Online Dating: Desperate or Genius?

Not wanting to come across as a desperate single woman, but really spurred on by the feedback I received from family, friends and followers after writing my post about speed dating about a month ago, I thought I’d take this time to continue on this path and broach the subject of online dating. I would say that ten years ago when I was still eighteen, that was seen as taboo. Who needs to find friends or love on the Internet? We all thought we would have no problem getting dates. After all, our parents did it the old-fashioned way. We could do it, too.

Well, fast forward to the 2010s and these services that I thought I would never use are now somewhat of a phenomenon. As the human race has become busier in general, we seem to devote less time to meeting new people in-person and more time towards things like work (careers are where it’s at). Don’t get me wrong, it is important to educate yourself – either through school or life – and to make sure you know who you are as an independent person while ensuring you can provide for yourself no matter what. But, maybe that drive gets in the way of exploring the traditional avenues of making new acquaintances that could potentially lead to a significant other.

Verging on thirty years of age, I am at a crossroads. Being that I’m no longer in school, the possibility of sitting next to a guy who could become my next boyfriend is gone. Most of my girlfriends know a dozen other single friends who want to be set up, yet don’t have any single guys to recommend. My married friend’s friends are already wed or engaged, so whenever I go to group events or house parties, I’m basically the only single person there. Short of going to the bar, where else can I turn?

I’ll go where everyone else goes nowadays. ONLINE.

An amazing Single Girl's Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graph.net.

An amazing Single Girl’s Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graphs.net.

I’m no expert. So far, this hasn’t worked out that well for me. However, I do believe that sharing my experiences may be a form of therapy and also be helpful to anyone else who’s currently in the same boat.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried five sites including eHarmony, Plenty of Fish (POF), eVow, OkCupid and Zoosk with basically the same results, meaning nothing long-term has come out of using them. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting to quit using them all together, but there’s always the question of “what if?” That’s not to say all these sites are made equal. Some are definitely better than others. Here’s a rundown of my observations from each.

eHarmony

A screenshot of eHarmony's login page.

A screenshot of eHarmony’s login page.

The biggest thing with this site is that it can seem like a daunting process to fill out every aspect of your profile. It’s a lot to get through at the beginning and if you opt to fill out the Q & A questions – there are close to a thousand – you’ll probably be devoting hours or a couple of days, time that not all of us necessarily have.

What I disliked most about eHarmony when I signed up for it a few years ago, as well as right now, is that going through the Quick Questions, Makes or Breaks and Dig Deeper steps before you even hit eH Mail – the site’s own e-mail type system – is extremely time-consuming if both parties aren’t quick to respond. I always find that, part way through, someone typically disengages and disappears during guided communication (what is wrong with them?), which can be disheartening because you had hoped to make even the smallest connection and that’s lost before you truly have a chance to get to know them.

This is why I always ask those I’m interested in if they would consider going the eH Mail route first – skip all the questions and let’s meet as soon as possible – and sometimes it works. My friend (the one who convinced me to try the site out again this time around) is now seeing where it might go with a guy who opted to do just that. If the guy doesn’t want to skip ahead and they prefer to go with the guided questions, that’s completely fine with me, but at least have the decency to see it through to the point where you can message freely and just be honest – either you’re still interested or not – and go from there. No one wants to be left hanging and wondering where the other went and why they just stopped replying. Perhaps the flightiness comes from the prevalent idea nowadays that there is always something better for you out there.

Another thing I wish I could see is how frequently your so-called matches visit their profile (I couldn’t find a spot on any of the profiles I was given that showed me that information); I have no idea if they have signed in within the last day, week, month or longer, so you might try to reach out and not hear back for a good while. The same goes for knowing if they are subscribers or free users because that will give me a better sense of how quickly we might be able to develop a conversation. If your match is waiting for the next free weekend before he can respond, it’s going to take a whole lot longer.

This site has made me doubtful that paid dating sites (an expensive one at that – try looking for promo codes online before signing up) are better as I have yet to actually meet one of these men in real life. Nevertheless, I now have a yearlong membership and I’ll continue to put it to use. You never know what can happen in that amount of time. I’ll keep trying.

Plenty of Fish (POF)

A screenshot of POF's login page.

A screenshot of POF’s login page.

According to some, it’s the hook up dating site of the Internet, not at all my intentions. But, it’s free and, if you’re willing to stick it out, there are, I’m sure, some decent guys, men, or manboys on there. It gets a bad reputation because there are a lot of people simply seeking out casual relationships as well as those that post inappropriate or provocative pictures (no, we really don’t want to be scrolling through profiles and all of a sudden see a picture of your package) or basically ask for a booty call as soon as you send a response (just because I said hello back, it does not mean I want to sleep with you…I don’t know you!).

