(Note: Originally written for a class in the Fall 2016 semester. I have decided to edit and update it for my blog.)
Back in September of last year, I tried online dating. Actually, I tried a dating app, but I lump them together in the same category. Being new to the San Francisco, I thought I should give a new pool of men a try, and leave my pessimistic views on dating back in Los Angeles. With my encouraging, and rather enthusiastic, roommate cheering me on, I dove into the online dating world, with a load of skepticism, but willing to open up to the possibilities before me.
Fortunately, there is not as much stigma associated with online dating as there was in the past. In fact, with platforms like Bumble, Tinder, OkCupid, and the like, dating, meeting, and “hooking-up” via online is quite the acceptable norm.
Let’s look at the numbers.
On any given day of the week, you could do a Google search and find plenty of statistics on the number of people actually using online dating services. The answer, by the way, is 40 million according to Match.com. That seems like an alarmingly high number. However, considering that there are 318.9 million Americans, then those online daters are just under 13 percent of the population. So, yeah, a lot of people, but not exactly taking over the nation.
So, here we online-singles are, 40-mil deep and trying to find that special someone from behind a screen, swiping left or right for the one. Of course, when online dating was new, there was a novelty to it and, in the beginning, it was light-hearted fun. However, as it grew in popularity, more questionable users came into the playing field. That is where the horror stories – from dates, chats, and meetings gone wrong – come into the picture.
We sort of thrive, though, on the shock-inducing stories, don’t we? The ones of the creepy guy who tried to make out five minutes into meeting. The diva who asked if that was your real car with a turned upper lip. Or the catch who “left” his wallet in his other pants, and suddenly you are footing the whole bill, instead of “going dutch” like you both had planned. These are the stories we read time and again. They enforce the idea that dating, especially online dating, is a hopeless endeavor full of failed attempts and humiliating situations. However, I started to wonder: if online dating is as miserable as it seems, then why do we continue to try it?
I wanted to know if there were any positives to online dating.
Was there any hope for us clumsily fumbling around, index fingers at the ready, hoping to swipe or chat our way to love?
So, I talked to a couple of fellow female online daters asking them to share any positives from their own experiences.
An Academy of Art student, “Z,” 23, explained that she tried Tinder after exiting a lengthy, and difficult relationship, “I wanted to start dating again, but I didn’t want to meet someone at a bar because it wasn’t my element at the time. It was new and something I wanted to try out.” Now pursuing her master’s degree here in San Francisco, she is still single, but can look back on her online dating experience fondly, “I met an amazing guy who inspired me,” she explains, “and he became my best friend.” Perhaps, her chances will play out better here in San Francisco. Forbes.com listed our lovely city by the bay as one of the best 12 cities to be a single looking to mingle. This coincides with a similar report on the same site from five years previously that named San Francisco as the third best city for online dating.
So, it would appear that there is some hope out there. However, even if San Francisco is a viable city for singles, is there any hope that online dating can actually lead to a happy relationship? Or even marriage?“C,” 54, an Instructor for a state university, met her husband online at a time when the idea of anything being online was still very new. “Back when I was dating seriously, in my mid-thirties, there were not many established dating sites. I had tried the classifieds, but felt like I didn’t have any control, which is not good for me. So, I went with what I knew about AOL’s search capabilities and looked for guys my age who were online at that moment, and instant message them to start talking. I could read their bios and member information, and if something sparked my interest, I would start a conversation.” She took the initiative – something a lot of people struggle with even today – and actively sought at to meet men of interest to her.
However, while then the internet was a new platform for dating, she still came across similar barriers our tech-savvy generation deals with today, “The thing that was most discouraging was that people weren’t honest about who they are. Even their online profiles were fudged. Even though looks were never what I was looking for, if you are dishonest, that is a deal breaker.”
Dishonesty and false representation is an unavoidable peril of the online dating scene. With profiles being dependent on the user to fulfill, we are capable of creating “ideals” of the person we wish to be in the world, and not necessarily the person we truly are in reality. While that is fun for an RPG or a message board, the point of online dating is to eventually leave the digital and enter the real world. We cannot date the “online” versions of people we’ve met. You cannot build a relationship on the three really great quotes from books on your profile. We do not have the luxury of a computer screen, filtered and edited photography, and carefully chosen words to hide behind when we meet that person we’ve been chatting with for the past week at the coffee shop in the Mission.
However, “C,” finally gave me the hope I had been looking for, “There were lots of nice dates, and some that were blah. But I kept right on chatting up people, met a younger guy from SFO, police officers, then I met my future husband.” According to Pewresearch.com, five percent of those in a marriage or committed relationship met online. It’s not much, but of us 40 million, that still gives 2 million a chance. “C” found not only a relationship, but it led to marriage. For the record, I am not here to say that marriage is the only way to happiness, the end game, or the final victory – but for her, and many others who are looking to meet Mister or Miss Right that is a goal. Hearing stories like this gives online dating some credibility.
In my opinion, online dating is no worse than meeting people offline in more “traditional” ways – think bars, clubs, or other social events. I once harbored fantasies of meeting my dream-guy in a bookstore, but that was many moons ago. Ultimately, I have found both online and offline equally discouraging and encouraging. From these experiences, my emotions have ranged the entire gamut from ecstatic to enraged to sobbing uncontrollably into a pillow with a bowl of salty, buttered popcorn and a French romance movie – because why not remind myself of what I don’t have? I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I even vowed to give up! I was out! Game Over!
And you know what?
I ended up trying one more time.
I bumbled… literally, I used Bumble, and I did something other people forget to do, I went in with zero expectations (well maybe I expected a little disappointment). To my surprise, I ended up meeting a wonderful man. Someone I share many similarities with (much to our pleasant surprise), but just enough differences to keep the relationship interesting. By no means is my situation a textbook example. There are times I am still in disbelief at my good fortune, and while this is still a fledgling relationship, I am grateful that I gave dating that one last effort .I learned from the experience that going in with an open mind is extremely important. I mean, I went in truly having no expectations or boxes to pigeon-hold the person. Being my honest, 100 percent, slightly awkward self was the best thing I could have done. I chatted his ears off, much to my embarrassment, declared my unwavering love for all things anime and manga, and, at some point, shared the history of the architecture of San Francisco City Hall – I’ll save that for another article.
In the end… He loved it.
It’s now a little over half year into the relationship, and while it is not perfect (no relationship is), I never would have guessed I would find my best friend.
I am grateful.
Until we meet again.
May you always be sweetly inspired!