Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Online Dating, Reprise

Once again, Michelle posts a comment that inspires a full entry. :)

She asked, " My sister is seriously desperate to find someone... right now she keeps sending "pokes" or "winks" or whatever the hell they're called back and forth to people on m*tch.com. But I honeslty know of about 5 people who got married using eHarmony and I was just wondering if you think eHarmony changed your life or that you could have met "the one" using some other service or using nothing at all...?"



I kid. Sort of. :)

When I was first jumping back into the dating pool, I said to Alissa, "I just want to meet someone in the usual way!" and she said something like, "This is the usual way these days." If that helps your sister get over the stigma of "needing a personal ad" at all.

Like I said, I did a lot of different online dating services. I was working the free trial periods like crazy AND I found that if you go to cancel your service, they will occasionally extend your membership for at least two weeks for free. I did Spring Street (which does the online personals for theonion.com), Match.com, eHarmony, GreatBoyfriends.com and Yahoo Personals. Great Boyfriends was an awesome idea. Sisters, cousins, ex's and platonic girlfriends recommended their favorite single guys, but it wasn't that popular, I guess? So nothing ever came of it.

Spring Street was expensive and I only ever made a few connections that didn't go anywhere beyond email. (eHarmony is more expensive, but I got a lot of communications and options so it felt worth it.) Yahoo personals worked really well for friends of mine, but I was mostly getting hits from "playas" in the Bronx who wanted "big and beautiful girls," which... was.. flattering? Not? Just not really my thing, but that was probably more indicative of the region I was searching in than anything.

Most of my energy went into eHarmony and Match.com. A couple of pieces of advice for Michelle's sister if she decides into jump into online dating with both feet.

1. Check out other girls' profiles so you know what your competition is like. I started with a sincere profile without reading any other girls' profiles in my area. Once I checked them out and saw that there was one "Princess seeking her prince" profile after another, I wrote a funny, sarcastic one using the phrase "the whole princess thing mystifies me" and got a lot more attention.

2. Upload a pretty photo. This sounds incredibly shallow. I hate it. At first I didn't even want to post a picture, because it shouldn't matter. It just shouldn't. But the truth is, paying for online dating and not getting to actually meet people is incredibly frustrating. You get more traffic with nice photos, period.

3. Be prepared to meet a lot of guys for coffee. Cindy was a big cheerleader for me when I was online dating, and I think you met, like, what? 14 different guys for coffee before you met Dave? And you don't even drink coffee, right?

4. Online dating can be really hard on the self-esteem. Unlike blind dates, where the people who set you up are friends, co-workers, etc., people you meet online have no social pressure or obligation to call you again, let you down easy, or even outright reject you. They just disappear, stop responding to email, POOF! A lot of services let you see the last time someone logged in, so you know if they got your most recent message. Wondering why they just punk out after you thought you had a good date or whatever is a REAL mindfuck. Also, people search all hours of the day and night, so you get winks and messages round the clock. Checking your inbox can become a little habit-forming in a not-so-good way.

5. In my experience, and this is a little but of a stereotype along gender lines, but most of the women I know who tried online dating wanted to meet new, interesting people. By contrast, I met a lot of guys who were doing online dating so they could tell their ex-girlfriends they met a girl on the Internet, and I know more than a few other ladies who had the same experience. That really sucked. I wasn't prepared for that. (NOT EVERY GUY IS LIKE THAT, just a lot of the ones I met. See also, #6). I mean, yeah, I had an ex, too, but for me, online dating wasn't about making him jealous. It was much, much more about the fact that I hadn't been "out there" since college. I didn't know how to meet people out of the college environment where you can ALWAYS bump into someone again, and socializing is a huge part of how you spend your time.

6. People have different goals for online dating. Some people just want to get laid. Spring Street Personals used to let you choose if you were seeking friendship, dating or play. I found the "play only" people refreshingly honest. A lot of people are on a spouse-hunt. You can always tell if a guy is on a wife hunt because his profile will show him holding a baby- usually a niece or nephew. I wasn't on a Husband Hunt, to tell you the truth. I like Joel because he was nice, he called when he said he would, and he had a real job. The marriage thing is just kind of how things naturally progressed for us. I mostly chose to do eHarmony because I figured it was safer in the greater NY Metropolitan area to do a more expensive service- the predators can all preditate for free on craigslist.

