Online Dating Is Booming In Our Changing Society, But Does It Work? I Have My Doubts.

March 6, 2012 § 314 Comments

Let the cynical person do the research, because without doubt we have nothing to question.

More and more people are feeling comfortable talking about their online dating experiences, or even admitting to the fact that they’ve turned to the internet in order to find a mate.  It was not long ago that most people would feel very embarrassed to say that they had a dating profile online because we once associated that with desperation.  Before “Online Dating”, these types of services were associated with those “Video Dating” services that “completely helpless” people used, or at least that’s how they were portrayed in the media.

It’s probably best described in the “Lowered Expectations” segments that were so popular in the 90’s on Mad TV.  (Hey, I remember when I was 12 and I thought Mad TV was genius!)  Those skits showed the saddest and most pathetic people on the planet making desperate pleas for love on a VHS because they were so lonely and couldn’t find a date to save their lives.  As the internet blew up (I hear it’s doing well) then so did Online Dating.  You didn’t have to go anywhere to try and find another single person in your area, now you could make a spiffy profile and hopefully, finally, someone would love you.

Just make sure to delete browsing history or cookies in case someone else uses your computer, because God forbid that anyone you knew found out that you resorted to Online Dating to look for love.

However, by now most people are sort of past that.  When I first signed up for in 2010, I dared not tell a soul.  I only told my roommate because it was a lot easier than making up lies for the three times I went out on a date.  In retrospect I could have easily lied, but how did I know I would only go on three Match dates in three months?  I was finally steered towards OkCupid by a friend, which not only led my to OkCupid, but “Hey! You use online dating too?!”

One by one, all of my friends started admitting that they were using OkCupid or some form of internet dating, including my friends that I never would have considered to “need” online dating.  These were my guy friends that always had girlfriends or were really good at picking up girls, but they also used Online Dating.  At this point, I let go of all my inhibitions about Online Dating completely, to the point where I was writing about it online and not anonymously.  Hey, look, you’re here and I’m saying these words right now as proof.

I became an advocate for Online Dating, especially the free sites like OkCupid.  Not only is OkCupid free, but I felt that they had a lot more of the kinds of girls that I would actually consider compatible and I found that Match is really for a different type of dater.  It’s the kind of place that I might go back to when I’m 40, however by that point I can’t see what kind of faith I’ll have in life or society if I’m still doing this in eleven years.

I told people about Online Dating, I blogged about it, and I put myself out there for dozens of girls in the last year and a half.  I’ve given it my all and yet I sit here today with more experience, yet far less faith in the format than I had six months ago.  I used to tell people that Online Dating was the way to go because at this point we spend the majority of our time online, or on our phones, and we simply don’t have the time to “meet people in real life” like we used to.  Not only that, but being able to look at Profiles and seeing our Match% right off of the bat, gives us the kind of perspective that meeting in person or being set up on a blind date simply cannot do.

While that may be true, I have yet to see where it has made us more successful in finding love than any other format.  Just because we spend a lot of time online and just because we can look through dozens of profiles in an instant, does that have any kind of correlation to the answer we were looking for when we started this: Can I find a girl (or guy, whatever), to get serious with?

That’s what I really want to know.  Can you find a bunch of people to have sex with?  Yes, absolutely.  There’s no doubt that if you just want to find a quick and easy way to hook up, then Online Dating’s success is easily verifiable.  The format is actually perfect for that.  But when people say “You can’t find a girlfriend at a bar” does that mean that you’re any more successful in a relationship if you find someone on the internet when you’re sober?

So far, I can’t help but say that in my time online, I haven’t found a single relationship that lasted more than a few dates.  In fact, the two most successful relationships I’ve ever had started at a bar.  But I am only a sample of one.

I’ve scoured the internet for facts and figures, because I’m a stats guy.  I want to know what the statistics tell us about Online Dating in 2012.  Are people finding their love online with any more success than they are at a bar or in the grocery store?  Is it still best to find a person through a friend or at school/work?  If it’s still best to find a girlfriend at school, then I’ve got some explaining to do to the principal and the police and all that.  This is what I’ve found:

Online Dating Has Become Big Business

The more comfortable we become with using the internet to find a soulmate, the more valuable the services have become.  Research shows that the Dating Service Industry is worth $2.1 billion in the U.S. alone, with over half of that being attributed to Online Dating.

Despite the fact that OkCupid is mostly a free service (though they have upgrades that do come with fees, I’ve never seen any real need to pay them) it’s using the same methods that a site like Facebook uses to generate revenue: Look at how many members and site hits we have! Give us advertising money!

