THE BLOG

A Perhaps Slightly-Jaded Guide to Online Dating Sites

06/12/2013 01:11 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2013

My last girlfriend and I broke up last September, and I spent a number of months drawing lessons from the experience, learning from mistakes and thinking deeply about the type of person with whom I might have a successful relationship. Also, I discovered Game Of Thrones and, well, let's just say that finding lifelong companionship does not in terms of interest compare to the doings in Westeros. Dragons? Revolts? Beheadings? Nekkid HBO sex? The hell with love. You killed Eddard Stark, you bastards! And Robb Stark! And Catelyn Stark! Hell, if your name is Stark on that show, you're probably toast. Maybe even if you're named something close, Stork or Stack, e.g.

Eventually I began dating again, mostly meeting potential sugarboogers online, and I found myself debating which dating site to go with. The weird HTML 3 one? The Krazy Kristian One? The one where I met the woman with histrionic personality disorder who broke my heart? (Yes! That one! Because I'm deeply stupid.) And as I considered, it occurred to me that you, my many readers (okay, twelve) (eleven if Harry's still got that case of hysterical blindness), might benefit from my experience with these sites. So, herewith, my deeply personal -- by which I mean, as always, super-cranky -- take on dating sites. Remember: your experience may differ, though only if you look a lot like Jon Hamm, in which case, why are you on an online dating site? You're married to Megan, you idiot! And you were sleeping with Lindsay Weir. Jeez, leave a woman somewhere for the rest of us, Draper. I may not understand television.

PlentyOfFish: Plenty Of Fish is a wonderful dating site, if you hope to date fish. If you're shooting for a partner a bit higher up the evolutionary ladder (or the fish ladder), not so much. Plenty Of Fish combines a horrible circa-1998 user interface with a more or less utter lack of selection criteria, so after squinting at the multitude of low-res pictures and the vaguely- or not-at-all-filled-out profiles, if your dating strategy is anything other than "whoever responds to my thousands of vague spam emails, she will I marry" (it's more of a guy thing), you realize that not only are you barking up the wrong tree, but in fact it's a coat-rack, and you should stop barking because of how you're not a dog.

eHarmony: Unsurprisingly, given that it was founded by a conservative Christian who for years claimed that his "special sauce" people-matching algorithm didn't work on LGBT people, eHarmony looks like the Facebook page of a member of one of those right-wing homophobic megachurches: squeaky-clean and creepy-religious. I mean, it's the fucking Mormon Tabernacle Choir up in that bitch. (And that? Is my eHarmony profile headline; look me up!) Jesus Christ (a frequent topic of many of the profiles), you can find pretty much any kind of person you're looking for on eHarmony, as long as you're looking for a devout Christian who probably handles snakes, speaks in tongues, has scheduled in GCalendar for next Thursday, "Rapture; dress light" and believes that premarital sex causes oh let's say Ebola or maybe incurable hiccups. I would crucify myself -- literally, drive in the nails, except for that one last hand, with which I feel I'd need a little help -- before dating anyone on this site. Apparently, it does have more marriages to its credit than any of the other sites, but given that these people won't fuck you until you marry them, I'm guessing a good proportion of those represent 50-something virgins who have despaired of ever knowing the love of the opposite sex. "My ideal first date: a (non-alcoholic) drink, dinner at Chick-Fil-A, then right over to my pastor's for some of that hot Christian marrying. Ooo, baby. My marryin' hand is ready! To! Go!" Can I get an "Amen"? No? Fair enough.

Match.com: If your idea of a "match" involves someone who enjoys suburbia, clichés and saying exactly the same damn thing everyone else says, you've found your Match. You remember how in A Wrinkle In Time, all the kids on that one planet came out, bounced balls exactly the same way and went back in at exactly the same time? Like that. (Seriously, if I see one more profile in which the person describes him-/herself as a "glass-half-full kinda gal/guy", I will fill their glass with fuming nitric acid and shout "How you like your glass half-full now, huh?" as they dissolve into a puddle of boring.) Also? While, as noted, presenting as mind-numbingly dull, most of the people on Match are as crazy as several shithouses full of rats. Personality disorders, OCD, bipolar -- if you want to date your way through the DSM IV (and if you're taking an abnormal psych class, there's no better way to memorize the disorders), Match not only offers, but mandates that experience. Two more personality disorders on my punchcard (come on, schizotypal!), and I get a free latte at Starbucks, a place I would rather have extremely hungry and sharp-toothed ferrets inserted forcibly into my anus than patronize. Match's search and browse capabilities are reasonably advanced, but the email system is all early-'90s AOL: no formatting, capricious paragraphing, and if you include your actual email address too early in the conversation (first or second email), Match's censors will edit it out and replace it with your Match.com email address. Yes, Match.com has censors. You can't use the word "fuck" in your profile, for example, or they'll reject the profile. Sometimes they'll reject the profile for no visible reason--you might have changed a comma, for example. Oh, one more thing about the Match mail: it won't let you keep emails older than a month or so. So if you're not sure if you wrote to someone before--and remember, they're all pretty much monozygotic twins--you've got no way to find out. Since you're probably just like everyone else on the site, I expect it doesn't much matter.

OKCupid!: Oh, OKCupid!, if ever I get to stop dating, I think I'll miss you most of all. (Admittedly, that's not saying much.) Sure, they get points off for the stupid exclamation point at the end of their name, but their users tend to the creative, interesting, and less-cliché-ridden. I've met some lovely people from OKCupid!, and that, after all, really defines the experience of a dating site. But plus, I rarely find myself put off by their interface; it's easy to search, to browse and to write emails (their email system doesn't allow formatting either, but has nowhere near the clunk factor that Match's does, and they don't censor, as far as I can tell); their matching algorithm seems a bit smarter than anyone else's too, or maybe they just have more attractive users. One big caveat though: demographics from this site (and big gratitude to them, because gawd forbid I should do a little research of my own) confirm my impression that OKCupid! tends to skew a little bit younger than the other sites. My daughters are on OKCupid!. I mean, my age parameters don't even come near to overlapping with theirs, but that's the kind of creepy knowledge that no amount of alcohol can wipe out of your brain. (I'll keep trying, though.) It's not OKCupid!'s fault, but using their site can make you feel a little like that middle-aged guy who hangs around the high school. If you are that guy, carry on. Until, you know, the cops come.

I'll skip over the smaller, more specialized and cheesier sites, the ones for cheating spouses and people of a particular age or ethnic group, the ones for people who went to Ivy League universities (interestingly, going to a good college does not make you interesting) and Phoenix University. ("I'm a Phoenix!" reads every profile on that one, which I just now made up.) They too have strengths and weaknesses, but the fact is, you can meet someone great on almost any of these sites (and even in real life -- mind: blown, right?), though not apparently if you're me (and I think some of you might be) -- hell, even on Match.com or eHarmony. Though maybe I'm just a glass-half-full kinda guy.