You may recognize these as the standard awkward introductory emails every female regularly receives on OkCupid. While the site is theoretically intended to facilitate dating, I’ve never been sure where messages like these are supposed to lead to.
In response, I recently sat down with a friend and created the most generic OkCupid profile of all time as an experiment to see if the people sending me these ridiculous messages were actually reading about me first.
What happened next shocked me. The steady trickle of emails dried up almost completely. This made me wonder if these guys with the lame come-ons were genuinely interested but didn’t know what else to say.
However, I’m not convinced.
I got to thinking about how the culture of online dating is simultaneously different yet exactly the same as real-life dating. Some people will want to be straightforward. Some will make a joke to ease tension. Some will insult you to get a reaction.
So if it’s the same crapshoot, why are we so obsessed with the thin veil of protection that the Internet provides us? Why would we prefer to email someone for six weeks while using our favorite coffee shop’s WiFi before acutally meeting them in person for coffee? Instead, compliment someone in line and chat for two minutes before asking them out. If you get rejected, chances are you’ll never see them again.
The second option seems a lot more enticing. Yet you, like me, are too busy twiddling with your phone, perhaps on the OkCupid app, while waiting for your latte to look up and make eye contact with anyone, let alone strike up a conversation.
We’re terrified of the vulnerability of living in the moment. We’ve convinced ourselves that we are perpetually too busy for whatever may be in front of us. We’re more unsettled by the possibility of having one unfulfilling encounter than with having 75 unfulfilling encounters online, where you can at least make yourself sound as witty, nonchalant or exciting as you wish you were in person.
Besides, it’s much easier to reject and be rejected online. It’s nice and anonymous, and you don’t have to wait for the other fish in the proverbial sea to swim by since they’re right there waiting for you.
This is not to demean online dating. We use it because it works for us. Because we really are busy and scared of rejection and don’t know how to walk up to someone in a coffee shop without seeming like a creep.
Way back in the day, circa 2011, I thought online dating was for people more than 30 years old who wanted to quit the rat race of dating and find a spouse. Then, last semester, I moved to Hawaii and OkCupid basically saved my sanity. For three months, I was living in a jungle in Maui, 20 miles from the nearest town, without a car, money or friends.
What I did have was Internet access. So I decided to use online dating as a social networking tool. Dating sites are designed for users to interact with minimal pressure, so it felt like a safe venue to hunt for companionship. I went on with the intention of finding cool people to spend my days off.
I met a local guy through OkCupid who connected me with his awesome friends, who became the adventure buddies featured in many of my best stories from paradise. I also stumbled upon a boyfriend-like character that ended up setting the bar for my future suitors.
When I got back to the Philadelphia suburbs three months ago, I updated my profile to see if I could use the same trick to make some friends here. Maybe I left serendipity in Hawaii, or maybe I’m doing something wrong, but this new session on OkCupid has produced more bad date anecdotes than good.
Seriously, how many guys in this city can actually love beer, cats and adventure?
Online dating can be really depressing or really fun. Many of us with online dating profiles may be prone to queasy discomfort when we reflect on the fact that we’re 20-somethings, who should be in the best mingling shape of our lives, trolling for dates, sex or friends online. Overall, though, I’m a fan. There’s no harm in keeping the virtual door to my heart open, and I’m glad that our generation is gradually starting to embrace it in the daylight.
The key is to avoid taking it too seriously. Whenever I’ve used it as an opportunity to meet new people and try new things, I’ve had a worthwhile experience, even if the date didn’t lead anywhere.
I don’t know when I’ll meet the next leading man in my life, but I know that enjoying and sometimes mocking the process is a good way to kill the time in between.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.