Hatching an Online Dating Plan: Does Anyone Know the Real Scoupe?
When I became single a few years back, the kind souls who wanted to comfort and help all had their own turn of phrase: it get’s better; time will help heal; or this too shall pass. Of course, there was truth to all of these, probably because everyone has at one time or another faced similar situations. Empathy, sympathy and not knowing what to say causes people to break out the clichés.
The one that stands out in my mind now, as I try various things to move forward (i.e. meet people, date or any of the other euphemisms that are out there) is, “when one door closes, another one opens.” Initially, it annoyed me. Does it ever feel like another door will open — ever — when you’re in the throes of a breakup and/or grieving for a lost relationship? Now, however, it seems appropriate to me.
Though, not in the way people meant it when they said it, I’m sure: perhaps not in the way most people mean it. Ever. I thought of it recently after dabbling a bit in the online dating world. This is a weird world. It makes me think of cars. “One door closing,” therefore, made me think of car doors. The puns in the title and subtitle are starting to make more sense now, aren’t they?
Anyway, anyone who’s participated in (I’m not entirely sure that’s really the right phrase) the online dating world knows that there are long, complicated profiles to fill out (both of which vary by site, of course). Describe yourself: height, weight, smoking habits, education level, what makes you tick, what are your hobbies, etc. (And, etcetera a few more times.) What are you looking for…casual dating, a long-term relationship (etc.)? Some of the sites have a variety of optional questions you can answer to help the site’s algorithm generate better matches for you. And, of course, there’s the photo(s). We all hope they’re current and accurate, but you can’t really be sure until…
Now, all of this strikes me as not so terribly different from buying a car these days. What’s the oldest model you’re willing to consider; what kind of mileage will you accept; what kind of shape should the body be in? Online dating is an odd blend of personal (perhaps bordering on invasive) and abstract, objective and impersonal: a very personal process boiled down to somehow grinding the essence of a person through an anonymous programmer’s algorithm. We’re really putting our relationships in the hands of folks who have a reputation for not being good with…relationships. But, I digress, and will save that thread for another time.
So, we create our online personas that are supposed to be accurate portrayals of our real off-line selves and wait for the computer to find other online personas that will [seemingly] be compatible. Then, in a way that only humans can, we either reach out to those other personas the computer has chosen, or we wait and hope they reach out to us. This process that either leads to — or doesn’t — personal contact between the humans behind the computer profile, bears a strange resemblance in my mind to shopping for a car.
Whether it’s through Craigslist or a larger, more formal site like Cars.com or AutoTrader.com (no, I’m not endorsing either — they were the first names that came to mind), there are similarities with online dating. The big difference, however, is that once you’ve found your online match and think you’re maybe ready to meet in person, you realize that, unlike buying a car, it’s not one way. The person on the other end of the computer will want to kick your tires too. And, like you, they’ll probably want to see if there’s any damage that wasn’t disclosed on your profile and to check the trunk to see just how much baggage you come with.
Online dating can kind of feel like an online car search that surveys you back. Since, then, online dating seems to be the new normal, should we follow car buyers’ leads and ask for a Carfax report prior to each meeting?
I guess a warranty is probably out of the question too.