Time to kiss off online dating: a long-overdue farewell to Match.com

Recently I was e-mailed, via Match.com, by an attractive woman (to the extent that profile pictures can be trusted, anyway) named Kathleen. I love that name, and her profile made her sound like someone I’d be interested in talking to a bit more, so I replied. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and I was thinking that maybe I’d like to meet her in person.

Then she asked me if I liked skiing. I answered honestly. I love skiing, although I’m not great at it and I haven’t been on the hill since I annihilated my knees a few years back. I’d love to get back into it, though, but haven’t so far because I hate doing things alone.

I knew as I hit the send button that I’d never hear from her again.

I’ve been a Match member on and off for maybe a year and a half and have very little nothing to show for it. I tried to play it straight, using my profile to tell the wonderful women of the 5280 who I was as best I could – what I do for a living, what I do for fun, what my interests are, and so forth. But no results to speak of past a few coffee first dates. Whatever I served up, nobody was buying.

I don’t mind admitting that it’s been frustrating. And yes, it strikes at your self-esteem. I have historically hit periods when, as a result of where I lived or the structure of my daily life, I had a hard time meeting women, but I’ve never had trouble getting dates when I was actually around eligible women. My Match.com experience, though, has begun to make me feel like an untouchable.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about what the problem might be, and a good deal of that energy focused on the perfectly valid question of “what’s wrong with me?” Back when I was more successful on the relationship scene I was, after all, a bit younger, and I’ve had to entertain the uncomfortable possibility that 50 year-old Sam is simply less marketable than 30 year-old Sam.

I concluded that the problem is multi-faceted. For one thing, I’m just not Outdoorsy Guy, but I live in the middle of Outdoorsy Nation. Also, I’m picky as hell (when you’re educated to the doctoral level, for instance, you’re going to be looking for someone with significant intelligence). And there are plenty of things about me guaranteed to cause daily match surfers to lunge for the “next” button – as in, we know that a substantial percentage of American women don’t find bald guys attractive, period. I get it. Since there’s nothing I can do about some of these things (short of leaving Denver and joining Hair Club), I decided to go straight at the issue as best I could. So about three weeks ago I changed my profile. Here’s how I began:

The great thing about Match is the chance to meet women I might never encounter otherwise. The bad thing is that somehow the place encourages us to define ourselves as a checklist of things we like to do. Shared interests and compatibility are nice, but I’ve always felt like relationships thrive on a chemistry that has very little to do with activities.

The working theory for businesses like Match and eHarmony, I suppose, is that true love is best predicted by that checklist of activities. (eHarmony may not be as bad about this as Match – I have no experience with them past filling out the application form.) You like live music? You’re the oldest child, too? We’re soulmates!

Then, yesterday, I tripped across an interesting new study headed up by Dr. Eli Finkel, a Social Psych professor at Northwestern. Finkel’s team agrees that online dating is a great way to discover people you might not meet otherwise. However:

One of the weaknesses of online dating is an overreliance on “profiles,” the researchers say. Although most dating websites feature photos and detailed, searchable profiles covering everything from personality traits to likes and dislikes, this information isn’t necessarily useful in identifying a partner, Finkel and his coauthors write.

The study suggests something that I think most of us know, even if we’ve never stopped to think about it. To wit, love is often about serendipity.

…daters don’t always know what they want in a mate—even though they generally think they do. Studies suggest that people often lack insight into what attracts them to others (and why), and therefore the characteristics they seek out in an online profile may be very different from those that will create a connection in person, the review notes.

Fight it if you like, but Marshall McLuhan’s adage applies to online dating: the medium is the message. In a format that emphasizes “things I like to do” and sorts according to activities, your viability is going to hinge on how well you conform your life to those dictates. Is the “shared interests” assumption valid? Well, it’s obviously nice if the person you’re interested in likes some of the things you do. If you have nothing in common the relationship probably has a short shelf life. But let’s be honest. There are probably lots of people out there who share nearly all my interests that I’d think are barking assholes. Some of the most compelling women I have ever met, on the other hand, had very little in common with me….at first.

See, if the click is there, people find things to do. They grow together. They shape their world to fit the emotional, spiritual and physical connection instead of robotically sorting themselves according to somebody else’s preconceived generic categories. She grows to enjoy watching games with him. He realizes how much he likes watching movies with her, even movies he wouldn’t have been caught dead watching before. She’s never had any interest in going to New Mexico until she spends a weekend in Taos with him but now she can’t wait to go back. He always thought of sushi as bait until she took him to the Sushi Den and eased him into it with a California Roll. Now he’s badgering her to go check out this new place called “Sasa” he heard about up in LoHi.

When you interpret who you are and what you have to offer another human being according to a mass market dating corporation’s categorization schemes, you place significant limitations on what you can be and on who you can discover. Homogeneity is bound to be the result.

My friends have heard me complain about this templating tendency and about the seeming sameness of the single women in town. If you believe what you see on Match 99% of single females here fall into one of two or three categories (if that). I joke that between the time they spend camping, hiking, skiing, climbing 14ers, mountain biking, laying on the beach in Mexico and volunteering with poor children in either Africa or Chile there’s simply no time left for them to actually be in Denver. They’re all in love with their careers and have great friends. Family is incredibly important to them and if they don’t have children of their own they’re okay with it if you do because they love children. At least two pictures of their dog(s). And so on.

I was deep into this rant with my buddy Mike a few months back and he was laughing at me, so I logged in and called up my daily matches to prove it. The first profile was a little off. The second was word for word, picture for picture what I just described.

I noted above that I feel a lot of frustration with the process. I try to be honest about myself. I’m 51, which means that statistically speaking I’m playing the back nine of life. I’m not a runway model. I have no hair. Like just about everybody who has lived past the age of 12 I’m broken down in some ways, both physically and emotionally. Yes, I have baggage.

