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e side are you on? os Wh : ng ti Da ne li On

Drunk and miserable at a friend’s wedding reception, I find myself outside in the middle of December whinging to a friend about how I wasn’t allowed to bring a ‘plus one’. Sensing that the bigger issue is more along the lines of “I don’t actually have a ‘plus one’”, she brightly suggests “Have you ever thought about online dating?” I’m twenty-one, and massively insulted. As the generation raised in social networks, you’d imagine that online dating websites would be rife with hopeful singles between the ages of eighteen and twenty four. And as someone who falls in that age bracket, who wasted countless nights pimping profiles on numerous networks from the age of about fourteen, surely I’d feel quite at home looking for love online. But I’m not. There are fifteen million singletons in the UK. Five million of those are online. The basic concept is brilliant. Millions of men waiting to fall in love with you just a “wink” away; it sounds like a dream. Yet so many of us are reluctant to jump on board the online love boat. Almost two thirds of singletons aged fifty-five and over are signed up to at least one dating website, whilst only twenty one percent of eighteen to twenty four year olds have made that commitment. But why? While I share many of the opinions of my peers, I’m also very aware that it can be successful. With my suggestive friend egging me on (she’s now engaged to a man she met online), I can’t stay away. I sign up. Game on.

ed an n’t us site e v a h “I ing et dat I intern er would. v and ne ou have to y think eet a ally m lly c i s y h p to rea person ou get on y see if ract well te and in ther.” g o t e 22 Bower, Helen

“I’ve

had a quick look at a co uple of sites in the past becaus e I was interested to see what kinds of people signed up. I remember seeing peop le of my age and thin king how desperate th ey seemed and how I wo uldn’t want to be with someone like that.” Kathryn Nicho ls, 21

am still of y old the (slightl inion op d) ne fashio little that it’s a use to bit sad . It’s ng ti da internet sort ce an ch a last u’re yo of thing, if your in still alone th wi ve li d 40’s an ” . er th mo ur yo Sam Kelsall, 23

“I

So I join my first dating website. As a journalist, and someone so used to creating online profiles, having an empty box to write about yourself should be easy. But having to sell yourself as a dateable human being is a whole new ballgame. Nearing the end of day one, I’ve had almost 50 profile views, 6 “winks” and 3 emails. Some would see this as quite a success. But 6 winks from 6 weirdoes I’d never go for in real life, and 3 emails from the same mid thirties beer guzzling revolting man does little for even the lowest of self esteems. After three days I send my first wink. It is surprisingly daunting and I hover over the send button for a little longer than I should. There’s almost a slight adrenalin rush at the thought of it, it’s out there, “I like you”. More scarily, the ball has left your court and you have to wait for a response, or the lack of. In a mad frenzy I wink at two other men. Maybe it’s the paralyzing fear of eternal singledom, or the fact that wink number one had just come online after three weeks of inactivity. What if he wants to talk to me? I log off. After a week I’m getting a bit fed up of the four generic men I keep finding. Type A, who luvs football n iz a massiv Chelsea fan 4 lyfe, lol. When you’re looking to attract a special someone, and ninety percent of your self-portrayal is through the English language, why didn’t you make use of that backspace key? Type B, lengthy paragraphs all about how, like, totally awesome and exciting your life is. You’re so


