An Online Dating Experiment

I signed up for an online dating website a few weeks ago. It’s a Melbourne experiment. I’m not looking for a life partner, and anyway I’m moving on soon, so I don’t need to invest too much of myself in it. I thought it would be another way to meet some new people and to try some new bars and cafés.

This time last year, I thought online dating was the last stop on the road to desperation: a place where you looked around and said, “So, it’s come to this.”

Since then, my ideas about appropriate / comfortable ways of meeting new people have changed. After two fruitful farm stays and some interesting road trips organised through the web, the thought of meeting up with someone from an online dating site doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

And everybody’s doing it. I know so many people who have tried internet dating that it just seems like a completely normal thing to do now. It didn’t occur to me that there’s still any sort of stigma attached to it until I casually mentioned to two acquaintances that I was going out that evening with someone from a dating website.

One of them was clearly appalled: “No offence to you but I don’t think the internet is a good way to meet people.” The other one looked a bit shifty then confessed that she’d done some online dating in the past. Her friend’s jaw dropped. “No way! Why didn’t you tell me?!”

It turned out this girl had just been too embarrassed to talk about it until I brought it up. I felt proud that I had removed some of the stigma for her.

It definitely took me a while to work up to online dating. I started by browsing profiles on a dating website but was soon so overwhelmed I had to shut down the computer. Everyone knew who they were and what kind of person they were looking for. I don’t know either of those things.

Then a friend told me about a website that suggests matches based on your answers to multiple choice questions. As well as submitting your own answers, you also have to indicate which answers you would find acceptable from a partner and rate how important that question is to you.

For example, for the “Are you interested in politics?” question I answered “Not very” but I would accept any answer from a potential match since an interest in politics isn’t going to be an important deciding factor for me when it comes to choosing who to date. I said it was mandatory that a potential match answered “No” to the question “Do you think it’s obligatory that a woman shaves her legs?”

I’m not sure I made a good job of answering the questions. Some of them are trickier than they first appear: “What type of person are you? A dog person; a cat person; neither; both.” We had cats at home when I was a teenager, but sometimes if that comes up in conversation, the other person will say to me in a voice (unintentionally) filled with contempt: “Oh, so you’re a cat person?” (Dog people are very bad for doing this.)

It’s not like I dress the cat up in a waistcoat and sit him down for high tea. And it was really a dog that I wanted when I was a kid, but my parents thought a cat would be easier to look after. So does that make me a dog person trapped in a cat person’s life? In the end I answered “neither.”

In my subsequent dating communications, however, I’ve noticed that I attract cat people. This could be because a high proportion of those who join dating websites are stay-at-home cat carers (there are definitely a lot of self-proclaimed computer geeks) or it could be that I am a cat person person. I think as far as a dog person is concerned, that would make me somewhat more contemptible than a cat person, but less bad than a cat.

I’m leaving Melbourne tomorrow so I’ve just taken my profile down from the dating website. Three weeks, three dates and three new bars. I’m happy with that.

Would you try / have you tried online dating?

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6 thoughts on “An Online Dating Experiment

  1. “So does that make me a dog person trapped in a cat person’s life?” – Brilliant – the stuff of genius!

    Technically, I met my husband online though he was vetted prior to that by my brother. Regular online dating probably has a better filtering system 🙂

    • I think your brother is probably a good filter. He’s got to have a pretty good idea of who’s a good match for you. I wonder if he checked if you and your husband were preferred-house-pet compatible first? 😉

  2. Great post Helen – Alex and I debated the online dating question in a soup bar in Cambodia (much to the amusement of our fellow diners). I once tried speed dating at Glastonbury, though my reasons were less than honourable – it was raining, I was tired and the tent had tea and chairs! It was quite a fun way to pass half an hour though so on that basis I’d probably give it a go online 🙂

    • Speed dating sounds much harder than online dating. At least online you have time to plan carefully what you’re going to say. With speed dating I imagine I’d either draw a blank and sit there with my mouth open or babble a lot of rubbish until it was time to move on.

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