How not to date online – learning by (bad) example

I’ve been writing about online dating for a long time and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I get bored. After all, much of it is about the same topics, albeit rehashed and paraphrased to make things more interesting. I often wonder whether there’s still a need in today’s dating world to write about dating profiles, first message writing and other such basics. But time and time again I conclude that these are still important things to cover. After all, it seems that there are plenty of people out there for whom such information is important.

Take this article, for example. TLDR: guy goes on Tinder “to find love”, fails to secure date, gets female friend to help him with his profile, secures date with hot model, is disappointed by her flippant attitude and behaviour and concludes that LA is not suitable for finding love.

So can we take this story and learn from it about common dating mistakes? Let’s take a look at what happened here.

The article was written by said guy, hence an obvious bias towards blaming the girl. But let’s break down what the guy did first.

  1. Signing up to Tinder to find a serious relationship
    I personally know people who fell in love on Tinder and I’m sure many others do. But ultimately, Tinder is a hook up app. Its very nature makes it the perfect app for shallow encounters. It’s much easier to sign up to than more serious dating sites, which makes it perfect for when someone’s freshly broken up and needs to rebound. In fact, the girl this guy is slating did just that – signing up immediately after a breakup to make herself feel better. So while it’s fine to look for love on Tinder, you should also accept the fact that many people on there might not be looking for what you are.
  2. Having  a dating profile that’s an idealised representation of yourself
    I often advise men in particular to get female friends to help write their dating profile, but there is such a thing as aiming too high. If a profile sounds like someone who’s not you and you turn up to the date, expect some disappointment. As I’ve not seen either the before or after version of this guy’s profile, I can’t comment on any particular problems, but the fact that he got no action with his own profile and got a lingerie model contacting him for sex after his profile makeover (only to be quickly disappointed when she met him) makes me think there was a lot there that could be seen as unwittingly misleading or just plain wrong.
  3. Going on a date with a model and being surprised that she’s high maintenance
    I mean, seriously, are you 12? She’s a model. She’s in LA. There is no such thing as effortlessly done up. Not if you’re expect your date to look perfect. Most models obsess about their looks, because they have to – it’s what makes them a living. They are also likely to be very driven and committed to their work, which is what it takes to be a successful model in LA. If that’s not something you can deal with then date someone who’s not a model or an actress or any high profile profession.
  4. Being surprised when your date doesn’t think you match up with your idealised profile
    Many people lie in their dating profiles, but it’s a risk you take that is likely to blow up in your face. Can’t do the time…

 

So all in all, this guy made a few bad dating mistakes and paid the price for them. But is the woman involved completely guilt free? Of course not. Let’s see what her issues are.

  1. Going on dates immediately after a major breakup
    Was the guy so different than his profile or was she simply not really interested because she still had feelings for her ex? It’s all well and good to sign up to a dating site and start contacting people so you can get over someone, but the person on the other side has feelings too. Would this guy have replied to this girl had he known her to be so freshly broken up? I think the answer is probably no. By omitting this important fact from her profile, she was effectively lying too. It’s best to work out your own feelings about your emotional state without bouncing them off other people who could get hurt in the process.
  2. Not respecting her date’s time
    This guy drove a long way to meet her. She kept him waiting for ages beyond their agreed time, which is rude. OK, so she didn’t know he’d made a long journey, because he hadn’t told her, but you shouldn’t take the piss anyway. He might be disposable to you, but he’s a person with feelings and his time is valuable.
  3. Being flippant after having rejected the guy
    In spite of the guy taking offence, there’s actually nothing wrong with letting a date know straight away that you are not interested. I’m not going to say that you should do it every time out of respect for the person’s feelings, because as a woman I know that sometimes you just don’t feel safe rejecting someone outright, or you feel that it would create an unpleasant situation with the other person acting all offended and rude. Still, if someone is brave enough to simply say “thanks, but no thanks”, we should applaud it rather than criticise them. This girl, however, went the extra mile, if we believe the guy. First, she practically started talking about his shortcomings (why? Unless the guy is demanding to know them and you feel obliged, just leave it at “no thanks”). Then, she asked him questions about dating on Tinder. Seriously, tact is a virtue when you’ve just rejected a guy.

 

As you can see, both sides of this story made some bad dating choices, which you can learn to avoid in your dating life. Have you had any dating disasters you’d like other people to learn from? Feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

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Dating online? How much should you outsource?

Computer keyboard and touch pad

Back when I had the time, I used to offer some services to help people with their online dating profiles. The services I offered included helping the client choose the right photo and helping with online dating profile writing. I tried to keep things as close as possible to the client’s own words, seeing as the clients were the ones looking for dates and not me.

I see it as a way of showing people stuff about themselves that they may have missed, so that they could put this information in their profile. There’s nothing wrong with that, much in the same way someone could come in, look at your rather random employment history and make it look really good on a CV. After all, writing about yourself is not easy, even for very outgoing, eloquent people. I know I hate marketing myself, but writing about someone else is not a problem at all for me.

I’ve also seen some services offering to write some opening messages for you, which I think is borderline. On one hand, sending a first message is a daunting task for many, but once a conversation has started, they find it easier to relate. On the other hand…well, it feels a bit unethical and dishonest.

So recently, when someone showed me a wanted ad for a job involving running people’s complete online dating account for them, I was frankly quite shocked. It seems there’s actually work out there for people to not only write your dating profile for you but also to choose and message suitable women for you, flirt with them online and arrange dates for you. Once the date is set, you presumably turn up all briefed about the lady and the conversation you’ve supposedly had and take it from there. Seriously, guys? Really?

