Online Dating (Before I had Online-Dated)

“I’m only getting through this by not thinking about their penises,” my high school best friend, college roommate, and life partner explained to me about how she dealt with her online dating adventures.

At 20, I still hadn’t upgraded to a smartphone, and apparently that put me in the 1% of college students that didn’t have one. Also, apparently, 40% of people have an online dating profile. I’m not sure of the validity of that one, but I’ll look into it. I heard it in a Buzzfeed video.

Anyway, this world is foreign to me.

In this fast-pace world I am young and out-of-touch. At 21, the only technology to my name was an iPod touch, Macbook Pro, Facebook account, and a phone I bought at Radio Shack two years prior for twenty dollars that has been referred to as an off-brand Blackberry. I didn’t have Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Tinder. I have four different email addresses. I had disconnected my iPod from my iHome that acts as my speakers twice in the past year, and only once did it leave the house (on which occasion I succeeded in shattering the screen).

In any case, just as some background for my ignorance on the topic, I am a bit behind the times. I’ve heard the stuff is great but, like any good 70-year-old, I am skeptical. The concept of online dating is just not quite romantic enough for me, and basing whom I interact with on an algorithm makes me the slightest bit uncomfortable. I can agree with author Roxanne Gay when she contrasts the complexities of humanity to the simplicity of math, and I will stand strong with her in trying to make sense of it all without the numbers.

In the spirit of curiosity and modernity, however, I watched some videos that I found educational. For me, it was like watching a production put on by some far away culture of which I know nothing.

Amy Webb’s Ted Talk about how she hacked online dating made me feel overwhelmed--a common side-affect of math for me--and a little bit sad. But, I appreciated how she broke down the situation. The questionnaire on her dating site was bare bones and created a strange system for matching dates. I mean, really, who bases his or her dates off of whether someone likes “horror” vs. “romance” films? Besides, we all know action flicks and comedies are the best.

So Amy ramped up her game quite a bit, and brought characteristics of dating “IRL” to the web. And I’m happy for her; even if online dating is still something that I may, according to the next video, have an irrational distrust for, she managed to streamline her dating experience with this new technology.

This is where Buzzfeed comes in. As much as I disliked being the subject to whom the video was directed, I was open to the education I received. How crazy is it that one third of married couples met online, and that 40% of people have online dating profiles? This video was incredibly informative when it came to throwing down some quick impersonal facts, and letting me know that my negative feelings toward online dating are not PC and that I need to evolve with the times.

Maybe online dating isn’t so bad, but I still have faith in the idea of putting myself into a community of like-minded people in real life and meeting a perfectly fantastic human with whom I can spend my time living happily in the woods. Don’t worry Roxanne and other technology haters; you’re not alone. 

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Since originally writing this essay, I experimented with online dating on a number of occasions. I attempted to approach with an open-mind, and ended up feeling more down-trodden than I ever had trying to meet someone in the "real world." I even revisited after a couple successive relationships that spanned almost two years... this time felt even worse.

I know that people meet happily online, but it is certainly not the option for me. At least not right now. I am terrified of meeting people in person that I have already talked to online. I dislike staring at picture after picture and choosing in a split second whether or not they may or may not be a suitable partner, simply based on a photograph. And after yelling, "I DON'T KNOW, HOW COULD I POSSIBLY KNOW" at my poor sweet brother when he asked if I wanted to go out with any of the guys I had matched with, I realized that I was better off being a dork offline and not worrying about whether or not anyone was thinking anything of it. 

Live your best life; live your own life.