Is it still dating when you don’t leave your room?

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Photo by Miles Sanguinetti

This isn’t my first foray into the realm of dating on the internet. Five years ago, after the end of a long-term relationship, I started aMatch.com profile. I was fairly new to Portland; most of my friends were in committed relationships, and were not interested in going out on the town on a Friday night.

I had low expectations which were easily exceeded. I quickly had a few dates starting to pile up, and within two months I had found someone. Obviously that didn’t last, because here I am on OkCupid, looking for a match made in cyberspace.

Online dating was supposed to make dating easier. You answered some questions and a dating super computer would work its magic, churn out some percentages and find you a person that shared similar interests and values. Based on all this information the computer gathers, you find someone who complements you and you live happily ever after. Instead you sit up at 2 a.m., combing through profiles trying to find something clever to say.

The problem with online dating isn’t the people, but their profiles. I know we live in the Pacific Northwest and everyone likes hiking, floating rivers, riding bikes, drinking craft beer or going to wine tastings and running in ridiculously-themed 5Ks—so can we please move past listing that stuff? I want to know something that makes you unique.

Tell me how you got into the things you’re into, or a funny story that happened at an event. What makes you different from the other 500 people on OkCupid that all like this same stuff?

Besides that, it helps when you give questions for people to answer. This takes the pressure off the other person to find something to message you about. If you say, “You should message me if you think you want to,” this leads me to believe that you have no intention of meeting people on this site. In which case, why are you on this site?

Above all, you should be yourself and let your personality shine through your profile. When we finally meet in person, I don’t want to be lead to believe you’re outgoing and adventurous, only to find out that you’re shy and have nothing to add to a conversation.

Another problem is that women get bombarded with messages by guys who have no class saying, “you’re hot,” or “let’s fuck.” These are the same guys that are taking mirror pictures of themselves holding their shirts up to show off their six-pack. So when a nice, normal guy like me messages someone I’m truly interested in, it gets lost among the piles of insensitive come-ons.

In a sense, it’s about the same as meeting random strangers in a bar. I have to fight my way through guys who wear Affliction or Ed Hardy shirts to walk up to a girl who’s been hit on all night long. I have no idea what her interests are, besides assuming the generic Northwest stuff, and I have to come up with something clever to say to get her attention.

Finally, I broke through to a few people and started a conversation. After a week or so of messaging back and forth, the ones that weren’t offended when I asked them to meet for coffee or drinks were an eccentric bunch.

One girl I met up with launched into her long list of fetishes. Another bragged about sleeping with over 120 men and women.

Last month I went out with someone who was in town visiting a friend for the holidays. We met up for drinks, played some darts and giant Jenga and had long conversations that took the night from N.E. Fremont to S.E. Belmont.

She returned back to grad school in Bellingham, Wash. and we kept in touch. That lasted a week before she told me she was dating someone in Bellingham. Then why are you on a dating site?

Why does OkCupid even have an option “Looking for Friends?” I didn’t realize that Cupid was the god of friendship. There are other sites like Meetup.com where people can get together and share mutual interests.

In a recent study conducted by Spark Networks (the parent company of sites like ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com), no one really knew what a “date” actually was.

“While 80 percent agreed that a date is a ‘one-on-one hangout,’ 24 percent defined dating as ‘a planned hangout with friends,’ while 22 percent defined it simply as one person asking another person out. When it comes to defining what constitutes a ‘date,’ a good percentage of singles appear to have just thrown up their hands and admitted defeat. At least 69 percent of the survey’s respondents said they’re at least somewhat confused about whether an outing with someone they’re interested in is a date or not.”

I really don’t understand the confusion. You’re on a dating site, not a friendship site. A date should just imply that you’re interested in another person; interested in learning more about them. It doesn’t have to imply that you plan on spending the next 20 years with them. We get hung up on terms and implications of what titles like “date” mean. Can’t we just meet and see how things develop?

Then there’s Tindr. I’ve heard from some people that this app is used strictly for hook-ups. However, I’ve read a lot of profiles that say the opposite. Tindr is basically window-shopping for people you find attractive.

The one positive thing I can say about Tindr is that it links to your Facebook profile to show your shared interests and friends. It makes it a little comforting to know that we know the same people. You could even reach out to that shared friend to see if they would vouch for the other person before you meet in person.

Even though I’ve never turned my profile off, I’ve slowly returned to trying to date in the real world. I’ve come to realize that online dating has deteriorated my skills when it comes to meeting people naturally. It has become a crutch.

I’ve thought about deleting my profile, but why limit my options? Maybe I will finally have success in cyberspace. Maybe there are others out there holding the same crutch, so when I approach them in a bar they pay no attention to me because they’re waiting to find that person who matches them 99 percent.

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