The guys on there also tend to refrain from fully reading what you’ve written and tend to send messages that used absolutely no effort. I hate to say it, but, as humans, we base a lot on appearance and image, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little picky. It goes both ways though. I just wish that everyone using this service at least absorb the whole profile a person has decided to share, not just a portion of it before making a decision as to whether or not to respond. It also still frustrates me to no end when people say they want to meet you (stupid “meet me” function) and don’t bother sending you a message (have the balls to say something) or replying when you take the first step and put yourself out there.

There are success stories to be found. My good childhood friend had great luck and found a wonderful man on POF and they’re now engaged to be married this coming summer, so there’s hope!

Although, how long do you hold onto that hope for? I’ve been on my fair share of dates with people I’ve met on this site and, while I wouldn’t say any have been outright terrible, none have been amazing either. Just for fun though, I’ll tell you about the first guy I met from this site. He took me out for brunch on the weekend. We had a good time and great conversation, even mentioning things we might be able to do later in the year when festivals and such rolled around. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t really that attracted to him physically, but he was very nice and I could picture hanging out with him again. But, guess what? I never heard from him after that date. Quite a bit of time passed by and he saw that I still had a profile on POF, so he messaged me. Do you know what he said? He told me that he didn’t understand why I was still on the site. He thought I was so awesome and was surprised that someone hadn’t already snapped me up. I didn’t feel like having that discussion with him, but, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself, “what a weird guy; if you thought I was such a great catch, why didn’t you pursue anything further.”

I do not understand how guys think. They don’t seem to get us either. Therein lies the problem.

Zoosk

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

This site is a bit like POF. They tout themselves as being free, but there are certain aspects that you need to pay to use. For example, every day you are sent an e-mail with one SmartPick. You have 24 hours to tell Zoosk whether or not you are interested in this person. If you are, and the match is as well, the site puts you in touch with one another. However, there’s a cost associated with that service and without putting out the money, you’re left unable to indicate your feelings towards the profile you’ve been given. The same goes with them notifying you of people who have viewed your profile. You can see who looked at your page, but to view their profile requires that you pay. Of course, there are ways to bypass these issues. You can always sit there scrolling through hundreds of profiles until you find that person again and just message them yourself.

The site seems to overlook the fact that most people are smart enough to use the site within the boundaries of the free features. The extras aren’t really that great. Yes, I cannot message others without paying, but I can download their chat function and converse with someone for free that way.

Regardless of those basic problems with Zoosk, I just found the caliber of people to not be what I was looking for. Also, it seems like they have some sort of built-in preset messages for people to choose from, including some of the cheesiest pick-up lines I have ever heard. Here are some of the ones I received:

Are you a parking ticket? Because you have fine written all over you.

I’m a thief, and I’m here to steal your heart.

I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?

Is your dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.

Why aren’t you in jail? It’s illegal to look that good.

Are you a leprechaun? Because I think you’re my lucky charm.

I think you’re all capable of being a little more original than that. I’d much rather have someone just say hello and ask me how my day was than be subjected to this, even if it provided a good laugh in the process. I nixed this site quickly because it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

eVow

A screenshot of eVow's main page.

A screenshot of eVow’s main page.

This is brought to you by the creators of POF and it is their version of a serious dating site. It’s not meant for hooking up, casual dating or friendships. You’re meant to find someone who wants to seriously date or get married within the next few years.

That may very well be the intention of some people on there, but, to me, it still seems like a mishmash of people. Also, from observation, it tends to be filled with divorced single dads (nothing against any of you; good on you for taking care of your kids, but I always worry about suddenly finding myself with an instant family or the possibility of it not working out yet there being additional attachments with the children) and a lot more smokers (on POF no one is a smoker, on eVow a lot more people are – they’re being more honest I guess), neither of which are my thing or what I currently want.

Perhaps if you’re okay with the idea of starting a family sooner as opposed to later, this may be the place for you.

OkCupid 

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A friend of a friend told me that she met her boyfriend on OkCupid and that she had the best results on this site, so, naturally, I went home and signed up for it right away.

I found it really interesting to find that while it’s free, it is quite similar to eHarmony. There are hundreds of questions (or more) that you can answer and your responses are compared to those of other users. Your compatibility with them is then calculated – you can see how good you’d be as a couple or as friends and even if you’re more likely to be enemies. It’s almost more refined, in a way, than eHarmony is. The fact that they used your similarities to decide whether or not you would get along with a person is common sense. We gravitate towards those who share the same values and likes as us, but there is also the notion of opposites being attracted to one another. How does that fit in? So, I was looking at this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

There is also a lot of crossover on all of these dating sites. You can see I’ve tried almost all of the major ones and I can tell you that you will see duplicate profiles. Here’s another story of mine.

