Like just about everything else in life, dating has gone cyber. It takes little more than a click of the mouse to meet potential friends or maybe a future spouse.
I can remember random messages on IM when I was in high school from strangers who would suggest meeting and thinking to myself, "I could NEVER meet you, I don't even know you!"
I figured these people could just as easily be 40-year-old serial killers as they could be 18-year-old football players and I didn't want my fifteen minutes of fame to be "missing high school girl found at psycho killer's house after online encounter turned deadly." However, even "way back then" I knew people who had met online, in chat rooms or the like, and were in a relationship as a result.
Times and technology have evolved since then and online dating is not only a cash cow for entrepreneurial developers, but quite possibly a successful way for those sick of the customary dating scene to find true friendship and love.
I know a few people that have rather recently ventured into the world of online dating sites and I was curious to find out their reasoning. Why not someone you can see right in front of you? What's the draw of paying to find a mate?
My friend, we'll call her Henrietta, had this to say about her dissatisfaction with the more traditional dating route and what prompted her to try eHarmony.com. "I wanted to stop dating friends and dealing with blurred lines? ‘Are we friends? Or are we dating?' Online I can do four dates a week with four different guys if I want to. I don't think I even meet two new guys each week in real life, let alone single guys that would possibly like to date me."
That's valid and it sure takes the guess work out of who's single and who's not. Sites like Match.com, eHarmony.com and chemistry.com promise to find you love with another on a deeper level and from their lengthy ‘pre-profile' surveys, they may be right. When you can lay it all on the line and essentially say, ‘this is me, this is my life, who's interested?' you don't have to wade through date after date to find out how you match up on some basic as well as deeper levels. And to Henrietta's point, always dating friends or friends of friends can create some frustratingly large grey areas. However, is the solution to date a bunch of strangers' profiles instead?
Ask yourself this question, how well have you known some of the people you've dated before agreeing to go out with them, being intimate with them or meeting their friends or family? As it turns out, online dating may be the ticket to getting to know someone much faster than say going on two or three dates and you get to do so before sharing personal contact information, which is a comforting benefit.
"I like that these guys don't know my phone number, last name, email address, etc. It's safe. Also, I don't have to be the one making all the effort," says Henrietta. "It appears that men are VERY confident when there's little chance of direct rejection. Go figure."
Confidence is definitely sexy and appealing, but therein lies the real conundrum of online dating; it's easy to be someone you're not when you are only communicating via email or chat, which creates some issues and awkwardness if an actual meeting does ensue. Not to mention these people can easily lie to you. Big deal right? People lie to each other every day, but the sketchier aspect comes from the fact that we all know how much easier it is to create an alter ego online or be someone we wouldn't necessarily be if we were in a face to face situation. Just think of text messaging and how different your personality can be when you are typing rather than speaking. Sexting is the perfect example.
"There's a ton of details that people can easily leave out via online dating," claims Henrietta. "I went out with one guy who told me that he didn't mention the fact that he had a 9 month-old daughter because he was never ‘directly asked' if he had children. Lame-o!"
Henrietta went on to say that she could see herself compiling a short list of important questions for future dates:
- Do you currently have kids?
- Ever been married?
- Convicted sex offender?
- Want kids?
- Have a job?
- Have a house?
- Are you in debt?
- Has anyone ever mentioned that your penis is too large?
"It seems one can misrepresent oneself online a bit easier than in real life. Interestingly, some fellas will post pictures that are 10 years old but not say so... so you're looking at a younger, thinner, more energetic version of the old, wrinkly dude you're actually talking to."
Who couldn't see that downfall coming from a mile away?
"I've been on for three weeks and have been getting approx six matches each day. I generally get contacted from about two or three of those guys. It's actually a lot to manage. I've been on five dates and have not had any chemistry with any of them," says Henrietta. "I'm taking this approach - KEEP ‘EM COMING!! One guy down, another guy closer to my dream man!"
If you've been unlucky in love, have trouble connecting with or finding someone to date or have an insane work schedule that prevents you from meeting new people, online sites might be a very realistic option. The questionnaires and profiles certainly give you the opportunity to find someone with your interests and lifestyle in common. I know a couple that met online and have been seriously dating for over a year so it is possible to find nice, interesting, normal people through online dating. Just go in with an open and cautious mind.
Yes, just like with dating out of cyberspace, it can take a line up of duds to find someone you connect with and yes, people can and will lie to you so don't go in thinking every guy with a great headshot and sparkly white smile is for you. He could live at home with his mom and a couple dozen lampshades made out of human flesh. Honesty is the key to being matched with someone that you have a lot in common with, plus you're paying for the service so don't waste your money by being coy. Hell, if you have a dislike for abnormally large penises, perhaps you should share that tidbit right off the bat.
No, the OnMilwaukee.com sex columnist's real name is not Sarah Foster. (Foster is the model/actress that played an ex-lover of Vincent Chase in the first season of "Entourage.") In reality, our sex columnist is a Wisconsin native with a degree in journalism and a knack for getting people to talk to her.
Sarah never considered herself an "above average" listener. Others, however, seem to think differently. Perhaps she has a sympathetic tone or expression that compels people to share their lives and secrets with her despite how little they know her. Everyone from the girl that does her hair to people in line at the grocery store routinely spill the details of their lives and relationships to Sarah, unprompted but typically not unwanted. It’s strange to her that people would do this, but she doesn’t mind. Sarah likes that she can give advice even if it is to complete strangers.
So why the pseudonym? Simple. People tell Sarah these things because for some reason they trust her. They believe she cares and therefore will keep their secrets in a locked vault the same way a best friend or therapist would. Sarah won't name names, but that vault is now unlocked.