About the Post

Author Information

Karen Datangel is a communications specialist, writer, connector, sports enthusiast (Go SF Giants, 49ers, and Warriors), and philanthropy-minded extroverted introvert. Born, bred, and based in the Bay Area, Karen graduated with a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University. Her writing/media resume includes contributions to and internships with Hollywood Life, CAAMFest (Formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival), Audrey Magazine (Now part of Character Media), Bustle, Fandom, SheKnows, and POPSUGAR. She now focuses mostly on social media and communications in various industries, currently working as the Public Relations Assistant with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and having worked previously at Salesforce and Google. Outside of work, she is an active member of the Spinsters of San Francisco.

Caught in a Web of Curiosity: My Online Dating Experiment

My dating profile was never as revealing as this, but if I had a match like johnharrison30 maybe I would have stuck around (Copyright 20th Century Fox,"This Means War")

My dating profile was never as revealing as this, but if I had a match like johnharrison30 maybe I would have stuck around (Copyright 20th Century Fox,”This Means War”)

Despite what your parents told you and despite any stigma that people will give you, meeting people from the Internet in real life won’t kill you (IF you’re smart about it—don’t go out and meet ‘killeroftehladiez666′ by the abandoned building at 11PM. If you’re under the age of 18, please do listen to your elders and close this tab right now.), nor does it make you a loser. I’ve developed a lot of great friendships through networking on the Web, and now have some wonderful folks to hang out with at concerts. But that’s another story for another day: I’m here to talk about meeting your one true love on the Interwebs! Because eHarmony and Match.com force-feed you every day through sidebar ads and commercials that you can! In 30 days or your money back! No, you’re too smart to fall for that BS. Besides, why would you pay a fee for something so useless? You can just run to your nearest laundromat and pick up a girl there, or bump into that guy walking his dog around the street corner and pretend you didn’t see him just so you can plant that seed of manufactured awkwardness.

But believe it or not, the online dating industry is alive and well and taking advantage of people’s singlehood. In fact, it’s more than alive—it’s on its way to supernova status. According to this infographic from AnsonAlex.com, the online dating industry is now a $1.9 billion industry and 40 million people have visited or used an online dating site this year. In 2007, it was a $900 million industry and 20 million people were consumers. A 2010 survey also revealed that one out of five singles dated someone they met through an online dating site and one of five new relationships owe its origins to the Internet. Are we becoming so immersed in virtual insanity that we don’t even have the time to find our next date face-to-face? Maybe, but maybe not. The fact that there are now more sites offering matchmaking “services” for free is making online dating more accessible, and therefore open to exploration without monetary commitment from the user. Then there’s the fact that a lot of us normal folks don’t meet enough interesting and dateable people at work or school, through mutual friends, at bars or clubs, or at laundromats or on the street, so the Interwebs has become a nice alternative space to do so.

I’m one of those normal folks. In all of my 20-something years, the only dates I’ve gone on have been with guys I’ve met at typical establishments, one at the mall (As I was scouting out for sources for a journalism assignment), another at Coffee Bean (Taking advantage of faster Wi-Fi during my first few days of living in Los Angeles). They did not end well: Mall guy ended up being an ultra-pushy pursuer, calling or texting every day and coining pet names for me even after the first date. Coffee Bean guy just broke my heart via text message. Since then, I have been indifferent to the idea of dating, only enjoying eye candy and never even thinking about snatching them. Then again, as empowered of a woman that I am, I’m also a bit of a traditionalist—I prefer to have the guys come up to me. Unfortunately, those guys, for me, come in the form of undesirables at bus stops. So in order for me to meet some slightly more decent men without the face-to-face anxiety, I turned to the online space. I had heard about OKCupid around the Web for a while, and after learning that it was free and that there were some decent YOUNG people using it, I decided to hop aboard.

I signed up sometime in January or February, unnecessarily taking time out of my day to perfect my profile and present myself in the best possible light. They make you answer questions like “What are you doing with your life?,” “What five things can’t you live without?,” or “What are you good at?” Then you fill out the Details section that will bring you back to your MySpace days—your height, your body type, your ethnicity, your industry, your education level, all of those goods. It’s like creating a resume on a database where recruiters can find out about you and your skills, but instead of being a job candidate, you’re a candidate for a date. After uploading your most flattering photos from last year when your hair actually looked nice and shiny and showcasing your wit (And maybe exaggerating a little bit) through your profile, you answer a bunch of survey questions that range from the trivial (“How often do you shower?”) to the deep (“What’s the best way someone can show their love for you?”) to the dirty (“What do you think of S&M?”). After you mark your answer, you mark down what your ideal partner would say, and that helps aggravate OKCupid’s mystery formula in building your matches. However, if you don’t care about a certain question and answer (And with how stupid a lot of them are, you really won’t give a damn), you’ll get an annoying pop-up message saying that you’ll need to stop marking questions as “Irrelevant” or your matches will suck, so it’s best to answer whatever questions completely to the best of your ability. There are also options to skip questions or make your answers private. Although they won’t affect your matches, another fun feature of OKCupid is their collection of curated and user-created quizzes. Again, they’re stupid and a little disrespectful (Come on, I don’t think a robot should diagnose me with a mental illness), but it’s another fun and kooky way to pass the time, to learn more about whether you’re the girl next door or the smoldering vixen. Hey, I just needed to make sure I’m innocent enough according to societal standards!