For one, any relationship starting like this would be built on a massive lie. You’re not going to tell your dream gal that the person who enchanted her online was some random student looking for some extra cash on the side, are you? Well, you might, but I doubt you’d get very far.

Also, looking at it from the lady’s point of view (I’m assuming it’s mostly guys using this service, but there’s nothing that says women can’t and aren’t using it too), if you’re too busy to bother trying to make your own connections or so bad at talking to women you need someone else to do it for you, what will you do when there’s an actual woman there?

It might seem like an efficient way of cutting through the dating numbers’ game if you’re a busy executive, but really, people don’t like being taken for a ride and if you’re not like the person who pretended to be you, it’s going to turn around and bite you in the ass.
From what I’ve seen, this is exactly what happens and such relationships don’t last. It’s easy to make a very shy, lost person look outgoing and confident online, but once you swap over to the real deal, the person on the other side is going to know something is off, or just lose interest.

“But it’s just like traditional matchmaking used to be, just updated for the digital age!” I hear some people cry. Well, actually, no it isn’t. People who go to a dating agency or a matchmaker know the score and they know someone else will be matching them with another person and arranging the dates. People on a dating site assume the person writing to them is the person they will meet later on.

If you can’t bring yourself to do your online dating “work” yourself, maybe dating online is not for you.
Why not use an actual matchmaking service (such as Coffee and Company in the UK) where someone does look for suitable dates instead of you and arrange your dates for you, but everything is above board?

Alternatively, you can let your personality shine at a speed dating or singles’ event.

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Stop shaming women for ghosting men

A few years back, while my father was in hospital being treated for terminal cancer, I briefly dated someone. It turned out the guy had zero interested in asking me how I was feeling (I was spending upwards of 8 hours a day in hospital with my dad at the time), but was nonetheless interested in coming over to sleep with me. After three such dates, I stopped answering his calls and calling him back. My father nearly died that time. I was a mess emotionally and physically. I simply could not bring myself to deal with anything else, especially not a selfish person who didn’t even once ask me how I was and whether I needed anything.

GhostShortly before my father’s death, when he was briefly out of hospital and assumed reasonably OK, said guy called to ask for an “exit interview” and I picked up. I then got told off for having “ghosted” him, even though I had explained that I’d been dealing with some terrible events in hospital. It would seem that while our short acquaintance wasn’t enough to warrant anything as “heavy” as the guy worrying about my feelings, it was plenty long enough for him to be entitled to have his looked after by me, regardless of what was going on in my life at the time. This is the ugly face of self-entitlement, which is sadly remarkably common.

Ghosting, the act of disappearing out of someone’s life without explanation, is also pretty common in online dating and there are heaps of articles online telling you how horrible it is and what a horrible person you are for doing it (such as this article in Psychology today). Such articles are often written by men, although I have seen some by women who claimed to be “gender blind” when it comes to dating etiquette.

Ghosting does feel horrible. I’ve been ghosted in the past by both men I’ve been on one date with and men I’ve known for a long time. I was as disappointed as confused as you’d imagine. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the longer you’ve known someone, the more emotionally invested you are and the more interaction you’ve had with them, the more disappointed and sad you’ll be when they turn out to seemingly not care about your feelings enough to tell you they’re not interested to your face. This is especially true if you’ve had sex with them, because it can make you feel really used.

But we can’t really pretend that there is no difference between men and women’s experience of dating and social interaction, no more than we can ignore the fact that while men do get raped, it’s far far less common than women getting raped.

Women live in a world where complete strangers tell you to smile on the street and hurl abuse to you if you don’t. Where guys are “just being friendly, what’s your problem, bitch?” until you’re friendly back and then they ask you for your phone number and accuse you of having lead them on if you refuse to give it. We live in a world where self-proclaimed “nice guys” feel so entitled to women’s affections by virtue of simply not being openly horrible to them that they write articles whining about being in the “friend zone” (and cut you out of their lives in a huff, of course, once the potential for future sex is out the window). Guys feel entitled to our attention and affection simply because they happen to be interested in us. If we think we might be interested and then learn that we are not, all hell breaks loose.

Women have to deal with this shit ALL THE TIME, yet we are constantly judged for trying to minimise unpleasantness we never asked for. I’ve even seen articles criticising other women for rejecting men by saying they have a boyfriend even when they don’t, in spite of the fact that this is often the fastest, safest way to get a man to walk away without hurling abuse at you or even attacking you. For many woman, ghosting is not “being a coward” and “putting yourself first”. It’s dealing with real fears and real survival issues in the safest way possible.

Yes, ideally, any person you date who does not want to continue seeing you would take the time to let you know so that you’re not left hanging. Personally, I think that’s the most respectable thing to do. However, this also assumes that the person on the receiving end of rejection will be respectful enough to accept it without demanding an explanation, being rude or abusive or offloading their negative emotional state on the other person. And this almost never happens. Women can be as guilty as men of not taking rejection well and using emotional blackmail to try and get the other person to change their mind, but the chances of a woman putting a man in actual danger as a result of rejection are far slimmer than the opposite. That’s why I can understand women who ghost men more than I understand men who do it.

Let’s leave ghosting after actual relationships (a few months+) out of this discussion. A person you’ve messaged online or been on a date with once or seen on the street and fancied does not owe you an explanation as to why they are not interested in you. Yes, it would be nice to get one for your own peace of mind, closure and ego, but that’s on you, not on them. Just because a person replied to an online message you sent or agreed to date you and then decided for whatever reasons that you weren’t a good fit, doesn’t buy you the right to what could turn out to be an awkward, unpleasant experience for the other person.

