Marisa San Miguel discovers how the online dating world works and actually puts one website to the test going on good, better and…better dates.
I’ve always been a little intrigued by those cheesy online dating commercials with two strangers falling blissfully in love over the Internet. Meeting a potential partner at work or a bar has become a thing of the past. An increasing number of men and women are developing relationships online, and some even lead to marriage. Shows like MTV’s Catfish portray the real-life stories of finding love over the Internet. Even Mila Kunis admitted in the August 2012 issue of Glamour to browsing through online profiles on OkCupid with her girlfriends.
THE EXPERIMENT:I always viewed online dating as a desperate resource for the socially awkward, but I decided to see for myself what finding love online was all about, or if it was even possible.
I set up profiles on Match.com, eHarmony, ChristianMingle and OkCupid using the same photo and personal summary for all four sites. Match.com and ChristianMingle are commonly used dating websites, but unless you are a paying member of these sites, you are limited to merely winking, smiling or casually browsing profiles of other users. On eHarmony if you did not subscribe, you couldn’t even see the pictures of other users. As a college student, I was not about to pay around $30 a month to use these sites.
OkCupid was one of the few free dating sites that allowed an unrestricted range of contact with other users. If it was good enough for Mila Kunis, then it was good enough for me.
I decided not to initiate contact with any users, but rather, let them message me. I was completely honest about who I was in my profile and on my dates; however, I left out my true intentions of why I was on the website. My goal was to go on at least three casual dates to see if relationships can actually be developed online.
October 2, 2013
I dedicated a couple hours of my day to tweaking my profile. With the help of my roommates, I wrote a short summary about myself, including how great I am at impromptu car karaoke. I then answered some arbitrary questions, regarding my religious background, what I find valuable in relationships and my social life. These questions were provided by the site to help me find with whom I was most compatible and created match percentages between me and each user.
I was initially a little worried that people from school were going to find my profile and question my desperation. I couldn’t help but recall the days when my parents warned me about the dangers of talking to strangers on the internet, and here I was doing just that.
October 3, 2013
Scrolling through the profiles of local users felt like a mix between Facebook stalking and online shopping. You could search based on certain qualities and even rate profiles, and as shallow as the whole process was, it was actually pretty entertaining. My roommates and I ended up casually browsing through pages of profiles.
By the end of the day, I received about 50 messages from guys within a 20-mile radius. Some lacked creativity, like, “Hey! What’s up?” Others were cheesy: “Well, here I am. What are your other two wishes?” I only replied to about a third of the messages I received. This usually resulted in creepy followup messages from guys who hoped for a reply. I looked for guys with wellwritten, witty profiles. I looked at their educational backgrounds as well as their photos. Guys with shirtless pictures or too many selfies would usually not receive a reply. The match percentage was taken into consideration, but it wasn’t the deciding factor. Out of the small fraction of messages I did reply to, I managed to find myself three suitable dates whose profiles fit my criteria.
DATE ONE: October 5, 2013
Within a couple days of creating my profile, I was going on my very first date with someone I met online. His name was Alex*. He was a 23-year-old applying to med school. Although we had an unpromising match of 36 percent, our conversation through messages made him seem like a smart and cool guy so I agreed to his date offer.
I wasn’t nervous for the date, but I was nervous about the guy being a creep. I’ve seen way too many episodes of Dateline where girls go off to meet guys from the Internet who aren’t always who they appear to be online. Because of this, I may have been slightly paranoid. For safety reasons, I brought my roommates along. Yes, all four of them.
We planned to meet at a coffee shop in Old Town Pasadena. My roommates sat at a different table, and we pretended not to know each other. He looked exactly like his profile pictures, although he may have been a little generous with his height. He wore jeans with holes that looked worn out in a non-fashionable way, and his shirt matched well, in the sense that it too had a hole in it. I’m not picky when it comes to men’s attire, but I would expect a little more effort for a first date.
We talked about our school and future career plans…or rather HE talked about school and HIS career plans. I was more interested in the design in my cappuccino, and wondered when he was going to stop talking. As fascinating as the medical field is, I was not in the mood to hear about it for the next hour.
While I was still sipping my cappuccino, he decided he wanted to walk around and find a place to eat. I was disappointed to leave my drink unfinished, but I agreed. I initially told my roommates to follow me if we left the coffee shop, so I subtly signaled to them that we were changing locations.
We ended up going to a sushi restaurant down the street. This was after I told him I wasn’t a big fan of sushi. He asked me if I wanted to try his Japanese beer, and even though I declined, he still ordered one for me. We had only been at the restaurant for five minutes, and he already had two strikes.
