Thursday, November 23

Will Harris on drowning in the sea of online dating

- February 14, 2012

Click. “Lazy eye.” Click. “Unnaturally large forehead.” Click. “Air of casual cruelty. Plus stonewashed jeans.” Click. Click. Click. Bloody click.

Internet dating has, at one time or another, been touted as the future of mankind. Which – given that the future of mankind has also been depicted as an unwashed, scraggly man tramping along an ill-defined road, dodging cannibals and maniacs with nothing but a faltering spark of hope to drive him on – may not be a wholly inaccurate description.
The last time I dipped a toe into this croc-infested quagmire, I was lucky to escape with my foot still attached at the ankle. I soon realised that using a dating website is to the 21st century what syphilis was to the 19th: more widespread than you’d think, no-one will admit to it, and – should you use it as your main dating strategy for longer than a month – it will send you blind and mad.

But unlike a dose of the pox, there are benefits to strapping your lonely heart down for a short voyage into cyberspace every once in a while. You find yourself spending Sunday afternoons with new and interesting people for one, instead of sitting on your kitchen floor, alone, watching a chicken slowly roast through the oven door.
You make friends. You influence people. Some people you actually influence into bed with you, and – very, very occasionally – you might click.
“What about him?” asks H, who is sprawled on the inflatable mattress that’s taking up most of my bedroom floor, rolling a Rizla and scowling.

Click. “No.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
I squint at the screen. What is wrong with him?
“He’s just not my type.”

H waves her roll-up at the screen, taking in the alarmingly short list of profiles I’ve decided warrant a message. “Yes, but your type all look like Final Fantasy characters. You’d probably get more dates if you cast a wider net.”

“I’m looking for a boyfriend, not trying to land a whale.”

Click. “And besides, there’s no sense going on a date with someone I’m not physically attracted to.”
As I trail off, embarrassed, I realise just how easily the internet can make monsters of us. The problem seems to be, the more choice a person is given, the harder it is to make one, so of course – when you find yourself faced with 48 pages containing 709 ‘matches’ – the pressure to sift through them all means it’s far easier to keep clicking away like a maniacal dolphin than it is to take the time and get to know someone properly. All in all, it is a brutal business.

More brutal still is the suspicion that across the city, in bedrooms or at bus stops, there are hundreds of men just like me, glancing at the photo and three paras I’ve chosen to represent myself, then muttering: “Lanky, jug-eared motormouth.” Click.

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