Jul 7, 2012

In Defence of Online Daters

Louise Duffy

Staff Writer


I like to think I’m a patient person, but there is one major waste of time that has really been getting on my nerves lately. It is ridiculous that we don’t do our boyfriend and girlfriend shopping online. Ok, maybe not shopping; browsing and enquiries.

Our generation knows how to get things done. The vast majority of us have no problem booking a foreign holiday, buying a book, downloading a song or checking in for a flight over the Internet. Before any major life decision is to be made, the all-knowing professor Google must be consulted. Net Doctor deals with minor headaches. Stalking is carried out discreetly and efficiently through Facebook. Funny cats are given the attention they deserve on YouTube. The great questions of life are picked apart on boards.ie. Easy.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the world of romance all the know-how of the “www.generation” seems to fly out the window, and we might as well be back in the dark ages; before even like, Bebo. It’s perhaps the one thing that’s actually become harder in the last 50 years. The fact is that the world of meeting people is more heavily socially regulated than afternoon tea with the queen.

The problem is this: The social rules that we have established have meant that it is almost impossible to get to know potential dates outside of your immediate social circle. It is unacceptable to talk to strangers outside of a few specially designated situations. Even in the context of these situations (at a bar, at a party etc.) it is impossible to know whether the other person is interested/ is available/ whether you would even like them if you knew them. In order to determine this a complex system of eye contact and body language is employed. This method of communication is far from flawless, and even when the brave (usually boy) works up the courage to come over, he will often discover that (a) the girl was really looking at his friend, (b) she has a boyfriend and was just looking for attention or (c) she was just wondering what he was staring at. Even if all has gone to plan up to this point and the two like the look of each other, it isn’t over yet. The chances are that it will be discovered in the next hour or two that one of them collects locks of hair that they quietly steal from strangers. Something like that anyway. In other words, meeting a potential boy or girlfriend involves major amounts of wasted time and wasted credit. It all comes down to luck, and let’s face it; the odds are stacked against us.

The problem is further exacerbated of course by the fact that we are a nation of socially awkward, self-deprecating alcoholics. It’s no bother to us to ‘have the banter’ and ‘get the shift’ once we’re suitably intoxicated, but having an actual conversation with someone you’re attracted to when sober seems to be asking a lot of an Irish person. However, that we should be content with trying to get lucky enough to actually get to know anyone through our drunken haze at Alchemy or Coppers is unacceptable. So why haven’t we come up with a more efficient way of, ultimately, reproducing the human race?

Well we have, but we are choosing to ignore it. Dating sites should be the number one way of meeting people in Ireland, but they aren’t. Why are we resisting a development that could make all of our lives so much easier? It’s not like it’s hard to sign up for them either! All you need to Google “free dating sites no sign up” and you’ll be faced with a bunch of viable options, no matter your gender, sexuality, or interest. If we wanted a boyfriend or girlfriend, we could make it happen, rather than just appealing to some strange notion that the universe will ultimately direct us to true love. We could save time, save money, save energy. We could find everything we’ve ever looked for on gay dating sites if we used them properly! We could actually meet someone who matches up to ‘the checklist.’ So, why not?

Well, it’s because most of us would be mortified to admit we use dating sites. This appears to hold true for young people in particular. I’m 19, and as of right now, I have no intention of ever using a dating site. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I have a boyfriend, so that could potentially cause problems, and just be generally awkward and sticky.

The second, slightly less honorable reason, is that I think that some people who use dating sites are maybe kind of slightly weird. There, I said it. And that’s the problem. If there is a perception that dating sites are weird, and that they are only used by desperate people, then ‘normal’ people won’t use them, and if ‘normal’ people won’t use them, then none of us are allowed to use them. It’s well accepted among sociologists that as humans, we carefully construct the way we are viewed by others. We have our own ‘brand.’ And as all brand managers know, if you want to go more Brown Thomas than Penneys, exclusivity is key. You can’t be too available. This is the logic behind playing hard to get; people want what they can’t have. Unfortunately for us all, this silly ‘carry on’ is just making life difficult, so can we not just alter the arbitrary social conventions which hamper dating in the modern age? I swear to God, they’re doing it in London and New York.

Sadly, its unlikely anything is going to change easily, as the stigma is just too ingrained. What we need, what we really need, is to get Selena Gomez on match.com. And Andrew Garfield; him too. We need massive ad campaigns and more celebrity endorsement than the MTV awards. Imagine if we had celebrities on these dating sites! Everyone would be on there for sure, just to try and find their profiles. And I know I just said that I don’t use dating sites, but I know a few people who do and they have been some of the few who went on dates and are thankfully still with the person they were talking to online. Understandably, online dating may not be for everyone, but for those who want to experience it and are not sure where to start, checking out sites like OurDatingJourney.com could help anyone to start their online dating journey. Who knows who you may meet. There are many sites out there that are targeted to a specific group of people, as well as dating sites that everyone can use. However, we do need some dating sites established that cater exclusively for college students, just so we can show how all the cool kids are doing it. That may be a big help for people who are new to this.

Do you know who should organize all of this? The government. Make it their problem. They haven’t had the best of luck with the whole financial side of things recently, but maybe they’d be better at increasing the nation’s happiness through online dating. Sure, there would be some frictional singledom, but long-term singledom could be virtually wiped out for those who want a relationship. Relationships help you live longer and take better care of your health. They provide you with emotional support and companionship. I’m just one bout of enthusiasm away from starting up a pro-relationships political party here.

Only the pseudo-intellectuals among us would baulk at online dating were it the norm. The time has definitely come to break down the social barriers that prevent us from getting the full use out of what could be the most time saving, crap date sparing, pointless relationship avoiding tool of our generation. The time has come. Just eh…. you first, yeah?

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