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While a service might lure you with a strapline saying ‘Meet sexy singles in your area’, the truth is more like: ‘Reject perfectly decent singles in your area while waiting for the maddeningly elusive sexy ones.’ Everyone is trading off current opportunities against future possibilities.
In a thoughtful moment, you may even realise there are people you’ve had relationships with in the past who, if they’d appeared as an online match, you’d have rejected.
But despite our inclination to present ourselves as optimistic — verging on an almost deranged bubbliness, in some cases — we enter the process on the back foot. It’s just that thin skin isn’t compatible with internet dating. What is it about me that might or might not trump someone else?
We’re not part of a couple, and we may have hang-ups about our attractiveness. It’s also a horrible feeling knowing there are potentially a lot of other people in competition with you. If you live in a city, the seemingly inexhaustible array of potential beaus strewn across these websites is part of the appeal.
Men will lie about their height, men and women will lie about their age, some people even upload photos of other people and pretend it’s them. And once you realise this, internet dating feels as random as approaching strangers in a car park and asking them if they fancy you. Searching for a partner online has inevitable similarities to searching for a product.
Computer algorithms have the herculean task of returning a perfect match from a database based on our own vaguely truthful submissions, and such copper-bottomed compatibility guarantees whether both parties are fond of cats.
Back in 1966, The Supremes told us you can’t hurry love.
Sixteen years later Phil Collins concurred when he sang ‘You just have to wait’, additionally noting that ‘love don’t come easy’.
It’s an addictive process, there’s no doubt about it. One is the burst of elation associated with a stranger suddenly deciding that you’re attractive, amusing, a good prospect.
A quick disclosure: I have a couple of dating profiles online. But this isn’t therapy masquerading as a self-pitying article by some bloke in his late-30s — well, not much, anyway.
I’ve got a number of friends and acquaintances who share my feelings about the way online dating plays fast and loose with your emotions.
Those 58,500 lucky members of were vastly outnumbered by the 286,000 unlucky ones.
Yes, anecdotes of hair-raising internet dates have become dinner-party staples — you know, ‘he turned up wearing a toolbelt and immediately burst into tears’ — and many were collected in a book published earlier this year. The plunge in self-esteem when your ideal partner remains as elusive as a taxi on New Year’s Eve?
These people are relatively undamaged and sane, without many skeletons in their cupboards.