That said, talk to my female friends. I’m a pretty good guy. I’m not David Beckham, no, but I’m okay looking. If you saw pictures of all the beautiful women who have been a part of my life through the years you’d have to conclude that I must got something going on. I’m smart. I’m creative. Strong and sensitive in fairly equal measures. Funny, thoughtful. As for the baggage, most of it fits in the overhead bin.

In other words, I’m not a bad catch.

But: all those gorgeous women who loved me? Almost none of them loved me on sight. Some of them disliked me at first, in fact, and others didn’t warm up to me for quite some time. I understand all this. The things that are best about me simply aren’t evident at a glance. And there is no way to communicate this dynamic in a Match.com profile. (Or speed dating environments, either, for that matter.) In an online dating context you can’t make me look terribly desirable to the female window shopper without lying.

I have no doubt in my mind that dozens of women who might like me a great deal if they knew me have zipped past my profile without a second thought.

If I sound narcissistic or self-indulgent here, stick with me for a second, because this is a sword that cuts both ways. In short, I’m guilty, too. Here’s how the story on the Finkel study concludes:

The abundance of profiles online also may make daters too picky and judgmental, the authors say. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, and the ease with which people can sift through profiles—and click on to the next one—may lead them to “objectify” potential partners and compare them like so many pairs of shoes.

“Online dating creates a shopping mentality, and that is probably not a particularly good way to go about choosing a mate,” says Harry Reis, Ph.D., one of the review’s authors and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in Rochester, N.Y.

The shopping mindset may be efficient online, but when carried into face-to-face interactions it can make daters overly critical and discourage “fluid, spontaneous interaction” in what is already a charged and potentially awkward situation, Reis and his coauthors write.

How often do I find myself in that shopping mode? How often does it become about reflexively saying no instead finding a reason to say yes? I just took a quick break to review my daily matches, which refreshed as I was writing. Seven women, and I cleared the list in less than 30 seconds.

How many times in the past six months have I looked at a picture of a woman who would make me insanely happy for the rest of my life and clicked no? No telling. I do know, from personal experience, that there are women I don’t think are attractive or interesting when I first encounter them, only to later conclude that they’re stunningly compelling. (I have a friend like that in my life right now.) I’d be stupid to assume that doesn’t happen routinely on Match, wouldn’t I?

Thanks for the memories, online dating, but I’m signing off as soon as my current subscription expires. Your system may work great for some folks, but the more I think about it the more I realize how perfectly it’s engineered to fail for me. My perfect match and I are going to walk right past each other without even noticing 100 times out of 100.

And I just don’t want to be that guy. You know, the one who bitches because women don’t give him a chance while he’s not giving them a chance? You’re making me a worse person. Or rather, I’m using you to make myself a worse person, and it has to stop.

I may not find anyone at all. Who knows? But at least I can stop shelling out $30 a month for the privilege of deluding myself.

_____

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72 comments on “Time to kiss off online dating: a long-overdue farewell to Match.com

  1. “When you interpret who you are and what you have to offer another human being according to a mass market dating corporation’s categorization schemes, you place significant limitations on what you can be and on who you can discover.”

    Eloquently summed up. Sounds like online dating steers one toward the known and familiar, as does Facebook. Everything is based on one’s history, it seems, as well as what’s quantifiable. Which, as you write, mitigates against the thrill of spontaneity and surprise.

    Note that if you lived in a place like Manhattan, where outdoorsiness counts for little and age works to your advantage because of the shortage of single men in general, you’d do quite well.

  2. Failed experience with online dating via sites like that here, as well. In my case, I seemed to have an uncanny magnet for women with beautiful profile pics who wanted to meet over coffee. To discuss rates. *blink*

  3. I’ve never understood those dating sites myself. I find myself spending hours trying to figure out those silly damn lists of profile things, and just give up in frustration. Being an introverted, indoorsy, dog-disliking, kid-avoidant generalist who doesn’t hide her light under a bushel isn’t ‘attractive’. Or something like that.

  4. I’m ‘outstanding’ wherever the heck I am, it seems! I get the ‘where are you from?’ question at least once a month- more often if I’m breaking in a new pack of Legislators. I tell them honestly: I’m from Earth.

    I visited Denver back in ’02. My impression was of a nice place, but my nose bled the whole time and the water tasted like ashes. And there was a cobblestone street that they swore was a creek downtown, but I think they were just pulling my leg. 🙂

  5. Hi Sam. Interesting post. I actually had a positive experience with online dating (met my husband), but I have friends who have found it a frustrating experience and have run into some of the same issues you mention in your post.

  6. Must be some sort of meta-theme going today- Marketplace had a segment on something called ‘social dating’- some kind of tie-in to Facebook. If you join it, all your FB friends know.

    Like your essay points out, online dating really misses the intangibles, and turns people into walking bullet-points, or items for browsing. While this does work for some, rogueish outliers really don’t fit into the neatly organized categories. And like you, I realize that my age is a factor, as well. From what I’ve learned, the belief is that older women = too much baggage, and the second the age shows up, that’s it.

    The intangibles like chemistry, ‘clicking’ and the like really cannot be quantified- especially for older people. Sometimes you have to pitch the data and go for the luck. Good luck to you, Sam.

  7. I’ve gone through periods where I got so cynical about the process that I just said fuck it and ignored the profiles, only looking at the pictures. On the one hand, that’s being shallow and hypocritical. On the other hand, it’s a precise replication of how it works in real life. 🙂

    Needless to say, that tactic didn’t work any better than actually trying hard did. As you say, it can’t be quantified. After all these years, I can’t hardly explain it in any kind of sensible terms….

  8. I do not photograph well, so that’s been a problem. Today, I avoid using my face as an avatar unless I absolutely have to.

