Not Okay, Cupid

The pitfalls of meeting someone online in Memphis.

| January 30, 2014

Can we all stop pretending like we enjoy online dating now?

As a single lady in Memphis, I'm perfectly comfortable admitting that this city is a terrible place to date. Everyone knows everyone (who knows everyone else), and you run into the same people at the same places every weekend. You're busy, you're picky, and you're fed up. You buy paper towels online, so why shouldn't you be able to find a boyfriend there, too?


I didn't come to the world of online dating intending to meet someone special; I was trying to find a way to present a lot of data in a given location in an endless scroll format for a mobile device (because these are the sorts of things I think about at my day job). I mentioned the problem to a programmer friend, and he recommended that I have a look at Tinder, a dating app that had an interesting functional approach.

You log in with Facebook, set a few parameters, like age and distance, select a few photos from Facebook and fill out a very short bio (or don't), and within seconds, you're presented with photos and info for people in your area, one at a time. You swipe left to pass on them and right to express interest. If they swipe to the right on your photo, you're matched and thus, you can begin a somewhat stilted conversation through the app's message function.

Aside from a few major usability flaws, it was a cool concept. It was fun at parties. But as I scrolled through photos of guys that matched my criteria, I noticed a few things. First, an incredibly large number of guys on Tinder choose photos of themselves holding fish. Second, and more importantly, I was willing to pass on guys for some very superficial reasons.

It wasn't just Tinder. During a brief foray into the world of OkCupid, on which you fill out a much more robust profile and are given matches based on said profile, it was the same. I would see a picture of someone decently attractive, read his profile, and then find that one thing about him that I just couldn't get past: his favorite book is by Ayn Rand or he has a goatee or whatever. I was making judgements on these guys based on a single aspect of their being in a way that I never would have if I had met them at a bar or a party or through friends.

When you meet someone in real life, you're much more forgiving. You're willing to talk to that cute stranger at a bar because he's cute, and you'll agree to a date because he had the moxie to ask you to a proper dinner. Maybe you'll get along, maybe you won't, but when you have a connection with someone in real life, you're more willing to look past a flaw or two that would be a complete deal breaker on the Internet.

In a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of researchers found that while online dating has its advantages, all of those fancy, scientific matchmaking algorithms are no more likely to predict whether or not people will be a good couple than when people meet the old-school way.

It's hard to talk to strangers in real life. I admit that it's much easier to message that cutie on OkCupid than it is to talk to him at a bar. But I propose that we start trying a little harder. When you come across someone interesting in real life, talk to them. When you come across someone interesting online, give them a chance even if there's one minor thing about them that's not ideal. Give people a chance. You never know when someone's going to surprise you. Also, the guys in real life don't send you weird, sketchy messages without actually talking to you first.

It's been a good experiment, and I've met a few lovely people, but I've decided to delete my profiles. If I meet someone, it'll be in a way that's different from how I buy paper towels.


Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

You're sooo sooo on point!!

report 3 likes, 11 dislikes   
Posted by Neil Gajjar on 01/30/2014 at 12:12 PM

Online dating is for people that don't go to bars. Online dating is for people who don't want to fall into the common trap of simply sleeping with everyone in their immediate social circle and marrying the one that got you pregnant.

A vast majority of happy stable relationships I know of started with online dating. It is probably because they weren't limited to a cross section of friends of friends and people who hang out at The Cove all the time. Finding a suitable mate is a numbers game. The more people in the sample size, the more likely you will find someone worthwhile.

Yes, ~90% of men in Memphis are rednecks with camo hats. Is this surprising? You live in the south.

Also, don't begrudge someone because they have an outdoor related hobby. Boats are fun. Fishing is relaxing. Fishing is better than sitting around watching Netflix night after night.

Yes, online dating is frustrating. 99% of the people on there are not suitable, and ~50% of them are juggalo levels of terrifying. Welcome to the general public.

report 20 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by bill.automata on 01/30/2014 at 2:29 PM

I agree with you. The format for online dating is restrictive because no matter how good you are with words, how good the pictures on the profile are it will always feel somehow flat.

At the end of the day one is only interacting with a screen hoping there is some sort of digital feedback that will in turn become an actual one on one meeting. This is safer in a certain way but it also makes it harder to connect with people the way you do it in person.

report 3 likes, 8 dislikes   
Posted by Ilya on 01/30/2014 at 3:32 PM

*applause* I couldn't agree more. I tried online dating once and had the same icky feelings about it. It's really sad that wanting to meet someone organically is considered closed-minded or outdated now.

report 2 likes, 9 dislikes   
Posted by Brenda on 01/30/2014 at 4:57 PM

I agree with the above comment that online dating is a far superior option to the loud, lecherous, smoky shitshow that is the Memphis bar scene.

The crux of the article is a pretty flawed concept. A medium which allows daters to outline and identify dealbreakers, then mercilessly follow through on them, is a feature not a bug. Having standards is the key to getting what you want out of dating, rather than playing an escalating game of compromise until you somehow find yourself dating a 34-year-old man who makes coleslaw for a living.

But this is all beside the point. The author buried the lede until the "pics holding a fish" comment. The real dating fail is the impossibly poor dating pool for educated 30-somethings in Memphis. Unless you're willing to settle for someone with substance abuse problems and children from a previous relationship who might be on probation (but he makes some damn fine coleslaw), you're gonna have a bad time.

Also, who buys paper towels online? Is that a thing?

report 16 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by Madame Ovary on 01/30/2014 at 5:28 PM

Yeah, this is kinda douchey. You're basically saying "I tested the online dating pool, by being a douchebag who wasn't really into it, to prove that people aren't into it." A good journalist has no bias, and you went in to prove a point by being that point when other people were actually trying to look for someone for real. I'm sure they all really appreciate their time being wasted.

report 36 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by Petros L. Ioannou on 02/03/2014 at 9:53 AM

I'm afraid that if I had seen my wife's online dating profile, I doubt I would have asked her out, or even contacted her.

Of course, she didn't have an online dating profile. That was 27 years ago. Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet, thank God. I'd probably still be single.

report 4 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by Jeff on 02/03/2014 at 11:20 AM
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