My first problem with internet dating sites is how they will lure you in with promises of being FREE! only to find that what is free is very limited. To get anything substantial from the site - actual contact with people you are interested in, for example - will cost you at least an arm, and often a leg also. Rule #1 : There Is Always A Catch. No matter what enticing claims of free usage are made initially, there is no such thing as a free lunch date.
Profile pictures are my next problem. Let’s talk about all those profiles of people who are apparently “too shy” or “too privacy paranoid” to put up a picture. If you are so shy or so paranoid about your privacy, what are you doing on an internet dating site in the first place? Sorry, I’m not buying it. You’re hiding something. It may be that you are a deranged stalker, on the site to find some new victims for your obsessive attentions, but most likely it is that you have overstated your physical attributes and/or attractiveness. Remember, most of us are of a very average physical attractiveness, and only the few have been truly blessed by genetics. The picture-less profile turns up more often on lesbian dating sites than it does on gay male or straight ones. Setting aside the ‘inactive profiles’ and the “ I’m not out at work or to my family so I don’t want to risk that anyone will see me who knows me” excuse because it’s bullshit, it means either that lesbians are more prone to weird stalking behavior, or lesbians cling most stubbornly of all to the idea that we can fall in love without ever having laid eyes on the object of our heart’s desire. Well, maybe some people think they can, but that’s falling in love with at the very least a partial fantasy since you can’t think about someone without conjuring a physical body of some description to put them in. Try it, and see if it doesn’t feel weird, thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about a faceless, shapeless entity. See if you don’t end up creeping yourself out. Better to know what the reality is straight away. Because the chances are that person you’ve been chatting to online does NOT look like this…
...Oh hun, now you're just trippin...!
Fake profiles and profiles left visible after members have left the site are another ruse to bump up the numbers of people apparently using the site. Notice those are the ones who most often don’t respond to inquiries from other members, who rarely interact, and whose profiles sound suspiciously like they were all written by the same PR company. Think about it…if every one of these sites actually had the 2 MILLION MEMBERS AND GROWING!!! that they trumpet about, you would be bumping into a lot of the same people, wouldn’t you? Especially on the gay/lesbian dating sites because we all know how mighty small a world that is.
Another problem with internet dating is Rule #2 : People Lie. Yes, they do. All the time. Sorry, but it’s true. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re not lying per se, just drawing attention to what we see as our good points and sweeping the bad ones under the rug. The problem with this approach is that you’re being set up for a potentially nasty surprise if someone is only “ fun-loving, and sensual” HALF of the time. The rest of the time she’s a raving, psychotic bitch. The ease with which someone can move on to the next candidate is another downside to internet dating which is related to the profile info/questions stage. Ask a question someone doesn’t want to answer and you can find yourself dropped like you were hot for all the wrong reasons. The candy-store nature of dating sites can also bring out the ADD-afflicted child in many people. We are simply less prone to such avoidance/greedy behaviors in meat-space because it’s harder to get away with them without awkwardness abounding.
But probably the greatest drawback to internet dating is one which, surprisingly enough, it shares with meat-space dating. People really want to believe the hype. They give lip service to a desire for honesty, but behind that they want to believe in the fairytale. What they don’t want to hear is the often less attractive truth - that a person has moods, farts in bed, has a nightmare family, really doesn’t want kids at all. And when they inevitably do find out that the person they have become emotionally invested in is less than perfect after all, they react with absurd degrees of hurt and indignation. As though they had not been actively colluding in pulling the wool over their own eyes. Internet dating simply allows this to happen more often and to go on for longer, and so can heighten the negativity of the outcome.
So, in conclusion, do I think internet dating does what it says on the tin? Well, I think it depends on the individual and how they use the service, but essentially, I don’t think internet dating works any better or worse than traditional means of meeting our potential romantic partners.
NB. I haven’t included sites such as Facebook because I would consider it primarily to be a social networking site on which people sometimes happen to find romance.