    And there’s the intelligence factor. Overthinking things. Applying logic to an illogical process. It reminds me of that movie ‘Idiocracy’- people who don’t think about that stuff tend to be more -ahem- successful. But trying to find a brainy/compatible mate is, if anything- even more excruciating. I’d rather fix computers or read books. And the older I get, the more exhausting it becomes. I try not to be cynical about it- except when my sister starts in on her ‘we need to find you somebody’ thing.

    • I’m so there. Been there for more years than I want to admit as far as the ‘you need a husband’ refrain. Widowed in 1st marriage for 7 years and divorced for medical issues in 2nd, really? Is this what life has to offer? Why was I not allowed to die? Just give me that extra 2 hours back… Everyone of my family members does what I ask them Not to do, and doesn’t do what I ask them to Do. So I don’t really want to live life as a loner but come on!

  9. As for the baggage, most of it fits in the overhead bin. This was a great comment — it honestly made me laugh; and you are right, the longer we survive in this ‘veil of tears’ the more baggage we accumulate.

    I am a 58 year old married woman who has had affairs — in fact, am having one now — and have learned one thing: I will probably always want someone in my life, but because of many of the things that I have gone thru in my marriage I really can’t see myself ever getting married again. Now, I said that because I think there are a lot of women out there now that want a special ‘friend’ but have no real need for a full-time commitment. Enjoy your time with your female friends and maybe stop looking — it’s possible someone will come along when you least expect it. It’s also possible that if you get comfortable with your present life you won’t miss it anymore.

  10. … i read your full article HOPING that at the end, you would have this website listed that was FOR single people who are outliers…..
    i’m disappointed… and really lonely.
    now what? why can’t there be some way to converse with other outliers??

    • I guess the easy answer is that outliers are, by definition, a small minority. And there’s no money in small minorities. Unless it’s the richest minority, and they tend to have no trouble meeting potential mates. 🙂

  11. Heres another thing Ive discovered on Match from talking to women on there. They get dozens, up to hundreds of emails a week. Im in your boat, a few months from 49, divorced a few years ago (although I have plenty of hair), Ok looking but nothing a group of women are going to point out across the room. In 6 months on match I believe I received 3 emails from women I hadnt contacted first. They just dont need to contact you, they are to busy sorting through the dozens of emails they get every week. Even the ones I would call 6s or 7s on the looks scale, or live in remote areas with populations of 2000 people get weekly or even daily contacts from us. When you have that kind of selection why go with us average Joe’s even though we may be a better match for them. BTW I might just cut and paste parts of your article into my match profile (even though its inactive) just to see if I get any response at all (if thats ok with you).

  12. Well, darn Sam, I would be interested in meeting you, and getting to know you. I just signed on for 3 months of Matchdotcom. If you posted your article and based on your photo, I would have expressed interest. I’m unusual in that top on my list are intelligence then attractiveness comes second. Intelligence doesn’t shine thru on a profile always and photos don’t always portray us at our best (or for some what we really look like.) don’t get me wrong, I place value on looks. I’m considered very attractive , probably an 8/10, been told I’m ‘hot’ and had 500 profile views in the first 2 days since signing up. But,also have a Masters degree and am intelligent, thinking individual. Ok maybe an overanalyzer. I guess what I’m trying to impart is I understand your frustration. The onslaught of ‘options’ is actually depersonalizing. In the two days I’ve been on the site, I already have low hopes. Naturally I’m picky but this feels like a temporary distraction, like a new video game. Please keep posting and hope we can exchange emails someday.

  13. I’m actually relieved to read this entire post….and the comments. Re: the “shopping mentality”: I get it, and I’m both victim and perpetrator. I reject men, with a button and then again in person, because what I read and saw has nothing to do with them in reality or with the fantasy I built up in my OWN head about who they are. And, on the other side of fifty, whether you look great or not….it’s just not easy to find that “click” anywhere, and just delusional to expect find it in a few photos or sentences.

  14. Hi Sam
    Firstly thanks for the article you wrote. I was glad to know those things are not just happening to me. I have learned that you have to have thick skin in online dating as it does attack the self esteem in many instances. On the other hand I am sorry your dating experience was such a disappointment. You shouldn’t have clicked past me like you did.
    I guess my point is never give up. Who said things for the outliers come so easily?
    For me it is hard to meet men in the ideal normalcy of life. I’m not in school any more, my friends are all married and at work everyone is also married. In a world that states more than 50 percent of marriages fail you wonder where all these men are?
    As frustrating as it may be, I find this experience humbling, and I believe it has made me better from the day I started. (About a year). Lastly it gives me hope. Maybe someday.

  15. This was a great read, Sam. I know the online dating scene, and am familiar with it’s critiques. I started http://www.MeSayingHi.com as a solution for people that want to explore the “profiles” they actually encounter in REAL LIFE… all the potential matches that you pass by in the grocery stores, while filling your car with gas, and in the elevators. It works in reverse of current online dating. The first interaction is REAL. Casually hand them your card, and if they want to learn more about you, they can check out your *private* online profile and get your contact info. Missed connection avoided, and you don’t have to say “what if.”

  16. “Almost none of them loved me on sight. Some of them disliked me at first, in fact, and others didn’t warm up to me for quite some time.”

    Ah, my friend. I can identify with this more than I like!!

  17. I loved this article Sam. I for one think some bald men are very attractive. I’m not sure I’ve ever dated one (unless you include the one who showed up bald to the date but had a toupee on in his picture). The last time I dated a fair bit I was a teenager–over twenty years ago. If I had seen you on Match I would have read your profile if you were local but I do not live near Denver. I’m stuck in the mid-west where men are really into hunting, fishing, riding Harley’s, and boating and want a woman to do all those activities with them.

    • I accept that many women don’t like bald guys. There are things I like and don’t when it comes to women, so it would be ridiculous of me to get bent because women are the same way.

