ashley Madison Sues for $20 million

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