And so, that’s it, it’s over. No more using internet dating sites as a dating tool.
After five years (off and on) of using internet dating sites I finally met the man who embodies many of the negative stereotypes and worst online dating nightmare stories ever told. I finally met the man who broke my spirit and optimism for internet dating.
Through online dating I’ve had some really weird dates, some really bad dates, a couple scary dates, a few great dates, and a lot of forgettable dates.
But it took this guy to break me.
Oh sure, I was at my tipping point. Let the record state that my patience and interest was wearing thin.
But I was willing to keep internet dating sites in my dating tool belt. I have met some very nice men. I have had some fun. A lot of laughs. Okay, sure, mostly about weird emails men send, but still, a lot of laughs.
In spite of it all, I do believe there are some great people on internet dating sites. I maintain the internet can be a great way to meet people. It can “work.” It does “work.”
But not for me. It’s over for me. I’m done.
Looking back I could have (and should have) permanently signed off internet dating sites when I was rejected by eHarmony (see note below). Not because eHarmony is the ultimate authority on dating. But, I failed eHarmony’s screening process because I don’t fall strongly enough into enough specific niches. I don’t score high enough in the areas where a majority of other people score high. I’m really not “different” from other people. I’m just not average, plus or minus a few points, in a majority of areas where other people are average. eHarmony uses average common denominators to assess matching success. If you score higher or lower than average in more than a few areas there is a smaller margin of people who will be compatible.
Diminishing returns equals dissatisfied customers equals negative word of mouth advertising. They want to keep the most people satisfied as possible, therefore they exclude people who are not firmly within the average scores in a enough areas to garner viable matches. Meaning, a couple of very high or very low scores, even with solidly average scores elsewhere, will knock a person out of the operative arc of the date matching bell curve.
A good example of how averages work in terms of online dating is my height. The average height for American women is 5’3’‘ or 5’4’‘ (depending on what stats you believe). I’m 5’11’‘—7 or 8 inches taller than the average woman. The average height for men is 5’9’‘ or 5’10’‘. That’s easy math. That alone eliminates me from the “average” group. But, there are tall men and there are men who like tall women and I’m not hung up on dating a man taller than me, so that’ll keep me in the game. However, men who like taller women are not in the average majority. So in the database my online matching pool is decreased.
Factor in non-negotiables like age range, religious beliefs, and smoking preference. Then look at how many people in a geographic area are using the site. The odds of more than a few non-smoking men in my age range and geographic area willing to date a non-Catholic tall woman are stacked against me. The facts that I hate chocolate and love snowstorms are not what got me rejected from eHarmony. It was the law of the average common denominator.
It pains me to admit that as goes eHarmony, so goes the world. But. It does. We are all averages. We’re all marketing data. If your data isn’t average enough for a dating site database loaded and ready with other single people, you’re going to have difficulty meeting compatible people in ways other than dating sites, too.
I can vouch for that. When I run searches on the dating sites I use (the ones who will take anyone’s credit card and let anyone join) inputting my bare minimum requirements of age range, 25-mile radius (I live in a huge metropolis, 25 miles represents millions of people) and smoking preference there’s a decent number of men in the results. But. When I then eliminate the men by their preferences for height, religion and age I’m lucky to get 15 to 20 men. A lot of men in my age range and geographic area are looking for younger, shorter girls who practice specific religions.
If I have a religious epiphany and become Catholic or Jewish I’ll have a few more dating options—but I dunno, seems little opportunistic to embrace a religion for the purpose of meeting more men online. WWJD? I ask myself. Or, what would Mary Magdalene do? Jesus, I think, would not take on a religion for the mere sake of some dates. Mary, on the other hand … well … she did have a thing for Jesus though we can’t be certain of her motivations. And I’m no Mary Magdalene, and so far I don’t see any Jesus’s on dating sites. (I did have a born again guy send me an email trying to persuade me to let him help me find the light, though. Anyone else had religious harassment on dating sites? Or is it just me that attracts these guys?)
I took a long look at the people I know who’ve successfully formed relationships and marriages from online dating sites. Most of them were successful at meeting people in real life. They used dating sites because they wanted to hone in on a specific type (non-smokers, children-oriented, specific religious issues, for instance) not because they couldn’t meet people and get dates on their own. Dating sites helped them narrow their strike zone.
The people I know like this are, not surprisingly, incredibly average. Within the average age for a single person, average height, average taste in entertainment, average religious beliefs for their location (Catholic in Chicago or Boston, for instance), average number of previous relationships, average desires in members of the opposite sex.
They’re destined for online dating success. There are a lot of compatible people “out there” for them, they just needed to weed out some of the “not-quite-right” choices and focus on a small, targeted group of viable candidates. Bingo. Dating site success.
The rest of us have to be a little more patient, try a little harder, be more open, and flexible.
A couple dating sites I no longer use suggested that if I would simply date smokers I’d have more dates than I could handle. My refusal to date smokers was all that was standing between me and the love of my life, they said. One of the sites even went so far as to suggest that I might be able to change him. Trillian, with the right inspiration people quit smoking every day, don’t limit your relationship happiness on smoking preference. Ermmm. Right. That’s a healthy frame of mind to be in at the start of a relationship. “I’ll change him!” Cripes. (And yes, that was a “credible” dating site widely used by many people.)
I have changed since my dad died. I can’t articulate how because it’s too new and my emotions about it are still too raw. But I know I’m different. I suspect one of the differences is my tolerance and patience levels where men are concerned.
Go ahead, throw every Freudian cliché theory at me. My dad died. And now I have a lower level of tolerance with men who are disrespectful, crude, immature, shallow jerks. Call me cliché. Call me trapped in a Freudian theory. But I want a decent, kind, compassionate, intelligent, funny, responsible, honest man. Like my dad.
So, back to the guy who broke me, the guy who ended it all.
The past year has been emotionally horrible. My father’s illness and death consumed me, my life—everything. I’m feeling stronger and I know I have to live my life to move past my father’s death.
There were a couple men who emailed me in the weeks after my father’s death. In all the flurry of hospitals and shock, I forgot to hide my dating profiles. I felt bad—I like to be a good online dater and at least send a “thanks but no thanks” response to men who email me. I apologized and told them I had been away and was unavailable due to a death in the family.
One guy understood and bowed out gracefully. The other offered support. I didn’t know this guy and honestly? Kind as it was my antennae tingled about how quick he was to jump in and “help” me. I assumed he’s one of those knight in shining armor guys hoping to be my “hero” or, a slimy opportunist hoping to seize an opportunity in my vulnerable state.
I firmly told him that I didn’t have time to date and had a lot of grief to work through. He got the hint and left me alone for a month. Then he started emailing me again. He was persistent. And while I didn’t think he was “The One,” we have similar taste in music, so I thought, “I could use someone to go to concerts with … ”
Eventually we talked a few times on the phone. He wanted to meet in person. Soon. When friends and family started dropping not so subtle hints that maybe I should try to get out more, socialize a bit more, I realized they were right—I had to find a way to get back to living my life.
Note: This is the form rejection letter eHarmony sends: eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive testing of married individuals. One of the requirements for it to work successfully is for participants to fall into our rigorously defined profiles. If we aren’t able to match a user well using these profiles, the most considerate approach is to inform them early in the process. We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish and enjoy happy, lasting relationships that we choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match. Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching system is not suitable for about 20 percent of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply would not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand that we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.