What I Learnt About Online Dating: Sites

I’m quite the connoisseur of online dating. I don’t wish to brag, but I’ve tried a lot of different places. Oh yeah, I get about. And don’t let my perpetually single status fool you, I’ve had plenty of experiences. And here’s some of the things I’ve learnt!

  1. It’s Not Cheap

Online dating lures you in easily, but then in most cases you’ll need to pay money in order to send and receive messages. Some sites will allow you to send a few messages a day for free, but then you’ll need to pay, and there are some that want you to pay to see both messages and matches or ‘people who like you’, things along those lines. Things that flatter you into handing over some cash. But it’s an excessive amount of money. Match is about £27 just to be able to read and send messages, and I’ve not really found a paying site that’s any less that £20 a month for a basic subscription. Because, oh yeah, their subscriptions vary in prices and benefits.

But there are benefits to the pricing. If you’re paying for something you’re getting a slightly better crop of people. As with many things, the more you pay the better your service. The better the people you are associating with. Because if you’re paying, you’re kind of investing. Keep that in mind. It’s another step in helping you weed out the people you don’t want to date. People are paying for their profiles to be upgraded, so they’re probably more serious about using the service and probably looking for an actual relationship, rather than just sex.

I have to say for all of the mainstream sites this is probably true. For Match and Plentyoffish and the like, the ones that are appealing to everyone, a payment plan is one way of sifting out the casual people who are probably only skimming for sex.

However, if you’re either poor or have some slightly diverse tastes, I don’t know if this is for you. More diverse sites, more specific and specialised dating sites will be free and because it’s diverse, it’s easier to find people without having to pay a lot of money. You’ve already got the groundwork underway, after all. So the easiest way to get away with online dating sites without paying a whole lot is to search for a specific genre, like geek to geek, bisexual dating, things like that.

  1. It’s Not As Shallow As Dating Apps

Dating sites are not usually as shallow as apps. The nature of them seems to allow a little more personal expansion and profile detail, because dating sites are most commonly accessed on a computer. It might be because apps are easy-to-access time killers on a phone that makes people treat them more casually than websites.

Maybe it’s a psychological thing. With websites you go through more effort to set up a user profile, to fill in your details, and upload photographs. It all adds up to more of an investment (of time if nothing else). I’ve certainly found that I spend more time reading people’s profiles on websites. There’s usually more to read, anyway. You can input vast amounts of interests and preferences that go into the sites databases and help you find people with similar likes and dislikes. Because you’re less likely to scroll past someone you might not find immediately attractive if the site tells you you’re an 80% match, or their biography makes you laugh because they get your humour, or because they’ve included a beautiful yet obscure quote from your favourite dystopian novel.

Communication on sites is also more involved. Replying from a computer with a keyboard, I think, makes you more inclined to write a greater reply, like an email or a letter, compared to the message functions on apps which are both fiddly on a phone and less free flowing, more like texts. The ability to sit down at a computer and craft a reply to someone, in my experience, leads to much better communication. Better communication makes for better connections with people. That shouldn’t be surprising.

3. Some Profiles Are Hilarious (intentionally or otherwise).

Intentionally hilarious people possess an immediate charm that raises the question as to why they’re on a dating site anyway. But don’t let that thought nag at you. People all have their reasons, their specific wants. But there are people who are naturally funny, and have an effortlessly humourous profile and the right amount of subtle amusement in their pictures, and that’s great. But then there are the people who are not naturally hilarious, or perhaps have a different brand of funny in their backpack but who opt to follow the fashion because they think it works. The internet is ruddled with people who try so, so hard to be funny, over egging on the quirky to try and convince you they’re just such a great person to be around. Their pictures will probably consist of them wearing wacky outfits and quoting memes and their ‘about me’ section will read like a John Green novel. If it’s girls you’re perusing, they’ll mention a time they did something so crazy and so not stereotypically feminine because they’re so funny!

And they are, but the only problem is that you find yourself laughing at them (or you’re wracked with second hand embarrassment) and their incredible ability to try too hard. But as long as you’re laughing, they’re pleased.

Then there are the people who aren’t going for hilarious at all. They’re deadly serious and the pictures of them with badly photoshopped  abs, raging duck face and possibly the use of the word ‘wanderlust’ will let you know it. THese people don’t intend to be funny, but they are carefully crafting what they think people want. Or lying. Or so many other things, but they don’t intend for you to laugh at them. I feel bad for laughing. But you all know what I’m talking about.

4. It Can Be Very Intense

People usually opt for online dating because they’re having a difficult time finding their perfect match in the real world, or because they just don’t know how to bring up their vast array of interests and fetishes with a stranger on a first date. Whatever the reason, you suddenly find the internet and it opens up your net. You can meet people with exactly the same diverse interests as you, possibly for the first time ever. And because of that you’re going to think you’ve immediately found your soulmate.

