My sister, who was divorced a while ago, asked me for advice about using online dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony. My initial thought was “for the love of God, no!” Then my more philosophic nature overrode my emotional response and I offered the following assessment.
Online dating sites have some positive aspects. First, you know that the people there are looking for someone to date. Well, mostly. Some people claim to be there looking for friends only. This struck me as very odd-it is like running into someone in steak restaurant who is there just to buy a salad. Anyway, getting back to the main point: this avoids the problem of trying to sort out if the person you met is interested in dating or not, which is a plus.
Second, you can learn a bit about the person via his or her profile. While people do embellish a bit, a profile can be very revealing. For example, if someone writes “I hat gam playes as muc as I hate cheatrs” (presumably they hate game players as much as they hate cheaters), then you know quite a bit about them. Or, as another example, the following is also very informative: “I am only interested in women with large breasts who will dress up like anime characters , refer to me as ‘Lord Grug’, and fetch me beers.” That reveals much about “Lord Grug.” Too much, perhaps.
Third, they provide a fairly safe avenue of communication. Most sites offer anonymous email and some do check for felons and such.
Online dating services also have many negative aspects.
First, there is the ease with which people can lie. Based on my own experience and those of others, people routinely post misleading or even fake photos and lie outrageously.
One common thing done by both men and women is to post old photos from when they were young and in much better shape. For example, on two occasions I went to meet someone and literally could not recognize them. In one case, the woman had apparently increased in mass about 100% since the photo was taken. In another case, the woman later admitted that her photos were at least 10 years old. They had no trouble spotting me-my photos were up to date. What bothered me was not how they looked, but the fact that they thought it was acceptable to start things off with deception. If someone lies from the very beginning, it is obvious that things will only get worse. As you might imagine, there were no second dates.
My favorite example is from a friend of mine. She said the guy had posted these great pictures on his profile and talked about how athletic he was. When she met him, he “looked like the Pillsbury dough boy…but without the charm.”
Naturally, people also lie about such things as their status (they claim to be single, but are not), their income, their interests, hobbies and so on. So, if you plan on trying such sites, be very careful about the lies. Oh, and don’t lie. That would be…wrong.
Second, there are some very crazy people who are on such sites. These people range from mildly deranged to dangerous.
One person I know tried a major site and went on a date with a guy who had said he was a programmer. When she met him at the movies, he said that he was actually a wizard. Not a programming wizard, but a wizard like Gandalf (or Harry Potter). She bravely went through with the date and at the end of the movie he asked if he could kiss her. She refused, so he licked her face and said “you didn’t say I couldn’t lick you.” She showed great restraint in not killing him.
Another person I know recently met a person who initially seemed very nice. Things did not go well, though. She now has a restraining order against him (he punched her in the face and started stalking her). So, if you try such sites be on guard for crazy people. True, crazy people are common in the real world-watch out for them there, too. And, of course, don’t be a crazy person. If you are a crazy person, you should get help and stay away from dating sites and other living things until you get yourself under control.
Third, when you meet someone via a dating site there is the expectation that it is for romance (or whatever, depending on the site). This means that instead of getting to know a person and then considering the romance option, you are jumping right to the romance assessment step. On one hand, this can be a good thing-as mentioned above this bypasses all the questions about whether the person is interested in dating (in general). On the other hand, it does create a somewhat artificial and potentially rushed situation. Of course, this can be offset by communicating with the person for a while before meeting.
For the curious, my own situation is that I stopped using such sites quite a while ago. The main legacy from that time consists of numerous horrific dates, some good dates and I made a few good friends who still stay in touch. Based on my own experiences, I’ll never use such sites again. But, they might work just great for you-I do know of some people who have had great success with them and swear by such sites as a means of finding the right person. Good luck-you’ll need it. 🙂