We’re all used to seeing ourselves in the centre of the universe, but sometimes we have to accept the fact that, well, not everyone we happen to meet is going to share this view. Even the most heteronormative people often start off as poly on dating sites, going on a few dates with a few different people before they settle on one. Once a person has decided you’re not the one, they are not likely to want to make any sacrifices for you.

How many people would actually accept a simple rejection message without trying to make a conversation of it? Most normal people would figure out a person is ghosting them after a few days of trying and failing to get in touch. It may be bad manners, but it’s not a mortal sin. It’s just a few days of wondering, followed by the unpleasant dawning realisation. So an outright rejection message would be cleaner and give you those couple of days back, but the trade of is either a direct rejection with no explanation (again, you’re not owed one) or direct negative criticism. Most people don’t react well to negative criticism.

The truth is, most people are secretly angry at the other person for rejection them, but won’t admit it to themselves. Instead they’ll be overly angry at the person for “leaving them hanging” (ghosting), or, if they do get a rejection message, breaking up with them on the wrong medium (You’re breaking up with me on Facebook/WhatsApp/text message???), not giving a reason or ghosting them after they insist on not taking no for an answer. Yes, you might be the person who’s going to be happy with a clear “no”, but if you are, you’re pretty uncommon.

Until people, especially men, learn to accept rejection at face value without feeling entitled to an explanation, a conversation or a second chance, I refuse to judge women in particular for taking the safe, easy way out. Sometimes it’s better to let the man on the other side come to a slow realisation away from us, rather than confronting him with potentially dangerous rejection.

In the meantime, whether you are a man or a woman, if you think you are being ghosted, you can either stop trying to make contact and see if the other person reappears on their own after a while or you could simply send a polite message saying that you think you are being ignored and if so, good luck, otherwise “feel free to contact me when you are less busy”. Sometimes just being honest and disarming yourself can bring out the honesty in another person. Sometimes it doesn’t, but then at least you’ll have a reason to write the other person off.

[Ghost image by Marisali]

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Dude, nobody wants to see your penis – common misconceptions about your crotch

One of my fondest memories of my work as an online dating moderator was getting into the office on a Monday morning, making myself a nice cup of tea and then sitting down in front of my computer for a fun hour of going through the new crop of pictures our users have uploaded to their profiles over the weekend. More often than not it would be penises. Lots of them. Often, it would actually be the same penis, uploaded rather a few times, creating an almost Andy Warhol-esque spread.

Self portrait - Just another head shot

You see, our sites were set up so that only photos approved by moderators such as myself would appear. Whenever a user uploaded a photo, it actually had a message about moderators needing to approve it. But I suppose that’s a bit difficult to read when you’re trying to keep yourself erect while pointing a camera at your genitals. So our budding photographers just kept hitting the upload button thinking something had gone wrong with the previous five, ten, 15 uploads. Cheers, guys, for my Monday morning view of your crotch!

Of course, on our sites people like me suffered so other women wouldn’t have to (though we didn’t moderate private messaes, obviously, so female users could get lucky there). But any woman dating on pretty much any dating site would have had her fair share of unsolicited, often unwanted dick pics.

So what’s the deal with dick pics? Men who send such pics are not exactly thinking it through, so would most likely think it’s silly to delve into deep psychological analysis of the phenomenon (such as this one on Psychology Today). There is actually no shortage of articles based on interviews with men who send unsolicited penis pics and, really, it’s not that complicated.

I’ve taken the liberty to look at the reasoning given by men and give the female response below.

 

Sending a dick pic because you think a woman might want it

If you get your sex and relationship education from porn films, you might think women would be delighted at the sight of your genitals once you’ve established a friendly back and forth. After all, porn stars only need to turn up with pizza at the swimming pool to get the sexy party started.

The truth is, most women are not like that. Most women, even very sexually liberated ones, usually need to meet you in person first and decide whether they actually want to go to bed with you, before wanting to see the goods on display. Seeing a man’s naked penis is a much bigger deal to most women as it is for you. Don’t assume a woman wants to see your junk. Generally it’s best to wait for the woman to actually ask for a picture, which women would gladly do, if interested. If you really think she might be interested in one, always ask first. Be aware, though, that some women might find it creepy that you’re even asking at this stage, even if they’ve been flirting with you online, or even in person.

 

Sending a pic because you would love to get unsolicited boob or vagina pics

I’ll let you in on a secret – on gay sites it’s pretty much all penis action all the time. You men love getting unsolicited naked photos, it seems. But here’s another secret – women generally don’t. If she doesn’t know you, she doesn’t want to see your genitals. Not in the park, not in the toilet and not online. There are laws against exposing yourself in public, you know. This is why they’re there.

Think that by sending an unsolicited naked photo to a woman you’ll get her to send you one back? Think again. Unless she’s expressed interest in seeing you naked, she’s most likely to run away screaming.

 

Sending an unsolicited dick pic because you know some women like them

People go on dating sites for different reasons and all people are different. On hook up / sex dating sites you may well find women who respond favourably to unsolicited naked photos. Hell, even on a large dating sites there are bound to be some woman who’d think “oh wow, that’s hot” at a surprise picture of your dick. But 99% of them won’t. They will find it a distressing, troublesome experience that might put them off online dating. Is that the effect you want to achieve? Probably not. Don’t risk it. There’ll be plenty of time for naked fun once you’ve established an actual interpersonal connection.

