Adventures in online dating

Many of us cringe at the thought of online dating. I admit it, in the past I was guilty of associating online dating with neurotic, overweight men in their 40s living in their mother’s basement fishing for an equally neurotic female partner.

Recently, however, a close friend signed up for plentyoffish.com, and guess what, she is not a neurotic, overweight man. Go figure.

Intrigued by my friend’s newfound social networking tool, I decided to sign up and learn first-hand if online dating was all she had talked it up to be.

I chose plentyoffish.com primarily because it was free but also because I know more than one couple who have met on the site.

I filled out a few short character assessments, threw up a picture and wrote a generic list of interests – music, fitness, writing, friends, family, travel … you know, the things no one in their right mind would actually dislike.

Plentyoffish.com emphasizes that the best way to meet new people is to make your profile unique, so in the about me section I added that I have an irrational fear of balloons (yes, sadly this is a fact).

Apparently the people at POF know what they are talking about. Within the first day I had received over 60 messages, and more than half were about my fear of balloons.

What really surprised me was that more often than not the men contacting me were attractive, well-educated and generally-speaking accomplished individuals.

Much to my pleasure, not one was a single, neurotic 40-year-old living in his mother’s basement.
The best part about all of this was that if I wasn’t interested in the person contacting me, I just deleted their messages. Of course, they were able to see that I deleted their message, but who cares?

With online dating there is no commitment, no awkward rejections, no beating around the bush.

And so with this sense of freedom fresh in my mind, I went fishing. I looked at profiles that interested me and contacted a few men who I thought were worth my time. Over the course of two weeks I casually conversed with dozens of individuals; I even came across a couple of friends on the website.

One of my most interesting experiences happened shortly after I dyed my hair from blonde to dark brown. The number of new messages I received each day was cut in half after changing my profile picture to reflect my new hair colour.

What was even more interesting was that I stopped receiving inappropriate messages, specifically from people interested in an “intimate encounter.”

Regardless of the fact that I was not looking for a relationship, I did agree to go on a few dates to see if it was possible to find someone I was interested in through an online dating website.

For the most part, these dates went off without a hitch. We agreed to meet in a public place during the day and I made sure a friend knew that I was meeting with a new person.

The dates consisted of chatting over drinks or coffee. Two of the four dates were what I would call successful, one was incredibly successful and the other was simply a case of no real chemistry.

In each case, the men I met with were my age or slightly older, good-looking, happy and successful. In short, they were not the type I expected to meet on a dating website. I guess the internet has a lot more to offer us than free music and wikipedia. I would recommend online dating to any of my friends.

Best experiences

1) Running into several different guy friends on the website. This reinforced the fact that online dating is for everyone.
2) My fourth and final date was a smashing success; we lost complete track of time and I consider it one of the highlights of the holiday.

Worst experiences

Dunbar__86 asking me if I would be interested in a personal striptease via webcam.

Vincent2810 telling me I looked like his mother and then asking me out for drinks.

Elmartin asking me if I was interested in having phone sex.

Pros

1) Online dating offers you options that simply do not exist with other forms of dating. The anonymity provided by e-mail and chat means that you maintain control over your privacy and your comfort level.

2) For this reason, online dating can be the ideal solution for those who are shy or find it hard to come out of their shell on a first encounter. The gradual “get to know you” process means that you do not need to meet with anyone offline unless you absolutely know you are comfortable with the person.

3) Online dating can also be a great way to meet new people when moving to a new city. Many of the singles I encountered over the course of my experiment were new to Toronto and looking to meet friends.

Cons

Online dating, like any other form of dating, does have its risks. As with any new experience, common sense is your best defense against those looking to take advantage of you, whether for sex, money or anything else.
Safety

According to Match.com “online dating is no more, or less safe than any other kind of dating.” Avoid meeting people you do not feel comfortable talking with in an online setting. Remaining anonymous until you feel comfortable to divulge your name is a good way to ensure your privacy and safety.

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