THE BLOG
04/29/2014 07:14 am ET Updated Jun 29, 2014

The Missing Ingredient In Online Dating

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You know the men and women who navigate seamlessly from one relationship to the next, breezing effortlessly in and out of other people's lives, connecting in a 21st century non-stick way, moving without injury and with a cool detachment to the next and the next and the next?Me neither. I don't know people like that because I try to steer clear of sociopaths.

Everyone I know who has been seduced out of desperation to join Mis-Match. com, Plenty of Dead Fish, or OhNoCupid has experienced similar heartaches. My last few hook-ups have been neither total disasters nor long-lasting. I decided to throw in the towel and admit online dating is not for me.

This is not to say there are not people who have had success, some finding lovers and future spouses within the online game. There are plenty. But they are most likely not complex, messy, politically-controversial middle-aged men and women. Women and men like that rarely go along to get along. They say what they want, do what they want, and sometimes offend. Not qualities you find in Miss Manners' Guide to Successful Relationships.

My ex seems to do well with online dating. He's still a good-looking, fit, middle-aged man who can find women 15 to 20 years younger than he is without much effort. He doesn't like to be alone, so he rarely is. He's looking to marry again because he doesn't relish the idea of heading into old age single. It probably frightens most men. I'm not sure women are as freaked out by this idea since most of us watched our fathers die ahead of our mothers. We figured out early that those golden years had better be spent in community.

I have a male friend in his late 40's who spends a lot of time in Thailand posting pictures of himself on Facebook with women who could be his granddaughters. He dislikes American women -- claiming they are greedy, selfish, cold, and materialistic. I think it's mostly because they can see right through him and rejected him and his psychopathology again and again. He finds Thai women more accepting of him which is probably true since Thai people in general are lovely and more accepting of all of humanity. Will he find the woman of his dreams there? I wouldn't bet on it. Thai women know trouble when they see it.

So what is the secret ingredient missing for some of us in the online dating world? I think it's an old-fashioned way of learning about someone over time and in the setting of the natural world. Learning about someone means seeing them in the context of their very real life and not the ones we create online to pull others into our fantasies.

Remember when people fell in love at work? Or in their temples and churches? Or in the clubs and organizations they belonged to? Or even (and not so long ago) on Sierra Club hikes? (That's how my ex and I met after all). Like so much of everything else that has become degraded by cyberspace, so has romance, love and commitment. What I tell you about myself and what you tell me may seem honest to each of us, but it isn't entirely real because it is out of context of everything that is genuinely human about us.

My last experience proved this to me. He was kind, caring, warm, and a genuinely good person. And had I gotten to know him within the context of mutual friendships, shared values, common experiences, and joint endeavors, I would have seen over time that it was or was not going to work and so would he. No blood spilled. But because all of this was missing and because we met online, the texture of real life and the everyday interactions that allow you to get to know someone in all their many permutations were missing. And the glaring incompatibilities that may or may not have been tolerated in the context of a shared social setting loomed too large.

The time to get to know someone, really get to know someone, in light of their true selves, their needs and wants, happens slowly. Our hastened, cyberspace, hurry-up nanosecond world of online dating allows us to quickly move on to the next when you don't like this guy or if that woman is too bitchy or opinionated. No consequences, no one gets hurt. There are a lot more where that came from.

No thanks. There's enough demeaning of humanity going on in the 21st century, enough commodifying, enough branding, enough dismissing of one another. The missing ingredient in online dating is the time spent in a real social setting with other people, not just the two of you. Dating should not be a job interview. Hell, job interviews shouldn't even be job interviews. We need one another. We are social animals. Everything in this new 21st century cyber-world of dating pushes against that. Online dating simply exploits the need to connect and fools us into thinking complex social interactions can be duplicated with what we type into a little box about who we are and what we want along with a few selfies. It can't be. Thank god.

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