Sending an unsolicited dick pic because you’re an asshole who likes to harass women

Let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen. Some men might think they are doing it cause “it’s funny” or cause “I’m drunk”, but they might actually be aware of the fact that they are upsetting women. Like any form of sexual harassment and rape, it’s not about sex but about power. Maybe it’s about feeling inadequate, maybe they want the attention, maybe it’s even about getting back at “women” for rejecting them. If you’re that kind of guy, you know women don’t want to see your penis and that’s why you’re doing it. One day you’ll look back and realise you were trying to hurt women and be ashamed of what a giant douche you were. Either that or you’ll graduate to full blown rapist.

Having looked at literally thousands of dick pics men have uploaded to our site, I could never tell whether men were uploading them because they were so proud of their penis or to counteract feelings of inadequacy in regards to its shape and size. Most of the ones on display weren’t really all that, so I tend to lean towards the latter, though male pride in one’s penis can often be misplaced. I sort of hope only nice people come to my blog so hopefully this won’t actually apply to you, dear reader. But if you’re the sort of dude who likes to cyberbully women, do you find the thought of male and female staff judging and laughing at photos of your dick offensive? If so, I suppose that’s the price you pay for shoving unsolicited penis images in people’s faces. I suggest you get some sort of psychological help before your taste for harassment escalates and you find yourself flashing little girls in the park and getting arrested.

 

Do you send dick pics for other reasons? Have you got any more special insights into the mind of such amateur photographers? Feel free to comment below. Please, though, no dick pics. Nobody wants to see your penis.

 

 

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On online dating and humanity

John Walters recently wrote a piece in the Guardian about how online dating sites are “eroding humanity”. This is where I would be expected to get in to a big rant about how he’s wrong, which I do believe he is, though I do see where he’s coming from as well. If the world was really as he seems to see it, then we’d potentially have a problem on our hands.

Walters claims that by using online dating, we’re trying to control the uncontrollable thing that is love and turn it more into a business transaction, the way arranged marriages were, but worse. Personally, I think it’s an exaggeration, possibly for the purpose of making headlines and sparking off a debate. But if online dating really did manage to take the unpredictable out of love, it would indeed be quite a change from what we know of as humanity. Unlike Walters, I don’t necessarily think that would be a bad thing. To me, the reason people have so much trouble with love is that as a species, we’re struggling to combine our primal urges (remnants from when we were living in the jungle and love was free and a free for all) and the confines of an advanced society with rules, regulations and religion. Much of what we see as beautiful art and poetry grew out of real misery of the people involved in creating such art. Ultimately, wouldn’t it be nice if for most of us, there’d be a way to eventually say goodbye to the perils of incompatible love affairs and have a way to conveniently pick the people who were right for us at this moment in time? Wouldn’t we be able to do more creative and productive things with our time if the love aspect was taken care of?

Of course, that is not the case and could never be the case. The human element is far from nonexistent in the online dating world. Even on sites where you rely on a computer to connect you with “compatible” people, there is a random element. Would there be someone compatible for you on the site? Would anyone compatible on paper actually be attractive to you physically, or even genuinely compatible? Would there be chemistry? Would you manage to keep a relationship together through the years? Would you remain compatible or drift apart? As long as there are people involved, humanity is present. Using an electronic tool to find another human is hardly eroding your humanity any more than using traditional matchmakers, some of which would make you fill out a form and never actually meet you in person. At least with online dating, as opposed to arranged marriages, you get to choose your own partner based on your own intuition. If the description you read is accurate – you’ll have a happy, long lasting relationship with someone who wants to develop and grow in the same direction as you. Otherwise, well, that’s pretty unpredictable and random right there.

I have to say that I personally prefer dating sites where you can run your own searches, exactly because of the element of randomness (and I say this even though I write regularly for a dating site of the other sort, which uses what is actually quite a decent and in depth test to send you matches). In my experience, though, people meet and fall in love on both types of sites and sometimes even on really crappy sites you would never have thought would work. If that’s not the unpredictable nature of love at work, I don’t know what is.

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Cyberstalking and scamming on social networking sites

Recently, more and more people have been commenting on this blog and saying they’ve met scammers on Facebook, pretending to be British or American soldiers stationed abroad. It seems social networking is turning into a battle ground as well.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a recent study has revealed that social networking sites have overtaken dating sites when it comes to stalking. Cyberstalkers can target complete strangers on social networking sites such as Facebook and the victims can be both women (60%) and men (40%). Unlike real life stalking that’s often the result of a past relationship or an actual acquaintance, cyberstalking does not depend on the victim having more than a casual acquaintance with the stalker. Sometimes, the stalker can be a total stranger.
Unsurprisingly, cyberstalking has overtaken real life stalking. After all, it’s easier to do and you don’t actually need to know the victim…

This cyberstalking can involve repeated unwanted messages or it can involve serious intimidating and even death threats. It would seem the Internet is the choice of weapon for weirdos who think the anonymity it offers puts them above the law or under the radar.

You can read the Guardian article about the survey here, which offers advice on what to do if you’re being cyberstalked.

But I’d like to offer a different sort of advice. Websites like Facebook are notorious for compromising your privacy in all kinds of ways you’ve never even dreamed of. If you want to protect yourself from stalkers, consider taking the following steps when using Facebook:

* In your privacy settings on Facebook, avoid using the “everyone” setting for sharing anything such as your status updates, photos, etc.. Show as little as possible of your profile to strangers.

