So I’ve been researching a story I’m trying to write at the moment which should hopefully be a part of a novel… Hopefully.
I’ve been looking at Internet Dating (Disclaimer: not partaking in, because you won’t believe me even if I disclaim it anyway so I might as well make that clear). More specifically, internet dating sites. Dating has always been one of those things I’ve never fully understood, been very good at or has never really been a factor in my life. So for researching this story I’ve been looking at internet dating sites that people use and how they look, operate, what people say on them, or about them. The kind of things you just have to see for yourself. Not that I’m writing them off at all, I’m sure they work very well for some people and are very useful and I mean no insult or anything if you have found special connections that way. Well done, you! But they are definitely not for me and it has inspired me to get to my blog and create this diatribe about why I don’t like them. At the risk of sounding old, sardonic, possibly hypocritical or just plain boring here are the reasons why:
1) Window Shopping.
It is a strange thing that I’ve associated a page like Plenty of Fish or Match.com with something like Amazon or eBay. But they really do feel like it. Unlike social networks where you can even speculatively add someone to get to know them or is based around a circle of people you actually know, these are really just a big old female/male shopping sites. I found myself clicking through tiny thumbnails of women and being quite judgmental. Not specifically on looks, age, username, grammar or anything in particular, but just a general combination of everything. I liken it to browsing on Amazon or ASOS or something where you kind of umm and agh over a pattern on clothes or a DVD cover or a poor review of a food mixer. Of course, as soon as I realised I was doing this, I felt terrible! Absolutely awful. I know that to successfully date or find anything resembling a relationship in this internet age, you HAVE to put yourself out there. But why? Why should you as women or men feel the need to categorise yourself and put yourself up to the scrutiny of judgemental tossers/tossettes? I felt like I was objectifying a person almost immediately and the poor little thumbnails didn’t have a voice, didn’t have the opportunity to come back at me and say “actually, dickface, you’ll find I’m actually quite interesting or pretty or better than you will ever be because I don’t judge people like you just have.”
2) Who you are (in 200 words)
Writing is an art that is impossible to master, really. It’s something you improve on, get better at, study and if you’re lucky become quite successful at it. But you can never be perfect at it. Neil Gaiman says in the introduction for American Gods that a novel ‘is always, at least for the author, a long piece of prose with something wrong with it.’ So how the hell do you expect a person to be interesting, given a short space of words and a few vital statistics. Human beings are the most brilliant creatures because we are so social. We can move in different circles of people, reach out, spot someone across a room and fall instantly in love or just talk and be interesting. For me, personally, there is no magic in finding out about someone in this cold internet way. And I come from a myspace/MSN generation where we always talked to people online, text them, almost pre-internet dating flirted in this way… But that was because we would meet them. We would tell very quickly what did and didn’t work out between people. I’m not saying that people lie, aren’t genuine or anything like that. Because that’s not what I’m getting at. What I’m saying is that sometimes, something magical happens where you meet someone accidentally, on purpose, are set up, or anything that makes an amusing or heart warming story, and a spark flies. Even if it is a flash in the pan, it is still there. I don’t trust my gut, my emotions or anything for shit because their internal vocal advice normally ends up with me getting hurt in someway, but I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world against clicking whether I’m a smoker or not.
3) “Don’t message me if you’re a weirdo…” And other chat up lines.
The quirkiness of people and their idiosyncratic ways is completely lost on the internet. Ever get a text and you can’t tell if it’s flirty or evasive, sarcastic or serious? This is exactly the problem with internet dating is that you can fall in to two categories: Weirdo, or WEIRDO! What’s the difference? Well, lower case weirdo is a person who will say something quirky. Something a bit more than hello. Possible more than three sentences, and their sentence might even get away from them a little bit. But there’ll be something honest there, cute maybe, and definitely relatable if they said it to you in real life. On the internet however, this is a time consuming error for both parties. You may want something a little bit more than just ‘Hello’ or ‘Your* fit’ (*Assumption of spelling capacity of people who say this), but in reality anything more is just a bit too much to handle, hard to understand and not the perfect way you want to enter romantic life. To me, again personally, nothing romantic is ever perfect and that’s one of the most endearing things about it! Sometimes it can be and those are magical times where babies probably get made. Upper Case WEIRDO however is 90% of the male world (I’m generalising and sounding like a bitter person, but really this is actually quite true). The guys who don’t see beyond the boobs, don’t look up to see the brain, have profile pictures of their cut abs from 6 years ago before all the drinking and partying finally caught up with them, or they’re just the kind of guy girls always go for, end up with, get upset about and end up joining dating sites to find someone new. The cycle just continues. Of course the problem with this and the inability to use your personality (or lack of) to create a first impression is exactly the same problem as in the outside world!
Personally, as I feel I have to keep pointing out, I don’t get it. I know how it works, why it works, etc. But I’ve always enjoyed just meeting people without any of this internet based message system, categorisation or social advertising. Yes it’s hard to do and sometimes it hurts. More often than not it’s a terrible terrible chore and awfully awkward. For me, that’s half the fun. I’ve always ended up dating someone I’ve met through a friend, through a ridiculous situation or because I was bloody determined to find out who they were and had that gut feeling that this would be brilliant. Although my research will provide something for my stories, it’s inventible that my own feelings and voice in this regard might come through. But it’ll be worth it once the manuscript is written, trust me it will. If you do have any stories of internet dating that you would like to share with me for my research, anonymously of course unless you want me to know who you are, then you are more than welcome to leave a comment or find a way to get in touch. It’s interesting to hear all of these things from people because, if we aren’t acting like people and writing about people, then what’s the point in being people anyway?
Stay safe internet world!
Currently Reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman