Although I don’t know his name, I vaguely recall what he looked like. He had eyes, and I believe he wore trousers. However, I will always remember my first online date. The day following, when my flatmate asked how it went, I still remember. Over my cup of tea, I smiled at her. “It’s almost like I picked him out of a catalog,” I replied.
That man was my husband for 10 years. In the ensuing decade, there have been several uncoupled occasions where I found myself returning to online dating. Millions more. There are so many people. The Match Group, a US company that controls the largest online dating platforms, Tinder, OkCupid and Match, is set to float on the stock exchange with an estimated value of PS2.1bn.
Our little lonely hearts are very important. It can be not very clear for those trying to find love by clicking and swiping. Here are 10 lessons I learned from years of using the internet for men to meet me.
1 It is still stigmatized
Online dating might seem like the fastest way to find love or something similar. However, online dating always feels like a last resort until you win the grand award – never having it again. It is a sign that you have a fatal flaw that prevents you from finding true love through the classic routes of meeting strangers in bars, attending a house party or sleeping with your employer. Your married friends will say that online dating is not necessary for them. They then ask if they know of any good single men they can introduce you to.
2… but everyone is doing it
If someone tells you that they have been on a date in their 30s, they likely met the person online. I have only been asked out by a man from the “real” world once in my last two years. He was married. Nowadays, people are very surprised when they go out on dates with someone they meet in the real world. What about in real life? We want to hear about his conversation with you on the tube.
3 There are so many options that it can be hard to decide
It has not been a good thing for the internet and apps to date. There have been a lot of people I know who have found love via Tinder and OkCupid. I have even known people who married through Tinder and Tinder. But I also know many more people who have gone on a few dates with people who ended up being just friends. It’s one thing to meet people, but it can be not easy to get to know them when so many people are on your phone. Tinder has become the default platform for choosing and rejecting people. We used to read lengthy profiles. We now obsessively and maniacally screen candidates in milliseconds. Many apps place a time stamp on each profile so you can see when they last logged in. You could, for example, see if the man on your date was searching for other women after he left you at dinner.
4 It’s an excellent way to meet new people
Meeting with strangers that are prefigured as “dates” allows you to ask outrageously personal questions. This is how I discovered fascinating facts about a man who was raised in an extreme religious sect and a former naval officer. He also used to be a saxophonist for an old rock star’s touring band. Although I did not fall in love with any of them, it was a great group of people. None of them would have been available in my local.
5 Talking to strangers is not scary.
I excel at job interviews. I think online dating is a big factor in my success. Once you are comfortable having an hour-long conversation over a beer with strangers, it’s no problem to do the same with someone over a desk.
6 Love is not easy
It is so much easier to drink with someone you don’t know than with someone you love. Although online dating has helped reduce the romance supply problem, it doesn’t solve the main problem: emotional intimacy is hard work. This means that you and your partner must be open to vulnerability, often seen as weakness and fear. It is still socially acceptable to admit that you are lonely and long for love.
7 It’s all about you
The guy I chose from a catalogue? He cancelled the third date after two dates. He sent an email detailing a bizarre scene in which he returned from a weekend trip to his home only to find his best friend crying in his flat. He concluded, “Can we become friends?” I was angry. I was upset.
8 People who appear “meh” online aren’t better in person
When I started dating online, I thought I should give men a chance, even if their messages were tedious and their profiles interesting. I thought, “Maybe he isn’t as good at writing than I am.” But those I was sceptical about never became men I wanted to meet in person. If they aren’t interested in me with words, I delete them.
9 Timing is just as important as compatibility
It should be possible to find a partner online. There is a good chance that other people will also want one. This is why you are here. It is important to have mutual attraction, but you must also want the same relationship. My most successful online relationship was a six-month liaison with a French sanitation engineer. He was in a similar stage to mine, where he was a friend but not keen on commitment. This was just as important as any other measure of compatibility for sustainability.
10 You should really look up from your phone once in a while
Last winter, I signed up to do some gym training. I was surprised to find a single attractive man my age in my gym class. The flirting escalated each week. He complimented my Gap discount leggings first. He offered to partner up with me for an exercise the following week. By mistake, the penultimate week, he struck me in the forehead with a piece of equipment. “This is happening!” I thought. But when class was over, he pulled out his phone and stared at the screen, looking down and frowning as if hoping to see a picture of me. I never saw him again except for Tinder.
LOVE LOGGING ON
# AU online dating market grew by 73.5% between 2009-14. It currently has a value of PS165m per year and is expected to grow to PS225m in 2019.
# Over 25% of AU adults use dating apps or websites.
Although # dating agencies doesn’t publish the number of users, it is estimated that 50 million people used it worldwide each month in 2014. On average, users log in to Tinder 11 times per day.