* In your “connecting on Facebook” settings (also in the privacy settings), you can decide whether you want everyone to be able to send you a friend request, message you, see your friends’ list, etc. It’s up to you how private you want to be. If you’re happy just being in touch with your friends and their friends, you can stop anyone else from every contacting you or adding you as a friend.

* I know people love all these checking in services, but personally I think they suck. The right to privacy is something that was bought in blood from big brother totalitarian governments. Now whole generations are happily broadcasting their whereabouts to the world without giving it a second thought. Apart from the businesses themselves, the only people who care about the fact that a person’s checked in at a supermarket or a petrol station are obsessives and stalkers. Seriously. I say avoid using these services completely, not just because they’re compromising your privacy but also because any tiny benefits they could give you are totally outweighed by the benefit to the businesses involved and the fact that they are using you for free advertising. Your privacy is precious so don’t sell yourself short.

I know a bar that offers people a free drink if they check in there 15 times. I’d rather stick with a paper punch card or, a radical thought, buy my own drink and maintain my privacy (and dignity). No free drink is worth advertising to the world where I am at any given moment 1984-style.

If you must use these services, for example, Facebook’s one, make sure you limit who can see your check ins (also in the privacy settings). I suggest limiting this to your friends only and choosing your Facebook friends wisely.

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Online dating company threatens to forcibly create profiles for people

Online dating company Gotham Dating Partners has apparently decided to start scraping random people’s details off places like Facebook and make them dating profiles on their sites. Wait, what? Really?

Their marketing vice president, Damon Jordan, was even quotes as saying they do not expect any privacy issues as a result.

My Facebook privacy is cranked up all the way. Let me tell you, though… If anyone tried to make me a dating profile somewhere without my consent or my knowledge, I’d sue the hell out of them, as I hope anyone affected by these guys will. I dread to think of all the non-single people who’d find themselves having to explain to your BF or GF why they’re dating on some dating site somewhere.

Luckily, the Oz privacy commissioner (the article I was sent is on an Australian website) seems to know the score and said people should be sent a notice before their details are used and also that the details should not be used in the first place.

I am not sure how these things work in the US, but I’m pretty sure it would be illegal in the UK as well.

Gotham Dating Partners own a few dating sites, some of which are:

Dons and Divas, Faithful Lover, Marry Me First, Prison Hookup, and Ugly People Date.

Actually, looking at their website, I find it hard to believe these guys are for real. They actually have a site called Whitepeopledate.com that talks about how black men are “stealing your white women”. Is this all some kind of sick joke?

I suggest you don’t use their sites. If it’s a joke, it’s not funny. If it’s a marketing trick, it sucks. If it’s serious, then it’s a huge violation. Who knows what other privacy laws they bend on their sites.

The question is, I guess, which site is going to end up with your unwanted profile. Will it be Ugly People Date, Prison Hookup or KKKlove, sorry, white people whatever? So many fine choices.

Full article is here.

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Pick up artists beware

I’m sure no one would be surprised to hear that I find so-called professional pick up artists and schools for picking up women pretty damn lame.
They occasionally make the news and raise a debate about the morality, as well as the effectiveness, of their method. I’ve been following the latest case, in Israel, where a forum post from 2006 has been causing quite a stir.

In the post, one of the “graduates” from the Israeli pick up school (called the school for the “art of seduction”, I kid you not), tells a rather revolting story about picking up an unsuspecting Czech exchange student at the supermarket using the various “tricks” he’d learnt at the school, taking her home under the guise of introducing her to a local food dish and eventually forcing sex on her after she’d repeatedly said no.

The post was on the school’s own forum, hence the late discovery. It had quite a few adoring responses from staff and fellow grads telling the guy how great he is for having taken advantage of an obviously lonely and confused young woman in a strange country. Some guys even went as far as musing about how these “tricks” only work on tourists (read: women who are alone, confused and most likely afraid).

Since the discovery, a few female law students have lodged a complaint with the police and around 150 people, men and women, demonstrated outside the school’s recent graduates’ conference. The demonstrators broke into one of the seminars, where the manager of Tel Aviv’s rape crisis centre gave her own seminar about the meaning of consent, sexual harrassment and rape. I hope the students were taking notes.

I’ve always thought of these pick up schools as sad but mostly harmless. One assumes the only real victims of this scam are the poor unlucky in loves who shell out for courses made out of pop-psychology and pseudo-NLP bollocks. These guys aren’t interested in finding a relationship but in getting women back for all the rejections they’ve suffered throughout their lives. In contrast, men who want to get over their shyness and find love go to dating coaches, not pick up artists. So if instead of looking for love someone wants to take advantage of vulnerable women and ends up getting ripped off then I think that’s a pretty good deal and a good life lesson.

But when you teach men to view women as objects rather than people, to be aggressive (because that’s what women like, don’t you know?) and to take the initiative to the point of forcing themselves on women then we really have a problem.

You’d better hope your students are very very good at fully understanding body language and non-verbal signals. Especially, as it would seem at least some of these schools teach men to “ignore what the woman says and go by what she does”.

Somehow I doubt that a man who feels so let down by female kind that he needs to pay some charlatan to teach him how to be Don Juan is the man who’ll excel at reading women like an open book after a two weekend course.

So here’s a handy hint for all you budding pick up artists out there: no means no. You’ve heard it a thousand times before and there’s a reason for that. The reason is: NO MEANS NO.
Don’t think that you can read a woman’s body signals because chances are you can’t. Show some respect for boundaries (and women) or you might find yourself in court one day.

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Will eHarmony destroy the human race?

