Is online dating a reasonable step?
June 1, 2010 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I moved to a new city and I'm lonely. tl;dr inside.

Not like, no friends lonely. I've met some great people. More like no significant other lonely. I can take dry spells, but after months and months, it has gotten way old.

I'm not a person who has a long laundry list of traits that someone must posess in order for me to be interested in them. Smarts and a sense of humor covers 80 percent of what's necessary, and the other 20 percent can be met by anything from quirky cute to OMFG amazing body. There's a lot of latitude.

The thing is, my new buddies here are the "let's throw a wild party" type, or "go to the club" type. I enjoy that sort of thing to an extent, but it's not conducive for me meeting smart and funny people to also be physically intimate with. Wild and fun people, sure. Eye candy, sure. But that's not what I'm looking for. Maybe I just suck at striking up conversations about books when someone is grinding against me on the dance floor.

I would start going to museum exhibit openings and gallery shows and join a book club and a film club and junk to meet a group of people like that, but the place I've moved to is not a cultural hotbed. To put it lightly, those sorts of activities are limited. I've done as much of that as I can, but it's no panacea. I'm finding it hard to meet people who live mindfully.

Yes, I do also want to find a group or two of just friends who read novels and watch movies with actual subtitles to interact with without any sexual component, just fun times and shared interests. But the physical loneliness is sharper at this time than the other need, and besides, the right person by definition will go a fair ways to scratching the other itch.

So here's the question: is this the sort of situation dating sites excel at addressing? Put a profile up, go have some coffee after a few e-mails that spark, and meet more fun smart interesting people in a month than I would otherwise have met in a year?

Or do dating sites kind of self-select for slightly antisocial sad sacks without great people skills?

Don't hate me for asking that question. I feel it has to be asked. I know it's not an accurate description of all or even most users, but surely there is a subset it fits. How big is that subset?

I have a bias for OK Cupid because their write-ups about member data are interesting, and it seems like none of them really are any better at what they do than another. Or am I wrong?

General sounding off about any aspect of the situation would be helpful.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, this is exactly the kind of thing that online dating does well. And, at least in my experience, OK Cupid is far-and-away the best. All the people I met through OKC were perfectly normal, well-adjusted people. Especially in big cities, it can be incredibly overwhelming trying to meet like-minded people, so why not harness the internet to do what it does best: connect people.
posted by dantekgeek at 8:12 PM on June 1, 2010

After giving you a rant and then deleting it about LOSERS! like my, my beloved and many good friends who use dating sites, I've realised that YOU are worried that you will be seen as a LOSER in your eyes if you have to resort to a dating site to make friends.

Get over yourself, get online and make some friends. It's easy and fun. And if you do come across sad-sacks, just click 'Next!'.
posted by Kerasia at 8:14 PM on June 1, 2010

I've had very positive experiences with OK Cupid. It's free, they do good web design, and they write a nice blog, as you mentioned.

What's more, in my experience, their population tends to skew towards reasonably educated, clued-in folks. I've only had one serious relationship arise from my time there, but I've met no shortage of charming, intelligent folks to go on dates with.

I've also met a number of folks while out and about, and then stumbled across them on OKC. Strangely, that's actually resulted in several strong, real-life friendships. It's a nice way to break out of the context in which you originally met someone.

Seriously, give it a shot.

One caveat: Your experience may vary depending on where you are in the country, as with any location-based service. Also, you don't mention your gender or orientation in your profile. I'm a straight guy. Your milage may vary.
posted by SemiSophos at 8:20 PM on June 1, 2010

Seconding online dating. I met my boyfriend via We've been together for almost two years, and we probably never would have met if not for the Internet. I did meet some other interesting guys via PoF before I met him. I am not the kind of person who can approach strangers easily and ask them out, and a lot of the people I did meet from activities I am involved in are married or otherwise taken, so online dating worked best for me.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:21 PM on June 1, 2010

Sounds to me that what you're really asking is "talk me through my bias against internet dating".

OK. You can pretty much judge from someone's OK Cupid profile who the pathetic losers are.

Don't contact them.

Contact the interesting people. Granted, some of those interesting people will turn out to be pathetic losers with a knack for writing interesting OK Cupid profiles, but hey, 90% of the people you meet at clubs and wild parties are shallow assholes, right? You gotta pan a lotta gold to find a cuddlenugget.

