Thursday, March 17, 2011

things I learned about dating by joining (and then leaving) eHarmony.

*precursory note: if you love to sing the praises of eHarmony, you might not like this post.

Awhile back, I wrote a post entitled “Things I learned about dating by joining eHarmony.” The problem is, I wrote it on my phone with the intent to post it “later”, and if you’ve followed this blog for a short while or longer, you know what happened. In the time since then, I have tried to scratch the inner recesses of my brain to retrieve said post, but have had a fair amount of difficulty. I could only remember the first 2 items on the list. Dang. But, since my stint on eHarmony is quickly becoming irrelevant, I thought I should post something. Also, I have discovered that a large majority of the people I interact with are either semi-to-wildly curious about what it’s like on eHarmony, or have joined it themselves. So you see, it’s kind of a hot topic. And since I want to be popular (who, whatnow?), I thought I should make up some stuff that feels like it relates to my time there, so people will see I’m talking about relevant things, and in turn, think I am cool. Or, something completely unrelated to that reasoning.

In this post, I will first address my overall thoughts about the website, and then, of course, move on to the Things I Learned.

Oh, eHarmony. You are so famous. It is because of your fame and for no other reason – I wouldn’t believe those commercials were the norm if I could spit on them (or whatever that cliché about spitting says) – that I chose YOU for my social experiment last fall. I enjoy a good social experiment, and decided I should give it a try. I haven’t dated a lot, and as such my SAQ (Social Awkwardness Quotient) is still running higher than the average 13 year old wallflower. So, off I went, hoping I would at least learn how to talk to boys without having my brain swell up inside my head.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me, eHarmony, because I don’t really believe in soul mates, and I especially don’t believe that you’ve gotten a hold of this thing called “Love” and boxed it in to a scientific formula and an hour long questionnaire. But I know some couples that have met via your website (okay, I know of two couples. Wait, three), which piqued my curiosity to the right level. Plus, people kept telling me that this is just what you do nowadays, that really, there’s “nowhere else left!” to meet people. Apparently, everyone in my generation has gone indoors; either to the sleezy onenightstandclubs, or to their computers. Hmm. Which one do I pick?

For the record, I will henceforth and occasionally be referring to eHarmony as eHarm – for the sake of brevity, sure, but also because it became a quickly adopted double entendre, and that’s just what I call it.

eHarm observation #1: there are a LOT of people looking for love…online. This is a phenomenon that honestly shocked me; just how many men I got “matched” with in my short time on the site, and how many more men and women were flocking forward to sign up. My issue isn’t really that people are looking for love and companionship – that part is cool – but what makes me pause and wonder is how they are doing it. A direct quote from one of the famed commercials is by a guy who excitedly exclaims that eHarm “takes the work out of it for you”. Uh, remember when men fought and hunted and used their strength? Remember when women knew how to be pursued and how not to be desperate? When dating was a social, and not an anti-social, thing? The internet dating phenomenon has certainly, to an extent, taken over my generation (and the ones immediately surrounding it), but I truly wonder where the benefit lies. I know of more desperate people on dating sites than I do successful online-beginnings couples.

eHarm observation #2: Matched? No no. Available. The word “match” on the eHarm site is supposed to imply that you are specifically matched with that person based on the scientifically proven criteria within the initial questionnaire. The problem lies in this: eHarm’s matching system assumes that everyone who has joined and made a profile knows themselves well enough to do so accurately, and honestly. Obviously, this isn’t the case. Plus, it’s basing the “match” on ideas and thoughts and standards, not on attraction. Yes, ideas and thoughts and standards matter, but if there is no attraction, these things become irrelevant. So instead of being “matched” with people you are sure to get along with, you are sent the profiles that sort of kind of maybe fit in with what you probably want in a person. It’s too ambiguous. Example: in the twelve short weeks I was on eHarm, I accepted new matches for a total of less than 6 weeks, and was matched with over 400 men. Four hundred. Shall I retrieve my calculator? Ahemahem: On average, while I was accepting matches, I was matched with 66.6 men per week (this worked out in reality to about 7-10 new matches per day – and no, I did not go on dates with more than 1% of these people). Now, I am not special, I am not prettier than the other girls, I am not cooler or more dateable (in fact, I’m willingly high maintenance and have my stubborn ugly bits, like anyone else). There is no way in Hades that I am actually scientifically matched in a lovey-dovey-meant-to-be way with 400 people. The dates I went on with my “matches” would confirm that I was not, in fact, “matched” to them, nor they to me. I don’t believe in The One, sure, but I certainly don’t believe in The Four Hundred, either. On the flip side: I had a friend on eHarm around the same time as I was, and she was matched, on average, with one or two people per month. According to the great gods of eHarmony, this hilarious beautiful spunky intelligent woman was less likely to date than me: the all-knees-&-elbows-awkward-teen knockoff. Highly unlikely. In fact, she started dating one of her real-life connections, in real life, before her time on eHarm was even up.

eHarm observation #3: It’s not science, it’s a game of percentage and chance. Okay, so in that group of 400 there were maybe possibly a few that I could have actually gotten along fine with – odds alone will tell you that much. But how does one search through the masses to find someone they like? Or should my friend, being matched with only a few, assume that she should just marry one of these three guys, because eHarmony’s proven science told her so? Not likely. There’s too much stumbling in the system, too much happenstance, to make it an exact science. Yes, your chances might increase because you already have marginally important things in common – but what of the chances that you’d meet someone in real life with common interests, if you, say, left the house? My other thought that’s roughly related to this one has to do with time, and the testing of time, and the beauty and honesty of time: how long will it be, do you think, before the "eHarm divorce" trend starts?