      The whole toupee thing is just embarrassing. Do I wish I had all my hair back? Absolutely. But I’d die before I’d put a rug on my head. I ain’t THAT insecure and I feel bad for men who are.

  18. It just surprised me when he showed up bald when I wasn’t expecting him to be (because he had hair in the picture he sent me). I did pass over any men who wouldn’t date someone their own age for some reason, on Match. For example, if they were 55 and wanted to date women 35 to 45 then I wasn’t interested in them even though I was in the age range that they wanted to date and I’ve been told I look younger.

    • My general rule is that when I walk in the door I shouldn’t be surprised by what I see. The person shouldn’t weigh 50 pounds more or be ten years older or whatever than the woman in the picture. When that happens, our first reaction is always to feel duped, and there’s just no way back from that.

      I think some people believe that if they can just get a half hour in person that whoever it is will see past the physical stuff to the beauty inside. But that isn’t what happens. They spend a half hour nodding politely, all the while thinking about how they’ve been misled.

      • That is exactly what happens Samuel. I agree completely.

        I should really start doing the homework I’m supposed to be doing instead of this but it was more fun chatting with you.

  19. Great thread and a well written post. The post reflects my experience after 9 months on Match (it is time to quit). I’m 59 yo, a 9 out of 10 in the 55 -60 age range, Harvard grad, MS, great job, stable and secure, no debt, a 32 in waist, good looking and an absolute bust on Match in seeking 53 to 58 yo ladies. My response rate is less than 8% of which 80% end in 2 or less emails without a clue as to why they disappeared. I’ve received more than a dozen emails from women who write let’s meet, then I never hear from them again. I’ve been given a phone number 6 times, and when I call they never answer the phone, and just stop communicating. Of the women that I have met, 50% are 4 sizes larger than their photo indicates.

    I do have several explanations for the poor response rate for men, which include your age; their age and virtual behavior, all else being equal. Also from what I have read, it is likely that more than 75% of profiles are inactive, so there is 75% of the failure rate off the top. Looking back some 8 to 10 years ago online dating (OLD) was fun, real, productive, and the best sites (e.g. Yahoo Personals) were free. In 2003, about 35% of the ladies I contacted responded, I met about 35% of those ladies and dated about 35% of the ladies I met. I had 3 serious relationships over 2 years and met my ex in the 3rd year (divorced after 6 years). My experience in 2013 over 9 months with 400 ladies contacted is dismal Less than 8% of the ladies I contact respond, I met about 20% of those ladies and dated about 50% of the ladies I met.I can’t get past 1 date with the 4 women I liked. I’ve been rejected by 6s and have heard it’s not you it’s me more than I can stand.

    Is it me? Yes, to some extent it is me because a 59 yo guy can’t compete with a 49 yo guy for women of any age. As long as she thinks she can do better, I’m history. Me at 49 verses me at 59 (guess who wins). When I was 49 the average age of women I met from OLD was 40. The main reason for success with women age 40 with kids is the kids. These women are motivated, if not desperate to find a guy. My ex was 9 years younger than I, she had a 10 yo. She latched into me like a bear trap: she had a plan. Many women in their 50s are not motivated to meet men, they value freedom more than money and they aren’t interested in commitment. They want fun and excitement, they love hanging with their girls, their sex urge declined. They love the attention of 20 messages a day from virtual men who flatter them. They over-rate their attractiveness by 2 points (scientific research). The reality is these women have nothing to offer in return. That’s the point us 50 yo guys need to get. What does the + 50 yo, over-sized lady offer you?

    Unbelievable, but I’m finding more success with the 40 yo ladies. Why? First they have kids, bills, need emotional and financial support and entertainment: in short they need a man to help make their life more manageable. The market for guys who want those responsibilities is slim. These 40 year-olds with kids would of course go for the 30 something guys, but few have good jobs, little money and many are already playmates for the 50 yo ladies who want fun and excitement. I’m attractive for my age and can’t get a 53 yo fit lady to give me the time of day, but can get a lady 10 years younger? It’s supply and demand at work.

    The facts are that many women change after menopause (that’s a separate discussion). They think they have already given their life away for the kids and hubby and it’s now their turn. Read what these women write and then you get it. Moreover, find a 55 yo women who is fit, still has a figure and somewhat attractive, and you find a lady who has 20 men on her tail.

    My problem is I don’t want to be involved with a lady 15 -20 years junior or raise another 10 yo child (I’ve done so in 2 marriages). I want to meet a woman in her mid-50s who is free to share life with (but she doesn’t know what she wants). I still believe in love and happiness ever after (I’m not a quick learner), but this isn’t likely to occur. I’m picky, so if science develops a pill to make me think that a size 14 woman is attractive, then I’ll be a hot again. It’s a size 14 or taking on a 10 yo kid (lose/lose).

    • I’m size 4 51 year old woman. I’m told I’m pretty and look younger. I wear rimless glasses, however, and feel that hurts my chances in getting dates.