Because I didn’t order anything, I had to spend the next hour watching him eat and talk excessively about his ventures at Columbia and the differences in our faith (Christianity and Judaism). I was beyond uninterested, and he even asked to go somewhere after dinner. I knew I needed an out. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person to be upfront and reject him on the spot, so as soon as he left to use the restroom, I texted my roommate and told her to call me pretending she was locked out of our apartment. I tried to act disappointed that our date had to come to an end so quickly, but he bought the story, and I was finally home free.
We made our way to the parking lot as I held my roommate’s car keys that I pretended were mine. Coincidently, we passed my roommates on the way to the parking lot, and I tried my best to keep a straight face.
Our date lasted about two hours, and I’m not sure if I ever laughed once, or so much as grinned. He was a very nice guy who bored me out of my mind.
DATE TWO: October 6, 2013
My second date was with Jake*, a 22-year-old college student. According to OkCupid, we had a 66 percent match. This was a higher percentage than the last, so I felt optimistic. For this date, we met at a golf course. I did not bring my roommates along this time. He played for a golf team, so teaching me how to hit a golf ball seemed like an appropriate way to begin our date. It was a pretty creative way of breaking the ice. I was almost taken aback by his confidence, but I felt comfortable.
He suggested that we drive around in search of a so-called castle house. I was nervous about getting into a car with a complete stranger, but fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. While driving, we talked about school and our interests. He was already earning points in my book by not completely dominating the conversation. We finally found the house, and driving around gave us the perfect chance to get to know one another. Ultimately, I’d say it was a success. Unlike my first date, Jake actually made me laugh, and our equal use of sarcasm made for good conversation. I told him about how I hoped to have a career in journalism. I laughed a little when he asked me how much I get into my articles, referencing Lois Lane from Superman. If he only knew…
We drove back to the golf course and continued on with our conversation. He asked if I was comfortable with him smoking, and although I didn’t like that he was a smoker, he was courteous about it, so I allowed it.
Then he said he wanted to play a game. He gave me a piece of paper and kept one for himself. He explained how sometimes the perceptions we have of ourselves are based on how others perceive us. We were to write a list of things we perceived about each other, but the catch was that we couldn’t read what the other person wrote until the date was over. I was at a loss for what to write, so I wrote words like, “funny,” “nice” and “confident.”
After I got home, it wasn’t until I was telling my roommate about my date that I remembered the note. He wrote things like, “well-grounded,” “outgoing and fun” and “wildly attractive.” I was happy that he thought highly of me. I then realized how lame my list was for him. Overall, this date surpassed the first.
DATE THREE: October 17, 2013
We talked about foods we don’t like, embarrassing moments, weird things we dissected in biology classes and the advantages of being short/tall. I appreciated how the conversation played out differently than the previous dates.My third date was with Jeff*, a 24-year-old Cal Poly student. We had a 93 percent match, which was the highest yet, and decided to go on a simple dinner date to Applebee’s. Since he is nearly a foot and a half taller than I am, I was glad we’d be sitting so that we could literally talk face-to-face.
We ended up talking for about three hours, and about an hour after we paid, I’m sure our waiter was wondering when we’d be leaving. He was a pretty perfect median between Alex and Jake. We were brought up with equivalent backgrounds, shared similar faiths and had more in common overall compared with my previous dates. It was a completely organic conversation in which I felt comfortable enough to be myself. He didn’t make me want to stab myself with the nearest fork, nor did we have to go on some random adventure. This date was the most simple of the three, but I found it to be the most enjoyable. It was a nice ending to my experiment.
Keeping up with these websites was actually a lot of work. According to the website’s tally, I was averaging about 150 visitors per week. I’m not sure if that’s low or high, but it felt overwhelming. My inbox was constantly filling up with updates, and I continually had to weed through heaps of messages. Not to mention that it was difficult actually finding time for these dates in my busy schedule.
Websites like OkCupid really do give dating a whole new meaning. I was lucky enough to go on dates with three decent guys (who thankfully weren’t creepy). Will I continue to use these dating websites? No. I would much rather meet someone in the cereal aisle of a grocery store than behind a computer screen. By initially connecting with people over the Internet, I felt like I missed out on a certain essence of each person: the way they speak and their tone, the way they interact and their overall vibe.
However, with that being said, I do think everyone should try online dating at least once. It was a good way to meet someone outside of school and interact with different types of guys. It was also a pretty good ego boost.
Although online dating may work for some people, Cupid ultimately did not lead me to my perfect match.
*some names have been changed for the purposes of this article