And, as a mindful and awesome person, you'll be doing the entire OK Cupid community a favor by marginally increasing the datable pool of non-pathetic losers.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:21 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, the stigma around online dating is a bunch of hogwash. You're considering it, right? Then other perfectly awesome people are considering it, too.

Plus, there's no dichotomy here. The internet is just one additional social channel through which to meet people. If it helps, think of it as augmenting your dating pool while you continue to seek people out in other contexts. Honestly, you'd be silly not to, right?
posted by SemiSophos at 8:23 PM on June 1, 2010

Yes! OKCupid was great for meeting folks when I moved from my giddy college town to a cold metropolis. This includes both the dating and the friends.

Best piece of advice: meet up as quickly as possible without coming off as a creep. In my experience, the longer you pass messages back and forth, the more likely it'll die on the vine.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 8:24 PM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously, just sit in a coffee shop for a long time and someone will come up to you. I don't live in a big arty place, but everyplace has a coffee shop (hopefully...) I've been approached twice this way—once while looking out the window and once while sitting behind a stack of books writing a paper. The first asked for a phone number and the second gave me one!
And I *don't* exude a "come up to me" appeal; so it could work for anyone.
Becoming a regular really opens up a different world.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:51 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had this bias.
Best friend said that dating was like a muscle. Just needed to exercise it.
Dated a lot for a year-ish, paused for a couple months, took a breath, reconnected with the dating site (Nerve, it was cooler in the early 90's) and promptly met the woman who'd become my wife. We were married less than a year later.
we're celebrating our 7th anniversary this year.
posted by asavage at 9:01 PM on June 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

gender and sexual orientation matter a lot here. Online dating is a massively raw deal for straight males, because the gender ratio is terrible and most even slightly-interesting women are barraged by such a flood of messages that it's vastly harder to get their attention than it is offline. So if you're a straight male, you'd be better off with more conventional methods (coffeeshops, classes, etc.). Otherwise, what do you have to lose with the online thing?
posted by paultopia at 9:34 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Aww, @paultopia, it isn't that bad at all. A straight male needs to do three things:

1) Have a moderately interesting life.
2) Be able to write a lot of opening emails, and accept that 90% will never get a response.
3) Ask to meet up quickly.

Bonus points, don't ever send naked pictures.
posted by Invoke at 9:38 PM on June 1, 2010 [8 favorites]

I actually wrote a huge rant about online dating sites, coming to the conclusion that people are incredible and the sites, suck.

Go out and go, "Hey, I'm so-and-so, what's your name?" and that's all you have to do. It's no more complicated, so don't make it complicated. If you don't have anything to say, be someone that has something to say, by doing rad things. As a person bereft of personal hygeine, fancy things.. let's say, "refinement" in general, I don't ever find it hard to meet people for real. Online dating sites don't work for incredible people who loathe filling out questionnaires and are through with posting glamor shots of themselves.

Relationships are always improved by improving the one thing you can control: yourself.

No different if you're single.

Here's the link, sorry about the self-linkage.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:40 PM on June 1, 2010


I agree, it's just that #2 is a huge amount of investment for that 10% payoff ratio than you'd get online, especially since "response" is a long, long, loooonnnggggg way from even "first date," and it also might mean lowering your standards in sad and ego-destroying (when only 10% of the even lowered-standard women don't respond) ways in order to find enough contact-able women to make that 10% mean anything.

I mean, suppose 10% of women reply, and 10% of those turn into first dates. Are there really 100 women you genuinely want to go out with on okcupid?
posted by paultopia at 9:42 PM on June 1, 2010

(addendum: 100 women in your area, in your age range, etc.)
posted by paultopia at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2010

Well, in Australia I met three lovely, funny, smart people through OKCupid.

Two became friends,

and one I ended up dating. And he's lovely - smart, funny, creative, caring, sweet.

I also got lots of spam from Russia, the Middle East, America etc (my profile clearly said 'Only contact me if you live in [City], Australia', but I think they just spam everyone), but that's easy enough to delete.

My boyfriend used OKCupid to make friends as well as to look for a girlfriend, and he ended up making two good platonic female friends, and then getting to know all of their male friends, so he ended up with a whole social network of SF fans, roleplayers, and librarians out of it, which made him very happy (he had just moved to a new city and didn't know anyone.)
posted by Year of meteors at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


>I agree, it's just that #2 is a huge amount of investment for that 10% payoff ratio than you'd get online

Really, writing an email is a huge investment? I generally spent less than five minutes. Gotta read the profile, find something funny, cut-n-paste something appropriate I'd written before and add something (very small, a sentence or two) new. Generally I could do about 10 in an hour, two hours if I was watching TV on a Sunday night. I did this each week and got at least a date, usually two.