busy riding elephants and winning trophies and eating your weight in quiche. Yet somehow you’ve found the time to share the first chapter of your autobiography with us. Why can’t you find a girlfriend? Type C, who’s profile picture they took themselves, in a mirror, on their mobile phone. This isn’t Myspace and you’re not fifteen. You’re not fifteen, are you? And then Type D, the easy going, chilled out, friendly guy, who loves going out with his mates and a night in with a DVD. Apparently you’re also the most boring and unoriginal twenty something in Britain. Checking my emails has become more than an addiction, it’s become an obsession. I’m being sent daily emails suggesting I review more and more men in my local area. Ninety-Five percent of whom I’m one hundred percent not interested in. I’m beginning to see why so few eighteen to twenty fours join these sites. I believe it’s mainly to do with the fact that there are so few eighteen to twenty fours on these sites. The first site I joined involved a subscription fee I was unwilling to pay without a massive nudge from irresistible men desperate to get in touch with me. As there seems to be surprisingly little potential, during week two I join a free website to boost my chances. After a day on website two my vital statistics are already double of day one on website one. My hopes soar. There seems to be a lot more interesting, attractive men on site two. Lots more military men too. Which I’ve discovered is a weakness of mine. Week three comes along, and I decide to try another website. The layout is horrendous, and very userunfriendly. I feel like this is really scraping the barrel. An instinct later confirmed as I get several explicit emails from men who are looking for an “intimate encounter”. It makes online dating seem cheap and dirty, confirming a stereotype

about the whole scene, even though from my experience this is normally not the case. I’ve gained a certain sympathy for the singles on these sites, it’s made me realise how difficult making a connection is, even online. While it’s only been a number of weeks I’ve reached an inevitable lull. Once you stop appearing on “new member pages”, and you stop logging on every day, things do slow down. I decide drastic action is in order. I pay the subscription fee for website one to have full roaming rights. Finally I get to read all these emails I’ve been sent, some of which are really sweet, some of which I delete immediately, but one that is particularly nice. The man is, nothing extraordinary, but relatively appealing. So I start emailing him back. And then he responds. And then I email him back. And then he suggests going for a drink when he’s back from his imminent holiday. I thank him for the offer and kindly accept.

I never hear from him again. Meanwhile, I’ve been sending and receiving emails on all three sites. Getting to know people a little, seeing if there’s a spark, or the Internet equivalent. Nothing. One problem with website one and two is the fact that they’re international. And as lovely as it is to receive nice emails in French telling you that you have a beautiful smile, or however beautiful those tall Dutch boys are, or however flattering it is to get winks from Morocco, it’s not what I’m looking for. Into month two, a young lad from my town starts being a little persistent. Not good persistent. Not endearing persistent. More stalker persistent. After far too many enthusiastic emails, and about three hundred winks I decide the instant messenger service needs a bit of use. He wants to talk to me. I really don’t want to talk to him. He needs to know this, so I politely tell him I’m not interested. This


provokes a pity party, “nobody likes me, what’s wrong with me, why?” I find myself turning into his Mother, telling him to stop playing around on the Internet and to get out, experience life and stop dwelling on the fact that he’s single. “You’re only twenty!” I realise what I’m saying. What am I doing on here? Then it happens. Out of nowhere this gorgeous man winks at me, then comes through with a nice email. I’m so excited. I keep it casual, wait a few days, then reply. And it’s a winner of an email. One problem. The end of my subscription is coming round the corner. But I feel good about this one. I can’t cancel. The email checking obsession rears it’s head once again, waiting to hear from him. I guess it’s the excitement that the search could be over. But as time rolls on, I start to get impatient. I start browsing again. My “wink” finger is uncontrollable, and I decide it’s probably best not to put all my eggs in one basket, and I start emailing a few other guys. I’m genuinely disappointed he hasn’t got back to me. Two and a half weeks go by. Still nothing. There are a few other men I’ve been emailing with regular replies, but it’s not exciting, there’s no romance, and at the end of the day that’s what this is about. I don’t want to make friends, I have enough friends. I want a love story. One morning I wake up to find I have 5 new messages. My heart skips a beat as I see he’s one of them. He’s really apologetic it took him so long to reply and obviously