I started seeing this one guy that I met on POF. He was sweet, well-educated, but also socially awkward in that he was extremely shy and never really knew what to say or how to keep his side of the conversation flowing. He happened to also have a profile on OkCupid that I found after our first meeting. Based on OkCupid’s system, what was our likelihood of being a good match, you ask? Not great. According to the site, we were only about 42 percent compatible. I did find it harder to talk to him because it usually came down to me having to come up with things to do or discuss, but I wasn’t giving up so easily. There were moments when I could see him being more open and loosening up, so we went out several times. However, periodically I would see that he’d viewed my profile on OkCupid again and that the percentage shown for our likelihood of being a good couple would have changed slightly. He’s in school doing a PhD to become a mathematician, so maybe he wasn’t satisfied with the low score we originally received and thought that by answering more questions or altering his responses, we might be a great match after all. Being that his life revolved around numbers, it probably would have meant a great deal to him if the site told us we would work out. Ultimately, we didn’t and I had seen the signs.

Currently, I’m not using the site anymore, but based off of that situation, maybe OkCupid is on the right track.

Online Dating Tips:

  • Use current photos where you’re clearly visible so people know what you actually look like (you’re not a blurry head in real life) – maybe it can be viewed as a bit shallow, but, I think, it’s also a precaution in the online world. Also, please don’t steal some model’s photo from the Internet.
  • Don’t have every picture of yourself being a mirror selfie. I am certain that you know someone who is willing to take a proper photo of you.
  • Show yourself doing things that interest you.
  • Avoid posting only pictures of all your trucks, motorbikes and your pets (although the pets are probably adorable). We want to see who you are.
  • Show yourself at your best, not your worst – no one’s dream date is the guy who looks absolutely hammered on his profile. The same goes for when you meet in-person.
  • Don’t copy and paste some generic text into your description because we notice when we read the same thing from one profile to the next.
  • Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. You’ll come across better if you take the time to write proper sentences and paragraphs.
  • Do take a bit of time (not a lot, just a little) to write something interesting about yourself, so we can work with something to get conversation going.
  • Don’t just say “hey,” “you fine,” etc. Obviously, we’re all on here for different reasons, but if I clearly say I’m looking for a relationship, not stating that I want something casual, the online equivalent of a wolf whistle, if you will, is not going to capture my attention.
  • Follow through with messages and meetings – if you took the time to reach out to me and I actually respond, do yourself a favour and reply or make real plans to get together.

These sites can work. Although, they’re not for everybody. You do almost feel like you’re shopping, and there is a certain amount of trust involved. I always say people can lie easily online, but they can also lie to your face. You just have to be smart and go with your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. But, sometimes, I think the hardest part about going the online dating route is syncing what you see on the screen with who you meet face-to-face. Conversation in e-mail might go really well because you both have plenty of time to craft the appropriate things to say (not that most guys do), but once you have nothing to hide behind and you are literally with that person, it can be an intimidating situation for some. That’s when you can tell for sure whether or not a relationship will move along.

This clip with Kristen Wigg having a date with someone she met online while on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is obviously a joke, but it is hilarious and a great amplification of the awkwardness that can happen during a first meeting with someone as well as the weirdness that can follow.

I certainly won’t count this out as an option because it has become so commonplace. People I know seem to be more open to talking about their knowledge of the sites or how they met their significant other through these means. The stigma that society once placed on online dating is slowly dissipating. By refusing to put myself out there in this way, I feel like I might be limiting my chances.

If you happen to still be on the lookout for someone who will be your best friend and who makes you feel loved and happy, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Like speed dating, the worst case is that you go on some bad or awkward dates, but get some practice and come out with some good stories to tell. Maybe you just make a few friends (you never know, new contacts can increase your probability of meeting people the “normal” way). Or, the best outcome is that it works for you and you find exactly what you’re looking for. Like life, timing is everything. This might be your time. So, take a deep breath and a leap of faith because this could potentially be the start of a brand new day!

 

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Toshl: Be a Budget Maven

We are now into the second month of 2014 and I’ve been thinking more about the things I choose to spend my money on. January is a time when we all tend to tighten the belt when it comes to our wallets. However, once we pass that point, and we’ve paid off our holiday bills, does it return to normal? Do we go back to buying our daily Starbucks coffees, purchasing the latest version of Apple’s iPhone, watching movies every weekend at the theatre?

I’m pretty good for the most part. I own my home, so I make sure to pay my mortgage and all my bills in full every month, but I also like to indulge by eating out with friends, going to concerts, and traveling. I certainly don’t think that’s a terrible thing. As the saying goes, you only live once. You’re also only young once. Why hoard all my money away for retirement? It’s still important to have some fun while I can enjoy it.

I’m responsible with my money though. If I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it. But, I guess, I’m also lucky that I can pretty much do whatever I want. I don’t have a husband or kids that rely on me. As long as I am able to provide for myself, I’m in good hands.