I think this is one of the reasons that online dating is considered so successful, and why sites like Match brag about their marriage rates. Firstly because people are genuinely able to make connections with people, they can click with them, meet people with their diverse interests that tick all of their boxes, so of course they’re going to want to spend their life with them. Their reality has convinced them they’re never going to find another person like them.

But if it’s the first time you’ve met someone with the same diversities you have, it can get really intense very quickly. WIthout considering the fact that you could just be scraping the surface of potential mates, people latch onto the first person they find that ticks their boxes because they’ve never found anyone before and they don’t realise how many other people out there are like them. SO it’s a whirlwind to lay claim on this person before they get away.

Online dating can be so intense because for some people it’s the last resort, and for others it’s the only one, so they take what they can as soon as they find someone that suits them. But that’s natural. We don’t want to be alone, and we want to be understood, and if we find someone we believe we can roll through life with us it’s hard to not want to hold on to them. THe thrill will die down, the Internet lets you be picky, it’s a buffet of diversity so don’t fill up on the first cheesecake you see. I’m terrible at metaphors.

5. There’s Something For Everyone!

Dating sites cater to everyone. That’s certainly one thing I’ve found that goes beyond what apps offer. THere is such a diverse range of dating sites that if you can’t find one to suit you, you should open one yourself and wait for your brethren and their money to flock to you.

You want to know how diverse it gets? Here’s a list of some of my favourites:

Kingsnake After Dark – the dating site for snake lovers
Prescription4love.com – for people with health conditions or diseases

See, no matter your preferences or your interests, there’s a place for you!

But it’s not even like you have to be into uncommon kinks. Mainstream dating sites have algorithms that pair you up with people with similar interests and hobbies, so you don’t have to wade through pages of fitness enthusiasts when all you want is pizza and TOWIE. Online sites are way, way better at this than apps, and to go back to my first point, the accuracy of this algorithm is what you pay for. A lot of sites offer you a more advanced search for your money, sifting out the sound and leaving you with just the gold. Of course you could do that on your own if you don’t want to pay, but algorithms are what make sites so popular.

6. It’s Easy To Lie (And Spot The Liars)

Everybody lies on the Internet. If there is any truth that will outlive man in a nuclear holocaust, it would be that. Because the Internet is the easiest place to lie, especially in front of tons of strangers and when attracting a mate.

I doubt there is a single person who hasn’t lied a bit on an online dating site. Of course you have. Most of us are insecure and want to be wanted and it’s okay to tweak the truth a tiny bit. Little white lies are easy to gloss over because your match is probably equally as guilty of them.

Lies like your salary, education, the fact that you won an Olympic medal, these are lies that can’t be maintained. ANd they’re the kind of lies that take effort. Prolonged lies and liars are dangerous. Because they are investing a lot of time in a ruse that is going to come crashing down. Of course it’s going to come crashing down. The longer you’re with someone the more you learn about them and their friends aren’t going to be able to maintain the lie, too.

Beware of sociopaths, is what I’m saying. The Internet is riddled with them, and they will be on dating sites. Have you watched Catfish? It’s an amazing documentary. And you know what, it happens. It’s happened to me. It can easily happen to you. Catfish is on Netflix. Watch it.

The last group of liars are the people we talked about earlier, who photoshop their abs or their arms or their boobs or their thighs. They lean against expensive cars they don’t own and claim that the thug life chose them.

All I’m saying is that these people did not think this through at all. They’re clearly aiming themselves at a certain kind of person with certain wants, say, for example, someone who likes women with big arms. So they photoshop their arms larger for the sex appeal. Yet they aren’t going to be able to deliver. If their mate is fooled by the photoshop what do they intend to do when they meet in the flesh and their arms are only average size? What have you achieved? What has anyone achieved? What the fuck is happening?

  1. People Don’t Respect Your Limits

All of the dating sites I’ve been on will, to some degree, allow you to set various limits for age, height, distance etc. and they’re quite standard, they’re necessary, people mostly know what they want. Yet there are some people who really don’t think this matters.

I haven’t found this to be as much of a general problem on sites as I do on apps, but it’s a different type of problem between the two. For the most part with dating sites you can be wildly niche, and that on it’s own can set limits that are difficult not to adhere to. But general sites have these problems.

So lets start with distance, which can be a massive factor in relationships. You aren’t a masochist, so you set it to ten miles of your location. You will get at least one message from someone who either lives in a different country or lives an unreasonable distance from you. And okay, benefit of the doubt, you fit into their distance bracket but seriously, that’s casting the net pretty wide, my friend. I know long distance relationships, I’ve done them a lot, but noone would actively seek one out, surely?

You might say in your profile that you don’t like or wants kids or animals, you will always get someone with one or both, maybe in abundance, who will try hitting on you. And I know that maybe you might have many other things in common, but you have literally just regarded something I’ve said before we’ve even exchanged greetings.