Sorry, what? It must be Monday, cause once more I’ve set out to find something good to write about and I found this article.

eHarmony must have hired a new PR firm that’s talked them into being a bit more “wacky”, because otherwise I don’t see how this article could have seen the light of day. “Dr. Tsung Foo of Apple Fertility Clinic, a new app for the iPhone” is claiming that using eHarmony‘s compatibility test to find yourself a partner stands against genetic principles and will therefore ultimately bring about some sort of genetic apocalpyse.

So we are assuming that A. The eHarmony compatibility test is the best thing in the world and works so well that it guarantees you a fairytale marriage for life (see where I’m coming from with the wacky PR angle?)

B. Everyone in the entire world is going to be using eHarmony sooner or later, thus unwittingly destroying the human race.

Oh yeah, I forgot to point out that this is actually from a joke news site. It took me a few minutes to realise this and things were a lot less funny during that time, I can assure you. So can we safely assume it’s some sort of ultra-clever PR stunt? Or is it some sort of weird attempt at sarcasm?

And did anyone remember the fact that eHarmony’s Christian founder may not, in fact, believe in genetic evolutionary theory as we know it? Could make for an interesting debate on the future of man kind…

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Another “online dating doesn’t work” article

Rhodri Marsden wrote one of those Internet dating articles in the Independent. You know, the ones that slag off the industry and tell people’s horror stories and failure to find love.

I just love reading those articles. I don’t even know why I bother mentioning them here anymore, apart from the fact that I need something to write about and it’s a dark and gloomy Monday morning, making it the perfect time for my own counter rant.

Let me sum up the article for you, so you don’t have to read through it all: “online dating isn’t all that the dating site TV advert promised us. Let’s whine about it”. Great stuff. It must have been a slow news day, is all I can say. How many more times are we going to get disillusioned with online dating?

Marsden starts the article by claiming you “…rarely hear from those who, having failed to find a partner online, back away from the computer shaking their heads at the way the process distorts social conventions and leaves you slightly shell-shocked” and immediately follows by saying “anecdotes of hair-raising internet dates have become dinner-party staples”. So which one is it then? Do you or do you not have enough information out there to make you be a bit critical about online dating?

The fact of the matter is, I think it’s incredibly naive to expect online dating sites to plaster percentages of failure across their adverts. You wouldn’t expect a gym to put up pictures of all the people who joined while obese and then gave up after two weeks and remained fat. Yet that is a fact of life with gyms. Not every overweight man emerges only six weeks later having lost 25 pounds, but some do. Those that do, provide inspiration for the rest of us.

I think it’s natural for companies to want to highlight only their successes in their paid-for advertising in the same way you wouldn’t fill a dating profile with your flaws. The fact of the matter is, people do meet and fall in love online. Many don’t, but many do. Yes, it’s not a magical pill to solve all your problems, but it’s a method that works for a lot of people. Discouraging people from trying it is unhelpful and washing your hands from personal responsibility when looking at advertising is, well, somewhat immature.

Online dating has been around for long enough now for everyone to know someone who’s tried it, with varying success. As Marsden aptly notes, there is no shortage of negative anecdotes from the online dating world.
If I were in the market for buying say, a camera, I’d do my own research and ask around, rather than blindly limit myself to reading just the blurb offered by each camera manufacturer. I know we’re dealing with matters of the heart here, where logic often goes out the window, but a bit of levelheadedness is not too much to expect from adults.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of most online dating personality tests and gimmicks that tell me someone who’s never met me is better at telling me who I should be with, but that’s just me. I have enough evidence to be able to confirm that these sites do work for many many people. If you’re looking to date online, educate yourself and make your own mind up. At the end of the day, the biggest service these sites provide for you is allowing you to come in contact with many more people than you otherwise would.

There, I’ve said it (again): this online dating malarkey is nothing more than yet another method to meet people. It has many advantages and many flaws. It might work for you, it might not. You might like it, you might think it’s a waste of time. Take it as it is and see if you can make it work for you.

And, dear reader, I’m sorry to say that If you’re still taking adverts for granted in this day and age, you have far worse problems than failing to find a date.

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Hilarious online dating video

This time the rant isn’t mine, it’s someone else’s, who’d gone to the trouble of making a Youtube video, with spoons.

If you want to know what dating on dating site OKCupid is like (at least for this one member), or, to be fair, what online dating is like in general for some people, check out the below video.

Be warned that there is a little bit of (funny) rudeness thrown in there, though. We are talking OKCupid, Youtube, spoons and Queen, after all. Did I forget to mention it’s set to the tune of Queen’s Bohemnian Raphsody?

I think this video perfectly sums up the frustrations many people feel when dating online – bad matches, no matches, not knowing what to write about yourself, etc. I’m sure this will hit a note with at least some of you and it’s always good to know you’re not alone.

Luckily, for most people, these problems are more than fixable, but that is a matter for a different post. For now, just enjoy this brilliant video:

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Online dating – who’s responsible for your safety?

I read an article recently in SF Chronicle about security screening in online dating, or rather the lack thereof. Apparently, all the way over in America, a convicted murderer was using match.com to find love. His profile was removed once he was discovered by a newspaper in his area.

Over there, some states are already demanding that dating sites vet their clients in some way. A trend that may spread, with some dating sites already voluntarily doing it to attract the more paranoid of daters.