Even so, I still think that my spending requires a bit of an overhaul. For several years now, I’ve kept track of my monthly expenses by listing it out on paper or on my phone in my Colornote app. And, while it’s great to write it down, I don’t necessarily know what specifically my money is spent on in terms of percentages. I’m aware that I’m spending and of the total, but, at the same time, I’m not aware of the details.

Recently, I came across the fantastic Toshl app and started using their website (changes made on your phone or on the computer should sync up). Although the free program is a little more limited than the pro version (you can only create one budget and enter one income every month), it still really allows you to drill down on your expenses and see where your money is going.

From what I can tell so far, you can add as many expense lines as you need to per month and each cost can be tagged – either general or really refined (i.e. meals vs. gum) – and those tags can then be grouped, so you can see a breakdown of how much you spent on the essentials, such as housing, utilities and groceries, as well as the amount used on extraneous purchases like clothes, music, or lottery tickets.

The breakdown of my January 2014 expenses. Tagged into categories and shown based on percentage of the month's total spending. Grabbed from my Toshl account.

The breakdown of my January 2014 expenses. Tagged into categories and shown based on percentage of the month’s total spending. Screenshot grabbed from my Toshl account.

I won’t tell you how much of my monthly income was used in January, but I can tell you I was shocked to see how little of it I actually managed to save for a rainy day.

So, how am I going to change that? I don’t necessarily believe that I have to cut out all the fun things I fill my time with by becoming a complete hermit. Yet, I can probably find a smarter way to fit those things in without breaking the bank.

Rather than hitting up every concert that comes to town, pick just a few where I’m dying to see that artist live. Pack my lunch or snacks to work most days and eat out less. Learn to cook some new recipes at home rather than dining at a restaurant. Set aside a chunk of change annually for travel and split up the amount however I see fit. Invite friends over for a meal, movie or games and just talk. If I want to go out, look for vouchers on sites like Groupon or LivingSocial that can provide me with discounts on lunch, dinner, entertainment, travel, etc.

I’ve read about the debt that many people find themselves in nowadays. Banks let customers take out small loans with big interest rates that they know most of their clients can’t actually pay back and many people are paying just the minimum on their credit card bills, but it doesn’t have to be that way for many of you.

Whichever way you choose to monitor or curb your spending, it is something I would highly recommend to everyone. All it takes are a few small steps at a time.

I want to be able to experience what I can at this moment and save for my future. This new year and new perspective of my personal finances will hopefully lead to that.

Feeling Nostalgic

1950’s Oceanic Surcouf French Valve Radio

I am currently the teaching assistant for a course about using and managing communication technologies. Essentially the class covers the history of the subject and a couple of weeks ago the topic up for discussion was the radio. The professor asked each of the students to share their memories of the technology in the hopes of finding someone else who related to the medium on an ethereal and intimate level just as he had as a child.

Growing up in a time when television played a larger role in my childhood and the computer was becoming the norm, I didn’t quite fit the bill of a radio listener. In fact, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the format. You can’t choose what you listen to and the advertisements bothered me to no end because it seemed like when one station had them on, every other station did as well. But, after reading some of the responses from the students, I saw how important the radio was to them. It presented an escape for them when there was nothing else at their disposal. The radio triggered their imagination with one student recalling how they listened to hockey games and the play-by-plays made them feel like they were actually there seeing the game live and in-person.

This discussion made me think about how I sometimes long for a previous time in my life. I’m feeling more and more lately like we’re inundated with too much information and that we’re too accessible. We’re constantly tethered to devices and people. Instead of separating personal and work lives, we’re available through our smart phones at all times. Since when did it become okay for work to seep into evenings and weekends?

I wish I still had the time to sit in my living room creating the perfect mix tapes like I did when I was a teenager. I’d pick out the songs and time it all so that I could get the most out of both sides. How many of you remember doing that?

When I didn’t have a care in the world, I would re-watch a movie over and over again until I memorized all the lines. I did that with Legally Blonde and Zoolander. But, then you grow up and there never seems to be enough time to do the laundry and the dishes, fit a workout in, pay the bills, run your errands or walk the dog, among a million other things. For many people, that carefree feeling that we used to have somehow goes out the door as we get older.

My memories of being a kid running around at recess, sitting on the school steps playing with pogs, walking to the neighbourhood general store with a friend to pick up a slushie or some five cent candies feel like they happened forever ago.

I think, in the end, what I’m trying to say here is that we can’t forget how we grew up and what made us happy when we were younger. When you feel nostalgic, call up your best friend and ask them to take a walk with you to the corner store like you did when you were kids or make yourself the perfect mix CD for your next road trip. You deserve to take the time out for yourself, to go back to a time when you had no obligations, even if only for an hour, an afternoon or a day.

I’d love to hear about what makes you feel nostalgic. Please share in the comments section below.

Photo source: http://thebakeliteradio.com