In a world where online ‘poking’ and ‘winking’ act as substitutes for actual conversation, it is no surprise that chatting online constitutes as a date in some cases. Being an arts student I cannot claim that my four hours of class a week are particularly taxing or time-consuming, yet I still find myself struggling to find the time to cook, do the washing up, buy loo rolls for the house etc. This is of course partly due to my typical student laziness and regularly having the day cut in half by waking up at twelve with a half-rubbed off lizard stamp on my face. In a world where even students struggle to perform fundamental yet simple tasks it is no wonder that busy professional male and females in – dare I say it – the big bad world are unable to find the time to date properly. Cue online dating websites!
There are bland ones, namely eHarmony and Match.com, accepting everyone and anyone searching for ‘the one’. The strange ones such as Trek Passions, predominately for Star Trek and Star Wars lovers and the specialised ones such as gorgeousfreeandsingle. This is for all those people who think Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ song is genuinely about them, where your acceptance is dependent on whether your face is attractive enough. Do these freaks of nature who have received every attribute that we all would gnaw our right arm off for really need help in the dating department? By using a computer to find ‘the one’ are we accepting that our own little social bubble cannot provide us with a suitable match, or is it dating for the 21st century: another acceptable form of technology infiltrating and dominating our lives?
In order to answer this question I felt the need to take a leaf from Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and embark on some practical research before putting fingers to keyboard. My first attempt was with the online dating standard eHarmony which, according to its website, is responsible for 5% of all marriages within the US. With such confident statistics I was keen to join this bandwagon.
The extensive questionnaire was more rigorous than I had anticipated; forcing me to confront my flaws. How plain and ordinary would I rate myself? How overweight? Do I like to start arguments? To raise my self-esteem I had to write little snippets about how fantastic I am and rate myself on how sexy and physically attractive I feel myself to be. So tempting to put 5 for these last ones and refrain from putting up a photo. Sadly but sensibly I’m reminded that honesty in this case is the best policy. I ploughed along this epic (as in lengthy, not brilliant) journey and once I felt like eHarmony knew me better than most of my family I clicked confirm and my account was created! This was hungry work and I needed sustenance. It was slightly strange whilst perusing Tesco’s cold meat section to get an ‘Ice-Breaker’ message from a complete stranger: ‘your profile made me smile’. Steady on… I didn’t even have a photo up and my answers were basic and rushed due to my boredom and niggling chocolate cravings. Sure enough five minutes later I had a ‘Photo Nudge’ someone urging me to put a photo up. A quick and positive start, which was only made better when I saw one of my matches was a lifeguard… a big tick in the occupation box!
Uniformdating offered a startling comparison and is targeted at all those people who wear a uniform or like those who do. It took minutes to join and the overall feel of the website is more light-hearted, less of the feeling that you’re there due to past dating failures. ‘Multi-Flirt’ enables you to click on a range of people that you would like to flirt with simultaneously, something that in reality would probably earn you a reputation pretty quickly. It is a site that targets young people seeking some fun rather than the middle-aged looking for true love.
For the serious individuals there are sites which pride themselves on their dating success rates. Online socialising is dating for the 21st century; a fun way to interact with members of the opposite sex without any strings attached or demands on your time. Once boredom kicks in you can simply log off, rather than having to sit through an excruciating dinner at Bella Italia whilst your date tells you of that time when they drank gin…for the first time…and they got really squiffy… There is a certain safety in sitting behind a computer screen, an emotional barrier. It is this barrier you can hide behind until you find someone truly worth the time and effort. It is this level of control and freedom which makes online dating so attractive to so many. A warning though: you might have to meet with quite a few frogs before you find your prince or princess.