Age limits are the worst, though. I don’t care how old or young you feel, I don’t care if you believe that age is nothing but a number, when I said 26-34 that doesn’t mean, at 45, you can hit on me. You know you’re out of my age range, why are you wasting all our time? I’m not just suddenly going to change my preferences. If I were that fickle I’d be in club 18-99.

What’s more, if you’re polite enough to take time out of your busy online dating life to reply to these rebellious admirers and tell them that, sorry, you specified that you didn’t like dogs so you’re not interested in someone who breeds Chihuahua, you’re going to get a snotty and/or mildly aggressive reply summarised by ‘You don’t know what you’re missing out on’.

Yes, I do. A 45 year old with dogs.

There are people out there even in the world of online dating who think that the opportunity to date them is a gift to the world. They aren’t used to rejection or limits. You are wrong for not fancying them. For this reason-

  1. It’s Not Always Good For Shy People

Internet dating, in my opinion and contrary to popular opinion, isn’t good for shy people.

I’m not going to force you to agree with me on this, but as a shy and socially awkward person, I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Okay, the Internet is a great way to meet people, especially if you don’t like going out. The Internet is awesome. And as such, it seems only fitting that it would be a great place for shy people to find a date if they don’t like approaching people in public or visiting the usual mating grounds. And yes, if you use niche dating sites for the shy and socially anxious then that’s awesome. But mainstream sites are going to cause more issues.

For one, as above, people don’t respect your limits, and don’t always take kindly to you rejecting the gift of their attention. If you have someone being abusive to you, even on the Internet, it’ no nice. Especially if interacting with strangers isn’t on your list of life skills. Putting any details of yourself on the Internet and giving someone a means of contacting you is opening up the possibility of unpleasant communications or harassment. It’s well known that people send pictures of their intimate regions to strangers and man don’t need prompting. If you’re a timid individual you might not feel comfortable telling dickboobs to cover up and leave. If you do you might get verbally abused, if you don’t it might continue.

My next point harks back to finding your One on the internet. Remember how I said that if you haven’t met anyone else with your niche hobbies and interests and you latch onto the first person you find? Yeah, that’s also applicable here.

See, if you’re shy or socially anxious you might not like going out to meet people, but it doesn’t mean you don’t get lonely. You may very well desperately want to find someone but you aren’t good at it. And here is exactly where online dating is a blessing and a curse. It deals with removing the anxiety aspect in a way, but it also opens up someone who is potentially very vulnerable to all manners of people. If this is the first time someone has flattered and flirted with them, praised them, complimented them, they’re going to fall crazy hard. And this person might be genuine, but they might also be a huge dick.

It isn’t only shy people who can be lured in, like I said, people on the Internet can be made up of fakery and a side of lies, but it’s easier to be scammed if you a) have no experience and b) are blinded by what’s on offer.

You can see real world examples of this when you look at mature European ladies who pick up toyboys in exotic locations, but them things, send them money because these men tell them they love them. But they’re saying this to three other women and getting money from them, too. But women will fall for it because they’re lonely or they want to feel beautiful. It’s understandable, but people end up hurt.

Of course you can meet arseholes in the real world, see above, but there’s something just that little more sinister about the Internet. Your interactions are private, they continue even when you’re home alone, in your room, in your bed, you don’t break because nearly everyone is always online through various different devices.

I just worry. I worry how easy it is to win people over, especially when you’re offering up a lot of personal details to be exploited.

  1. It’s Like Online Shopping

I’m going to move on, because that could turn into an essay, and I don’t want to sound like a fear mongerer.

Online dating is incredibly similar to online shopping.

We all like certain things in certain styles. When we look for clothes we probably all have our favourite online shops, or we’ll go to certain sites for certain things. If you want to date a ginger person, you go and look for dating sites for ginger people. There you can pick your type (manly, girly, sporty, nerdy) and your size, and then pick from the range. It make it sound shallow. It’s totally shallow. This applies to every specificity. You have a great range to pick from, you can sit and think over your options, if you like what you see you can make it known. If you wanted me to be a massive cynic I can say that it’s more like ebay, you big against everyone else to make the best offer and maybe you’ll win. But I don’t really believe that.

Like online shopping as well, you may find that when you get your date in the flesh they are not everything you expected, not quite as described. But, as with online shopping, you know this is the reality of it and you don’t complain that the person doesn’t look exactly like they did online. Because, as with retailers, we’re all trying to sell something, and we dress it up as jazzy as possible. (But if they really don’t resemble their profile, send them back! That’s fine!)

I mean, for most of us the stuff we get online turns out to be okay, but you know there’s always that time you buy something and it turns out to be mind bendingly awesome. Congratulations, you might have found the One!

  1. Did I mention some people are just fucking crazy?

I realise most of this essay has been me ripping online dating sites to pieces, but I’m genuinely an advocate of it, and I truly believe it works for people on a real, real level. But caution. Be cautious, my friends. And don’t take any shit. You deserve better.


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