Not long ago, in my single days, I had a profile on an online dating site.
And I kind of loved it. For someone as task-oriented and impatient as I am, taking the dating process online made sense just like it made sense to shop for Christmas presents on Amazon instead of in a busy mall. Online dating fed my ego, produced results, and allowed me to meet some truly interesting people.
And giving it up was one of the best things I ever did.
Let me be clear. I have nothing against online dating in general. I have friends who met their spouses online, and I sometimes even recommend that my single girlfriends give it a shot. But for me, it was a danger zone. Here’s why I’m glad OKCupid and I parted ways:
1. Too many dates, too little time figuring out what I wanted.
Because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for when I started my cyber-dating spree, I ended up spending time with quite a few fellas who, while good-looking, weren’t worth putting on lipstick for.
There was talk-but-don’t-listen guy, not-interested-in-relationships guy, disappear-for-a-month-at-a-time guy. Briefly, I even went out with a “hey” guy—one of those dudes who thinks sitting at a computer to find dates is still too much work, and can only send one-word “hey” messages to girls they’re interested in. That relationship was as pointless and ambiguous as you might imagine.
I don’t want to say that I wasted my time. I met some great people online. But I wished I spent less time trying to score dates, and more figuring out what I was really looking for in a man.
2. Love is not a competitive sport.
One of my guy friends, who was also exploring the online dating world, told me he felt like he had to pursue and date several girls at a time to make it worth his while. Pretty quickly, I began to feel like I, too, could juggle multiple potential relationships like they were beanbags. After all, the guys I was meeting online were probably doing the same thing.
But playing this dating “game” just resulted in dishonesty and distrust. It wasn’t a recipe for a healthy long-term relationship. And it was exhausting to boot.
Romantic relationships, I’d later realize, should be about learning to trust someone else and let them in, not about striving to maintain the upper hand by keeping your options open.
3. I bought into the myth that there’s always something better out there.
It’s never easier to compare potential romantic partners than when you can view their education, background, and likes and dislikes in a neat little profile summary complete with pictures attached. In some ways, this eliminated the scary uncertainty of getting to know someone bit by bit, but I didn’t like how I started thinking about guys.
“Well, that guy is nice,” I’d think. “But maybe I can get him in a more mature model, with the same favorite book as me.”
Whenever dating starts to feel like used-car shopping, watch out. How can you make the emotional investment to grow a relationship when your always wondering if the “perfect” person is just a swipe away?
4. Sometimes it’s better to start as friends.
Relationships begin in all kinds of ways. But when you meet someone on a dating site, romantic connection and attraction are the focus, first and always. It’s not always easy to bond when you’re on a date with someone you just met and you’re worrying if you’re talking too much or if there’s spinach in your teeth.
Turns out, I would end up marrying my next-door neighbor—a close friend who I knew fell asleep during movies and burned like a lobster in the sun. He already knew a lot of my quirks too. When we started dating, I didn’t feel as much pressure to be perfect, because he already knew me so well. What a relief.
5. I got tired of fast-food relationships.
Close to the end of my online dating stint, I realized I liked it for the same reason I like McDonalds: It’s fast, easy, and always accessible. Sometimes, at the end of a hard day at work, I could log on and make plans with a new someone that same night. It became something that I did out of loneliness, boredom, and insecurity.
The problem was, many of the guys I met that way viewed online dating the same way. And I was their fast-food relationship fix. Eventually, I realized I was never going to find the real thing if I kept settling for what was cheap and easy instead.
In an email to a friend that I still have and will probably keep forever, I described my decision to abandon my online dating profile, “I got tired of feeling like an item on a fast food menu,” I wrote. “I decided I’d rather be the rich, expensive merlot from a good vintage year, even if it meant getting a little dusty waiting for someone who appreciated me enough to buy the bottle.”
Really, I think that’s what it all comes down to. It doesn’t matter if you meet someone on the Internet or in line at the grocery store as long as you pursue relationships with purpose. If you date online, don’t make the same mistakes I did. And remember: You are a classy glass of red, not a Big Mac.
Flickr/ Mo Riza