  20. I am female, 67, healthy, active, don’t weigh 300lbs, lost weight since I retired, etc. I joined Match on a misleading “sign up for free” ad. Some guy wrote to me, I viewed his profile, and paid for a membership just so I could answer. He then blocked me. Then a few weeks later he sent me the same cut n paste message again. I would have written back to say WTF, but I was still blocked. I’m convinced they have a program, or paid people to lure you into signing up.
    My experience since has been dismal. Hardly anyone writes to me. One guy wrote, he’s older than I’d like, but I was still willing to meet, until he told me he doesn’t drive anymore. This is the motor city, gotta drive. One of our common interests was the symphony. A few weeks later he wrote to say he went to the Opera, and I could have been there. WTH, did he mean he would have invited me if I had agreed to meet him? I’m not sure what he meant. Passive aggressive or what? No thanks.
    Then I got a message from a 28 year old, sent me his phone number and asked me to text him. Uh, yeah, like I’m going off site so you can send me inappropriate messages and or pics. I replied no thanks, you bore me, LOL.
    I got one friendly fella from Canada. I said you are too far away, and then there’s the border to deal with. He assured me it was no problem for him, really not that far. So I go ahead and email back n forth. But he never suggested actually meeting. So I stopped responding. Then he asked why, so I told him, you have not convinced me that the distance and the border crossing are not obstacles. Now if he REALLY wanted to meet, he should have said he wanted to come and meet me right away. But no, he just said thanks, bye.
    I got a wink or something from a lawyer a few months back. When I wrote back, he seemed to lose interest, Then recently he winked again. I wrote and reminded him he dismissed me once before. Haven’t heard anything since.
    I got a wink from a guy I thought might be too old, but his profile looked interesting, so I wrote to him. No response at all.
    I’m not looking for a man to support me financially, or for someone to do household repairs. I’m not looking to date but never have sex. Once we get to know each other and the relationship progresses, I want sex.
    I thought wrongly, that if people were paying, they would be more serious, but not so much.
    I’m sure it’s my age. But I’m also sure it’s possible to be happy with someone in my age bracket, and to make someone happy.
    No idea what to do next.

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  24. You’re an intelligent guy, who can write intelligent messages and an intelligent profile. Keep it up and you’ll find an intelligent woman who’ll appreciate you for who you are. Don’t despair on the online dating, or dating even, just as you are picky, other people are picky also, it’s nothing personal. I wrote another comment for you which was slightly offensive and I’m really sorry.

    • Aha. Thank you. If you read all I have written it becomes clear that I understand why a LOT of women wouldn’t be interested in me, either.

      I have deleted both your earlier comment and my reply, as they no longer seem relevant to the ongoing discussion.

      • Enjoyed your original post. Stumbled across it today googling some other remedial thing about online dating, which continues to baffle me! I was hoping to see a happy ending??? I think the bald thing has about zero to do with anything except for superficial women and how you “show up” as a result. I think baggage, anger, fear, hurt, lack of love and shiny object syndrome (match.com :-)) have everything to do with people not connecting — in general and especially with the online dating angle. We have less of these things when we are younger — people create rules for protection/selection as they grow older because there isn’t as much time left. It’s tough for thinker/soul searchers. The 38-45 age comment is an assumption. Not the case for many. I vote for less thinking and more letting go…. #sooveronlinedatingandwanderingthewholefoodsaisles 🙂

  25. I realize I’m commenting three years after you wrote this post, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your insights and some perspective from Dr. Finkel’s study. As a journalist, I spend a lot of time thinking about the impact online interactions have on our behavior and personality. Though I’m contacted often, I have been an epic fail in the online dating game. Recently, I actually (finding out why requires a subpoena) got booted off of the Match.com website. Given that I’m a person with a public persona and a hitherto unstained reputation, I was mystified. But in reflecting back on my experience, I wonder if it wasn’t because I revealed my frustration with it (men who will only date younger women, men without pictures, men who wouldn’t accept a polite no) in my profile (I thought I was being clever, but maybe not so much). Though I had guy after guy write and applaud my honest, it wasn’t good for the business model.

    Who knows? Though i have to admit I was feeling a little shamed, which isn’t a comfortable sensation, your post has provided me with food for thought – and a feeling that, as an overly educated, ever-cogitating ( I know, who uses that word anymore?), over-50 (though email bait for many twenty-somethings with older woman fetishes, ugg), I’m not alone. Thank you, sir.

  26. Based on the fact that you were a 51+ year old guy looking for an age range of 38-45 (I can read the screen shot) I’m not surprised that you had a hard time finding anyone. Women prefer guys who are close to their own age.

    • That’s the elephant in the room isn’t it? He’s sabotaging himself by ruling out women in his own age cohort and even five years younger than him! It’s among that peer group – the people they go through school or college with – that most people find their partners after all. And why would a woman in her late 30s or early 40s have a fiftysomething man in her sights?
      The older man-younger woman thing seems to be based on dreary stereotypes/delusions. One is that older men are more attractive than older women, which if you look round any mall, you soon realise is a laughable idea. Another fiction, that women lose interest in sex as they get older. The reality is that some do, some don’t, as with men.

  27. It is about grit. I am a PhD in my forties-quirky. I am on match and am picky picky picky about who I meet, though I respond to everyone. I get a lot of email, some are guys I would date, some not. But I stay at it because at least you cast a wide net, as opposed to sitting at home on the couch, meeting no one.

    • I have no doubt that you increase your odds of “meeting” potential mates using online dating sites, but you are essentially still sitting on your coach while doing so. I believe this can create a false sense of proactivity. If the site can be used as a means of finding a meaningful relationship, then that is great. At the end of the day though, the personal content of online dating sites can never be a substitute for true human interaction.

  28. Sam, you make all the sense in the world and you articulate it very well, thank you. I also appreciate the many insightful comments others have added.
    I thought divorce after 23 yrs. of marriage was very hard to deal with. What followed, attempts at internet dating, was frustrating and in its own way, as hurtful as divorce. This process should be easy but has been a whole lot of nothing for me. Being a 64 yr; old fellow in excellent shape, well traveled, educated etc. you think just might make me desirable enough but i have failed with internet dating. I am realistic & seek to meet ladies 58-65. I have learned that with internet dating, women can meet men 10 years younger than they are and are also attracted to tall men, So tall, paunchy, & soft trumps my average ht. & overall top condition. I do hear from ladies 3-10 years older but I don’t play this internet dating cougar game.
    I could not imagine receiving a 3-4 paragraph message , carefully written & complimentary that I then ignore. However, like other men, this is to an extent, the experience of internet dating efforts. As a fellow my age has little ways to meet ladies I seem to have no choice than to keep plugging away with internet dating efforts. Maybe I led a charmed life, but compared with real life I have experienced more deceit and rudeness on the internet than I ever did in my actual life.

