As someone who found her significant other online, it's hard for me to understand why some people -- particularly women -- won't take the plunge. I mean, they'll pay their bills, buy their shoes and even earn an advanced degree online, but they refuse to find a gosh-darned date there. So I decided to do some asking around to find out why so many of us women are afraid to say yes to online dating.
Because People Will Think I'm a Loser
This is hands-down the most common thing I heard from women. For some reason, looking for men on the Internet is just about the most mortifying thing a woman can do. It smacks of desperation, they believe.
But really, it's just being honest about what you want. When you go to a bar with your friends, wearing your favorite semi-slutty outfit and made up like you're ready for the red carpet, you secretly hope this might be the night you'll meet that certain someone. But that's your little secret. Ostensibly, you're going out with the girls to have fun, not looking for a man.
Believe me, it's better that you don't find him, because the kind of men you're likely to meet in that kind of situation are not the kind of men who will usually turn out to be the love of your life. First, the attraction will be mostly based on looks, since conversation that rises above mindless banter is hard in a bar. Second, you'll probably be somewhat inebriated and not in a position to make the best choices. And finally, the choices you do have will be severely limited by the simple determinants of time, space and location.
Once you admit that there's nothing wrong with actively looking for a man, you'll realize that online dating is the most sensible, time-efficient way to find him. Rather than choosing from the five to 10 single men who happen to stumble into the bar that night, you'll have instant access to hundreds of prospects, with lengthy and detailed profiles describing their background, interests, personality and even sometimes their salary. You think it'll be a bunch of lies? Could be, but don't you think the guy on the next bar stool can lie just as easily?
Everyone Online Lies
Nowhere more than in the world of online dating does perception trump reality in the realm of love. There we begin falling in love based on everything but actual human contact. We see a photograph. We read a profile. We begin to communicate via email. We may not hear an actual voice until we're already knee-deep in pheromones.
According to a study from researchers at Cornell University, 90 percent of online daters do lie. However, those lies are relatively small. A bit of deception about age is common, but only a 1.5 percent deviation. Women tend to shave about 5 percent off their weight, and men tend to add about 1 percent to their height. Most people limit their online lying in anticipation of one day meeting their match, and the fear of getting caught.
That said, I have to admit that I once got taken in by a serial liar on Match.com. In his photograph he looked like a 35-year old professor with a full, reddish beard, blue eyes and a wry smile. He went to the best schools, had an interesting, high-paying job, lived in a great neighborhood, and wrote sparkling, funny emails.
Then we met. Suddenly, I was faced with a man who was 15 years older than his picture, his reddish hair turned white, his lean figure gone pudgy. Not only that, he wasn't confident, witty or even particularly nice. But I couldn't let go of the man that I had constructed in my head, so I stayed. It took me two whole months to finally figure out that I was dating a simulation of a man who had nothing to do with his virtual counterpart. Now I realize I should have taken one look, turned around and walked away.
Men Who Date Online Are Scary
Many women have a real, visceral fear of the men they might meet online. They worry these sites are chock full of killers, creeps and cads. But why do women think the guys they meet in bars, at the library or at the local café are somehow safer than guys they'd meet on the Internet?
The fact is, one-third of all Internet users have, at some point, signed up at an online dating site. Surely in that sea of millions of men there must be a sizable portion of "normal" guys.
Apart from the freaks, geeks and duds who will inevitably be there, you'll also find men who are shy or not adept at picking up women. Some of them are too busy with jobs or hobbies to go trolling for dates in bars. Some don't like the kind of women they meet there. Some are divorced and have kids to take to soccer practice or help with their homework.
And what about all the new niche dating sites? Are you convinced that all the nicest guys are vegan? Do you want to find someone who loves Dickens or Didion? Must you fall for a Democrat, Ivy Leaguer or Apple aficionado? There's an app for that.
Bottom line is that there are some good ones online, and they'll be a whole lot easier to spot on a brightly lit computer screen than in the dim recesses of your neighborhood pub.
But I Won't Have A Good 'How We Met' Story
People love telling their "How We Met" stories. One of my girlfriends met her Harvard-educated urologist husband at a Benny's Burrito. Another first laid eyes on her beloved across a crowded lecture hall at Columbia University. My sister met her man when they worked together on a newspaper in Myrtle Beach, he a reporter and she a photographer.
How romantic! What a coincidence! It was meant to be!!!
Nobody wants their "meeting story" to be about filling out a lengthy questionnaire on eHarmony or sifting through endless pictures and profiles on Zoosk.
So here we are again, back to the shame factor.
I met my boyfriend of four-and-a-half years on Match.com. When we first started going out people would ask us how we met. We'd give each other a knowing look and lie.
Both of us were divorced and had decided online dating was our best option. Yet both of us were keenly aware of how judgmental the world was about finding a mate on the Internet. But the longer we stayed together, the more we realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of.
Most people know at least one online dating success story -- their second cousin, their boss' daughter or their best friend's sister who found love on the Internet. So why not make the next happy ending your own?
Follow Molly Shapiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@molly_shapiro