My ex and I started dating when I was 19, and we were together for seven years. That’s a lot of Formative Time in a monogamous relationship. Now I’m single. And being single is awesome. Dating is also awesome. …Kind of. Sometimes? Well, it’s definitely a thing, and it’s new to me. I met my ex in a bar, and at the time, I remember online dating being an embarrassing thing that my peers assumed was for people who had given up on “real” dating. My best friend waited a year into her relationship to “confess” to me that she and her boyfriend had met on Plenty of Fish. Fast forward to 2014, and my view on meeting online is that it’s actually more legitimate than meeting at a bar. If you can put up with my tweets and still find me alluring in any way at all, there’s a good chance this might actually work. And it’s true: I’ve met some awesome people through Twitter and Tumblr. People who I’ve come to be very close with online, people who I’ve then met in real life, and people who I’ve dated. This always happened organically and it was always fun. The problem when it comes to dating, at least, is that my interactions on this site are almost exclusively with people at least a plane ride away from me. So, since I was newly single, I decided to try out some dating sites.
What a trip.
I should preface that I live in a town with about 400k people, and that bigger populations probably yield better (or at least more diverse) results when online dating. Here are my experiences with some popular and free dating sites. Then I run down a list of tips I’ve learned to try to make the experience more successful.
The first one I tried was Tinder. Tinder is interesting because it’s overtly a hook-up app. It’s only phone-based and it’s designed nicely. It was fun and kind of addictive when you’d vote up a photo to find that the other person had also voted you up, too. I listed myself as bisexual and didn’t come across any other women, at all. This was a bummer. I spoke to some guys on there, but I didn’t hit it off with any. I understood that our conversation would be a lot less in-depth than dating sites, but even then, there wasn’t a lot of spark. Though some of them looked great in their pics, I discovered that I need a bit more of a connection to entertain the idea of a hook-up.
Plenty of Fish
This site looks like garbage and I couldn’t get past the login screen.
OkCupid works well and looks fine and the user interface isn’t too confusing. But my misadventures on OkCupid began immediately after I joined. I know a lot of people have really bad experiences, and I didn’t have any negative comments hurled at me — but I did get exposed to the phenomena of getting a message written poorly that jumps immediately to some sort of comment about sex. I found this strange because OkCupid isn’t a hook-up site… right? I also found that every person who was messaging me had at least 50% Enemy-level with me. Frustrating at best. My favourite observation is that a large chunk of the men messaging me had answered “yes” to homosexuality as a sin… but I’m listed as bisexual. I met just one person I found enough of a connection with to keep talking to so far. The misadventures make for some good laughs, so that’s a bonus.
FetLife is a fetish lifestyle website meant to facilitate meetings between like-minded fetishists. I joined it as well, and have had a blah time. I think maybe if my city was bigger this would really change my experience, but another problem is that the site is just… not nicely constructed. It’s difficult to navigate. It doesn’t look nice. I don’t think it has a great “matching” algorithm (if any??). I’m not sure if it’s trying to be a dating site or a mini-blogging site where you can post photos and updates and others can “love” them. In general, it hasn’t worked for me at all. If you’ve had success on it and want to share some secrets, please do!
SO in summary: none of these were perfect options for me, but OkCupid was the best. I reactivated my account about a month later, and I’m trying to just take it as casually as possible. Which leads me to sharing what I’ve learned…
Tips for minimizing agony and maximizing sexy good times
I know I’ve only been in this game for a few months, but I think I can offer some tips based on my experience.
1) Include lots of photos where we can actually see you.
I felt instantly strange and didn’t trust anyone who didn’t have any photos, or did have photos but they obscured their face. These people could have been fun and nice but my first impression was “shady.” First impressions matter!
2) Fill out your profile, and actually read profiles of individuals who catch your eye.
Give potential readers something good to read. It doesn’t have to be too personal or wordy. Just a bit about what you like to do, what your favourite movie/book/music/whatever is, and you’re well on your way to actually meeting someone with similar interests. In one episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Charlie’s friends help him write his profile for an online dating site. If you’re having trouble, consider talking to close friends before you set up your profile. They can help you remind you of all your fantastic attributes. Also, they can help you avoid writing an awful profile if you happen to be Charlie Kelly. Take the time to read others’ profiles. Do they seem interesting to you? If so, send a message. The goal, I think, should be that when you read your own profile, your reaction is sitting back and going, “Hell, I’d date me.”
3) Say hello when you first message someone.
Don’t jump into a compliment or worse yet — a pick up line. Say hello. Ask how they are. Mention something from their profile. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can be a dick. If you want actual responses to messages, make your message worth responding to.
4) Consider sending a “Not interested, thanks” message
If someone messages you, and they’re polite and abide by rule #3, but you’re just not interested, consider letting them know politely. Full disclosure: if someone sends me a terribly-written pick up line and their profile makes me gag, I ignore them. Sometimes I even block them. Don’t be afraid to block if you need to.
5) Be clear about your expectations — especially with yourself
My advice is to not go online with the express intent of looking for your for-life partner. I’m definitely not in that state of mind right now, and I make that explicit on my profile. But some of the otherwise interesting people who have messaged me are very obviously looking for something long-term on their profile. Of course, if you’re looking for that, there’s nothing wrong with it. Just be wary that the way you express that can seem intimidating to some people who you might otherwise hit it off with. OkCupid is particularly good about asking you questions that will let people know that you are hoping for a long-term commitment, eventually. There’s no need to go overboard and belabour the point in the written part of your profile.
Think of online dating as a fun and convenient way to meet people with similar interests — just like Twitter and Tumblr, but even more focussed. If your expectations are too high, you might miss out on meeting some people that would be great to know as just friends or just as casual dates. Try to be casual about your expectations and let things happen as naturally as possible.
6) Try to chill
It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, whether online or in person. It can be intimidating to think that you’re summarizing everything someone might want to know about you in a small profile. Get into a good mindset before you write your profile. Think about all the things that make you awesome and all the reasons you’re a good catch. Now project that onto your profile. Imagine you’re getting amped up for a job interview. Dwelling on your insecurities before you head into the boss’ office is a sure-fire way to come across as the wrong candidate for the job. Think about how when you meet someone in real life, you want to put your best foot forward. Your profile is exactly that. Dating is supposed to be fun, so try have fun with it.
Have you tried online dating? Have you had any success? What are your tips for making the experience the best it can be?