Would you want to have to go through a background check to use a dating site? Would you want to have to provide a police background check, maybe a financial background check, maybe provide a certificate proving you’re single? Maybe later on one proving you’re healthy (so you won’t die on your partner in a few years) or that your parents didn’t die of anything that may be genetic. But why stop here? As we all know (we do know this, don’t we?) many personality tests on dating sites are not really all that. Why not make members take an in depth personality test proving they’re not likely to ever commit a crime in the future? As we all know, many serial killers have no previous known record, so how would you know? Maybe we should make everyone who wants to chat or date online pay for an appointment with a shrink to figure this one out.

As you can see, I’m not wild about this concept of compromising one’s privacy when all they want to do is date online. You wouldn’t do a background check on anyone who goes to your local bar, so why expect dating sites to be able to tell you everything about everyone on their site? And while we’re on it, why exclude ex cons from finding love? OK, in this case, they’ve chosen the complete extreme end of the scale as an example, but there are many lesser crimes people commit that would also appear on someone’s background check and may not be relevant at all to their online dating experience.

Crime happens. Dangerous people are out there. But do we really need to look up to dating sites to dig into our lives and tell people everything about us in order to be able to happily find love online? wouldn’t it be better to simply shatter that false sense of security by educating people and reminding them it’s a mean mean world out there?

Personally, I’d be happy with dating sites just doing what they’re doing now and fighting scammers and fraudsters (only, you know, doing a better job) and ensuring I remember to watch out for myself. How about you?

The full article is available here.

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Just in: snazzy divorce headline makes dull read

I was really disappointed with this article that asks whether marriages following online dating hook-ups are more likely to end in divorce. When the headline asks a question like that, I expect it to deliver some sort of hard-hitting research. The answer in this case, however, is “probably not, but we have no way of knowing”. Add that to some PR plant blurb about eHarmony and Mary.com and all you get is a giant yawn. Did we really need to know that “it’s too soon to tell” whether relationship that stem from online dating are better or worse than “standard” relationships? Does having no formal data warrant a whole article dedicated to discussing this non-topic? Poor. Very poor.

Personally, I don’t think there is much of a difference between the results of either of these dating methods. I would be grossly surprised if either turned out to be more effective than the other on a large scale. Traditionalists and luddites will slate digital interaction until they’re blue in the face and online dating academics will claim to have reinvented the wheel, but in reality it’s all much of a muchness. Once you meet your match, the medium or method you used to facilitate that meeting is not really that important.
Some people have better luck meeting others online, while others do better in bars. It’s as simple as that.

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Online dating safety: are we doing enough?

A new report published in the UK, has shown that most British Internet users do not trust online services, but use them anyway because they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Add that to the fact that many UK users are simply not safety aware and it’s no surprise that people keep getting scammed. Are dating sites doing enough to ensure their users’ online dating safety?

Many dating sites employ moderators to weed out the scammers, but that is not always enough to stop all of them from getting through. Nasty, unethical sites lull their users into a false sense of security, but really what we need is some serious online dating safety education.

How much information is available on your site to educate people about potential dangers? Is it available somewhere obvious, or is it hidden somewhere at the back of the site? The potential existence of scammers on the site is not something any site owner would like to talk about, but really, it’s something that has to be done as part of our responsibility to our customers. Like everything else that is not a positive feature, it should be handled delicately, but it should definitely be handled, rather than swept under the carpet.

Having worked in the industry for long enough, I sometimes forget that people out there may simply not be aware of the dangers and pitfalls that come with online dating. Online dating safety is really very simple and an early warning could be all it takes to stop someone from getting hurt.
I used to work as a customer advisor so I know very well that sometimes customers don’t want to believe that their beloved “Ludmila” is actully a fat, hairy guy. Maybe if they’d known in advance to watch out for such scams, they never would have fallen for “Ludmila” in the first place.

I like the way Match and Dating Direct handle the issue of scammers in their safety section (“a handful of scammers”, nice) and I am shocked so many dating sites don’t even have a visible “online dating safety” section on the site. In particular, I think users should be openly encouraged to contact the customer service or moderating team if they suspect anything is too good to be true or not as it should be.

God, I hate scammers.

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Online communication and false intimacy

I came across an interesting article today about the way mobile text conversations and online interaction supposedly affect teenagers’ views on relationships. By “interesting” I don’t actually mean intelligent and well thought-out, unfortunately.

Here’s an example:

Professor Doreen Rosenthal said mobiles and the internet had created an accelerating intimacy between adolescents, with many making relationship decisions more swiftly than previous generations. Electronic communication tended to shrink the time span in which friendships developed, leaving teenagers more exposed to risky decision-making.

The article seems to suggest that, as a result, teenagers get a “false sense of intimacy” and tend to sleep with each other faster than they otherwise would:

“For many teenagers, this acceleration of intimacy is occurring without the usual checks and balances of face-to-face contact. It’s a pseudo-intimacy. You don’t create genuine intimacy through these mediums.

As an online dating professional (and a former chatroom addict) I find the suggestion that you cannot create intimacy through online communication a bit last century, to say the least. Isn’t it time we stepped out of the dark ages? Yes, an online conversation doesn’t paint a complete picture (and I have already spoken about that here) but many people communicate better in writing and a written conversation between two people is no less a conversation than a spoken one. In online dating, you can learn a lot about a person while speaking to them online and, often, you can learn much of the rest on your first date (i.e. whether you’d like to sleep with the person)

If you follow professor Rosenthal’s line of thinking, you may be fooled into reaching the conclusion that spending time speaking to people online before meeting up face to face is a total waste of time. Bullshit. If the kids see each other at school every day or speak on the phone, then a few text/messenger conversations are not really going to make that much of a difference. They already know they want to sleep with each other, everything else is just an excuse.
What we have here is a basic misunderstanding of the way online communications work and a bit of the good old stigma we in the industry love to hate. It’s a shame such backwards views have made it into a book, really.

