I got quite a few emails in response to my previous column about online dating. I adore getting email from my readers, in most cases, and I hope it keeps up. And I hope reading about my experience, which was ultimately very positive, will encourage anyone who’s on the fence to give online dating a try.
On Match.com, you’ll find the same mix of people you find in life. It’s like stepping into a huge, never-ending garden party, or a pig roast, or the Burning Man festival: there is bound to be a group of people you feel some affinity toward and some you’d just as soon avoid, which is fine.
But, if you’re smart, you’ll stay open to the possibility that someone who doesn’t immediately seem like your type could surprise you with charm, wit, kindness, strength of character or other qualities. And people who look like perfect matches can turn out to be complete jerks, or worse. So, as in life, dial up your intuition and pay attention to what it tells you.
So, there you are at the pig roast, a cold beer in your hand and a warm smile on your face. Now what happens? Why, you take a deep breath and start meeting people. That’s why you came, isn’t it?
The words you choose to describe yourself in your online profile automatically match you up with others of similar interests. If NASCAR is your passion, for instance, you can include it in your profile and Match.com will suggest contacts who also list NASCAR. Of course, that may be absolutely all you have in common, which is probably not enough to build a lifetime relationship on. But you might discover you also share a dedication to fancy chickens, bell choirs and red hotdogs from the convenience market. Now you have the basis for a conversation, right?
In addition to the information you intentionally provide, dating sites use technology to learn more about what you’re interested in. For example, if you develop a pattern of checking out the profiles of people who list beekeeping as a hobby, you’ll start getting more referrals to people who live in the country, even if you haven’t specified that as an interest. So over time, the potential partners that are suggested to you become a better reflection of your interests. At least, that’s the theory.
After posting my profile on Match.com, I started getting something called “Your Daily Five” in my email. This was a list of five likely matches, based on the geographic area, age range, personal interests and other qualities I was looking for in a new sweetheart. My job was to look these guys over, one at a time, and indicate how interested I was in them.
Initially, these lineups were pretty disheartening, but they got better as Match.com figured out what I was responding to. Pretty soon, there was at least one possible contender in each batch. One time, I found myself warming to a new profile — nice smile, right age, employed, nearby, good politics, enjoys kayaking — and then realized with a shock that I was checking out my soon-to-be-ex-husband. Ouch.
I was also able to bypass the daily offerings Match sent me and browse through the listings on my own — hundreds of age-appropriate men in my immediate area, thousands in Maine, and untold numbers if I was willing to consider developing a long-distance relationship or relocating. Many of these I dismissed quickly, perhaps unfairly, based on their photo, religious preference, politics or other criteria. Some I recognized from my social and professional circles and skipped in order to avoid weirdness.
But others I lingered over, wondering about their stories, what had brought them to this point in their lives and whether they might have enough of whatever it was I needed to build a relationship on.
I wasn’t ready to reach out to anyone yet, but it was reassuring to realize that there were some roses among these thorns, some princes among the toads.
Of course, at the same time I was beginning to get the hang of this online thing, my personal profile was also available for anyone on Match to see and being included in the Your Daily Five listings emailed to goodness-only-knows how many men. No doubt scores of them passed me right by without a second glance, and with good cause — I am not everyone’s dish of tea, that’s for sure.
But I did start getting some emails from men who seemed like reasonably good matches for me. Before long, I was responding — tentatively and cautiously at first, but with growing confidence in my own judgment and in the Match.com system, which gave me complete control over whom I communicated with and when, if ever, I chose to connect in person.