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There are many dating sites out there. Is your favorite dating website Match.com? On all such sites, you enter a dating profile, and then the online dating site utilizes its own algorithm for matchmmaking. Social networking sites are probably superior for online matchmmaking purposes.


 
Home / Reality Or The Lack Of It /
The Mating Or The Baiting Game
Online dating

True love sounds so great that entire industries are built around it.  Does the dating industry really help us find it?



Back in my parents' generation, a person graduated college and then marched down the aisle without too much delay.  It was common to marry a childhood or college sweetheart or get set up on a blind date, always wide open to the possibility of it leading to a trip to the altar in the not-too-distant future. 

Since 1900, the average age at marriage has risen for both sexes, in the United States and in most other industrialized countries.  It has not been a steady rise.   In 1900, our man at the altar would have averaged 25.9; his bride-to-be, 22.  From 1910 to 1960, the average age for men actually fell,  to 22.8 years.  From the 1970's onwards, the average age for both sexes has increased, but not by much when you compare those ages to the 1900 figures.   Men today are, on average, 26.8 years old, and the women 25.1. 

The idea of eternal love and marrying for it has been tossed around in songs and movies for eternity.  Were the couples of 1960 so much more attuned to love than the couples of today to find true love at younger ages?

Stats on eternal love are hard to come by, if they exist.  We'll leave that debate for another day.  Let's look at what we can examine.  If people are marrying later than they did in 1960, then they're probably dating more partners beforehand; and if they're dating more partners beforehand, their experience should be broader and their choices sounder.   

Back in 1960, there wasn't a dating industry.   You didn't need an industry when you probably married a person from college or a friend of a friend.  But today, people don't usually marry out of college.  I remember thinking it unusual that geeky (and probably virginal) Alan Scheinbaum was going to be marrying his college dreamboat a few weeks after graduation.  It was behavior from another era, like opening up a car door for a girl: it might look chivalrous, but it also seems old-fashioned.   And since people no longer feel restricted to attend a college and settle down in the locales where they've grown up, their friendship network can change radically, so radically that none of us really expect a buddy to set us up on a blind date that can lead to marriage.    Anyway, it's the Information Age now, and all of us expect lots of choices at our fingertips.  Why rely on your pals to set you up when there's an industry in place that will gladly do it for you?

The match up protocols haven't fundamentally changed since the matchmakers of Eastern Europe paired up children from families of similar backgrounds.  It's just gotten more efficient.  Anonymous dating usually involves filling out some kind of detailed questionnaire about your interests, hobbies, and physical attributes.  Video profiling became common in the 1980's.  Someone seeking a potential date could view videotapes of potential prospects.  Today, with the ubiquity of the internet, the date seeker can skim through hundreds of profiles while sitting on his coach potato behind at home until s/he finds one that appears suitable.

I can see the appeal of online dating.   If given the choice of finding a boy- or girlfriend by visiting a smoky bar or discotheque and trying to chat with him/her over loud music vs skimming a profile while lying on the couch drinking a fine wine, who wouldn't opt for the latter?  A month's subscription at one of the most popular sites, Match.com, costs $30, less than half the money I spent bar hopping in Perth one night on watered-down cocktails and meeting women I wouldn't want to ever see again.   There's just one major problem with these online dating sites.  

Members draft their own profiles.      

There's a good chance you're scratching your head over that last sentence.  Of course members draft their own profiles.  Who else is going to write up a glittering profile about you to market yourself to all those wonderful prospects?  And therein lies the snag.  No one (or very, very few) is objective about him- or herself. 

You don't have to believe me on that point.  Just skim a few user profiles on any dating site.   Do any people describe themselves as boring, stupid, or ugly?  Obviously, a lot of these people have to be.  Some facts are too hard to conceal, so they're disguised.  A rather obese woman becomes 'voluptuous', and a similar type of man is 'well-built.'

It's very common for someone to say they want a mate with a sense of humor.  What the hell does that really mean?  You can only recognize a sense of humor in someone else if you have one yourself, and yet we know from our everyday experiences that not everyone we meet -- in fact, very few people we meet -- is actually amusing.  Nonetheless, you'll never read on someone's dating profile that s/he's seeking someone bland because no one wants to admit that s/he is bland, too.

Vanity is not restricted to females.   In a survey in Psychology Today, a  quarter of the men who rated themselves as "very attractive" were overweight.      That's a major reality distortion, because 70% of the females surveyed said they found men more than 20 lbs overweight unacceptable as dates, and 30% said they wouldn't look twice at a guy if he were 10 lbs overweight.  This equates to a lot of "very attractive" men not getting any dates. 

