Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bot of love: my online experiment

After my divorce became final, I went out on a couple of dates, but quickly determined that I wasn't really ready for a new relationship as much as I was trying to put the last one behind me. I was happy to get my feet wet, but not ready to go further into the pool.

This year, however, I decided to jump in head first and signed up for eHarmony. I heard about a few other sites out there as well - match.com, for example - but eH seemed like the right fit for me. As a single father, I wanted to be a little cautious about who I brought into my life and the very structured approach of eH seemed to meet my needs better than the accelerated, "meat market" pace of some other sites.

Now that my brief experiment is over, here are my observations.

First of all, I didn't go in expecting to find a soul mate; I just wanted to use it as another possible channel to meet people. I think that's a healthy approach. Some of the women I talked to through the site seemed to have high expectations and were clearly putting a lot of pressure on themselves to find Mr. Right online ASAP. (Ironically, those were the women I found least appealing.)

I also received some good advice early on: "think of it as networking." That took the pressure off making it about romance, which honestly doesn't belong in the online world. If you think of it as something to do in your spare time, rather than a make-or-break life changing event, you will be happier in the end.

Online dating is weird, because you basically tell someone everything about yourself before you even meet them. You then decide, based on those statements, whether or not to communicate with them. At eH, this usually means sending them a few standard questions, reading their answers, answering their questions, and then finally sending some open-ended emails. It is important at this stage to keep in mind that you still haven't met this person!

If the emails seem promising, you might trade phone numbers and start talking real-time. At this point, the entire exchange reboots. You're now talking on the phone, and you would do well to forget all of your assumptions to this point and re-assess this person all over again. Maybe they have a good writing style and seemed interesting in emails, but on the phone you find you have nothing to talk about. You have to be willing to cut the string here and start over if it just doesn't click. And again it is important at this stage to keep in mind that you still haven't met this person!

Finally, if the phone conversation is promising, you can arrange to meet in person. I have a friend who has very clearly established rules for this, and says that you need to only meet for a drink or for coffee the first time. (I mostly stuck to that, but violated it twice and had dinner.) It is important at this stage to keep in mind that you've only just met this person! The in-person date is essentially a blind date that the two of you have arranged yourselves. Your conversation again gets rebooted, and now it is finally a real-world exchange. You must re-evaluate once again, and decide whether there is enough chemistry to continue to a second date.

As a workaholic single father with a lot of balls in the air (including blogs to write!), I found the entire process tiring and a bit overwhelming. I was getting about 10-15 new matches each day, and I couldn't keep up with them all. I almost exclusively responded to women that contacted me, not the other way around. In the course of three months, I traded messages with about 50 women, chatted on the phone with about two dozen, and went on actual dates with nine.

In that time, I came to appreciate the process of dating, the leisurely pace of it and the excitement of talking to new people. However, from a romantic perspective I was not impressed. Some of the women were very nice and some were very beautiful, but there was no click. Six of them I did not see again. One I went on a second date with, and it fizzled. Another I went on a promising second date with, but then it fizzled on the third.

Towards the end, I decided that I'd had enough and turned off matching. I had email conversations going with three women at that time, so I decided to follow through with those, but I wasn't really paying them much attention. Work had become very busy, so I stopped logging onto eH for a week or more at a time. One of the three women quickly dropped away because of inattention. Another had also been busy with work and so she and I traded apologies for a bit before that too faded. The third, however...

I found myself thinking about her. She and I had a lot of similarities, and her emails had intrigued me. Click. I eventually got back around to emailing her, and then quickly started talking to her on the phone. Click. Our schedules were both crazy, but we eventually met in person - the ninth and final woman I dated from my online experiment. Click.

Click click click click click click click... It is early still, but I am happy to report that things are going well. So I guess maybe the online dating thing does work sometimes.

My eH account has expired now. It was an interesting experiment - at times even fun - and although I had my doubts, in general I would recommend it. However, I don't miss it one bit. It's summer now: time to turn off the computer and go enjoy the real world. And with that in mind...

3 comments:

  1. I loved the suspense of the blog post. Glad to hear about all the "clicks." You are the man.

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  2. Good for you! (papa)

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  3. Thinking about getting my feet wet - again - but skeptical as hell. I have had very little success dating actual people let alone online people. Will keep your advise in mind to consider it networking I think I do that well.

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