> especially since "response" is a long, long, loooonnnggggg way from even "first date,"

In my experience, after a positive response (any non-negative response), a date is easy. 50-75% chance that same week, at the worst next week.

> and it also might mean lowering your standards in sad and ego-destroying (when only 10% of the even lowered-standard women don't respond) ways in order to find enough contact-able women to make that 10% mean anything.

I really did not feel that I was lowering my standards, which were from some perspectives ridiculously high for a twice-divorced 40-something guy with kids. I wanted - and eventually got - a fantastic beautiful woman who has a great sense of humor, has her own business, does something in the world of art, doesn't take crap from anyone, is fun to talk to, loves my kids, and whips me into a terrible fervor when I am near her. It took less than six months.

I think that is a great result, 100% worth my small Sunday evening efforts.

> I mean, suppose 10% of women reply, and 10% of those turn into first dates. Are there really 100 women you genuinely want to go out with on okcupid?

Yes, there really are. Or were. Also, 10% hit rate when getting dates is way too low, you are doing something very wrong. Try being funny, or less serious, or something.

BTW, I read this to my GF, she laughed and laughed. See?
posted by Invoke at 10:18 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was on OK Cupid briefly -- until some troll decided he didn't like the fact that I wasn't interested in him. He wrote a bunch of crap about my profile and pictures and sent it to all his "followers." It soured me for internet dating pretty much forever.

But! I had a lot of success in a Midwestern college town starting a Yahoo group of like-minded individuals. Made a LOT of friends (hundreds), increased my social profile, etc. Did the same thing and started a book group. Publicized it on Craigslist, had open events, etc. Online dating may be easy to sign up for, but starting your own groups is far more rewarding. You can email me for more information.
posted by kidelo at 3:18 AM on June 2, 2010

Invoke... aaaah, I think I see the difference. 40-something is a very different dating pool (with very different numbers) than the 20's/early-30's that I was assuming.
posted by paultopia at 3:53 AM on June 2, 2010

Don't fall for that crap that online dating is only for sad pathetic losers. Some people are busy. Some people don't have very big social circles. Some people just want to try something different. There are many reasons, and you're no more of a loser for trying to meet someone there than you are for asking questions on a community forum. ;)

I've had a profile on OkCupid for a while now. I also had profiles on Plenty of Fish, Match and E-Harmony, and I would easily say that OkC is far and above the better site. But for a long time I didn't try very hard to meet people there, so recently I decided that I'd really try to at least meet someone and I started emailing people more often and got some responses back.

I started exchanging emails and chatting with one girl and we liked each other enough that we decided to meet. Then we met again. She invited me to a party and we had fun which led to exciting fumbly drunky sexy-time. She's totally normal, very funny and just a great person. Even though I don't think it'll go anywhere serious, it's given me confidence and hope that if I keep trying I could meet someone who I could see myself with in the long-term.

Remember that just because it's "online" dating doesn't mean it's any less work than "live" dating. The people there are just like you and me, and the same rules apply online as they do offline: be confident, be open and be yourself.

Now go get 'em tiger.
posted by sambosambo at 4:08 AM on June 2, 2010

I was on OK Cupid briefly -- until some troll decided he didn't like the fact that I wasn't interested in him. He wrote a bunch of crap about my profile and pictures and sent it to all his "followers." It soured me for internet dating pretty much forever.

Within 12 hours of opening an OKCupid account I had a highly educated, attractive and seemingly normal woman contact me who after a few days worth of emailing I sensed wasn't totally stable so I told her I wasn't interested and she proceeded to spend the following two weeks text, email and phone bombing me. Then she came to Philly from Brooklyn looking for me, sent me porno pictures of her with her ex (?) and finally created an absurdly well detailed fake account (stolen photos, thoroughly researched backstory) and used that to lure me into a face-to-face encounter which needless to say did not go very well. The funny thing is that this was precisely the reason I held out on opening a online dating account for so long, I figured this is exactly what would happen if I did. However, that was just sort of bad beginner's luck thing and it's been uphill ever since, and the Brooklyn Stalker Chick story has become best the first date ice breaker ever.

