There’s a lot to say for meeting girls while you’re out and about. Couples love to have that story of “How We Met” about chance meetings over the last head of Boston lettuce at the neighborhood Whole Foods or that shared class in college or when they both reached for the same book at Barnes and Noble. People who can collect dates and one-night stands from the random women they meet on the street – or in bars and clubs for that matter – are celebrated in movies, songs and television.
“But what resources are there for the sort of person who doesn’t necessarily like loud clubs or crowded bars?” I hear you ask. What if your schedule means you don’t have the time to hit the popular hot-spots when the rest of the world is apparently drinking and partying and having a good time? Hell, what if you’re just too shy to approach a total stranger and try to get her number?
And I say “Jesus, nerds, you’re online 24/7 already. Why aren’t you on the dating sites?”
And then suddenly there’s an awkward silence, cleared throats and shuffled feet.
It’s 2011 and that odd stigma towards online dating sites persists. I know. It’s insane. At a time when there are over 40 million people using online dating sites, people still feel awkward about going online to look for dates.
If you’re looking for a relationship, a date for Friday night… hell, just a no-strings-attached hook-up, you should be online already.
Having done more than my share of dating people I’ve met online and off, I have to say that meeting people online has a multitude of advantages.
To start with, the social anxiety that can come from trying to start a conversation with a stranger evaporates with the protective anonymity of a screen name and the tacit admission that you’re both there specifically with the point of meeting someone. You don’t risk the potential embarrassment of striking out in public, and the worst that you risk is deafening silence.
In addition, it provides you a way to put your best self forward. You have your entire profile to explain who you are and why you’re awesome… and you are awesome, right? Unlike in public, where you have literally seconds to convince a person you’re worth talking to, you have as much time as you need to determine how you’re perceived and how to craft your approach. If you’re not a strong flirt in person, it helps to have all the time you need to consider what you’re going to say. Plus, you have the benefits of moving past the “getting to know you” aspects of the first date before you meet in person. Being able to skip the unimportant chitchat that makes the flotsam and jetsam of dating means that you can get down to the important business of building chemistry and feeling each other out to see if you’re compatible.
Back when I was using them, I used profiles to pre-screen my dates. I like my girls to be geeks or at least geek-curious; even if there aren’t any overt signs of being into, say, comics or b-movies, there is almost always enough information that you can read between the lines and find the girls who feel like they have to hide their geek side from the world. Of course, this works both ways; just as you’re screening them, they’re screening you. I’ll get further into how to avoid this problem in future columns.
Finally, how many times have you been out with a girl only to realize that… as far as she was concerned, you were out together as friends? Meeting people from dating sites carries an inherent and unmistakable “This is a date. This is an occasion that is potentially leading to a kiss or more.”
I’ve never received a “Let’s Just Be Friends” from a date that started on an online site. If there is no chemistry there, then it’s tough-luck-Charley but it’s not the same thing as being LJBF’d after finally meeting in person. While there were dates that just didn’t click, they usually ended with contact drying up and my moving on. Occasionally I’d get a flat-out “Nah, this isn’t going to work,” which I found to be refreshing. The first move isn’t agreeing to go on the date. The first move comes from making that initial tentative contact that will lead to a kiss at the end of the night.
So what sites do I recommend? Without hesitation: OKCupid. To start with, the most obvious bonus is that it’s free. Every dating site out there exaggerates it’s population; there may be 20 million profiles on a site, but the vast majority are dead. They’re inactive. If you sign up for Match, Chemistry, eHarmony, It’s Just Lunch, whatever, you’re paying money to flirt with zombie accounts. Either they never subscribed in the first place or the subscriber got fed up with the torrents of e-mail brought on by increasingly desperate men and left the site.The profiles are left active in the database in order to pad out the search results and encourages people – mostly men – to keep trying their luck in increasingly wider circles in hopes of getting responses from people. OKCupid – even after being purchased by Match – is free. OKCupid has the added benefit of branding itself as the flirty, slightly naughty site with an easy-going attitude that’s as welcoming to casual hook-ups as it is to couples trying to find True Love. In my experience (admittedly: an unscientific observation based on anecdotal evidence) I had a higher ratio of success-to-effort there than any other site I had tried.
Over the next few months, I’ll be talking more about how to succeed at online dating and how to avoide the all-too-common critical errors that people make in their profiles and their first messages. If you have any questions you want me to address, be sure to post in the comments or via the contact form. Now go see about getting yourself a date for the weekend.