It must have happened to everyone – you go for a drink with a friend to meet their new partner and eventually the conversation comes around to you asking how they met. They have a quick smile at each other and your friend responds “online, actually.”
Looking for romance online is steadily becoming the new watching pornography. It’s incredibly common but people are reluctant to mention their habit in front of friends, or their mum. Should it be embarrassing though? The burning question in my head was whether it was a sleazy world of casual hook-ups or if it was more dominated by genuinely lonely people looking for true love? There was only one way to find out.
It must be said, for the benefit of anyone I spoke to or met up with, that I got involved for genuine reasons and not for the purposes of researching an article. I was at the time going through a protracted break-up and a friend recommended giving it a go.
The burning question in my head was whether it was a sleazy world of casual hook-ups or if it was more dominated by genuinely lonely people looking for true love?
Once you have the hang of how it all works (and there is a steep learning curve) it becomes a highly addictive game. Basically the system for heterosexuals is that men send out messages to the women they find attractive and the women reply to those that come from men they find attractive and don’t just say “hi” or come with a photo of his genitals attached. The latter is, according to the girls I know, depressingly common.
I quickly found myself hooked. I wrote and rewrote my profile page with all the effort I never put into my UCAS application, I sent out carefully written messages to every attractive and literate person on the site within a thirty mile radius, I boasted about my reply rate to friends who used the same site. It was obvious I had lost sight of what the point of it all was and reduced it to a numbers game. But love (or even sex) isn’t a competitive sport.
Meeting people was the next step after I was bored with the online flirting. I was chatting to someone on Skype and it suddenly seemed pointless, why sit there talking over the webcam when we could go and grab a coffee right now?
I threw myself into it with such enthusiasm, I was probably keeping the city’s restaurants in business for the last year. Honestly, it was the most fun I’d had in a long time, after years of doing the serious, long term thing. Once again though I had lost sight of the reason I was there, like a fresher that hadn’t been to a lecture in months but was on first name terms with the Hobbit bouncers. I quit doing the online thing and put the plan of meeting someone on hold for the time being while I dealt with other things in my life.
Only once did I meet someone to discover they had used an older photo of themself to try and look more attractive.
Online dating was to me like a powerful drug. I was addicted to the thrill of a message from someone interesting or a date with someone sexy. Along the way I met other addicts, people who didn’t feel right without a packed diary of dates and people whose loneliness had become the central issue in their world. One thing I found remarkable was their honesty. Only once did I meet someone to discover they had used an older photo of themself to try and look more attractive. Everyone was very happy to discuss who they were, what they wanted, where they were going with their lives. Whether they were after their fantasy one true love, someone to kill an hour or so with or something in between, I’d be proud to say I met them. Just maybe not where.