Technology: Gemma Rose reflects on the life lessons of online dating.
When a friend of mind suggested that I try internet dating, I was pretty appalled at the prospect. I was an online dating snob. I thought it was just for desperate people. I was put off at the thought of hunting for dates, as you would jobs. I couldn’t fathom why after a full day’s work in front of a computer screen, anyone would want to spend the evening in front of it too.
But I finally gave in. Last year, I made a big effort to meet more men and go out on dates, using the traditional (i.e. offline) ways. Although I enjoyed meeting lots of different guys, I failed to meet the right guy. After a break-up with someone who just wasn’t that into me, I decided that maybe it was time to date in the 21st century.
When I signed up I made quite a few internet dating rookie mistakes: my profile pic was cute, but frankly it didn’t make the most of what God gave me. I was also too descriptive in my profile, hence saying much more than necessary. Matthew Hussey, of the New York Times bestseller Get the Guy advises that less is more when it comes to writing your profile. I agree. I much preferred short and succinct profiles, to ones which were either like a CV or a monologue. Once I changed my profile picture and shortened my description, I got far more attention.
Matthew Hussey also recommends combining online with offline dating. He says that focusing solely on internet dating can lead to depriving ourselves of getting out there, having fun and meeting people in the real world. So I tried not to spend every evening in front of the computer, in my pyjamas, slippers, sipping a cup of hot cocoa.
I also attempted different techniques. At first, I would just be a ‘passive’ dater, letting the guy contact me. But then I realized that if I wanted to find the right person for me, I would have to start choosing, instead of waiting to be chosen. I consequently started contacting guys with simple, friendly messages, picking out something from their profile to strike up conversation. Sometimes the guy wrote back, sometimes he didn’t.
Over the course of internet dating, I learnt surprisingly a lot of life lessons. The first is not to take rejection personally. I figured out quite early on that I wasn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, as not every guy was going to be mine. There may be a whole host of reasons why a person doesn’t respond: one being that they are no longer subscribed but the dating site still keeps their profile. Nevertheless, whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with my worth.
The second lesson was that I got better at trusting my instincts. I made an effort to be open and give people a chance. Yet, when one guy (whom I had only been on one date with previously) told me on the phone how much he liked me whilst in the middle of ordering a Chinese takeaway, I knew something didn’t add up. I was right: after a disastrous second date, he kindly texted that he was not “made for me”.
I got very good – very quickly – at identifying what type of person I was looking for. I knew that I didn’t want to date a divorcee, or a single Dad. Moreover, I wanted someone who had a very good command of English to be able to laugh at my bad jokes (they are simply abominable in French). With all the practice in dating, I got better at asking the guy the right questions to figure out whether his values were compatible with mine.
There’s a great Ted Talk by Amy Webb (digital futurist, CEO, journalist, all-round incredibly talented, entrepreneurial and successful person) called ‘How I hacked online dating’ where she basically collects data to help find her Mr. Right. She makes the poignant conclusion that we make our own algorithm when it comes to finding love. We choose.
And I guess this is the most important lesson from internet dating, or dating in general: that our love life is in our hands. We need to put in the hard work of figuring out what we want and how to get it. Then we have to go out there, try to find it and keep going until we do.