eHarm obvservation #4: ...Next! One of the guys I was matched with, right about the time I was seriously getting over this whole experiment (about 3 weeks in, if I recall correctly), was actually really cool. Albert (not his real name) was a coast guard; super laid back, one of the few guys I actually wished I was friends with in real life. We had only started to chat over email, and at one point I wrote to him that eHarm felt more like auditioning for a school play than it did dating. He agreed with me, and then added this comment: “Except maybe it's even just like sending in your short bio and head shots, and barely making it to auditions?” In other words, the trend is this: flip-flip-flip, profile-picture-profile, scan-scan-toss… next! The thing is that everyone does it, and simultaneously wonders why it 'happens' to them. In observation #1 I wondered what the benefit of online dating is, and it was for this very reason. You are paying to meet people that are dating other people. You are voluntarily pitting yourself against a group of unknown strangers with only a picture of your best side and a few words about yourself. You are choosing who you will meet based on a sentence and a headshot. And almost none of this happens in your real, human-to-human life – it happens in the pseudo-honest world of the internet, and, if you make it, through the first date. Instead of being intuitive and natural, you are required by force of format to be judgemental and defensive and on guard. Instead of having your expectations rise as you get to know a person and who they truly are – in context, and naturally – your expectations rise before you know them in person at all. ...Let down? Imminent.

eHarm observation #5: The Snobbery.
Yes, I capitalized that one. Maybe I should emphasize again: there are some really cool couples that have formed from this website. Some couples so cool, in fact, that they’ve made commercials out of them (ironically, the only 3 couples I know who met on eHarm could be commercials themselves). But here is my point: apparently, the fact that I didn’t marry one of my matches implies that I have issues; that my “failure” at the outset & the end of this social experiment is indicative of great fault. To those who have used this site and “succeeded” (this observation is pulled from internet and other research, not just conversation), the general attitude is what I heard before I joined: this is, basically, it. There are no other realms left, really. If you want to date, you have to go online. This, to me, is as ludicrous as saying that since my parents met on a blind date, and obviously landed a successful relationship out of it, that I should stick only to blind dating. And then, of course, speak boldly to my friends who are (gasp!) not open to blind dating. My thought, instead, is this: online dating can be a useful tool for some. But so can offline dating. More often than not, I would say, the context-filled world outside your computer room is a healthier field to date in. It’s almost as if the world survived, met, loved, and procreated before the internet arrived.

...But let’s put all that ado aside for now. Maybe I should get on with my list? Though I don’t like the system as the system it claims to be, I did learn a fair amount about myself and about dating through my experience on the website, and on the dates created there from. So to that end I will give eHarmony the credit: it was a useful tool in expediting my social experiment. I will also say, though, that much of my learning came in the afterwards, once I had finished the whirlwind term and moved on to the great outdoors and the rest of the world. Friends, here you are: the Things I learned about Dating by joining, experiencing, meeting people from, talking about, and then leaving eHarmony.

1) If your date feels like a job interview, it probably is.

2) When a beautiful French man offers to make you beautiful French food, you accept. When he makes marriage inferences on your first date, you run.

3) Profiles and pictures are one dimensional, people are not. Vis a vis, the following: people are not their profiles, and they usually aren’t their pictures, either. Heck, even I sound cooler online.

4) “The Rules” were made up by single, lonely women and are analyzed, enforced, and stressed over by…single lonely women. Men, as far as I can tell, don’t even know what The Rules are, save one: “If I am interested, she will know I am interested.” My advice for women? If you have to apply and analyze The Rules, there is a 99.9% chance that he isn’t interested (and a 0.1% chance he’s probably not interested), plus a 100% chance that you need a new hobby. Put your Rules where the sun don’t shine. Walk away slowly. Enjoy your life. At the very least, stop telling me what The Rules are, before I drop kick you into the pile where I threw The Rules.

5) “Likeability” and “Compatibility” are two very, very different things. If your self worth doesn’t understand the vast difference between these two concepts, don’t date.

6) If you’re convinced you’ll never meet someone unless you join a dating website, you will not meet anyone unless you join a dating website.

7) Dating can be fun, so long as you resist The Empirical Tyranny of The Rules. Not having fun? See #4.

8) If you expect me to perfect my hair, makeup and outfit, smile brightly and show interest in your stories so you might think I am an attractive woman, I expect you act like an attractive man, and pay.

9) You probably won’t know what you want until you find a whole bunch of things you don’t. Contrary to the implication, this makes actually finding what you want a lot more exciting.

10) Paula Cole, I have the answer for you: most of them are at home, sprucing up their online profiles.


Mama said...

Haha, this is great. And you are a beautiful, graceful woman. And you kill me.

sonicgypsy said...

You kill me too! You make my brain want to explode with technicolor streamers and confetti everywhere. Everything your mom said - times 2 :) (Paula Cole! BAH HA HAAAA!!!! Great GREAT ending!!)

Mama said...

Haha, I love the "technicolor streamers and confetti" idea, it's perfect.

Colin and Evelyn said...

That was quite the informative post. I think social experiments are a great idea, I love that you document them.