I found myself joining one of South Africa’s most popular dating sites three weeks ago. Why? It was a mixture of dread, hope and curiosity: the dread of trying to get over ex flames, the hope of meeting new people and the biggest social experiment of my entire life.
At first, such dating sites feel a lot like a popularity contest: you are asked to put a head-shoulder pic of yourself (this already makes one feel scrutinized), asked to answer various questions (on your looks, occupation, income… quite personal, but luckily it comes in the form of multiple choice), then asked why people should get to know you (this is the tough one!) and describe your ideal match (where most people exaggerate or “feed” readers things they are expecting).
Risks with online dating:
– You might be conned into giving away your credit card details (really?)
– You risk wasting a lot of time (this is where speed dating out-does online dating)
– If you’re the guy always paying, it gets expensive in the long run
– Your details can be used on other dating sites as demographic experiments (e.g. if you say you’re Afrikaans, you may find yourself on liefie.co.za)
– You may bump into someone from your past
Rewards with online dating:
– You get to chat to many strange and interesting people, whom you don’t have to date but can become activity partners with, e.g. in mountain climbing, martial arts, video games
– His alias tends to warn you kind of guy he is. Do you really want to date someone called LittleBoyLost or MrHuge?
– You meet people outside of your social circle (this for me was the most thrilling… even Facebook doesn’t cut it there)
– You have tons of interesting stories to tell your friends (that’s if you’re brave enough)
Here are some of them…
Phase 1: “The Big Plunge”
By Day 2, I had 100 fans and my inbox was spammed, by being put on people’s favourites’ list.
By Day 3, I had been already offered a threesome by another “adventurous” blonde in Joburg. When I wrote adventurous on my profile, I didn’t mean promiscuous. She didn’t take my response too well and blocked me after first insulting me. Yip, dating sites are a great way for people to vent out all types of fantasies and frustrations.
By Day 4, I had been offered my second BDSM invitation and was starting to fear humanity.
By Day 7, I had reached the most popular list and my email went haywire! Weirdos from all the over the world (including Austria and Israel) were asking me if I would relocate for them. Seriously?
By Day 10, I had been contacted by my 5th or 6th married man, looking for someone to make his sex life more exciting.
Those were the shockers, but I decided to persevere… Was there hope in mankind after all?
Phase 2: “Getting to know you*”
* These are not their real aliases on the site
By Day 14, I was brave enough to start chatting via WhatsApp to about 5 guys. The first one “Mr Charming” was the most interesting. He was clever and good-looking, but seemed a little too good to be true.
The second one “Candyman” was sweet and kind, but kept on insisting I write to him by paying for my subscription. It was a great way to continue with the experiment free of charge.
The third one “Smooth Lips” seemed kind and fun but became more pushy as time progressed.
The fourth one “Chatty Matt” would bug me with so many questions, I had no intention of meeting him in person (what would there be left to talk about?).
The fifth one “Gamer” decided to play the 21 questions game, which became tedious and too personal. The game involves asking your “opponent” questions that reflect at the same time a lot about you. The risk of exaggerating the truth becomes quite tempting in such a game, especially that your answer tends to lead to their next question.
Phase 3: Teasing
The trick with juggling so many guys and chats is the teasing. Every guy you meet will react to teasing differently.
Teasing comes in various forms:
- not answering a question straight away (= I have a life apart from this site)
- answering the question with another question (= I don’t like your question and have a brain of my own)
- answering the question indirectly ( = I’m mischievous) and
- not responding (I don’t find you that interesting or compatible)
Phase 4: Actual Dating
Dates are called DATEs for a reason: Dauntingly Awkward To Everyone. Especially the first one…
Before deciding what to wear, you have to decide what information you’re wishing to divulge. Maybe avoid anything too personal for now: exes, sex, religion and politics. Nice topics are hobbies, sport and places you’ve visited.
My first date with Smooth Lips was literally an anti-climax. After the awkward first hug, I realized I towered above him. He had sort of lied about his height:
“The height on my profile is my height! With shoes!”
Well, then I should technically be 1m90. He wouldn’t let the topic go, which bothered me more than his actual height. It showed me he could exaggerate any “tiny topic” and showed his insecurity and pushiness.
Candyman was just too sweet, which makes me wonder if he’s really sincere. Chatty Matt turned out to be quite cool, but I was a bit taken aback by his gift (a beautiful bracelet). First dates still have boundaries.
I’m not sure if I’ll make plans with Gamer. He seems to be a good manipulator, who remembers everything thoroughly. I have yet to meet Mr Charming; kind of scared things will fall apart once I do. But at least this futile quest may be over. Sigh…
Phase 5: Choosing
This phase is more frustrating than confusing. It’s better to choose from a handful of guys you’ve already met than to continue being on the site.
This short experience has taught me that the guys just get worse as time progresses, as your automatic compatibility (set up by the site) lessens. Also, things are more exciting and fresh in the beginning and it gets extremely tiring talking about your favourite movie for the 20th time.
Fish fast! Fish efficiently! Look at every aspect, especially his replies regarding children and religion. Does he avoid these questions? Seems like he’s not very serious on his background or future plans.
Rules for online dating:
- Safety first: always meet in a public place. It doesn’t matter if this is a fourth date: psychopaths are psychopaths.
- Never give out your real name on the site (this could lead to major cyberstalking, especially with Facebook’s new timeline, not as full-proof as before)
- Always tell your family/ close friends where you are going, as embarrassing as online dating may seem
- Take care if you’re on WhatsApp rather than BBM (via Blackberry)… this means another freak may have your number rather than pin and may end up calling you randomly, all the time.