Monday, March 17, 2008
(10:42 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On Online DatingI have been using an online dating service for about a year. I've met some interesting people, some uninteresting people, and gotten a pretty decent summer relationship out of it. Still, most of the time I'm frustrated with it. The gender ratios are badly skewed, as far as I understand, and the women are inundated with messages. Plus there's the whole problem of snap judgments. Personally, I'm paranoid that my field of study has scared off some potential dates, though I've not been notably more successful when I half-lie and say I study philosophy.
The whole point of an online service, it seems to me, is to cut out the inhibitions associated with approaching strangers, allowing people to meet with at least some context -- but it takes forever to get women to actually go out! They're actually trying to screen me based solely on my e-mails. Maybe they're getting 1000 e-mails a month or something, but would it kill them to just meet me for coffee? Like virtually any human being, I come off better in person than via e-mail. I have very seldom found my expectations of a person to match what I got through e-mail -- most of the time I've been pleasantly surprised.
I'm not saying anyone should be going out with everyone who e-mails her, because I've screened out people based solely on e-mail, too. At this point, though, I feel like I would have about the same luck as if I were just approaching random women at bars -- a lot of non-responses, some casual conversations, then maybe a few of those leading to actually meeting at another time. The whole reason I did online dating is because I'm intimidated by the notion of approaching strange women -- I'd feel like I was harrassing them -- and the e-mail prearrangement gives me the confidence that this is actually a person who wants to meet me. (I suppose that some kind of confidence that I'm decent-looking, funny, and interesting and that I've achieved some impressive things at a fairly young age might serve as a substitute for the stupid little e-mail exchange -- but I still don't feel like I have any social capital to speak of, perhaps because I have so little financial capital.) It's nice that the emotional impact of rejection is lower because of the electronic format, but still, the whole experience has really been a disappointment to me overall (though obviously I'd feel differently if that summer thing had worked out the way I'd hoped).
I feel like there is some elaborate code that I am somehow excluded from, but then, that feeling is pretty pervasive for me, at least when it's been a while since I've gone out. I occasionally have the feeling that I've fallen out of the symbolic order altogether, that my actions are completely failing to meet anyone's reasonable expectations, that everything I'm saying is somehow rude or anyway just wrong, that I'm on the razor's edge of finally being excluded from the social circle in question -- the feeling is only compounded when I learn that no one found me to be particularly awkward during such periods. I'm still trying to figure out what is going on with that, but I've learned one thing for sure: it's best not to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm when I feel that way.