Jade Curson describes why sometimes online dating needs to be cut some slack.
There’s a stigma attached to online dating that I find a little baffling. It seems to stem from the idea that using the internet to find a compatible partner is somehow cheating. I’ve had conversations with friends about people who have found love online, and I’m always stunned at the level of scorn reserved for these people: “I’m not surprised, she was never going to pull anyone in real life, was she?” “There must be something wrong with him, or he wouldn’t need to meet strangers off the internet.”
This tendency to separate the internet from the real world is something that really only occurs when discussing romantic relationships. When people ask me where I got these shoes, I don’t feel that admitting I bought them from Amazon will turn me into a social pariah (unless I’m talking to those people who get all “YOU’RE KILLING THE HIGH STREET” about it). But if you were to ask me where I met my boyfriend? “Oh uhh, uhh, y’know, through a friend. He was a friend of a friend. We met through her.”
Well, you know what? I met him on the internet and maybe I don’t care how you feel about that. In an age where we use the internet to do absolutely EVERYTHING, why should dating be an exception? I would agree that no one signs up to internet dating after succeeding in the conventional way, but then, they don’t carry on trying in the conventional way either. No one who is happily in a relationship continues to go out trying to meet a new partner. Let me tell you, anyone trying to pass internet dating off as the primary source of desperate singles has never been on the dance-floor of McClusky’s at 2am on a Thursday. I’ve watched the procession of lonely men moving methodically from one disinterested woman to the next until he either finds a willing partner or skulks back to the side of the floor to watch them having fun without him (those uptight bitches!). I’ll take the internet over that sad display every time, thank you.
There are a couple of ways in which I think internet dating is actually better than going out and doing it manually, so to speak. Firstly, it’s nice to see some romantic prospects from slightly further afield. Picking someone based on similar interests, goals and values seems like a much more sensible way to get the laborious dating procedure over with than just going for the person in your postal district that’s the least repulsive to you.
Secondly, the use of deal-breaker questions. Basically, when you sign up to some dating sites you’re asked a series of questions about your morals and values. You answer them and then you select which answers you would deem acceptable from a potential partner. Then, whenever you look at someone’s profile it shows you their answers alongside yours and before you’ve even spoken to them you know whether you’re compatible in terms of your respective fundamental belief systems. This may sound dull but these things are brilliant. How does the real-world process match up to this? Well, I once invested two weeks in some heavy flirtation with someone before I discovered he was actually horribly racist. Absolute waste of time. I like the internet’s system way better on this one, and I’d love to implement it out there in the non-virtual world. Unfortunately, marching up to an attractive stranger on a night out and demanding their opinions on abortion comes across as a little aggressive, APPARENTLY.
Let’s face it, everyone wants to find their soul mate by accident one day, because that cute little story about how you met in the park after you accidentally knocked her on the head with a Frisbee has an element of kismet, and is just a bit more interesting than “we met online”. On the other hand, I’ve got better things to be doing than mooching around bookshops for hours on end, waiting for a bearded man in a Neutral Milk Hotel t-shirt to come in for a copy of The Bell Jar and fall in love with me. Fatalism is nice as a concept but it’s also bullshit, and I’d prefer to have a more proactive role in the development of my personal relationships than just waiting around for the right geezer to show up.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that this is social networking, not online shopping: you’re attempting to make a connection with another human being, not picking out a mail-order bride. General dating principles don’t change just because you’re at a keyboard instead of a restaurant; you need to make some effort, and you need to have some patience. You can’t join a dating site and then condemn the whole process as futile because you’ve not met anyone promising after a few days. If you don’t meet a prospective partner when you go out to a bar one night, do you decry the whole establishment and refuse to go back again? If a woman won’t give you her number, do you resign yourself to a life of celibacy and cat-ownership? No, no you don’t.
Internet matchmaking is a perfectly viable medium for meeting new people and shouldn’t be seen as a last resort of the undateable, or as an alternative to the “real world”. What is all the fuss about when it comes to “internet” people, anyway? They’re not some special mutant race of Jeremy Kyle guests and murderers. People off the internet are just people, the same as you’d meet in a pub or at an evening class or…I don’t know, wherever it is that people meet people these days. The next person you meet out there in this so-called real world of yours is just as likely to be a sociopath or a cannibal as anyone I meet online. We’re running the same gauntlet, I just get to do it in my pyjamas.
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