For us singletons, life can get very gloomy at times. Sure, we can put on a brave face with the best of them. We can exist for months, empowered with the self-perpetuated belief that being single is actually what we want, because other people are all fundamentally arseholes. Even the ones that we talk with and share our lives with. They're all good people and we love them dearly, perhaps, but as to engaging in a relationship with one of them? No way, uh uh. Humans are bad people, really, and I'm on the right path, the true path, the enlightened path. This life suits me fine, and I'm doing just great, thank you!
Of course, all the people that say these things are lying. I know this, because I've met a lot of them on POF, Cupid, eHarmony, Match, RSVP... etc. and none of their profiles say:
Status: "Single, but I'm actually really happy with where I'm at, thank you. I just come here to be part of the larger social fabric".
I had been single over a year before I finally decided that it was just plain sad and pathetic that I was doing nothing about it. Since I have full time job and a daughter, the usual methods for meeting a prospective partner (vis-a-vis Going To The Pub With Best Shirt On or Going To So Many Parties And Being So Present That You Assimilate To The Point Where Girls Just Expect To See You At Their House And You Eventually Just Don't Leave) are generally out of the question. So, like the countless hopefuls before me, I told myself that Internet dating is perfectly normal and I wasn't a freak for trying it and hey, there are actually females there so some people must find it's fun and healthy!
The first site I joined, I was determined. I had already imagined the complete humiliation I would feel when my work colleagues found my profile, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and put myself out there with honesty and integrity. It was all or nothing, go for broke, hell for leather and all for one.
Filling in your profile on one of those sites is a really confronting self assessment tool. I actually think if they used such tools in psych wards, there may be a much higher percentage of people on the road to true recovery. I mean, even mental people need love, right? It's a fundamental human need. So if they had to actually sit and assess themselves by filling out these dating profile sheets, a lot of people would be left saying, "Wow I am really fucking crazy. No-one's going to want me. I gots to sort this shit out, stat". It's just a theory.
Anyhoo, I'm filling out my profile and thinking things aren't so bad. I have the correct number of arms and legs, and most of them are growing in approximately the right places. I'm not in a cult, I don't have a drug habit, I drink socially (usually in a nice shirt) and know I should quit smoking and truly intend to. So I should be ticking a few boxes for someone, somewhere.
Kids? Okay, this is a bit of a red mark on your name on dating sites, but my daughter is my life and she's part of me, so that's the way it is. Besides, the whole point of finding a mate on these sites is to end up in bed with someone. And the whole point of that is procreation, right? So really I'm just bringing one I prepared earlier. Comes prepared, is organised. Tick.
The last part of this long process is the selection of a photo. You simply have to have a photo of yourself on these sites or people will imagine the worst. I could be text chatting with Scarlett Johansson, having the most stimulating conversation of my life, but if I didn't know it was her and I didn't have a photo, I'd be picturing Chewbacca's older sister. Or potentially Chewbacca. You just never know, right? Whatever toasts your pop tarts.
With all of that done, I click upload & save, and sit staring expectantly at the screen. Moments pass and I decide I'd like a coffee, so I toddle off to pop the kettle on and bang, I get an email. It's from the site! And less than ten minutes later! I can't believe I didn't do this months ago.
A few messages are exchanged. When she writes, she changes her text colour to pink which is barely tolerable, but I'm never going to get anywhere if I get all judgemental and persnickety about font choices this early in the relationship. So I take a breathe and read. She's from Adelaide but is moving to Perth for work soon. She loves the beach and is hoping to meet a guy who can show her around and maybe take her out for dinner.
Frankly, it's pretty exciting. It's a connection, and however remote the chances are that it could blossom into something life changing, it's a start! And this was only my first reply! Hell, I could meet someone new in twenty minutes and ditch Missy Pink Text for greener pastures. I'm good at this eDating thing. It's so easy!
...of course, Missy Pink Text wasn't from Adelaide. She was from Labytnangi, Russia. She was hoping I would be nice enough to send her my credit card info so she could buy a ticket to come and meet me because she would make good wife. This stuff isn't an urban myth, this is actually what they say to you, 3 or 4 emails in. I think they queue at the local library for hours to get access to the only working computer in Labytnangi, just so they can sit there and try to con guys into giving out their credit card details.
|Labytnangi resident "Missy Pink Text".|
I'll just execute a massive fast forward here and say that the same thing happened 4 or 5 times on this site before I decided the site was a fault, not me, and I just had to find somewhere decent. ...on the internet. Oh shush. I hear you from here. I was still so eager for this to work, you see. This was a younger me, a more naive me.
I gave up even trying these sites about 6 months ago. I tried half a dozen, and got maybe 2 legitimate messages from actual non-Labytnangian women. Both of them were along the lines of "Hey! I don't live anywhere near you but you seem cool so good luck! Chin up tiger!" - I have no idea what those messages are about; but I strongly suspect they are automated messages from the site maintainers to keep you actively logging in and potentially clicking on the ads.
...Because that's all those sites are, I've decided. Colossal advertising machines, full of people pretending to be singles, but are actually rows and rows of people in a sweatshop somewhere randomly messaging newly created accounts in the hopes that people will click on ads. It's yet another scam, right up there with the Dry Cleaning racket* and Headlight Fluid Salesmen.
In the end, I was logging in just to reply to the Labytnangian scam messages. Not because I was that desperate, no. But because I'm a 'net geek. I know my way around a scam, and i wanted to play with them. In a way, I was doing my civic service, keeping these scammers busy so they couldn't go and hook some other unsuspecting fool who had no idea he was talking to a mail order bride. I often imagined them sitting around the Labytnangian District Library, waving a bottle of potato-vodka around excitedly, thinking they had another credit card to buy more potato-vodka with.
Suffice to say, I've given up the internet dating scam. My heart was broken within half an hour, and I just never fully recovered from that. I'm not saying it's completely without hope; I'm sure it does work for some people.
I just think those people meet each other in the sweatshop, and, for a brief moment, as their eyes meet across the grimy terminals and that small spark glows, two less ads are served to Dating Sites around the world.
I'll leave you with this very poignant video by Levni Yilmaz that explores dating on Facebook. poor sod, even I never got that desperate;)
"How You May Fall For A Girl On Facebook" by Levni Yilmaz (AgentXPQ)
*That one was for you, Susan Lewis :)