by Sophie Medd
At the ripe old age of… well …my late thirties, I have finally succumbed to internet dating. I’m a great believer in technology. It has transformed my life in many aspects for the better.
I have always dated a similar type of man. As my current love status on Facebook shows, this type of man isn’t working for me (or them). So why not take control, make use of technological advancements and make connections with different types of men? All perfect reasons to take up internet dating. This will enable me to learn and grow emotionally – all part of my on-going quest for happiness. After all, I thought, it will be fun and I would grow as a person, with the opportunity of meeting a more diverse group!
I had heard horror stories about dating. Like the man who didn’t put out his flaming Sambuca and proceeded to catch fire at the dinner table whilst on date with my friend. My mate’s quick thinking led to her grabbing the adjoining table’s wine bucket and tipping it over her burning date. This was not well received – the fire was out, in more ways than one. Her date sat there in front of her, drenched. He left immediately, wet and annoyed, after some nervous laughter exuded from my mate. The fire was well and truly gone and the date over. There she was, my mate, confused and left with the tab. There are worse stories, too, and so I entered the dating world with realistic expectations about how dates could end. . With an open mind, I entered the online dating arena. I was nevertheless, in for a shock.
Today’s world is on speed. We can buy whatever we want, whenever we want. We can have everything customised to be just perfect for our individual tastes. We craft online personas with similar customised perfection. It is these expectations that have seeped into internet dating. It is a minefield. It is anything but fun. Here is what I discovered:
- Dating, on or offline, is always going to be about looks. It’s part of the attraction jigsaw. I know there is rising pressure on men to look good. However, realistically, when was the last time we as a society discussed David Cameron’s shoes or Prince William’s use of a shirt more than once? We women and girls are still more accustomed to being judged on our looks. Especially, if like myself, you are aging, this constant scrutiny can be tough.
- With internet dating the playing field should start off completely level in that everyone is using their perfected photos and descriptions. In my experience, this has given rise to a more neurotic male. The man that emphasises not only his sporting prowess, but most importantly, his height. Dating sites are awash with pictures of men jumping out of planes, trains and automobiles. There are pictures of men standing in groups, towering above all the other men in the shot. This has in turn given rise to the constant chat-up line “hello I’m over 6 Ft., like rock climbing and working out”. As conversation starters go, this is a tough one for me. I myself am 5 Ft 5 inches small and lucky if I hit the gym three times a week. On many occasions, after an initial conversation with fitness fanatics, and I have decided that perhaps we are not a match ( I drink, smoke, and fall over a lot even when I don’t hit the vino: I’m aware of my flaws and perfection will never be my thing), I have had the response of, “But I’m over 6ft, can we meet?”.
- There are other neurosis, beyond looks and height. It is possible to initially start a good conversation with a potential date. These men may throw in some intellectual comment perhaps a quote from Plato. You start a conversation beyond varying ways to say “hello” “hi” “hiya” “hey”. Then life gets in the way. You leave your phone to make a coffee. During this time you have received a number of vicious messages, “why when I ask you a personal question do you disappear”? or “are you simply here to discuss philosophy or find a partner”? and if all else fails, “I’m over 6ft”. This is the instant nature of internet dating. You must give all your time to the stranger on the end of the line. If you decide not to, or simply move away from your phone, either of you can simply swipe onto the next potential date – herein seeps more neuroses. “Was I not perfect enough for you”?
- For both women and men, the expectation of their own individual idea of perfection in another, is high. After all, in today’s society, we can have whatever we want, whenever we want and how we want Inevitably with humans though, unlike shopping, life can get in the way again. Imperfection (ie: humanity) kicks in. Perhaps you start to not want them, like them, love them in the way they want. This disappointment often results in accusations of barriers being up, combined with some arm chair psychology around abandonment issues gleamed by an innocent comment you may have made in date two. This can all too often happen by the time you make it to date three. Essentially, what you are having pointed out to you is the disappointment you have instantly become by someone you felt a connection with. Barriers get higher and information exchanges more guarded. These barriers are heightened by the disposable nature of online, relationships. They can end for the flimsiest of reasons.
- With online dating, you end up counting the amount of messages exchanged in one day – how many is too many?. When we find a kindred soul we worry furiously if they will simply disappear forever, if we reply to a message too soon. Will we appear too needy? Appear less than perfect? Will they instantly meet another person even after we have connected so well (as well as we can given the few, fair-weather, superficial connections we have now become accustomed to, as a result of the immense volume of online “connections” and “friends” we make)?
With any type of dating, we are all being vulnerable. Online dating seems to have heightened this vulnerability. Waiting for the phone to ring in my youth was tough but this new way of connecting and dating with that special someone, is excruciatingly hard to navigate – especially with the added neuroses. The bonus is that it certainly makes me feel young again, in that I feel like I’m an amateur.
Will I continue? I think for now I will. As one rather tall and dishy date recently put it “I have no idea what I’m doing. After all, aren’t we all just simply swiping pictures and seeing what happens”? . How did he leave it? “It would be cool to keep in touch”. I believe this translates into “Next!”. Still, we had fun. And isn’t that what life’s all about?
Sophie Medd is an independent freelancer, in the Arts and Culture and not-for-profit sector. with a focus on using business for social good. You can follow Sophie on twitter at @sophie_medd
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