I am never a fan of internet dating but I don’t know why, I’ve hard more internet dates that physical ones in my life. So if there’s anyone to examine this topic, and do it well, it me.
Yes, at least one of my best friends found her fabulous fiancé online. And if you live in a small town, or fit a specific demographic (e.g., woman over 45, ultra-busy businessperson, sugar daddy, sneaking around your spouse),
online dating may expand opportunities for you. But for the rest of us, we’re much better off meeting real live humans
eye-to-eye the way nature intended. Here are six reasons
1. It’s easy to be fooled by inaccurate signals
Do you think you’re beautiful? What most people call
“beauty” is actually evolution’s very thorough system of
broadcasting our suitability as a mate. Clear skin, good
posture, broad shoulders, sonorous voice, bright eyes, shiny
hair, graceful movements, pleasant aroma, facial symmetry,
articulate speech: evolution has engineered features such
as these into us to signal health, fertility, strength and
When you go online, instead of seeing a person up-close,
hearing him speak and watching her move, what you get is a
blurry, postage-stamp size series of static photos which
cannot be heard, felt, or smelled. You also get a fair amount
of a person’s writing, which has had no part in the eons of
evolution of mate selection.
Most important of the missing signals may very well be
smell, which some scientists believe underlies most of
male-female attraction — what literally constitutes sexual
chemistry. Studies show that we sense immune
compatibility through smell — one way in which evolution
decides whether two people should have kids together or
not. This compatibility is vital to the viability of offspring,
so it’s bypassed at our peril.
So when you go online, you’re subverting a process that has
worked just fine for propagating the human species for the
past 3 million years. Add to that the fact that pictures can
easily lie about age, complexion and physique, and you’ve got
yourself a lot of inaccurate signals to go on. Which brings us
to our second point.
2. You can waste a lot of time online chasing what you don’t want.
Here’s the timeline of a typical online courtship for a guy:
He sees a profile of a woman he likes. He writes her. A day or
two later, he gets a response. An online correspondence
ensues. If she’s receptive, the conversation moves to email after a few exchanges.
If her interest continues, they speak on the phone, and begin to plan a meeting. A week or two later, after anywhere from three to 10 or more points of online- and
phone contact, they meet in person. And it turns out that
she has bad skin (which didn’t show in the flatteringly lit
photos) or her butt is gigantic (which didn’t show in her
waist-up photos), or he’s 6 inches shorter than advertised
— or some other insurmountable shortcoming that could
have been ascertained in the first 30 milliseconds of an in-
In an instant, all those hours spent on witty emails, all of
that effort to be charming on the phone, learning all about
him or impressing her go whoosh! down the toilet. And worst of all, you kinda feel like a fool for building it all up in your mind for naught.
You’re never getting those two weeks back again. So save yourself some time, and meet people in person before you decide to pursue.
3. Online sites present an unhelpful excess of
The central premise of Barry Schwartz’s 2003 book The
Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More — which everyone
should read — is that more choice does not make us
happier. More choice actually makes us more miserable.
Why? First, it makes the selection process burdensome.
Picking one jam out of three possible tasty choices is easy.
Picking one out of 43 is well-nigh torture. Second, it causes
us to second-guess any decision that we do render. I got
the blue Prius, but should I have gotten the red one? Or
maybe a Nissan Leaf instead?
Online dating sites are a classic case of too much choice. A
search on a major site for matches in your city may yield
thousands of results. So much possibility! Or so it may seem.
So which ones do you pursue? The good-looking ones that,
because everyone else is also pursuing, never respond (see
section above on wasted time)?
If you’re a good-looking woman online, you’re probably
inundated by unwanted attention. Let’s say you pick seven
good ones out of the pile of hundreds. If all seven of them
say yes — then what? If you pick one, will you always
wonder how the other six would have turned out? This
feeds right into the next issue:
4. Irrelevant information presented out of
context can pre-empt a good match.
I’ve been writing and speaking on courtship for over 10
years now, and I’m always curious about how married
couples first met. One of the most common responses I get
from the women is, “Y’know, I really didn’t like him that
much when we first met.”
Really. So all that stuff about instant chemistry, butterflies
in the stomach, the earth shaking underneath your feet are
bogus? Turns out they’re not nearly as important as you
think for a successful long-term relationship. Especially if
you’re a woman, you have the useful gift of eventually
finding attractive a man who makes you feel good,
regardless of how good he actually looks. Ladies — nod if
you’ve ever ended up dating a guy whom you initially thought
was kind of a troll, and had a fabulous time anyway.
The problem with online dating is that it puts right up front
and center a whole bunch of extraneous information that
could derail a potentially lovely relationship. When we’re
online, because of the overabundance of choice, we’re in
zero tolerance death-sort mode, tossing out contenders at
the slightest provocation. Obsessed with the Cubs? Ew.
Watches Jersey Shore? Spare me. Listens to Kenny G?
And so you may nonchalantly toss out the woman who
makes a mean ravioli and really knows how to perk you up
after a hard day at work, or the guy with iron hands to
knead your tight back muscles into putty who’d make a great
dad. All because you saw some randomass information first
that tripped your prejudice button and precluded a beautiful
connection with a person of character — the most
important quality in a mate, which is difficult to convey via
5. People online behave more rudely than they do in person.
Have you noticed how much sheer hatred and incivility there
is online? Under the mask of e-anonymity, people have no
compunctions about flaming one another with scathing
remarks that they would never dare deliver in person.
Why is there such a discrepancy between online and in-
person behavior? Animals have evolved mirror neurons to
literally feel one another’s emotional state. Mirror neurons
are the physiological basis for compassion, and they’re
simply not activated in online interaction.
As a result, it becomes easy to dismiss summarily a message
that an admirer has invested time, effort and emotion to
craft in fervent hopes of gaining your attention. A man who
would never be ignored in person can be blown off
hundreds of times online. And, as the authors of the book
Freakonomics pointed out, over 90 percent of men on
dating sites never end up meeting a woman. Near-certain
disappointment that you have to pay for doesn’t sound like
a fun party to me.
6. Strangers with low accountability can get
away with antisocial behavior.
When you go online, there’s no guarantee of anyone having a
back-connection into your social network. It’s the wild
west, baby, and anything goes. Especially in a big city,
people will do bizarre, rude things under the cover of
unaccountability. Stories abound about the girl who ordered
everything on the menu at an expensive restaurant, or the
guy who showed up to the date already drunk and
proceeded to hit on the waitress — or far worse.
Even though they make great stories in retrospect, these
are not experiences that you need to have even once per
lifetime. Going out with people whom you implicitly know and
trust keeps you safe and reduces the chances of weird
shit happening to you.
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