Finally, about eHarmony... Neither Joel nor I knew that Neil Clark Warren was an uber-Christian who refuses to match LGBT people when we signed up. He got his start of Focus on The Family, a.k.a. Godbag Blowhards R Us. Once I found out about that, I donated an equivalent amount of money to what I spent on eHarmony to PFLAG and organizations working for the legalization of gay marriage, but I still feel a little bad about it. (Yes, even though I didn't know about it. Sometimes it's hard being me.) You can hear a really funny NPR interview with him about it here. I particularly like the part when Terry Gross calls him out on the fact that eHarmony matches Wiccans but not lesbians about five minutes into the segment. Hee.

As for whether eHarmony really is different and whether it changed my life or if I could have found "the one"...? I'm not sure I would have found Joel, the individual himself, without it. I can't imagine a scenario where we would have bumped into each other. Our paths probably wouldn't have crossed.

That said, I don't really believe in "The One." I think, in many ways, that love is a choice. You can't always control whom you're attracted to, or even whom you fall in love with, but the decision to be fully present in a relationship once you've connected and make it work is a choice.

I do believe that my ex and I could have had a happy marriage if he'd been willing to stay. It's definitely worked out for the best for both of us, and I wouldn't change it, or take him back, or leave Joel for anything in the world. Joel is the best partner for me, and this is the healthiest, happiest relationship I've ever known, but I don't think there's only One Person who's pre-destined to make any one person happy forever and ever. I think a lot of different people can love each other at different phases of their lives, but that's just me.

eHarmony's "patented compatibility profile" is just the Brinks Personality Test, which is a psychological test used to assess personality traits. It's a well-respected assessment of personality and compatibility outside of the eHarmony context, it's not really a mystery. As for whether or not eHarmony *really* makes more marriages per match than any other service? It's probably due to the fact that they reject a lot of people, including people who have been divorced more than twice. Which is what those chemistry.com "rejected by eHarmony" commercials are about.

Before meeting Joel, I did encounter my share of incompatible mismatched somewhat weirdos on eHarmony, but not as many I met on Match.com. That said, the eHarmony weirdos came across as more sincere somehow. So there that is. The eHarmony difference.

This parody is really funny, too.


Lo Lo said...

Seeing as the sister Michelle wrote in about is also MY sister, I found this post both amusing and helpful. I can always point to it when she comes to me complaining about online dating. :)

Oh, and the parody was hilarious!

cindy w said...

I'm thinking it was probably way more than 14 coffee dates before I met Dave - it felt like hundreds. And no, I don't drink coffee. I drank a whooole lot of tea during that time.

The reason for the coffee date is that you can always find an excuse to extend the date if it's going well, but if it's sucking, you have a quick & easy out. Meeting for drinks also works. Even if you don't drink, just order a ginger ale.

My profile was also kind of sarcastic and funny, which I think helped me get a lot of responses. And the picture thing is also true. You MUST put a photo on your dating profile. I don't know if I agree that it shouldn't matter - my parameters of what I'm attracted to are pretty broad, but they still exist. I wouldn't have met a guy if he didn't have his picture on his profile, so I thought it was fair for the street to go both ways. But if a guy "gave bad email" (i.e., if he sent me a form letter that didn't say anything personal), he was immediately weeded out.

As far as eHarmony versus Match versus any of the other sites, I think a lot of depends on where you live. My best friend got a lot of dates on Yahoo personals when she lived in Memphis. I found almost no one on eHarmony in Seattle. Match, however, seemed to be pretty huge here. So geography is definitely a factor.

And for what it's worth, I don't believe in "the one" either. I think there are any number of people that you can make a relationship work with, if you're both willing to put in the time and effort.

Good luck to your sister, Michelle & LoLo!

Michelle said...

Yeah, I don't believe in "the one" either, but I guess some people do...and it's easier than writing "the one you ended up marrying" or something like that.

I am sending the link to my sister as we speak. THANKS ANGIE and everyone else who has contributed!

Carl said...

Advice to Michelle's sister:

Avoid coffee dates. They're horrible. Instead, invite the guys to walk around town or to nice parks. If you don't have your own dog to take to the parks, see if you can borrow a friend's dog. Wandering around, you learn A LOT more about the person. Plus, you work up an apetite and if you like each other, you have an easy way to extend the date to sharing dinner together.

This formula has really worked well for me.