I’ve had in mind to write about internet dating for a little while now. It has completely changed the way that many people approach dating in a relatively short space of time and as with many new innovations there are pitfalls to be aware of.
It seemed to me that it would be especially interesting to get the woman’s eye view of internet dating as well so I asked Jaimie to give us her thoughts and you can read her article here.
I won’t deny that internet dating is a fantastically convenient way to browse prospective partners from the comfort of your own home without the anxiety inducing experience of having to approach real live women in real life with the risk (often more imagined than real) that it will all end in shame and humiliation.
I dabbled in internet dating for a period of time a few years ago. I have to say that it was a pretty frustrating experience a lot of the time (maybe it would have been different if I’d had Jaimie’s advice back then!). I went out on a few dates, met some pleasant people but didn’t find love. Having said that, I can’t say that I stuck at it for long. I think I had three goes in all, each for about 3 months or so at a time but got frustrated each time and suspended my profile.
Anyone reading this will probably recognise some if not all of these frustrations from their own experience. My motive in writing this isn’t to put men off internet dating but to highlight some of the downfalls of the experience so that newcomers to the wonderful world of online dating can manage their expectations. There are also some dangers to internet dating, even for men, which it is worth being aware of.
Starting with possibly the most serious issue with internet dating. If you are not familiar with the term, this is where someone deliberately creates a fake profile. There are various reasons for doing this. Sometimes there is a criminal behind it who is trying to obtain personal information or even money. There have been plenty of stories in the media of this sort of thing. Vulnerable (or gullible) people sending money to someone whom they believed they were having a relationship with, possibly so that person could travel to join them or for some other seemingly legitimate purpose, only for them to disappear with the money, never to be heard from again.
Other motivations for catfishing seem a bit more difficult to fathom. Some people are just plain nasty and want to make other people unhappy.
Red flags for this would include, various reasons for not being able to meet in person, too much detail in a profile, especially presenting an idealised view of themselves, ‘love-bombing’ i.e. being very intense very quickly and asking you for lots of information (feigning a genuine interest) whilst being slow to give out anything about themselves.
If you start getting suspicious about an interaction which you are having, you might find this site a useful resource.
This is much more common and not usually motivated by malice. It is, in a sense, ‘catfishing lite’ and is where someone is not pretending to be someone else but is presenting an image of themselves which is so ‘positively managed’ that it bears little resemblance to reality.
I have ranted more than once about the tendency for a lot of people to present an overly air-brushed image of themselves and their life on social media. This is the internet dating expression of that tendency. If these people were selling cars rather than dating they would get into serious hot water with trading standards authorities.
The sort of thing that constitutes kitten-fishing is using very old pictures, pictures of their head only – nothing full length, lies about interests, careers, and so on.
Unlike cat-fishing, no real harm is likely to come from this but it is bloody annoying. The best policy is probably to arrange to have a conversation with someone on the phone before arranging to meet. Even then, you are not guaranteed to spot the fake.
I had some experience of this. I was messaging a woman who seemed pleasant enough and arranged to meet her for coffee one lunch time (a very good strategy for a first meet – see below). I should have been suspicious about the only photo on her profile – it was a very close cropped picture of her face, not even her whole head. Anyway, about 30 minutes before we were due to meet I received a text from her saying “just to say, I am a size 16 and don’t want to waste your time if you would prefer not to meet”. I don’t normally go for large girls but, I thought, size 16 (UK) isn’t really huge and I have known some very sexy women over the years who would fit into that size bracket. No problem, I responded, lets just go for coffee and see how we get on.
I arrived at the coffee shop first and as I was waiting in the queue I texted her to ask what she would like. She responded saying that she was just walking up to the door. Anyway, a woman came in and I didn’t recognise her at first from the photo. It took a few seconds for it to sink in that this was, indeed, my date.
Size 16? Not by any measure known to me. The woman was at least a size 22 (and I am being kind here). She was wearing one of those elasticated waist skirts which is about all you can wear when you are morbidly obese. She had lank shoulder length hair which looked like it had not been washed in a couple of days and not a scrap of makeup. Notwithstanding the subterfuge about her size I was mildly offended that she had apparently made no effort over her appearance to come out on a date (even if it was just coffee). Just for the record, I had made an effort. No makeup though, you understand.