This is what makes it crazy to think that anyone would pay for a dating service and indeed, fewer and fewer people are doing so.  Though sites like Match and eHarmony will still attract users (they are still the top dating services) based on name recognition, advertising, and appealing to a more adult market while boasting a higher success rate.  (Though not confirmed to actually be more successful.)

I might not think it’s worth it to pay for a dating service now, but when you get to a certain age you might hit the panic button.  I don’t think you can put a price on finding a girlfriend or a boyfriend that honestly makes you happy, but they have yet to prove to me that it actually works.

With big business comes big responsibility, and as Online Dating grows into this bigger and bigger monster I see positive effects (more people online dating, more choices) and negative ones (greed breeds lies, spam, and sometimes more choices is not a good thing.)  Whether or not Online Dating is successful for us is up for debate, but it’s definitely become very successful in business.

Who Is The Online Dater?

According to a 2009 survey, you were more likely to use Internet Dating if you were:

  • More sociable
  • Had a high self-esteem and put value in romantic relationships
  • Had a low self-esteem but did not put value in romantic relationships

But you were less likely if you were:

  • Introverted
  • Had a low self-esteem and put value in romantic relationships

What’s interesting here is the idea that it doesn’t matter how high or low you value yourself, but how you value romantic relationships.  If you were confident in yourself, then you had no problem putting yourself out there in an online format looking for love.  If you didn’t have high self-confidence, you’ll put yourself out there, but only because your ready to get used and abused.  A person with a low self-esteem will date online but only because they think relationships are stupid anyway.

I’ve gone out with both of these types of girls and I am not turned on by anybody with a low self-esteem and then when they love ya and leave ya, it should come as no surprise.

1 in 5 “Have Dated” Someone They Met Online, Thanks

Remember when started running these ads?  At the time, they did seem like mind-boggling statistics.  Until that moment, most people were still in hiding about their Online Dating experiences.  At this point, it actually seems very low.  But it was genius advertising at the time.

However, when I read the study (found here by Chadwick Martin Bailey) it’s not really that impressive, based on the wording.

“1 in 5 – Number of current singles that have dated someone they met on an online dating site.”

“You’re gonna like the way you look inside this girl.  I guarantee it.”

Before I start hating on it, this study is two years old.  A lot has changed in two years.  They should really do a new study and re-pop those commercials with some new fangled statistics.  (Unless they can’t cause they’re not better?)   Okay, well, what do you mean by “have dated”?  Gone out once?  Gone out for a month?  Had a mutual masturbation session?  Let’s get specific here, because I’ve never been serious with anyone online but I can certainly see a scenario in which I say “Yes” to that, and I am NOT a symbol of success in terms of Online Dating.

These studies were conducted by Match with CMB, and therefore were biased to begin with.  Which tells me that it’s much lower than 1 in 5.  (Or was back then.)  Their final results said people most often met their spouse like this:

1) Through work/school                    36%

2) Through friend/family member       26%

3) Via Online Dating site                  17%

4) Through bars/clubs/social events   11%

5) Other                                         7%

6) Through church/places of worship   4%

Less than half as often as marrying a co-worker or one of your students.  (That’s what they mean by school, right?)  Still less often than meeting someone through a mutual friend, and really not that much more often that meeting someone at a bar!  Really?  It’s only six percent more likely that I’ll find my future wife online than I will at that divey pub under the bridge?!?!

When these results were posted on 4/20 in 2010, the results wouldn’t make it seem like they were high, but these numbers actually look pretty shitty if they were the same in 2012.  Especially when I consider the fact that over the last three years, I’ve gone on a lot more online dates than I have gone on dates with girls I’ve met socially or through other means.  So while it is true that OkCupid has given me a whole lot more to choose from, it’s also given me way more FAILS.  They’re like the shooting guard that takes 40 shots and misses most of them, compared to the efficient small forward that goes 4-for-6 and is also a lot cheaper.

You’re Twice As Likely To Fuck A Person On The First Date Than To Eventually Marry Them

According to via Rueters, 33% of women have had sex on their first online date with someone, while 17% of marriages in the last year started out as an online courtship.

This helps back up my earlier theory that the internet is a great place to find quick and easy sex, but not to find the love of your life.  However, I won’t ignore the fact that almost 1 in 5 marriages are coming from the Online Dating world.  After all, some of them have to be successful, right?  Additionally, if you do get married after meeting online, the period between your first date and saying “I Do” is half as long as if you met her at a Carls Jr or at a Home Depot while fighting over the last pair of Truck Nuts.  (Offline, basically, is what I’m getting at.)  The courtship period for Online Daters that marry: 18.5 months.  Offliners: 42 months.  Clearly, they are still using 56k and us internet nerds are used to high-speed DSL.

