Monday, October 18, 2010

No Strings Attached... or, Computer Love

Confession time.

I have done something that I'm pretty shy about discussing. I mean, I know I shouldn't necessarily be ashamed of it, but it's pretty embarrassing to admit. A lot of people have done it, or thought about doing it, or started doing it then changed their minds half-way through. It's something that I don't really want my mom to find about. I don't want her to worry about me and I don't want my sisters to think I'm some sort of loser.

I'm talking about Internet Dating. What did you think I was talking about, weirdo?

Internet Dating., e-Harmony, Plenty of Fish, Chemistry, Cupid - they all promise the same thing:
"Using our technology, we find the PERFECT mate for you. We use a highly sophisticated system to dissect you and your personality and values. We then match you with someone who has the same neurotic hang-ups as you do and somehow hasn't managed to meet anyone in the "real" world. We guarantee you'll find love!"
Most of these sites make a pretty penny by preying on people's need for companionship. They hook you by offering "free communication weekends." They usually do it during holiday weekends - Memorial Day, Labor Day - weekends when you're wishing you were at some cozy Bed and Breakfast with that special someone instead of home, alone, in bed all day, watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. While in the middle of episode 8, you see the commercial. It usually features a very pretty couple - running on the beach, snuggling in front of a fire or tossing a Frisbee in the park- and these couples all give testimonials about how great it is that they finally met someone, and that it was all because of a 2x2 photo and a well-written profile. They just look so...happy, and non-alone. It's all too much and before you know it, your laptop is open and you're answering the survey and finding a picture to upload.

Here's how they hook you - during the "free" days, there isn't too much activity going on, but I swear, the day after the promotion ends, you all of a sudden have emails from potential matches, and they want to meet you! They want to love you and whisk you away on weekend trips to Europe! For just $59.99....

Yes, you read that right. In writing this, I did some research. One site charges $34.99 for one month, or 6 months at an upfront cost of $107.94 (and love is guaranteed*). Another makes you fill out an entire survey before charging you $59.99 to be matched with people who filled out the same survey as you. The clever little devils make you enter your email first so that even if you don't sign up, they'll still send you matches as a means of enticing you.

In 2009 I was dating someone that I liked a lot. Our break-up was a Level 5 Devastation. I was sick over him. I have a friend, C., who is very protective of me and hates to see me sad. She has also been known to give the advice "the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new," so about two weeks after the break-up, she called me while I was at work one day.
"I think you should do internet dating," she said.
"I don't have it in me," I said, in my usual post-break-up-I'm-never-dating-again-and-possibly-joining-a-convent mumble.
"Either you sign up or I sign you up, but either way, you're doing it," she threatened.

I had two possible choices. Let C. sign me up and write God knows what, or sign myself up and at least have some control. I joined one of the free sites. Wow, talk about a quick return. It's like users are just waiting for fresh meat to join, so I got a bunch of really interesting hits very quickly. One guy gave me his phone number in his first message to me (um, delete), another said he felt like I was his soul mate and he was so glad I joined (delete); yet another said he was looking for a date... TONIGHT and TONIGHT ONLY (delete). I began clicking around, looking at different user profiles. After looking through what seemed like 1,000 accounts, I realized that about 90% of them say the same thing:
Hi there ladies. I've been hurt before, but I'm ready to love again! In my spare time, I like to hike, listen to music, travel, cook, go to concerts, art museums, foreign films, go wine-tasting, salsa dancing and just enjoy life. I have two kids and they are my world. I would like to meet someone who is independent, intelligent, easy going and fun. I want a drama-free relationship. On our first date, I would like to go somewhere quiet, where we can talk and get to know each other.
I just recently had my heart broken and I'm looking for my rebound. I have no interest in a relationship so I'm going to tell you I've been hurt and therefore have to take it slow. I like to hang out, watch football with my friends and drink beer. I have my kids every other weekend and their mom is nothing but drama. I want someone who will let me do whatever I want but will still be there when I want/need her. We can meet up for drinks at Chili's for our first date, and then I'll ask you to come over and watch a movie, so I can then try and get you into bed.
Even worse, almost all of them have pictures of themselves with their dog (I'm allergic) or in the woods somewhere (simply to PROVE they love to hike) or without their shirt on. I even saw one where the guy had a shirtless picture of himself with his shirtless dad sitting in the background (delete).

Of course, there are the others, the interesting ones, the funny ones, the nerds... the ones who plan Sunday dates at bookstores... for those of you who have been following these posts, yes, dear reader, I met Frank online. His first message said that he was impressed that I spelled every word right. I shoulda known....hell, you shoulda known!

The best, however, was the guy whose profile I re-wrote. Again, I'm not making this up. Tom** wrote to me one evening. In his message, he wrote:
I am a lonely guy and no one seems to want to respond to me on this thing. I'm hoping you will.
Oh, sweetie, no. Wrong approach. Before replying, I read his profile. It read something like this:
I'm newly single and really lonely. I have three kids and I love them and put them first above all else. I work on cars, and I like re-building cars. When I'm not hanging out with my kids, I'm working on cars. I don't really have much time. I hope to meet a good lady who likes to be spoiled, because that's what I'm all about. Write to me, sexy ladies.
Now, I had zero interest in this guy, but I felt bad for him. I wanted to help. So I re-wrote his profile for him. I didn't make stuff up or take out anything he wrote, I simply made it sound a little better. I sent it to him, explaining that maybe he would have better luck with a different profile. He never replied. Unfortunately, he was one of the more interesting hits I received.

I've since given up on the internet thing. I did meet someone and we dated for four months, but it really didn't work for us... we're still friends, though, and these days, that's all I really have energy for anyway. Next time I find myself in bed watching Law and Order, I'll call him. Maybe we can watch TV together.

Next time: The Art of Kissing

Please remember - your safety comes first above all else! Click the link below for some internet dating safety tips!

*Here's how the "guarantee" reads:
"It works so well, we guarantee it. That's why we've created the *****.com Guarantee. If you don't find someone special within 6 months, we'll give you an additional 6 months free!" I know someone who renews every six months, and has been doing so since 2006.

**Names have been changed to protect the identity of the un-smooth

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