Right now someone is probably writing the latest thinkpiece decreeing that the online dating stigma is dead. Finally dead! As if all the hesitant E-Harmonizers out there just needed that final bit of reassurance from Ask Amy or whoever. Rest un-reassured, though, the stigma remains alive and in robust health. Also, it's mostly perpetuated by online daters themselves.
It's the people who actually have experience that talk the most smack because it's only after going on some OKCupid dates that you see how it's the romantic equivalent of Netflix Instant in the worst way possible. There are too many options, not enough that really stand out, and after a while you feel like you've seen everything before.
Plenty of people do meet long-term partners through digital means, and God bless them for it. The problem is that this is only one of several possible results. Many other potential outcomes, on the other hand, will leave you trying out the sexual position known as The Beast with One Back Who Cries a Lot.
I'm not an expert on online dating. I've written about it, though, and recently participated in a stand-up/storytelling show about it (video of which you can see below.) My problem with online dating is how it makes getting a date almost supernaturally easy. You never have to leave your apartment or actually banter with anyone. You can shoot someone down while wearing weird footie pajamas for adults if you're so inclined. Go crazy!
The convenience of online dating turns it into a Twilight Zone twist ending-like depiction
of hell on Earth. It's the alt-universe where meeting people is too easy and someone better is always standing right next to them. A major misconception about online dating is that everybody doing it is a garbage-clown, and every date a full-on disaster. Only partially true!
Not every date that starts out online is terrible. Most of them are fine! Just fine! And that's a bad thing. Fine sucks! More often than not you embark on a pleasant enough night out, get about halfway through and start thinking about what else is now available. Each individual "fine" date ceases to matter when it's part of a long-tail strategy. After a while, everyone feels crushingly familiar, and mediocre, and low-stakes -- just like the rando '90s TV shows that seem momentarily appealing enough to stream on Netflix.
Dating is something you should be excited about, and it's less exciting when there's a forum where so many people are amenable to dating you. The Internet is the most fertile ground for the term I recently coined, "vali-dating," which is when you go out with people just because you can. It's so much better to go out with someone because you can't wait to be around them. Netflix Instant is great and all -- the most seamless way to fall into a Jean Claude Van Damme k-hole--but it feels like more of an event when you actually go out to the movies.
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