Other results from the study:

10% of users leave within the first three months – Which is actually a potentially bad sign to me.  You don’t want to be Online Dating forever.  However, three months isn’t a long time really… But it’s not some magical solution either.  I want to know how many people have found a serious partner within one year.  I’ve been on OkCupid for over a year and I have seen a lot of the same girls over and over again in my search results during that time.

Number of questions to fill out on eHarmony survey is 400 – Holy Fuckballs!  I’ll top out at 100, thanks very much.

64% of People Say “Common Interests” are the Most Important Factors in Meeting Someone – This is fair and believable.  I mean, I want to meet somebody that has interests in writing, movies, television, and has a great sense of humor.  Somebody that I can have fun with.  It is important that you have some attraction to the person (49% say Physical Characteristics are the most important factor, blowing their math skills out of the water… uhhh.. questioning study or I’m not understanding the wording) but you’re trying to balance the looks with the common interests and come to a fair conclusion.

71% of People Believe in Love at First Sight – Or should I say “Love at first SITE lolololol!!!”

Percent of Sex Offenders Who Use Online Dating To Meet People: 10%  – GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!  yikes.

38% of Girls Prefer Nice Guys Compared to 15% for Bad Guys, but 6% Take “Any Man They Can Get”  – I’m still looking for that six percent.

By 48, Men Have Twice as Many Online Pursuers As Women – I only have 19 years to go!

Taller Guys And Shorter Women Get More Action

According to OkCupid, men have more sex when they get to 6’4-6’5, but then it drops again when they become freakishly tall.  I am actually 6’5-6’6, but maybe I should reduce my listed height to 6’5″!  On the other side, shorter women get more messages than taller ones.

It’s funny that I always lacked confidence because of my weight, but that’s nothing compared to being a guy that’s 5’5″ or shorter.  A guy that’s 6’8″ will get twice as many messages as a guy that is 5’0″.  How many 5 foot guys are out there though I wonder, not counting A-list Hollywood actors, that all seem to look like jockeys in real life?

Other findings in that study include a really interesting look at Income and Age for Men and how it attracts unsolicited messages.  I’ve never listed my income on my profile, mostly because I don’t see the point.  What does it really matter? If you make a lot of money, you’re bragging.  If you don’t make a lot of money, you’re pathetic.  I make decent money, nothing I’m ashamed of, but I don’t really see the point in listing it because I don’t see how my income should affect how dateable I am and if it does, fuck you.

So did I arrive at any answers?  Yes, I think so. I think that I’ve found that Online Dating, while being more successful than it appeared to be three years ago, is still not that much more successful than meeting someone in person.  In certain terms, one could even say that Online Dating should have a much higher rate of success based on: A.) The amount of data we have on the other person before we meet and B.) The amount of people we meet online compared to in our social lives, and yet the results aren’t that much more impressive.

When I started Online Dating, I had low expectations and was really nervous about it.  I was really nervous about meeting someone from the internet, much more so than meeting someone in person where I just say “Hey, how’s it going?”  Once I got over that initial nervousness, I saw it as a great way to meet people.  I had gotten way past being nervous and now I was a God Damn beast when it came to meeting girls online.  I got down the meeting place, the conversation, all that shit…

So I should be more successful right?

Well, despite my much higher confidence, I just found more and more fails.  And that’s not to say that it’s because of Online Dating.  It’s not to say it’s not because I just fucking sucked, or didn’t meet the right girls, or whatever… it can all still be attributed to all of those things or none of those things.  Just like any other way to meet people.  It just means that Online Dating isn’t that much better than picking up a girl at a bar.  Not only because of MY experiences, but because of the research I found in combination with that.

That’s not to say that I won’t meet “the one” from OkCupid.  Or that you won’t.  I have a friend that’s married to a girl from OkCupid.  It can work, it’s proven to have worked.  If 1 in 5 marriages started Online, that’s VERY significant and especially considering with how new the format is, relatively.  It could grow and grow, but only because business is booming right now.  It’s a super popular way for people to meet, and it’s only getting bigger.

But I don’t think that the format has proven to be completely successful yet.  It’s got a long ways to go.  There’s a lot to be learned from it and I’m still learning from it.  However, as of now, it’s sort of just a place to meet/fuck and maybe I’ll call you tomorrow.  (Just like the bar.)

Follow me on Twitter to see more of my dating and sex fails.

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