Online Dating: For More than Just the Desperate

A few weeks ago, as I sat with my friend watching the Food Network at 4 a.m., it seemed that every commercial break included an eHarmony or Match.com commercial. Of course Match.com would assume that if I was watching the Food Network at 4 a.m., I was single.

Sadly, it was right. And the commercials repeatedly reminded me that one in five relationships start online and couples in 17 percent of marriages in the past three years met online. Between the delirium of 4 a.m., Guy Fieri and the biracial couple who were “matched in Oct. 2004,” my friend and I jokingly decided to make online dating profiles.

But after learning that one month of eHarmony costs more than my phone bill, we turned to its free alternative, OKCupid.

The first step was to decide how best to showcase myself to the world of potential mates (aka what I should put on my profile). Here, I found myself in a dark place that felt disgustingly similar to the world of college apps. I never thought I’d have to fill out another “Self-Summary,” “What I’m really Good At” or “What I’m Doing With My Life” ever again.  I thought wrong.

After dutifully putting in what I thought to be creative responses, the site bombarded me with even more questions to increase “match percentages.” Some were relevant, asking if I was okay with my significant other spending a lot of time with exes (not really) but others were less so: “Do you believe in dinosaurs?” (um, yes).

Then it was time to decide which photo to upload, and here I realized that everything I’d just done was useless. Who cares who I wrote? We all know it all depends on the photo. Sun God photos? Nah, I don’t want to come off like a crazed partier. Family photos? Yeah, right. Too boring. I finally decided on a picture of me and a friend, and (after cropping her out) hit “Upload.”

I started off by filtering through (read: blocking) the creepy 40-year-olds, the creepy cat guy that pokes his dead gecko every couple of weeks and the overall creeps. I found that it’s a lot easier to reject people online. And hey, that Chris* guy is cute and doesn’t off any weirdo alarms.

After the sifting through the initial weirdos, I was surprised to find that most of the guys weren’t social outcasts, or awkward pariahs, but regular dudes that were either new to the area or tired of the party scene — and who could blame them? Meeting new people is hard.

But online dating isn’t all that different from meeting someone at a party. You go on there to get away from the requisite awkward mingling, but it turns out online dating is just as shallow — in fact, online, appearances count more. You don’t have the opportunity to dazzle people with your in-person wit, so that profile pic better be well-lit and from a good angle. And with that said, you can assume that everyone’s about 33-percent hotter in their profile picture than in real life.

To test just how much looks matter online, I created two identical profiles with two very different pictures of me. Unsurprisingly, the frumpier profile’s inbox was left bare, while the “cuter” profile was bombarded with messages.

And for some bizarre reason, guys think that posting multiple shirtless pictures of their abs — without their faces — is the key to reeling in a girl. Think again, boys.

So anyway, there was Chris. With Halloween right around the corner, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to invite him to a costume party.

And if he turned out to be a creep, it wouldn’t be too difficult to disappear into the masses.

After awkward introductions, it turns out that we had a lot in common.

Aside from a certain A.S. senator stealing his attention for an hour-long engineering chat, I’d say the night was a success.

Every month, 20 million people date online, but though everyone seems to know someone who found their “someone” online, online daters are stigmatized as chumps who can’t get a date on their own.

If anything, for some, online dating is more a booty call roulette wheel than a retreat of social rejects. And no matter how obvious it seems, always meet “friends” you’ve met online in a public place, and — no matter how embarrassing — give a friend their number, just in case.

Online dating isn’t for everyone, but in the end, most members are normal people trying to find someone.

And because finding a date at UCSD that doesn’t only speak science or reek of bro is next to impossible, online dating is a viable option to weed out the less than desirable suitors.

I don’t think I’ll snag my dream man on OKCupid anytime soon, but the site did reaffirm the cliche: There are literally thousands of other fish in the sea. If one doesn’t work out, there are hundreds of others a click away.

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