Filed under Opinion Columns

Cyberspace disgrace: Reasons I don’t love online dating

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From taxes to telemarketing, mankind has pushed nearly all of its dirty work onto computers. It’s no surprise, then, that they’re helping us with the dirtiest job of all: dating.

Computer dating services have been around since the 1970s, pairing up couples based on age, income, hobbies and more. The internet has added a few new factors to the formula; there are now thousands of dating sites to choose from, with each taking a slice of the singles market. Web romance is a social phenomenon that could permanently change the way couples meet and interact with one another, for better or worse.

If you’re skeptical about online dating, just look at the stats. Dating sites are the second most popular matchmaker, after friends, and about one-third of all married couples first met online. They’re a great asset if you’re shy, have trouble meeting people or have very particular interests.

Many sites also ask you to describe your relationship goals (long-term, casual or “friends”).  This makes it easier to find singles with the same needs and expectations. For people with little to no dating experience, this might sound perfect.  Unfortunately, it can also add a lot of pressure.

Dating sites rapidly accelerate the process, matching you up with people you might’ve waited months to ask out. This might be helpful for those with cold feet, but it also makes it hard to feel any personal attachment to your date.

Friendship forms the basis of most successful relationships, and it’s hard to establish this with a total stranger. Since dating sites are so impersonal, it’s not uncommon to be overwhelmed with bad or boring options. Having ten different bad dates in a single month are sure to leave you sour.

The sheer number of choices available to online daters can also make them indecisive, leading to an obsessive quest for better and better matches. This brings up messy issues like trust, exclusiveness, and commitment, which obviously don’t affect the thousands of married men and women who secretly use dating websites.

You might also be turned off by the level of commitment which some of your online dates demand. We’ve come a long way from the days of courtship; people are bound to be turned off if you publicly announce that you’re in search of a spouse.

If you do make it through this complicated game, you might not be happy with what’s on the other side of the screen. Like all web users, online daters can take advantage of their anonymity to lie about their age, appearance or sex.

That’s assuming your chat partner is a person; some dating sites have admitted to creating fake profiles to boost membership rates. Granted, you can reverse-trace IP addresses or check usernames on sites like knowem.com, but that’s like hiring a P.I. to stalk the cute girl you sit next to in art history.

People often visit dating sites to find singles with similar interests and experiences. Unless you’re willing to pay a subscription fee, though, you’ll probably be paired up with the same boring and unappealing people you hoped to avoid.

Online dating is a business, and a booming one at that.  Many sites charge users for services like matchmaking, messaging or even profile updates. If you’re saving up for dinner at a French restaurant, you might be left with no resource besides saucy emoticons.

You can remedy this by visiting specialized dating sites, which cater to people with specific careers, hobbies, ethnic backgrounds, and more. There are even sites for people with the same STIs… goody!

Online dating is hell, but all kinds of dating are. Depending on your needs, you might find dating sites to be the perfect solution to your love problems. Just don’t expect it to be as easy as buying jeans on Amazon or adding friends on Facebook. Dating sites offer an experience that’s just as stressful, confusing, humiliating and wonderful as traditional dating, and you’ll only get as much from it as you’re willing to give.

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