Another measure of how successful online dating is might be measured in the number of non-romantic relationships that form as the result of online dates. Over and over during these interviews people would tell me about the friendships that had started, even though the romantic spark wasn’t there. According to Bob, for example, “Two of the women I met, there was no romantic interest there, but I’m still friends with them both years later. I consider them both sisters at this point.”
Conceptually, online dating is simple. You sign up and fill out a questionnaire. You set up a profile with photos and information about yourself. Then you wait for other people to peruse your profile and send you emails, while you do the same.
The key here is the information that everyone supplies. Time and again, people told me that the key to success with online dating is to “Be honest!” As Tina put it, “Don’t lie, unless you want to live with that lie.” Thomas put it another way, “If you lie about your looks, age or weight, you get found out pretty quickly when you show up for that first date. And then, why should I trust anything else you say?”
So assuming everyone is honest with their profile and photos, that gives you a very powerful tool to weed out people that you simply have no chance of forming a relationship with. Don’t want to date a smoker? Filter them out. Only interested in people between 30 and 35 years old that don’t have kids? You can drill down to see just those folks.
Movies and TV have painted a picture of the online dater as someone that goes on hundreds of dates and is constantly experiencing disasters when the other person shows up and isn’t what they advertised. But conducting these interviews, I found the exact opposite to be the case. The folks I spoke with seemed to go on just two or three online-originated dates per year, and for the most part, none of those was a “bad” date.
In general, the ability to sift out people that don’t match your desires, combined with the ability to get to know them remotely (via email and online chat) before you meet them in person, seems to actually reduce the number of dates that online daters go on, and it almost eliminates bad dates entirely.
However, the above result does seem to be gender-specific. The women I talked to all want to spend a lot of time in the email/online chat phase before moving things to the real world. This helps them cut down on bad dates, though it doesn’t prevent emails like the, “I want to strip you naked, cover you in honey and attack you like a hungry bear!” email that Tina once received.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to want to cut the email phase short and skip right to dinner and a movie. This seems to lead to a lot more of the “She was nothing like her pictures!” results that form the general opinion of online dating that the public has. The person with the most online dates of anyone I interviewed (40-plus over 10 years), has had this happen to him. But, as he admitted, he was usually anxious to move things to the real world and got burned a few times because of it.
Advice for the online dater
Is online dating for you? Well, only you know for sure. But it certainly seems to be better than the bar scene that I grew up with.