It used to be so easy to peruse romantic possibilities in your bathrobe, so why did they have to make it so complicated?
I was shopping online the other day, looking for a birthday gift for a friend, when I suddenly found myself on a popular dating site (or as I like to call it, “E-Boy”).
What the heck, I thought. Maybe I’ll pick up a little something for myself, too.
Now I’ve tried online dating before and had mixed results: a handful of mildly pleasant misses, one real stinker (I still remember his snide “thanks for nothing!” post dinner, sans sex), and a pretty decent click that lasted several months.
As a tool for meeting people quickly and efficiently, the online sites are hard to beat — or at least they used to be. These days, they have so many flashy bells and whistles it’s hard to see the forest for the tease.
Put simply, my toolbox runneth over.
A couple of years ago, all you had to do was upload a photo — preferably one without a potted palm coming out of your head — and type up some clever verbiage about who you were and what you were looking for. After a few days, you’d start chitchatting with your hottest prospects about sushi and snowshoeing, Letterman and the Lakers; after a few weeks, you’d have a handful of good, bad and ugly dating stories to share with your friends. It was simple, straightforward, streamlined.
These days, things are a little more complicated. You log onto a site and a flashing icon tells you that you have Three New Crush Alerts! Six guys have winked at you; eight others have added you to their hot lists. A relationship chemistry predictor has kindly alerted 300,000 members to the fact that you’re a dictatorial conservative who’s dying to get married and have kids (despite the fact your profile says exactly the opposite) and your personality type has been flagged as The Crusty Philosopher. Also, you owe some guy in Burbank three roses and there’s a virtual smell waiting for you in your inbox from somebody named DirtyDirk.
Now I know all these gadgets and geegaws are part of the exciting new Facebookization of the interweb. And, granted, some of the interactive stuff can be fun (I’m on a hot list!) even for those of us who grew up with a sock monkey — as opposed to a computer mouse — in our pudgy little fists. But at some point all the flashing lights and popping windows and winking icons that you have to wade through in order to find some poor sap who likes “Project Runway,” Frank Sinatra and blondes with “a little extra padding” just seems a bit too much.
Who has time to create their own bling and record a video introduction and keep a dating blog and spend the day tossing out winks and roses and testimonials like some parade clown throwing candy to the kids? Who has the stamina to spend hours ranking photos and calculating their compatibility quotient and relationship needs via 1,001 personality tests?
Ah, the tests — another innovation. These days, you can’t even browse the, uh, merchandise without answering a barrage of questions about the length of your index finger, your capacity for spontaneity and the exact amount of time you want to be held, you know, afterward. Personally, I think it would be far more useful to ask how often you clip your toenails and yell at the neighbor’s dog, but apparently, the online dating gurus think it’s more fun to focus on your self-esteem, work habits and doodling style. That way, they can pseudo-scientifically match you up with all the other neurotic perfectionists with control issues. (Click here for your NPCI icon!)
What’s behind all these shiny new add-ons? Love, naturally. Love of money.
When online dating got started, it was touted as a speedy alternative to the time-consuming sifting and sorting one normally had to go through to find a decent date. Big business didn’t pay much attention at first; computer dating was for freaks and geeks. But after the sites raked in that first billion, everything changed. Advertisers shouldered their way onto the scene like party crashers on New Year’s Eve, and soon singles were able to not only find a date but book a vacation, pimp their profile and learn how to “catch and keep a man!” Shortly thereafter, the interactive onslaught began. The more time singles spent winking and linking and clicking and sticking, the more chance there was they’d spend some of that fabulous discretionary income.
As a result, online dating has gone from celebrated time saver to serious time suck. And as painful as it is to admit, I’ve been sucked right in with everybody else.
Mouse-happy monkey that I am, I’ve spent two weeks on two sites, and between all the winking and blinking and hot-listing and test taking and preference setting and blog surfing and personality matching and how-to-go-about-man-catching, I’ve barely had three conversations. And not one date.
So far it’s been a pleasant but completely unproductive experience, though I now can say with some confidence (although apparently not enough) that I’m a workaholic extroverted feeler judger with a tendency for procrastination and exaggeration. No kidding.
Considering my capacity for distraction, I’ll probably continue to link and wink and deliberate and delay until the cows come home (cash and otherwise). Maybe in six months I’ll actually go on a date.
But I’m not worried.
I recently stumbled onto a new tool that I’m going to start incorporating into my regular online routine. It’s on the left side of my screen and is fairly simple to operate. It’s called the “turn off computer” button and I think it might be just the thing to help me get out there and meet people.
I’ll send you a link so you can add it to your favorites.
Copyright © Diane Mapes/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.
Diane Mapes has published more than 200 essays and reported pieces in both local and national venues and is the author/editor of two books: How to Date in a Post-Dating World and Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. She’s a regular contributor to MSNBC.com andMSN.com, and has written about the single life for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Match.com, Bust, Health and Singular magazine. She can be reached via her website, www.dianemapes.net.