February 17, 2005
Why the Web Wins
I know you're not gonna believe this, but before Internet dating sites, couples actually used to meet "offline" -- out in public -- often by chance: at parties, dances, supermarkets, museums, bookstores. No, really! But like the Tyrannosaurus rex, the Edsel automobile and Steven Segal's career, offline dating is seemingly on its way to extinction. Oh, sure, a few couples occasionally meet offline, as God intended, in the course of their daily lives, much like our pioneer ancestors, but they're just lucky and we resent them. Just because they didn't have to pay $25 a month, post a photo, write a profile and proceed to meet hundreds of people with whom they felt less chemistry than Dick Cheney and Barbra Streisand on a tunnel of love ride, must they rub their joy in our faces?
More and more singles are meeting via Internet dating sites. There's gotta be a reason for that.
In fact, there are exactly four reasons why Internet dating beats the pants off offline dating. (And please forgive me for that image -- I blame it on a literary wardrobe malfunction).
1. Comfort Level. You can check out prospective dates from the comfort of your home, wearing nothing but your bunny slippers and "Just Do Me!" boxer shorts. OK, I'll speak for myself. But how great is it that you don't have to shave, shower, get dressed, drive someplace, be hit on by people in whom you have no interest and then drive home, feeling that you've spent a large chunk of time with no noticeable results? It's enough to make a guy swear off dating completely and decide to simply date himself. (I've found I have an amazing amount of things in common with myself, and, not to get too personal, but -- I'm always in the mood.)
2. Information Level. Knowledge is power, and when you date online, you have access to substantial information about your prospective dates before you even contact them. It might take you two weeks to work up the courage to ask out that supermarket cashier, only to find out that she's a) married, b) gay or c) a smoker who's just invited her mother to move into her place to help care for her four hyperactive kids. Whereas with online dating, much is revealed through the person's profile, photos, the initial phone call, hiring that detective to do a background check and searching for every mention of their name on Google or local bathroom stalls.
3. Security Level. Once, at a yard sale, I was hit on by a woman who was clearly attempting to turn on the charm. I don't blame her. She had no way of knowing that her combination of attention deficit disorder, skin surface resembling a topographic map of the Appalachian Mountain chain and a dog that barfed on my sneakers is generally not my cup of tea. My point here is that with online dating, you choose whom you want to pursue romantically. Not that you don't make mistakes. Not that people don't misrepresent themselves. But at least you don't have that queasy feeling of having to deal, at any moment, with a surprise visit from Typhoid Mary, or her sister, Restraining Order Rhonda.
4. Quantity Level. We all know that meeting one's soul mate is a numbers game. You've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince or princess. And by then, you've got so many warts on your lips, you're lucky if your royal partner will have anything to do with you at all. At least with online dating, that process is sped up. You can browse through literally hundreds of profiles of romantic candidates in one evening, if you so choose. Contact 10 of them, not hear back from four, talk to six on the phone, rule out three, meet three for coffee, like one but she doesn't like you, are liked by one but you don't like her, and the one you agree to meet for a second date informs you a few days later that she's decided to get back together with her last boyfriend. Just try accomplishing all that with offline dating!
Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org