There are few things that I truly take seriously. Grammar, Virtual Villagers, Guitar Hero, among other things. I probably wouldn’t murder anyone over any of these things, but they often command my focus and effort completely.

Dating is not one of these things.

Obviously, I’ve dated so much that I can barely stand up straight without buckling underneath the weight of my immense knowledge. In other words, I’ve been on a total of five dates since I turned sixteen, a little more than two years ago, which sounds sad until you compare with my 22 year old “twin” brother, who hasn’t ever been on a date, or so he claims.

Because of my rather casual outlook on dating in my current situation, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to join a dating website (or two). At the time, I had recently(ish) turned eighteen, which is a requirement for most dating websites. I started this endeavor purely as a joke and wasn’t really expecting anything. After a few weeks, it turned into an experiment which has yielded some interesting results.

Being the highly scientific person that I am, we’ll do this properly.

Step one of the scientific method: Ask a question.

I guess the question sort of was, “Hey, why don’t I go on a dating site? It’ll be funny!” But the question really is, 1) Do guys on dating websites act differently than guys irl (if you’ll pardon my chatspeak) or on other social websites (in regard to myself)? and 2) Can I manage some sort of connection with people who are seemingly desperate for… something… I’m not sure what… without being sarcastic or offensive? I suppose the second question is just a sort of personal goal. If these people are truly desperate, then their hopes and dreams will be easily crushed. I don’t want  to be a dream crusher.

Step Two: Do background research.

This is where all those hours spent on the internet come in handy. I know how people interact on the internet outside of a dating website. I also know how they act irl… sort of.

Step Three: Construct a hypothesis.

My hypothesis is (or rather, was) that guys on dating websites would fall into two categories: extremely nice/polite, or extremely cocky. They are likely to be more open about their intentions and feelings and they will say many a cheesy cliche in order to impress me. My other hypothesis was that I, personally, would receive a lot of communications from these people because they are desperate and because they don’t know me, therefore they will prey upon me like something with teeth devours a tiny bunny… (Can you tell that I gave up on finding a clever metaphor)(If I were a bunny, I would be freaking awesome)

Step Four: Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment.

Basically, the experiment was to make myself a profile on a few websites and then see what happened. For each site, my success is measured by amount of messages received. One of the sites had a way to track who viewed your profile, but there’s this system that randomly chooses people who may or may not have anything in common with you and show your their profile. There was also this questionnaire thing you can do that will let you know, via percentage, how much of a “match” you are with someone else. I figured that this was all way too complicated to factor in (being as lazy as I am).

Each user I received a message from is ranked according to length of message conversation and quality of that conversation. They are ranked on a scale from one to five, one being boring or creepy and five being compelling.

Step Five: Analyze your data.

Obviously I’m not going to share names or anything because this is the internet and there’s a very slim chance that someone who I’ve talked to on one of those websites could be reading this and that would just be awkward.

Anyway. Data.

Plenty of Fish:

8 message conversations total

2, 3, 1, 1, 2, 5 3, 5

The problem with the people that I talked to on this website, was that most of them either immediately wanted to go on a date with me, which I can’t because my mom said no and because I don’t really want to go on dates with guys seven billion years older than me, or they outright tried to pay me for sex which was more comical than anything else, though it took me some awkward explaining to get out of.

The exceptions (those two little fives) were actually very compelling, however. One shared some of my same philosophies and love of big words, while the other shared my passion for exchanging large amounts of random information in a rambly sort of way. Not to mention they had actual interests besides desperately wanting to take me on a date.

Ok Cupid (I just feel it really weird to admit that I didn’t run screaming from these websites and their horrible names):

14 message conversations total

4, 2, 2, 5, 5, 1, 1, 1, 4, 5, 0, 4, 3, 5

I realize that a 0 is kind of against the parameters set, but SERIOUSLY. This goes beyond creepy. There are people who want to pay me for sex (though they were incredibly understanding about my refusal), and there are intensely desperate people…. and then there’s this guy. I literally feel unsafe, though he lives, like, 7000 miles away from me.

Anyway. I was much more pleased with this website than the other. The profiles were much more informative, the interface was easier to navigate, and the people were more awesome. It seems like there were more people with legitimately interesting personalities, though none of them really have exemplary grammar skills.  I’m not rushing off to marry any of them and I don’t think I’d be comfortable actually meeting them, but they are very nice people to talk to, though sometimes I find myself actually having to carry some weight in the conversation. I am not really very good at instigating conversation, but I’m okay at feeding the fire. The problem is that some of those people are brilliant conversation killers.

Step Six: Make a conclusion.

I was pretty much wrong, which isn’t a surprise. There were polite people and there were cocky people, but there were also interesting people and I can never have imagined them as individuals until I could see that they were.

I wasn’t really surprised about how many messages I got, though. The thing about the internet is that you can be pretty picky about what you show people and, though you may think you’re accurately portraying yourself, you can present yourself as a completely different person. I really hope that I portray myself accurately on the internet. As you can see, I always provide as much information as possible for the sake of clarity, but I still lack an appropriate mirror that I can use to describe myself accurately.

I don’t really know how other people see me, but I do know enough, by the way people treat me, to be able to tell the difference between the perceptions. In real life, because of my social status, because of my physical appearance and presence, because of my continuance, I know that I would never have come into contact with most of these people I have communicated with over the last month. The difference between judging a person based on a profile and judging a person based on what I listed above is that a profile contains information that is tailored toward making a person appealing, while the things apparent in real life are often subconscious and not totally controlled.

For different reasons, I have decided that making a deep connection with someone (not necessarily romantic) cannot be done easily on the internet. I won’t say it’s impossible because I’m sure someone out there has done it. A relationship can’t be built only on shared interests and ideas. There are many people I share such things with on those dating websites, but none of them really appeal to me in any way other than conversation buddies. A relationship is strengthened by communication and trust, but it’s built on sharing more than ideas.

It’s the sharing of activity and memories that makes a relationship. I’m not saying that if you spend all your time with your boyfriend or girlfriend you’ll suddenly have a fantastic relationship, but I know that I feel more strongly for people that I’ve shared experiences with than people that I’ve shared mere conversations with. Not only do I participate in planned activities with them, but I just spend time with them. We talk about things, yes, but it isn’t what we’re talking about that matters. It’s that we’re sharing something of ourselves. We’re giving more than just a few words on a screen.

We give something important to each other when we give our time and attention. It just seems more special to laugh about something with someone than it is to laugh at something someone wrote an hour ago.

What I’ve learned from this is that, while dating websites can be a useful way for people to start relationships, it’s in no one a place where one can build a relationship. It can be done, but only in ideal circumstances.

If you’ve read this far, then I congratulate you. This may be the longest blog post I’ve ever written, which is saying something. Basically, the advice I would give you if you want to use online dating is that if you want people to take a genuine interest in you, you need to have a good profile picture (because I judged the crap out of people just by their profile pictures) and you need to not sound like you’re trying to woo someone. Treat them like a person. Talk to them about things that you can both converse about or it’s going to be awkward, don’t be delusional about the nature of online relationships, and please don’t ask people questions about things that can be found on their profiles. Read the entire thing so that you don’t sound like a dork.

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