I forgive him immediately. It’s a really interesting email, he seems genuinely friendly, we have a lot in common, and did I mention he’s gorgeous? I email him back a few hours later. And by the end of the day I have another email from him. Four emails in three days, and unexpectedly there it is: So when are we going for a drink then? I run into the lounge and scream at my housemate. “I’ve got a boyfriend!” Fine, it’s a little premature; he might turn out to be a fifty-six year old fat balding accountant. But for an hour at least I revel in the possibility. Wanting to know more about him, I look to my friend Google. With little to go on but his first name, and his user name, I don’t expect to uncover much. I decide to Google his user name, only a

few hits return. The first couple lead nowhere, but then there it is. I find something I didn’t want to find. He’s on another dating site, an adult dating site. Initially embarrassed by this wealth of information I’ve stumbled upon detailing his inner most desires, it then becomes pretty funny. I know him a lot better than he thinks I do. As do my three housemates, and a few other close friends. As his subscription comes to an end we decide to take our relationship to the next level: personal email. We really connect and I’m getting more and more excited about meeting him. Then I go on holiday for a week. And his emails start becoming a little less frequent. I send him photos of the gorgeous scenery, even of some of my baking endeavours, but there seems to be more than just a geographical distance


between us. When I return, he still seems to be keen, but the timing is all wrong as he then leaves to go on holiday. I start to worry. Maybe we’ve left it too long online. Luckily while he’s on holiday my life gets very busy, and I don’t spend half as much time as I might thinking about all the beautiful girls he might fall in love with while he’s away. It might also be to do with the fact that I’ve started talking to someone new. I have a back up. We get on, he’s upfront about what he wants, there are no games. As man number one returns from holiday I give him a couple of days to hear from him. He’s probably tired, lots of washing to do, starting work again… emailing me won’t be top of his priorities. But as three days turn into four, it dawns on me. Maybe “I’m going on holiday” is online dating code for “I’m never going to message you again”. I decide to give up, I haven’t heard from him in over two weeks, get over it, if he’s not trying hard enough then he’s not good enough. So I have a good cry, wallow in thoughts of “what’s wrong with me?” for an hour or so, and then I get a grip. I haven’t even met the man. The next day I get an email from him. His Internet died at home, he’s been busy working, and he’s currently using wi-fi in a hotel to email me. He’s still keen to meet; he suggests a couple of possible days the following week, or tonight if I reply quickly enough. I reply quickly enough, and soon enough find myself showered, dressed and hysterical. As the calm sets in, and I’m about

as ready as I could be for meeting him, I receive a text. He’s not going to make it. I’m surprised at my lack of disappointment. I mean I am disappointed. But he’s shown he’s still interested. These things happen, right? Another week goes by. I make a date with my back up. We meet somewhere mutual, have lunch, chat, then see a film. It’s nice. But he had lied about his height. Mr. Five-foot-seven is actually Mr. Five-foot-two-if-you’re-generous. Which wouldn’t be a problem if he was hilarious, or charming, or interesting. But he’s very plain, and it was far too draining trying to get him to get excited about anything. I’m not that bothered, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with him. I had a nice day with someone new. It was a good practise run. I hear from man number one a couple of days later. We make another plan to meet. The days go by quickly, and I find myself once again preparing myself for his imminent arrival. I find myself thinking about all the doubts I’d had about him, about online dating, and it all seems a little ridiculous. With less than an hour until we meet, I’m hopeful. But then I get a text message. He’s not coming, again.

to meet likeminded people. But it’s a lot of effort, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance, and even then there’s no guarantee. Right now, I’m quite happy being single. Who knows who I might run into while I’m not looking. Hannah Giles

I decide to give him one last shot. Three weeks later I get a text from his girlfriend of seven months. Game over. I delete all my dating accounts, disappointed, fed up and disillusioned. It didn’t work. I’m not ruling out online dating completely, it’s a practical way

Do:

Get a friend to double-check your profile. = more men. Try a few different websites. More sites surprise you. may type usual your Not mind. Have an open ’t want the real you? doesn who ne someo Be yourself. Why would you want to be with e know where you are. peopl let and ght dayli in Be safe. Meet people in public places,

Don’t:

ers. is a hotspot for identity fraud. And stalk Provide too much information. The Internet . story life your want know people. They don’t Give too much away. The idea is to get to ge. messa right the sends ge messa No interested in. Feel obliged to contact people you’re not


Playing the game  

Online dating article by Hannah Giles

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