  29. Ok i had no complaint about the charges but I did not like there system . To be honest I would not be considered a GQ kind of guy. I am however a good guy. I was never able to even get one response to any message i sent. It is as with most a pretty people site.
    Its ok though I did meet someone through the more traditional route. I was a member of many sites and it was for me a waste of time. Good luck to all those looking but remember a picture and a few lines will never replace a real social interaction.

  30. Sam, it’s truly a credit to the author when people are still reading and commenting on a posting several years later. It also speaks to the continued relevance of the topic. One area worth emphasis is messaging. Even though my entire online-dating experience has been largely unsuccessful, I’ve found results were worse when I sent something too short, too long, or too praising. In these instances I’d rarely even get a profile view. And having received these emails as well, the impression it leaves is bad. Here are a few short ones I’ve gotten: “Hello.” “Hi.” “Your profile got my attention.” “I would like to get to know you. If you would like to get to know me, message me back.”

    Well-intentioned they may be, but in each case there was nothing to really indicate they even read my profile, and nothing that didn’t feel mechanical. The long notes end up sounding like business memos or emitting loneliness and desperation. I did get one fairly conversational note, but a look at her profile sent a clear message: promiscuity. And in this static, visual atmosphere, the profile pics are an important part of the message as well.

    Most people – myself included – are not that striking; however, there’s no reason our images can’t exude life. Take clear pictures in daylight; in public; doing a hobby or activity; with other people (equally or less attractive). Anything but a barrage of secluded mugshots. I know it’s hard but lackluster photos only make those “prettier” people on the sites stand out more. Pictures put the viewer in that place, with you, envisioning a life. And the vibrancy of a few select images and words are all that can distinguish us from the masses. That said, a sole presentation of sight-seeing photos may show a love for travel, but it doesn’t convey much about your personality – which is what we’re really trying to get a glimpse of.

    Back to the written aspect: it seems one paragraph that illustrates having read the profile, very briefly discloses something personally relevant, and makes light (but not stale) inquiries is ideal. Now, if only I had that Brawny-man look the ladies so adore …. I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on all this. Sam, thanks again for your continuing efforts to shine a light on a shared problem we muddle through in this increasingly digital age. If you don’t mind a personal observation, though: the part of the message to Kathleen that mentioned not skiing anymore “because I hate to do things alone” seems to create the air of being friendless, despite the fact that you’re not. That was my first impression, and an absence of social photos would deepen the suspicion. We never know what new acquaintances may read between the lines.

  31. I dated one guy (less than 6 dates) in the last two years that I met online. I give up. I think online dating is awful. And yes it was almost as painful as a divorce after a 20 year marriage. It isn’t for me.

  32. First, I’d like to offer my condolences for the unpleasant on-line experience. I do hope in the intervening years since you wrote this, you’ve found your “match.”

    Here’s my story:

    I found your (funny and affirming—thank you) article when I went searching for “on-line dating+no luck.” Why was I googling this? Because I’ve sent out 26 (I counted) thoughtfully written (not at all bitter, unlike this post—sorry) emails to men on Match in the last two months and have not had one single response! Not even, “thanks for your note, I’m not sure we’d be a good fit,” or even “I’d date you when pigs fly.” Nothing, nada, zip.

    I’m also on the “back nine” at 56 years-old, but not to brag, I’m a size four, some-say-attractive, well-read, educated and financially independent woman, but maybe that’s my problem? as Spirit pointed out—I don’t NEED a man! By the way, all of the men I contacted are no more than three years younger or up-to 8 years older, so it’s not as though I’m hitting on 35 year-olds!

    I’ve gone on dates with 4 men (all who initiated contact with me)—I’m picky, I know, but I don’t want to ride on the back of Bubba’s Harley to his favorite fishing hole—
    several of whom I dated more than once to make certain I wasn’t missing something. Then there was the guy I saw about 8 times, and who lead me to believe we were getting on like a house on fire, yet never contacted me again after the relationship became physical….Ouch. Now I have THAT to worry about, men who just disappear.

    I’m ready to bag it in, it’s been a really humbling experience, but I wanted you to know women of a certain age, regardless of looks, are also not making headway, for nobody is buying what I’m serving up either.

    PS. If it’s any consolation, had I been on Match when you were (and had I lived in Denver), you’d have been exactly my type. : )

    • Hi Vicwoods7, I never participate in on line comments so this is a first… mainly because: I will affirm that Match is now a game of – Are you a member or aren;t you. Match has surely changed in the last few years to something from hell. No one replies because they are not allow because they don;t belong. However, all the photos keep rolling around (as mine has since I quit. ) I can tell … I have been told since I quit a month ago that 15 guys are interested and 5 guys emailed me… Yes that is lies… because I recall the same messages for a few weeks before I joined and when I got on there two guys had shown interest and i had NO EMAILS.

      I emailed about 25 guys in 3 months and heard from almost no one. It is truly a scam. I am in my 60’s, have taken care of my self and altho I do not presume to be everyone’s type even with that someone would have said HI. It is just alot of pretty photos with NO ONE THERE. So I just have to say Match is one of the worst sites I can imagine. They own Chemistry and also POF and who knows what else? Rather sad. So I am off on line dating… It is a total waste of time.
      Yes Vic woods… It is demoralizing and I will find girl friends and go have a blast… and will dump no more money into terrible social dating sites. Meeting in a bar would be easier… What happened to that? Why is that such an awful stigma. Seems we should rethink that one… but at my age that might not be a good idea either. However, I met my one and only husband in a bar at age 25… and we had a wonderful life. But he is inter-dimensional now… OH well. I will sit home no longer…I will find fun people and hang with them.

