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I'd be ur slavwmy suitor whispered to me through his keyboard. He immediately corrected his typo.
When this pickup line plopped into my OkCupid inbox, swoon I did not. Instead, I LOLed, then felt pity, for both my suitor and myself. I was 32 and single in a city of only a quarter million, with only a fraction of those available to me. The comedy of this online encounter competed with my despair. Will online dating help me find true love in Madison? Dating in Madison often seems like another of what Rebecca Ryan called a "tier-two tradeoff" in the October issue of Madison Magazine.
That is, we all make sacrifices to live in our beloved but small city. In dating, that sacrifice might be options. Fishing for love in a small pond can make your odds of hooking a mate look grim. At a certain age, the dating pool dries up into isolated puddles. People become increasingly settled into relationships and families, and you find yourself searching for new and different waters. Now a nearly year-old phenomenon, with the birth of Match. Most users fell in the ripe age bracket of the mids to mids.
As with much of life, the Internet has colonized the dating landscape. Mobile apps, such as Tinder and Grindr, connect potential matches based on tidbits like mutual Facebook friends and geographic proximity.
In the Pew poll, nearly a quarter of online daters found their spouse or long-term partner through a site.
Another study, albeit one commissioned by eHarmony, claimed a third of its respondents met their spouses online. What's more, among the sample's 19, married Americans, those who had met online were slightly more satisfied in their marriages and less likely to divorce than couples that met the "organic" way.
Reasons for this are still unknown. Toma studies the psychological effects of social networking, including online dating. Research shows that, not surprisingly, geographic proximity is a top indicator of whom we'll marry. We tend to pair up with people inside the bounds of our everyday: through work, school, friends, etc.
But online dating breaks the geographic constraints, allowing relationship-seekers to meet people outside of their natural environments. This greater access has changed the dating game, to some extent. Many of Madison's singletons, myself included, jump into the virtual sea lured by the promise of more fish. You have to cast a wide net, unless you get lucky early on," says Denise, a fellow year-old Madisonian.
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She is one of the lucky ones. She met her partner four years ago through OkCupid. Before her fateful catch, Denise, who is queer, almost left Madison out of fear she'd never meet someone.
The smallness of the city's queer community compelled her to go online just to find people to date. Wally, who is straight, single and also in his early 30s, says online dating has made it easier for him to meet people, a harder feat the older he gets and less social he becomes. Denise and Wally are two of the dozen Madisonians who shared with me their online dating stories.
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Tellingly, it wasn't hard to find willing victims. Whether driven by necessity or curiosity, everyone seems to be doing it these days, and few are shy to talk about it. It's so commonplace now, it's neither scary nor particularly embarrassing," says Sarah, a year-old Ph. Nationally, the stigma around online dating is fading. Perhaps this lingering stigma is why most of my interviewees opted to hide behind a pseudonym. Not only has it allowed her to break out of her largely paired-up and insular social circle, it has also given her a sense of control over the uncontrollable.
Ann's proactive stance has paid off; she has met a few boyfriends online, including her current one. Finding that special needle in the haystack does seem somewhat easier online. For one, it is nice to know who else is on the market -- a somewhat awkward question in real life. She went online after ending a long-term relationship; it helped convince her there were indeed more fish in the sea. He likes that online dating gives him more control, even if it removes the spontaneity.
But while online dating can give the plenty-of-fish impression, the sense of options might not be entirely helpful, or true. I jokingly refer to OkCupid as the Man Catalog.
Clicking through profiles feels like sifting through the s of the latest fall trends. Oh, that year-old who plays the mandolin would look great sitting next to me at the Weary Traveler; and that blue-eyed year-old who likes to cook, he'd pair well with my appetite for Italian food. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships coined a term for this: relationshopping. The study found a marketplace mentality within the online dating experience.
