This may come as a surprise to no one, but I've been in the online dating world long enough for my OkCupid profile to have started first grade this coming fall. In that time, I've only gone on a handful of dates -- literally less than 10 dates from more than five years of online dating. Some of that is due to lack of interest, forgetting I had the profile, or not having time to invest in getting to know a new person.
The unlimited number of creeps doesn't help much, either.
A lot of it, however, is how unbelievably ineffective online dating websites are. Here are a few reasons why:
#6. Free Sites Mean No Commitment; Paid Sites Mean Desperation
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There was a time when the only services for online dating required you to pay money and, if I'm being honest, that was the golden age. Not because the services were actually super effective or because the guys on there were "better" than the free version you get from OkCupid, but because paying for a dating service requires commitment. Match.com (up to $42) and eHarmony (up to $60) cost more per month than if you invested that money into buying one Frank Zappa album every month for the next 16 years.
Which you should totally do.
When paid sites were the only option, the people joining online dating sites were doing it because they were serious about finding someone they could date and hopefully marry. When free sites were introduced, the only people left paying were the ones whose memberships hadn't expired yet or who were more desperate to find a relationship partner than corporations are to connect to their target demographic on Twitter.
Free sites have expanded to a point where, now, everyone has or had a profile on at least one of them. Suddenly, it became socially acceptable to have a profile on OkCupid or PlentyOfFish or even JDate. The free sites allowed "normal" people who weren't "desperate" enough to pay money to get the same experience, so you would think your chances of finding someone you actually like will increase. But, the sites are so inundated with people not looking for anything serious (because there's no financial commitment involved), you're still better off going to the dog park or a friend's party to meet people.
#5. Online Dating Limits Connections
The whole point of dating is to get to know a person to see if he or she is a decent fit for you. The intended purpose of online dating is to streamline that process into easily digestible chunks so you don't have to spend time asking people if they like dogs or want a family someday or what languages they speak -- all that information is on their profiles. It's supposed to make dating faster and simpler, but it really just complicates things more. Rather than spending the first date asking these basic questions and chatting about shit neither of you actually care about (because the focus of a first date is all about body language and visible signals, you're stuck in a bit of a paradox. A non-online-dating-site first date involves sharing the superficial information already on your profile. But, if you met through online dating, that's already something you should know.
"God, it's like he didn't even read the fifth sentence of the eighth paragraph of my bio!"
So, either you're an asshole for not remembering something boring or you're forced to dig deeper than an introductory meeting should require, and you wind up talking about mood killers such as tragic backstories or political views.
Even if you've read a person's profile a dozen times and texted or talked on the phone beforehand, a first date is still fundamentally a first date. You're still sitting across from a complete stranger trying to find out if you're compatible and attracted to each other. So, what do you talk about that both goes beyond the basic information on your profile without oversharing something that would normally be reserved for when you've gotten to know the person sitting across from you -- at least, enough to know he or she is probably not going to climb down your chimney?
#4. Your Matches Become Predictable Trends
I don't like to say all men are one way or all women are another, but, after enough messages and matches, trends start to pop up. Speaking solely from personal experience, I've found that any time a guy mentions that he's in the entertainment industry, he's usually way more arrogant about his job as a production assistant than anyone has grounds to be for picking up a C-list celebrity's coffee and dry cleaning.
I've noticed men who message me "Hello" instead of "Hi" or "Hey" tend to treat our communication like a business transaction where he fully expects a very obvious sequence of events. When "Hello" guys don't get a response or when I turn them down later in the conversation, they're the quickest to call me fat and ugly. OkCupid did their own research that shows fewer people respond to "Hello" than they do "Hi" or "Hey," in case you're interested in being paranoid about everything you say to anyone for the rest of your life.
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"Hel ... he ... h ... hell."
It's not even that I just need to reset my dating parameters, either. I've cleared and re-answered my questions on OkCupid about three times (because your personality changes a lot over time!). Even doing that, trends still happen. It's just the demographics that change, if only slightly. That's pretty discouraging because isn't the whole point of online dating to help you find someone better matched to your personality than just picking at random?
Turns out -- not so much. Dating websites create algorithms that help weed out people with significantly different answers than you, but that just means you're finding more guys who have answered questions based on what they think a woman like you wants him to say.
"Why yes, I do like cuddling more than sex."
Also, the algorithm business is practically useless because those sites still put people who you aren't supposed to match with in your matches because it increases your chances of finding someone you like through their site. Basically, you resort to online dating because it narrows your preferences, but you're still picking almost completely at random. The whole process nullifies itself with its desire to give you a fair shot by putting you in an online version of going out to a bar in Crazytown.