iLove You: Internet Dating in NOLA

21:09 February 25, 2015

Internet Dating in the Modern World

Somewhat hesitantly, I recently joined an internet dating site…again. I’d dated online before and it gave me many good stories and an ex-husband. But it’s an overwhelming, labor-intensive, often awkward and discouraging task. It’d be so much easier to simply sit back and wait for Mr. Right to ride in on a white Vespa and sweep me off my feet.

But in today’s age of social media and iPhones, internet dating has surpassed “real-world dating” as the primary way to meet a potential romantic partner. While online dating used to have a certain stigma, these days almost everyone’s doing it. Seventy-six percent of the 54.25 million singles in the U.S. have dabbled in the world of internet dating. eHarmony and are industry leaders, with approximately 15.5 and 21.6 million members, respectively. 

One internet dater compared online dating to a “vending machine for girlfriends.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that. Like anything in life, you have to put in a little effort to reap the benefits, whether that happens to be a bag of Cheetos or true love. And while vending machine accidents kill twice as many people every year as shark attacks do, you’re likely to survive even the most awkward of dates. So have faith … meeting your other half online is definitely possible, and worth the effort. Statistics prove it. With one third of recent marriages having digital origins—and allegedly being happier and longer-lasting unions—the odds are in your favor. Today, allowing modern technology to play matchmaker is increasingly the predominant and best option for meeting that special someone.

Internet dating’s main objectives are to help weed out freaks and weirdos and to establish compatibility through prison-worthy interrogations. Plug in the required info (hobbies, ideal mate criteria, dream date scenarios, weird quirks and oddities) and through some sort of convoluted scientific equation of data and love, the computer spits out your “perfect match.” But composing online profiles and filling out dating site questionnaires can be a lengthy and grueling time-suck. eHarmony’s notoriously elaborate survey has 400 questions! So much for those who claim they meet people online to save time in a hectic world. 

One internet dater compared online dating to a “vending machine for girlfriends.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that. 

Dating on the internet is like shopping on Amazon or eBay … if, that is, the books, electronics and other merchandise sent you messages like “Get at me sistah!!! We'll have din din!!!” or “What’s your name, sweetie?” You go on the internet to “shop” for mates, while simultaneously “selling” yourself as a hot commodity for the right buyer, in much the same way you’d sell your used camera or outgrown sweater. Post the prettiest photos and the most appealing descriptions to draw in potential shoppers. But you’ll also need to separate the bargains from the rip-offs in order to find the best deals.

Can’t buy me love? Not so anymore. Not only can you buy love, you may have to. Most dating websites cost at least $60 a month. The average relationship-seeker forks out $239 a year for dating site memberships, with the online dating industry raking in a total of $1.25 billion annually. Love has become big business.

Internet dating is as far-reaching as it is expensive. There’s something for literally everyone. In addition to generalized, one-size-fits-all sites, there are “niche” sites that focus on particular interests or types of people. Everyone from nerds to farmers to women in prison is looking for love in all the right places. And pot smokers and even Trekkies need love, too. 

What’s more, internet dating is ageless. It’s not only for the young, Twitter-crazed techno-freaks who’d rather hide behind their computer screens than meet in person. Online dating among baby boomers has become all the rage. Sites like are designed just for them.

But you’ve got to kiss a lot of e-frogs before you find your online prince.

One guy sent me a message that said merely “door-hinge.” Then there was the gentleman whose initial contact was a rambling, run-on, 900-word soliloquy about women from Ghana looking for green cards, being opinionated about beaches and the fact that he owns comfortable but not ridiculous cowboy boots and knows how to “cook the heck out of” shrimp, whitefish and crustaceans. All this in his very first message. I’ve met up with a handful of guys who’ve turned out to be quite nice, but the romantic chemistry was lacking and we almost instantly entered the Friend Zone.

Then, after a little while of unsuccessful dating, it happened. The stars and the planets—and the bitmaps, broadband and interfaces—aligned, and I met somebody from cyberspace that I actually really liked. We hit it off on our first date, and happily dated for about a month … before he disappeared without a word. Or an email.

There are no guarantees with dating, no matter how you meet. Any time people are interacting, online or off, there’s the potential for difficulties. And internet dating has certain downfalls. It lends itself to overly casual and superficial connections. Sites like Tinder encourage selecting a mate based on looks alone. In addition, there’s always the risk of online predators and creepy losers who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to prey on unsuspecting innocents. Women’s in-boxes are frequently inundated with harassing or overtly sexual messages. 

Discrimination on the basis of race or sexual orientation is sometimes a problem. Several sites aren’t gay-friendly. And statistics prove that racism is an online virus. Ninety-seven percent of white men refuse to date black women, while 92% of white women don’t want to date black men and 93% won’t date Asians. Though many people wouldn’t own up to this in reality, it’s easy to be biased online. Simply avoid checking the little boxes beside the races you want to exclude, and you too can secretly be a racist.  

Probably the biggest issue with internet dating is the tendency to exaggerate or misrepresent oneself. If you met someone the old-fashioned way in a bar, you’d have an equal risk of him lying about his income or shoe size, or hiding his mommy issues or the fact he’s married, as if you met online. But you could also instantly tell if he really is 6’3” with brown curly locks or 5’7”, chubby and balding. Not true with the internet. Since you don’t initially see someone in person, many people post inaccurate or outdated photos, lying about their age or general hotness. One study showed that 9 out of 10 people lied about at least one physical characteristic, with weight being the most common. I’ve experienced this firsthand. 

A while ago, I had a date with a guy I’d met online. He was an internet dating cliché, a walking embodiment of the very reason I’d been reluctant to date online again. He refused to give me his cellphone number even to facilitate a meeting (married?), then showed up in a pirate’s outfit (fetishist?) after keeping me waiting for 45 minutes (rude!) with a friend in tow (threesomes aren’t really my thing). To make matters worse, he’d completely misrepresented himself on his profile (Athletic build? Seriously? Not unless you’re a defensive lineman!). He’d lied not only about his age (by probably close to 10 years), but also about his name. His name. But why? It’s not as if his name was really Kamehameha. It was Dave. His friend slipped up and busted him on both of these fibs. And still he denied that he’d lied. 
We all know there are a lot of crazies out there, and plenty of them lurk on dating websites. One woman dated a man who cried every time he drank liquor. Another went out with a guy who brought his parents on their first date. A friend of mine had a great time with a new guy … until after their date, when he texted her selfies of his favorite body parts. As for the men dating online, I know guys who have been stood up, stalked and propositioned by professional escorts.

But there are just as many happy endings. There are many people who, thanks to internet dating, have had some good dates, been wined and dined, ended up with long-term relationships or at the very least some memorable tales and even lived happily ever after. If you’re willing to sift through a lot of digital drivel, with a little perseverance and a fair amount of luck you too can find your cyber-soulmate.

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