With the increased supply of potential mates dating sites offer, "consumers" evaluate the worth of the goods, choosing exactly what they want or don't want in their ideal partner. At the same time, online dating can encourage users to evaluate their own worth, with profiles serving as their own personal shop window. As a writer and thus a relentless self-editor, I admit I've wasted too much time tweaking my profile's sales pitch. The average OkCupid shop window displays a lot of interesting details about someone that couldn't necessarily be gleaned from an initial conventional encounter.
Depending on how well a man has crafted his profile, I could know the six things in life he can't live without, his beliefs on God and politics, or his preferences in the bedroom before I even know his name. To aid the selection process, some sites use algorithms that determine compatibility scores between relationshoppers. OkCupid plugs my answers to its user-generated questions -- of which there are thousands -- into its algorithm and tells me what percent match, percent friend or percent enemy I am with a given man's profile.
The questions range from the meaningless "which super power would you rather have? I've had the patience to answer only about questions; as a policy, I do not answer the over-shares. But does having all these options and data at our fingertips add value to the online dating experience? The danger of too much of a good thing is falling into the paradox of choice.
Choosing between so many options might actually be psychologically taxing, causing undue anxiety or indecision. Online dating has been compared to being a kid in the candy store," says Toma. The relationshopping study warned the marketplace mentality can make online daters get fixated on finding the perfect "product" instead of on the relationship-building process. Because of this endless of new women whoyou can get trapped into trying to find a theoretical perfect match," says Harry, Fatigue is not the only potential side effect.
A review of the academic literature on online dating yes, that exists suggested that browsing potential partners simultaneously -- instead of separately, as is more typical in offline dating -- might actually undermine your chances of finding a good match. In culling profiles, users tend to judge harshly, prioritizing details that might be irrelevant, or even contradictory, to what could actually make them happy in real life.
In fact, for me, none of them have been an option so far," says Wally, who has had a lot of first dates but nothing that's stuck. However, if you are on the market for a Madison stereotype, there is no shortage. OkCupid, at least, is rife with nerdy graduate students, Epic employees, the outdoorsy types, and near-east-siders who like biking, gardening and beards. But even if you manage to narrow in on your perfect on-paper match, there is still that one intangible and mysterious thing even an algorithm can't predict: chemistry.
Yet, nearly a year into my on-and-off relationship with OkCupid, and despite many dates and one short-lived "thing," I still haven't felt that in-person magic with anyone. In fact, the man with whom I've had the highest compatibility score turned out to be on a very different. The offline spark is difficult, perhaps impossible, to replicate online. It may be the part of the relationship initiation process where conventional dating will always trump the virtual version.
But then you meet in person, and you don't really groove with each other," says Phin, According to Toma, social psychology research casts doubt on whether algorithms, which essentially measure personality traits, can actually say anything about compatibility. No two-dimensional profile can convey the full complexity of a person or of human interaction.
And, with the curated nature of profiles, there is also the risk of false advertising. Toma's research has focused on the prevalence of deception in online dating.
Their fibs were pretty minor, however. Men tended to exaggerate their height by an inch, and women fudged their weight by about eight pounds. Toma called this strategic lying, or explainable compensations for perceived shortcomings. Fortunately, the Madison men I've met appear truthful, although I've never carried a measuring stick with me on dates to be sure. A handful of my interviewees haven't been as lucky; the most extreme surprises included a possible mental disability, an apparent psychological disorder and a certain crime record.
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The initial plunge into Madison's online pool can be invigorating. The options seem endless, and the attention is flattering. Then the weeks pass, the of new and interesting faces dwindles, the messages slow to a trickle, and the challenge of dating resurfaces. A former New Yorker, Max has found Madison's petite online dating scene both charming and frustrating: "Eventually you go on dates with people who know each other.
Indeed, the probability you are already connected in the real world to whoever has caught your eye in the virtual world is high in Madison. Online dating gives her a more direct way of talking to a girl she is interested in, rather than scoping her out through friends. When he first ed OkCupid, Harry's immediate top three matches were women he knew personally.