The story below is from our September/October 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
In a world dominated by computers, it would not be difficult to imagine—at this point—that dating would change dramatically with the Internet. And it has. Boy, has it!
How about a staggering statistic or two to start your day? There are 54.25 million “of-age” single people in the U.S. right now and 41.25 million of them have tried online dating. So says statisticbrain.com, which doesn’t stop there. It goes on to tell us that online dating revenue is $1.25 billion annually, or $239 per dater, per year.
If you meet online and ultimately get married—which almost never happens, according to our little local unofficial survey—it takes 18.5 months to reach that point. It’s 42 months after you meet offline. About 20 percent of all our committed relationships began online—and those are only the people who’ll admit it.
OK, hold on to your hat. A third—a full third—of women online daters say they’ve had sex on their first online date. Ten percent of daters are sex offenders.
There’s a bunch more we could chat about here, but the fact is that what was once called the “lonely hearts club” and was distinctly for also-rans in the game of love, is no longer that. Not even close. People are not only talking about online dating, they’re posting on Facebook and Twitter about their experiences. Friends compare notes and make suggestions.
We talked to a group of Roanokers—individually—about their experiences with internet dating and wound up with some pretty good stories, as we expected, some great tips and a good bit of skepticism/enthusiasm/hope about the red-hot way to meet people.
Miles, who oozes life, has never been married and finds e-dating “difficult to do. It’s like being in a room and everybody is talking to you at the same time.” She’s looking for men with “high energy, witty, buoyant, intelligent, somebody who, in the first couple of sentences can capture my attention. … Humor, confidence, personal pride are key elements.” Well, yeah.
Miles doesn’t go around bragging about her dates, “but I’m open when I talk about it. The first time [she went online], I thought about what I was doing. It’s another avenue to meet people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
The downside is those who fail to follow through once the first or second steps have been taken.
“I’m not looking for a pen pal or a texting buddy,” and she is selective about who gets her phone number: “four men in four months on one site, one man in three weeks on another.”
Take a deep breath: Miles says she has been floored a couple of times by men who have quickly sent nude photos of themselves and asked her to respond in kind. She shakes her head.
“Basically, I was ending up dating in the same social circle and wanted to get out of the box—even geographically,” says Layman, who has been internet dating for 11 years. He has dated women as far out as Blacksburg and Lynchburg and doesn’t mind those distances. His dates have been “mostly professionals. A recent one was a grad student. Half of the intent here is to meet new people, not going back to the same wells over and over.”
One of his dates was a nice young woman “who had just come from her job at Red Lobster. She smelled like fried fish. That was not the most positive experience.”
He says that “one of the drawbacks with online dating is repetition. You start to see the same tropes over and over and it can turn you off a lot quicker than normal. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen use the phrase ‘fluent in sarcasm’ on tinder.com to the point where I immediately swipe left.”
Clark’s goal is clear: “I’ve had lots of dates. The end is to find the person. Hasn’t happened yet. Two have ended up in relationships and we’re still on good terms.
“It’s like the real world in that a bunch of guys send messages hoping for a reply. It’s a numbers game and it can be discouraging. If females are bombed with 8, 9, 10 messages a day, some inappropriate, it’s the real world. Douchebags ruin it for the rest of us.”
Money matters. “Seems only the more serious people will spend money on dating sites. Most people my age can’t afford to spend [the $30 to $60 a month many sites cost].”
Clark doesn’t drink, so he meets prospects at coffee shops. “It’s better than sitting home playing X-Box,” he says. “I can read a profile and see what [women] say about themselves vs. what I can see: only what clothes they like. You see some random chick and there’s no info. … Helps weed out the creepers. When you get a date, you know you’ve made it past the initial screening.”
Tips: “Read the profile carefully. If it is nice and it fits, mention something from the profile [in your message]. Please say more than ‘hi.’ Fill your profile out. Don’t skimp on information and don’t be a creeper. Just be nice like in the regular world.”