I could have turned on my heel and just walked out but I decided to have coffee and leave it at that. I was, however, pretty pissed off. Fortunately, the experience only cost me a few pounds and a wasted lunch break. It did make me more cautious about fixing up dates though.
The corollary of this is that you too should avoid dishonesty in your own profile. Yes, you might get a date or two with women that you otherwise wouldn’t but it will not go well for you.
Paying for the date v going ‘Dutch’
This is an issue uniquely for heterosexual men I think. We all know, I think, that tradition dictates that, on a first date, the man should pick up the bill. In general terms I have no problem with this principle. I know that I am regarded by those who know me as being fairly generous with my money, first to the bar to buy a round and all that sort of thing.
The problem with internet dating, like every other aspect of modern life where technology is involved, is that it speeds everything up. If you were dating, old school, by going out in the evenings and meeting people and getting a phone number and then arranging a date later on, even if you were a prolific dater you would struggle to line up as many dates as you can with internet dating.
During my first go with a dating site I got three or four dates a month for two or three months. Now, if you take each one of those dates out for ‘a bite to eat and a drink’, even if you are keeping it reasonable, you know, pizza’s and a bottle of wine with a drink at the bar afterwards you are still looking at quite an outlay if you are going on a first date once a week and you are paying for it.
Now this is not a problem if you are reasonably affluent. I wasn’t at the time and I wrestled with my wish to be a gentleman and pay the bill and my dwindling bank balance. In fairness, most women offered to go halves or at least get drinks after food. There was one though, spent the whole evening with me and never offered to pay for a damn thing. Needless to say, there was no second date.
When I had my second go at internet dating I hit upon the idea of dispensing with evening dates altogether initially. I recommend that you do the same thing too. I would invite the prospective partner to meet me at a coffee shop at lunch time.
This approach has several benefits.
Firstly, it is time limited. If you are just not feeling it you can politely bail out when the coffees have been drunk. Secondly, it is only going to cost the price of a coffee and a sandwich or piece of cake. Thirdly, it is less intense than an evening out so it takes the pressure off for both of you. If you are meeting at a weekend you can introduce a fake time-limit to get you out of there if you need to. Tell her that you are sorry but you need to be away by 2pm for something you have been dumped with (use your imagination). Then, if you are really getting on well you can go off to make a ‘phone call’ to get out of your other commitment. She will feel pleased that you have broken your other commitment to spend time with her. Smooth huh?
Some people don’t want to date for romantic reasons but still want to have sex. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you are honest about your motivations (as well as your marital status). Fortunately, there are a number of sites which cater for this, *ahem* ‘specific’ requirement. If you are after a friend with benefits without the emotional entanglements, a quick search on Google (other search engines are available) will reveal that you are well served. Some of these sites are more, shall we say, salubrious than others.
Sex dating brings with it it’s own risks and considerations. Look, I won’t drone on about safe sex – you are grown ups and you can take responsibility for your own sexual health. Other considerations are:
• There are far more men than women on these sites. That means that the girls can have their pick of the litter and there are quite a few frustrated men. Women who have used these sites tell me that they can get more messages a day than they can possibly keep up with. As a guy, unless, you are ridiculously hot, you’ll be lucky to get any. Expect to have to make all of the running with a low message to response conversion rate.
• Most sites allow you to join for free but you have to pay the membership fee to read or send messages. If you go free to start with you will get messages from very hot women which you can’t open until you pay the subs. When you have joined you will find that these are not real women (usually). The sites would, of course, strongly deny that they were behind this and that this is just a cynical way of getting men to pay up a subscription fee.
• You are much more likely to get laid if you are in shape. Sorry to be blunt, but if you are fat and/or over 45 your chances of getting a hook-up diminish dramatically.
Paid vs free sites
I’m quite a fan of not paying for something if you can get it for free. Who isn’t? So why would you pay to join an internet dating site when you could join a free one?
Well, in the case of internet dating, my view is that it is money well spent. Why? Well, and this is going to sound snobbish, but the mere fact that you have to pay to join a site immediately filters out a high proportion of low-rent daters.
If you need convincing, have a little browse on Plenty of Fish (free) and then Match.com (paid). You will see what I mean. If, on the other hand, Burberry-check baseball caps, huge hoop ear-rings and pet pit-bull terriers called ‘Tyson’ are your thing, why pay more?