A requisite of being with someone new is that everyone will ask how you met. During a recent relationship I took no little pleasure in the look I got from most people when I told them I met my girlfriend through an internet dating site, called OkCupid.
“Oh wow,” they’d say, normally with an arch of the eyebrows that suggested I must be crackers to admit to such a social faux pas in the company of others, “how does that work then?”
I then got to tell the early stages story of me and K-, an anecdote that includes me turning up to our first date on a comedown, being sick and leaving after half an hour. This got a few laughs (and the odd tut) before a brief lull and return to the matter at hand. “So, like, are you actually going to admit to everyone else how you met?”
This is the cue to go off on an impassioned defence of the online dating forum, an argument that begins with: “Why wouldn’t you use them?”
To many, using a dating site is an admission of non-virility, non-attractiveness, or non-ability to meet members of the opposite or same sex in a ‘normal’ social environment. This is bullshit. I’m 28. I’m not awful-looking. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in bars, on beaches and at festivals, meeting girls of all shapes and sizes. It isn’t that hard; the people that like sex and getting drunk inevitably end up copping off with other people that like sex and are drunk. This is a fact of life. What I also know if that I’ve not been short of bed-friends over the last few years, yet rarely have these bar/club hook-ups turned into anything other than a slightly embarrassed morning bunk-up, maybe an exchange of numbers, at best a subsequent date or three before you realise that you neither of you can back up the half-truths you told each other back at the Bricklayers.
The thing with a dating site like OKCupid (and I swear I’m not on commission from them for this), is that it puts you in a place where you can meet and speak to people with vaguely the same interests who live in your area. It’s free, it’s essentially a Facebook for single people. In light of these facts, I return to a previous point; if you have any aspiration to at some point be in a relationship, why wouldn’t you use them? If you look at it from one (somewhat contrived but for the sake of this piece please bear with) perspective, pubs and clubs are just big singleton hotpots. We all jump in Thursday through Saturday and hope that somewhere in there will be something that results in the right mix. If it doesn’t you’ll climb back in the next week. Dating sites are no different, except you get to check your potential mate out without the hindrance of tequila goggles, and get a feel for the likelihood that they are someone you want to spend more than 10 hours (6 of which you’ll be unconscious for) hours in the company of.
You get a public profile on Cupid, and on that you answer a few fairly generic questions about yourself- favourite books/films/music, what people normally think about you when they first meet you, what you like doing on a Friday night, etc etc. A lot of people say that opposites attract and I know there is a market for that, but in reality if I see a girl that says her favourite band is One Direction and her favourite film is High School Musical, we’re probably not going to be mutually compatible. Similarly, if she says, without irony, that she only listens to classical music and that on a Friday she can normally be found kicking back with Kirkegaard, then she’s not going to like me very much and probably won’t find it funny and/or cute that I have a not-so-secret affection for awful power ballads.
The clever bit of it all though, is that you don’t need to spend hours wading through dross; thanks to some scarily good algorithm, the site suggests people you ‘might like’. And you know what? I did like them. 80% of the people it matched me with had similar interests to me and lived within 2 miles of my house. Most of them were even fairly attractive, some very much so; certainly no worse than half of those I’ve woken up next to over the years.
The next question I normally got around this point is; “what if he/she turns out to be different from her profile, and you don’t like them?” Who cares? You’ve given up an evening for that person, bought a few rounds of drinks. If you don’t like them, then they probably aren’t all that fond of you either. Forget about it, move on. At worst you’ve lost a few hours that you would have spent tweeting about Dancing On Ice, and spent 30 quid. At best….
As time is moving on, more and more of my friends are signing up to sites like OKCupid, or Match, or Guardian Soulmates; I guess it’s an age thing. Although we all like a drink, a dance and a bedroom fumble, people are starting to think that- to quote a better man than I- maybe we ain’t that young anymore. With the ghost of your mid-twenties trailing behind you, hangs the not-inconceivable spectre of being 35 and still turning up by yourself to your parent’s house at Christmas, staying in your old single bed whilst everyone sits downstairs speculating whether you are in fact gay. So with that in mind I ask you; is that more embarrassing than admitting you met your other half on the internet?
This is published over on Sabotage Times