And, no, I don't think there's any bias towards anti-social sadsacks, in fact, I've been consistently surprised by how cute and smart and cool women on OKCupid are and haven't had any trouble getting at least a first date with many of them as a straight male. And why think of it in terms of invested workload? Flirting isn't work, it's fun, even online.

Are there really 100 women you genuinely want to go out with on okcupid?

A lot of this has to do with where you live. Do you live in NYC? If not, put a NYC zip code in OKCupid and do a match search and look at how many totally bonkers gorgeous and highly educated women turn up.
posted by The Straightener at 6:39 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was going to comment in a similar vein as kodelo - start your own book club or a group for whatever your other interests are. I recommend My bookclub has about a jillion women and 2 men.
posted by CathyG at 6:41 AM on June 2, 2010

I think you should try it, with an open mind. I've been doing this for a couple of months, and while I haven't found someone with long-term potential yet , but I've met some interesting people and had some fun evenings out and that's worthwhile enough. Your experience may very well depend a lot on your location. You mention that your town isn't a hotbed of cultural activity, which means that the dating pool on OKCupid and other sites might be smaller for you than you if you were in a large centre. But it's easily worth a shot.

As for antisocial sad-sacks, I think you can tell this by reading the person's profile. (I've recieved messages from guys with truly hostile-sounding profiles and wondered why on earth they thought that lines accusing all women of being manipulative and evil would get them dates?) If not from the profile, you can tell from the messages. And, if not from the messages, well, surely you would be able to tell on a first date, and what would you have lost from that? A few minutes doing correspondence online? An hour or two in a coffee shop? So if you're worried about the quality of people you'd be meeting, there's a solution: be picky! This will limit how many people you meet this way, but even if you only meet one person as result, it will be one more than you're meeting now.
posted by Kurichina at 7:33 AM on June 2, 2010

If your city has an art gallery you could become a member, members are often invited to wine & cheese parties in the gallery and other "arty" related things. I have friends who are members of the Boston MFA and they tell me the parties thrown for members end up being great places to meet people who are not really into the club scene. If art isn't your thing, find some other venue to frequent, perhaps a small, independent theater/cinema or hiking/outdoors club? Another of my friends met two of his gfs (one past and the one present) by joining a flyball team with his dogs. I think joining a club/organization that interests you is a great way to meet people with similar interests.
posted by LunaticFringe at 8:39 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found my fiancé on OKCupid! We're both well-adjusted, sexy, intelligent people, and I know he is the kind of guy I always knew I'd end up with.

Now, there was a chance I may have met him offline (we lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same bars, had some of the same hobbies), but it's harder to make that same connection when you meet someone in a bar and "hook up".

I don't regret trying OKCupid, even when I had terrible experiences (some people just don't get the hint that you aren't interested!) I think the stigma of online dating is mostly gone, too.

I hope you find what you are looking for!
posted by Lizsterr at 10:01 AM on June 2, 2010

Some people are busy.

Consider this:

If you're too busy to find someone to date, then you're too busy to date them. Finding someone incredible shouldn't be about convenience. The investment you put in will reflect what you get out.

My advice to, "busy" people is to shuffle priorities. If your work/career is so important that you need - not want to experiment - but *need* an online dating profile, maybe you're not working the right way, or for the right reasons. There's def. people who can break that rule - say you have a family obligation - that's a whole different cookie, but something that really shows you have heart.

My advice is really to forget about, "Dating" someone. It's something that sort of happens, when you find people you sort of click with - an inevitability. It shouldn't be a goal - that's what's retarded about dating sites.

Instead, find rad people who like the things you do and have fun. One's going to want to hit your shoulder on the playground, and run away. Run after them. Promise. The idea of joining a social anything is so amazingly good advice.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:13 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

OKcupid rocks! and no online dating is not for Losers, it is a way to meet people who like u may be bored of the bar scene and are looking for intelligent conversation. Give OKC a try, its definitely worth the time, plus u actually get to message people and have conversation without being paid member.
posted by VickyR at 11:28 AM on June 2, 2010

Seconding It's way better than online dating! Since you're in NYC, you can find a meetup for just about anything - book clubs, club sports, movie groups, art groups, volunteer groups. Even if you don't find a lady, you'll be sure to have a good time and meet some new people.
posted by bloody_bonnie at 7:35 PM on June 9, 2010

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