  33. Just now reading this and thanks for putting into words THEE experience of dating later in life and online. I think you articulate many of my experiences and thoughts and it’s nice to know that as a female I relate well to your experience. Thanks for sharing a private part of your life that is not always easy to be honest and candid. I hope you are now in a happier dating experience as you wrote the article some years ago. I wish you all the best.

  34. “I’m just not Outdoorsy Guy, but I live in the middle of Outdoorsy Nation.” You took the words right out of my mouth. I’m beginning to think I’ll have more luck dating if I just bailed on this state. I just don’t fit into the culture here. Hate it here anyway.

    You nailed it on the amount of time all these women apparently spend camping, hiking, travelling, etc, except my question is more, “Don’t you have a job to go to?” Where do they find all this time to just bum around the outdoors? Something’s not adding up.

  35. 11 tips for online dating:

    1. Posting pictures on your profile is paramount. But unless the people who are viewing your profile are interested in photography, they are only interested in pictures of YOU. They are NOT interested in pictures of your family, pets, vacation, etc.(unless you’re in these pictures). So don’t post pictures you don’t appear in on your profile.

    2. If you make a date and want to break it later, have the decency to call the person on the phone. Only cowards break a date by sending an email or a text message. Also, don’t act like a real jerk by either completely avoiding any contact with the person after you make a date….that is, not calling them, not answering their phone calls, and not returning them……., or waiting until they call you before you tell them you can’t keep the date. Again, have the decency to call them, and make the call when you know you’re not going to keep the date.

    3. If someone sends you a message on an internet dating site, and you’re NOT interested, DON’T reply. Sending a reply will probably entice the person to keep sending you more messages. But if you do, don’t say something stupid like you’re already dating someone. It’s not believable….if that’s really your situation, then why are you on the dating site?

    4. When you’re talking with someone from a dating site, on the phone, or in person, don’t ramble on and on endlessly about yourself. That’s a major turn off, and something you should know from basic common sense. But many people do it.

    5. If the main picture on someone’s profile is appealing to you, and you’re thinking of contacting this person, have the common sense to look at ALL of their pictures, and anything else on their profile that may be important to you, BEFORE you decide to send them a message.

    6. If you receive a call from someone you’ve given your number to, and you can’t talk to them at that time, then YOU should return the call. DON’T tell them to call back. They took the initiative to make the call, and obviously didn’t know it was a bad time for you to speak, so YOU should have the decency to make the return call.

    7. If you’re going to be bringing someone with you on the initial date, TELL THE PERSON YOU’RE GOING TO MEET BEFOREHAND. Bringing someone with you without telling your date, can create an uncomfortable situation for the person you’re meeting, which can cause an otherwise good date to go bad. Don’t think bringing someone with you is “no big deal.” It could very well be a big deal to the person you’re meeting.

    8. If someone wants to meet you, but doesn’t have a cell phone or doesn’t want to give you their phone number, my suggestion is to not meet them. What can happen and what has happened, is that your date could show up very late or not show up at all for one reason or another, and they may not call to tell you, and you obviously wouldn’t be able to contact them. Also, it’s very unusual these days for anyone who doesn’t have a cell phone. So I really have to wonder what’s going on with people who say they don’t have one.

    9.If you’re thinking of traveling out of town to meet someone for the first time who doesn’t live locally, you should first view at each other live through Skype, then you both can decide whether or not to meet. If either of you needs a web cam, you can buy one very inexpensively on Amazon. Viewing each other live doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be a connection if you do decide to meet, but it will reduce the chances that there won’t be. If the person you’re thinking of meeting doesn’t want to do the live view….DON’T MEET THEM.

    10. Don’t let your friends use your profile to browse through a dating site, especially if you’re a paid subscriber with full membership privileges. Sometimes the friends will contact other members on the site without your knowledge, the recipients will think it’s you, and when they find out it’s someone else, the outcome is not always friendly, …..OR your friend could contact someone you’ve already met and the date didn’t go well…..and you could run into them in the future which could be embarrassing……OR your friends could do something that violates the dating site’s terms and conditions which could get you kicked off the site. Most of these dating sites offer a free membership, which may not allow communication with other members, but do allow viewing other member profiles. So when your friends ask you if they can use your membership to log onto a dating site that you belong to, tell them to sign up for their own free membership.

    11. Post the CORRECT location where you live in your profile….not a place where you used to live, where you want to live, or where your friend lives. It sounds like basic common sense, but intentionally posting a city, state or country where a person doesn’t live does happen. If you’re contacting someone on a dating site, and you tell the person you live somewhere different than what you have posted on your profile, it can be a real turn off, especially if you live in another state or country.

  36. Not an attempt at oneupmanship in a competition of whose-got-it-worse, but consider this:
    When I adjust the parameters on Match.com for men between 45 and 55 (I am 50), and set the distance for 75 miles from my zip code, the “Matches Found” are 255.
    This low return is because I live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (Maui). 808 Born & Raised.
    Out of twisted curiosity, I kept the age range and distance the same, but reset the zip code to one of Denver’s, and Match.com informed me there are 2000+ potential computer suitors for me. It’s the plus (!?!) that gets me.
    Based on this new knowledge, I’ve decided to start swimming to the mainland …
    Sam, I hope you don’t mind putting me up on your couch for a bit.
    🙂

  37. Great essay Sam. I waited a bit after divorce before dating and assumed it might be fun and easy. I was married 27 years and a stay at home mom — so my social circle is still full of married friends and I rarely meet singles. So when I was ready to date, I tried Match. At first, I felt bad because I’ve never considered myself superficial – yet I was making choices based on superficial qualities. I also got a good laugh from many profiles and messages – I’m not mean or laugh at others expense, but its a good coping mechanism online. I then developed a drinking game… And it only went downhill from there.