Too many people live on Fantasy Land.   There's a vast disparity between the way they view themselves and the way other people view them.   I can't count the number of people I've met who say that they're routinely mistaken as being 5 or 10 (hell, make it 15) years younger than their actual ages.   Nearly all looked their ages or beyond.   One Israeli man was chubby and bald and 45 but told me he was regularly pegged as no more than 33.  He must have been querying blind people.  Interestingly, if you ask any of these "youth" how old you are, they'll probably assess you as older than your real age.  Although the bald Israeli looked far older than I by any normal basis of age measurement, he judged me to be a few years older than himself.   I have a theory why this is so.  In order to perpetuate his own reality distortion that he looked better than average for his age, everyone else had to look worse than average for theirs. 

A dating profile on a dating site is like marketing any kind of product:  the good is highlighted, the bad is barely mentioned or minimized.  Profile photographs show a person looking the best they ever have.  It's irrelevant if the person isn't actually as attractive as the photograph suggests or if the photograph is, perhaps, a decade old. 

The dating game's objectives seem at odds with its methods.  Each party is there, ostensibly, to find a 'compatible' mate, compatibility assessed by how similar your questionnaire checkbox answers are to the prospects.   To accurately grade compatibility by this measure, each has to fully and honestly disclose his/her good points as well as bad.

Ask yourself what other industry is so honest and forthright.  Does Hollywood tell you the movie they're trying to get you to see is actually a future box office turkey?  Did the American automaker industry of the 1980's admit that they manufactured low quality cars?  Does Anheuser-Busch inform you that Budweiser really isn't made with highest quality ingredients? When Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, does it proudly proclaim it's full of bugs? 

Add to the confusion that most people don't even know what they want  -- on a subconscious level, that is, and sometimes not even consciously either.  For example, women who've been abused by prior partners, either emotionally or physically, tend to gravitate towards other abusers.    Consciously, they don't want to be abused.  But since it's their conscious selves who write up their profiles, they say they're looking for one type of man when deep down they feel they deserve another.    

Dating sites strive to set themselves apart by promising a better algorithm that more perfectly matches member profiles.  One site I came across said they used handwriting analysis to find your wonder match.   Does a perfect matching algorithm even exist?  Who really knows what brings two people together?  The dating industry would have you believe it comes down to common religion or similar hobbies or enjoying the same type of music, but I don't buy that any more.

Take my current girlfriend.  She is, by far, the best woman I've ever been with.   I'm crazy about her.  Yet on a conventional match-up, there should be no fit.   We're different races from different cultures from different continents with completely different personalities.   She has a child from a previous marriage.  Had she put up an honest profile on a dating site, I wouldn't have responded.  It was after I met her that I realized how wonderful she was.   It just goes to show that many of the best things which happen to us, including our romantic partners, are things we stumble upon, not things we're looking for. 

There'll be numerous people who rebut me on this point.  I can already envision a flame along the lines of "You can stick it up your $@)*@$(, Doug!  I met my wonderful wife on MailOrderYourselfABride.com  What the $)@*$@() do  you know about true love?"    I think that to find true love in the dating (or mail order bride) industry, you have to already be in love with the idea of falling in love.  Plenty of people who marry as a result of dating industry hookups aren't what I'd term "true lovers."  They're people who didn't want to be alone and used the convenience of dating sites to locate an acceptable enough mate to proceed onto the marriage and children circuit.   It's not a far cry from what the matchmakers of yore did.  The matchmakers never advertised they were in the true love or soul mate business.  They were in the business of putting a young man and a young woman together who could get along well enough to propagate. 

Match.com brags on its web site that "We've inspired twice as many marriages as any other site," as if getting married via a dating site is some amazing achievement.  Active visitors to a dating site are already ripe to the idea of marriage, and any two lonely people can get married to one another even if they're not immensely compatible.   Plenty of people in my parents' generation did it. 

Social networking sites seem a better way, to me, of hooking up.   It's less forced.   You're not actively out there looking for a match.  As your network increases in size as you let friends of friends into your contact lists, you may meet someone, virtually at first, who you eventually decide to meet in person.  It's sort of like a blind date without any of your friends actively setting it up. 

 This more simulates what happens in real life.   Think about how you met your best friends.  It didn't happen through a "Find A Best Friend" service.  You met your best friends naturally through the places you went, the activities you did, and the people you interacted with.  You got to observe these prospects in true life settings to see how they behaved, to see if they were people you wanted to spend more time with.  You never auditioned them as potential best friends.  What's so different about a romantic partner?

If there's an easy way to find us true love, and the company offering the service is willing to charge less than $50/month for the privilege, I'm sure a huge number of already allegedly happy couples would sign up for the service, too, including married couples.  

I won't be holding my breath. 


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