Then when your profile and answers to the survey questions are sufficient enough, you get your matches. The best part is that you can weed them out and see only who you want to see. So if you want to make sure your man isn’t looking to be a baby daddy and you’re not fond of kids yourself, you can set your search criteria to look for guys who don’t want kids and relish in your negative feelings about children together. Or if you just want to make sure that cute girl actually checks her profile, you can see if she shows up in the “Last Online in the Past Week” column. Yes, I do fancy myself a certain type, so I did take advantage of this feature. Also, when you see all guys or all girls (Or both if you swing both ways), you don’t have to worry about how you stack up against someone else. Your pool is your pool, and now you have to get your feet wet.

One way to swim with the fishies is to rate people. If you see a profile that makes you laugh or share something in common with, you can rate them 4 or 5 stars and OKCupid will automatically send an email to that person letting them know “He/She’s so into you!” And if you’re digging that person’s love of coffee or the fact that they’re ballin’ at a big-name tech company, then hey, give them those stars back and OKCupid will hit that person stating “You chose each other!” That’s how I met my first real person on the site (Also the only guy I saw more than twice), Pete*. He was interested in how I spent my time in LA and we later found out we shared a great love for Arrested Development, which I think is primarily why I was the one who gave him a good rating in the first place. We met up for the first time at a bar the day after Valentine’s Day and ended up going to another bar after that quite spontaneously. We didn’t talk too much about OKCupid at all, but our conversations stemmed from what we learned about each other online—our interests, our jobs, our life experiences. Within that hour or so during that first meeting, Pete was not even someone I had met online—he was a person, just like me. I’m not even going to lie that I was attracted to how established he was. He had a degree from an Ivy League school, he had a great job in Silicon Valley, he had a snazzy house in a cool neighborhood, and he was a San Franciscan with a car, and he wasn’t even that much older than me. But more than what he had, I valued how great of a conversationalist he was, how spur-of-the-moment he was, and how he brought out those sides of me too. During our first meeting, we talked about how he was an avid biker and how I stopped learning how to bike at seven years old, so for our next date, he taught me how to ride a bike around a big empty parking lot. I succeeded through the struggles, alright, and then on the fly, we ended up going for coffee, a movie, and dinner after that. It made my hangouts with mall and Coffee Bean guys look like eating liver for lunch and really raised the standard for what I would want any ideal date to be like from now on. Unfortunately, for our third date a month later, it didn’t reach that standard. Simply put, the night didn’t go the way we both wanted and it didn’t feel right when he whisked away instead of waiting for me to open my front door. We haven’t kept in contact since then.

But it wasn’t a lost cause, because I was actually seeing quite a few more dudes from OKCupid other than Pete. However, like Pete and all those other guys, things simply came to a halt. There was Brandon, another one in the tech industry. We had an excellent meeting and wonderful conversation for our first date, but our connection sorely fizzled in our second outing just a few days later. I think if we gave it more time in between, it might’ve gone better. Then came Wayne, the only guy who completely went against my “type,” but I immensely enjoyed reading his profile. I don’t think it could’ve worked out because there was more of a friendly vibe between us. I did really like the last guy I saw, Jon. We not only were raised in the same San Francisco suburb, but we shared a deep love for film, the same TV shows, and San Francisco Giants baseball, and I had the most things in common with him than anyone else I met through the site. Unfortunately, reserved personalities were one of those things we shared, which I think kept us both from making contact to see each other a second time.

Even with all the good men I did end up meeting, I still found it annoying to avoid the basic “How are you?” messages from other matches, and it broke my heart a little bit to snub the ones who wrote essays about themselves in hopes of impressing me. For every one of those four guys I dated, there were ten that I had no interest in at all. All this unwanted attention—similar to being at those bus stops with undesirables—along with feeling a little bit burned out in case there were more dates to come, caused me to disable my account just recently.

However, my good few months running on OKCupid taught me a lot about dating in general. I don’t believe filling out surveys and relying on algorithms will allow you to meet your perfect match. You shouldn’t feel discouraged if you find someone intriguing and the site will tell you you’re only compatible by 30 percent. It’s hard to remember that someone’s online persona never gives a full view of who someone truly is, so why not break the barrier and just try to meet that person and start to find out who they really are? But more than anything, if you choose to online date, it’s what you make it to be and what you do after the initial point of contact that really matters. I didn’t choose to text these guys and see if they wanted to hang out again. It’s not because I’m cold-hearted—it’s just that I’ve realized that dating multiple people at this point of my life isn’t for me. I don’t think I would have had that experience to make me realize that if I hadn’t chosen to create that unfairly detailed profile on a free dating site. You never know unless you try, and I think online dating is worth a shot for anyone who’s curious and is willing to put in the effort to do it. Just because it’s set in the virtual world doesn’t make it easier, because the “dating” is just as real as when you meet someone anywhere else.

As for me, I’m okay with my singlehood. But maybe I’ll reactivate that account one day and be on the prowl all over your Internets, searching for my personal superhero once again (Prince Charming is overrated).

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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