    I’m an energetic, attractive, fit, successful 51 year old (Not boasting, but trying to be honest per discussion — I’m 5’6, 122 lbs, blue-eyed blonde, toned, and am told I look 45). I get an average of 30 messages a week on Match. Yet… I have never had anything be such a hit to my self-esteem! I literally have started asking my friends “what is wrong with me? Please be honest — Is there something wrong with me?” Part of my problem is my drive, independence and intellect either attracts weak men or makes other men say “you don’t need a man.” Agreed – I but I WANT a healthy relationship. That leaves me with 2 categories — 1) the undesirables; men MUCH older than me, boys/men much younger than me or men who earn significantly less than me or 2) driven, successful men who aren’t intimidated by a woman who knows herself. Well those men do ask me out — but they seem to be living the kid-in-the candy-store life. Shopping for what’s next. (I will be honest – I don’t have any idea the ins and outs of dating. I was a kid the last time I dated. So that may also be a problem.) To me it seems I can choose the lesser of two evils: 1) not date 2) make Match.com the 2nd job. Well, my subscription ends in 3 weeks and Im quitting that job… at least until my memories fade.

    Thank you for an essay that rings true and makes me think “maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me after all”. FYI: about halfway through your article, I was thinking, I’d meet this man (intellect is a key factor to me and bald doesn’t bother me.). Hope you’ve found someone in the 3 years since you wrote this…

  38. What a great summary and take away on modern dating tactics. Thank you for helping me to see the error of my ways. F@$k online dating!

  39. Love this! Every single word is infinitely true of online dating. Match still resembles your definition, it hasn’t changed. But seriously, nobody writes me, or the few that do, ignore when I respond even though I always add a “thank you for messaging me 😉 “I find it a tad comical actually.

  40. Sam,

    Very well said and I, too, gave up on two online dating sites (OurTime and Match) after subscribing to each for a year. With a few minor variations (58 and not quite Ivy League credentials), the post by “Spirit” above is an accurate assessment of my physical attributes and life situation. While I was humbled by the amount of interest from both sites, the majority of women I did respond to rarely matched (no pun intended) their descriptions: there were generous liberties taken with age, physical attributes, life experience and recreational pursuits. The few I did date were pleasant enough, but none sparked intellectual curiousity or a passion for life. Unfortunately, the city I currently reside in (Memphis) does not avail itself to great recreational opportunities or cultural enrichment thereby limiting the pool, and not being a college football fanatic or dog lover diminishes my appeal significantly.

    Maybe I should have stuck with it longer but I know better: if it’s truly meant to be, she’ll arrive unexpectedly and without pretense; you know, like Cinderella!

    Thanks for an interesting article.

  41. I have recently tried online dating to no success and I couldn’t really sum up why it wasn’t working or what I didn’t like about it but you have just done it for me. You have hit the nail on the head and I also have suspended membership even though I have 5 months left to run. The chemistry is missing and people have too higher expectations of a first meeting that it’s bound to fail. It takes me time to know if that spark is there and online dating does not fit me in any way. It just ended up as a string of first and possibly second dates with no real connection. I will give up and hope that a more organic meeting occurs. I’d rather be on my own that go through the online dating churn again. Great article thank you

  42. I really liked this essay until I realized the author would only consider women up to 6 years younger than he. Then it lost all credibility. There are plenty of 50-55 year old women looking for someone just like him. Unless he is an age-ist pig that is.

    • Ah. So I have a credibility problem, huh?

      At this point I take it we can assume that when you’re dating age is no issue. So if you’re approached by a man in his 90s, you’re as likely to say yes as you would be with a man your age. That’s remarkable. Further, since you’re willing to toss around terms like “ageist,” I’m going to assume that you have no tolerance for those who aren’t attracted by the morbidly obese. So a 450-pound 80 year-old is as likely to win your heart as a guy your age who’s in perfect physical shape. Otherwise we have to decide what to call a woman who hates fatties. What else? You’d be okay with a guy whose teeth were rotting, right? Because all that matters is his beautiful soul. And it goes without saying that you’d be cool with him being destitute to the point of homelessness, because if that isn’t the case what kind of reprehensible materialistic whore are you? Oh, wait – I keep assuming you’re straight. But that is also something that you would refuse to be limited by because if you were that would make you homophobic.

      Your self-righteousness aside for a moment, everyone with an IQ above 40 understands that sexuality isn’t a higher front-brain function. Attraction lives in the lizard brain and we have damned near zero control over what our bodies respond to. Sexuality is shaped by a variety of factors that are more or less locked in early in life and we have zero control over any of it. We might wish it weren’t so, but it is.

      When I set those age parameters, I’m acknowledging the fact that for the most part I have always been most attracted to women who were younger than me, for better or worse. (And the record will show that this tendency has in fact been both better and worse at various times in my life.) Not exclusively, though. I have dated women my age and, on occasion, older. But when doing one of those damned dating profiles, why would I invite those that a long history tells me are far less likely to trip my trigger? It would be a waste of my time, and what right do I have to say to a woman “sure, you don’t have much of a chance, but let’s waste your time, too, okay?”

      It’s called self-awareness, and it’s a good quality to have. I’m by no means a perfect person, on this score or any other, but what good does pretending do me or anyone else? That just makes me a judgmental, hypocritical prig. You know, like you.

      My credibility is fine. But let’s do coffee sometime. Bring your significant other, too. And if he isn’t a homeless overweight nonagenarian with bad hygiene the subject of conversation is going to be your credibility.

      BTW, I’m 56. After years of being alone I am finally in a relationship. She’s 54.

    • Oh, one more thing. Please, please, please respond that me only wanting women five years younger is ageist but 90 is completely different. Please do that. It will make our conversation a lot more interesting, I assure you.

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