Blaming teenagers’ fast relationship cycle on texting and online communication is pretty dumb. Teenagers are at an age where they are beginning to explore their sexuality. Professor Rosenthal herself notes the fact that many teenagers nowadays have free access to porn, which influences the way they view sex. In my opinion, that is probably the reason while teenage boys (and some girls) are attracted to the concept of having multiple sexual partners and enjoying casual sex. If the kids learn about sexuality and relationships by watching porn, they’re going to have a pretty skewed idea about sex and relationships. Whether they talk about it in an email, on the phone or face to face, won’t really make a difference.
I’m not saying that teenagers should save themselves until they are married or only have one partner for the duration of their teenager years, but I’m pretty sure monogamy among teenagers used to seem a lot less uncool back when I was that age.
I was speaking to a teenage girl recently who told me the boy she fancied (16 years old) had told her he “wasn’t ready to commit yet”, I’m pretty sure boys didn’t use terms like that back when I was 16, but I’m also pretty damn certain it wasn’t text messaging that taught them the concept of casual sex.

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More about compatibility testing

Following on from my earlier post, I just came across an interesting discussion on reddit talking about personality testing, horoscopes, etc.. I think it illustrates my points quite well. Here is what someone got as his profile, without actually answering any questions:

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.

You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.

At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

Is there anyone out there who could not see themselves in that?

This is obviously quite an extreme example of a bad personality test, but it does show how easy it is to fool people into believing you actually know something about them.

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Sex Sex Sex

So the market is levelling out in the US, what are you gonna do about it? Apparently, you go back to the very roots of marketing and talk about sex sex and more sex. So first we had the whole female orgasm brainscan email thing from chemistry.com, then lavalife decided to go even further and talk about male orgasms in a poll that just reeks of PR stuntness (Not that I’m saying they faked the results or anything. I mean, that’s as unlikely as men faking orgasms, right? Oh wait…). Today, my Google news alert delivered me this. What next??? Dare I even ask?

Luckily, the UK market is still going strong, but I do have an idea for a new spokesperson in case business goes slow and we need to uhh… pump it up a bit…

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The problem with compatibility testing

Money TrapThere’s been a lot of talk on the industry sites recently about personality testing and matching on various dating sites and whether or not they work. For people who run dating sites, personality tests provide that little bit extra they can offer their customers to get them to choose you over others. In the US, where the online dating market is now leveling out, there is obviously a need to provide extra services and to create the impression that there is a real need and a real demand for such services. America is a country where marriage is now seen almost as a business transaction. There’s even books out there that tell women to leave a man unless he’s proposed within a set duration of time. It’s all about “sealing the deal”. It’s also a society in which people are taught to expect a lot more for their money and, as a result, take a lot less responsibility for their own welfare. The proliferation of fast, processed food is one example of this, as well as the fact that people have actually won lawsuits for having their coffee served too hot. It doesn’t take marketing rocket science to see how simple it would be in an environment like that to create a market for a service that offers to do some of the “hard work” for you and save you time, so you can get back to your “busy life” (cause none of us want to admit our “busy lives” are so empty, we spend most of our free time trying to pick up people online). Unfortunately, the flipside of creating a need for such a service is that you are training people away from thinking (and, more importantly, feeling) for themselves and making their own decisions about who and what is right for them. This is bad in the same way that bombarding people with cheap fast food is bad. It makes people lazy and stops them from developing the skills they need to function as independent individuals. I was reading the comments on onlinepersonalswatch and, even though all experts admit you can’t predict chemistry between people, I was struck by the way each dating site representative tried to tout their particular test as the best way for judging whether someone is likely to be a suitable long-term partner. A quote from Cousin & Wilson on compatibility testing summed up the arrogance for me: “It will not tell you whether or not you are going to fall in love with another person in a compulsive, ‘chemical’ way, just whether or not it is a good idea if you do”. On the surface, this sounds like a very nice statement, but what it ultimately implies is that there are factors in compatibility and attraction that we cannot sense ourselves and we need someone else’s help, someone far more clever than us, to research the subject and make those decisions for us. I personally find this incredibly insulting. Call me old-fashioned or a hopeless romantic, but I wouldn’t want a bunch of stuffy academics locked away in a lab somewhere making decisions about my love life without ever having met me or spoken to me. Academia is a massive bubble. It exists as a separate entity from the reality of day to day existence, as anyone who’s been to university will tell you. Professional academics are generally people who are into research for the sake of it and their constant search for patterns often moves them further and further away from the real word and into the world of pure theory. The above is a gross generalisation. Do you dislike gross generalisations? So do I. That’s why I don’t like compatibility tests. Every working psychotherapist that’s worth his or her money will tell you that there are no quick fixes. There may be patterns or trends, but each person should be taken as an individual influenced by a very particular set of nature Vs nurture factors. A good therapist relies on intuition and common sense on top of their years of education, theory and case studies. If you view people as anything else apart from individuals, you do them a massive injustice. Unfortunately, viewing and working with people as individuals is a model best suited for therapists and not so much for dating sites. Going back to the matter of theory, there are about as many theories about what makes a good, long-lasting relationship as there are people studying the subject. They change every year like any other fashion. The mind is still the most misunderstood organ in the human body. But that is all besides the point. As an end user, I don’t care about academic arguments. Transparency is a nice idea, but most end users on dating sites wouldn’t care about or understand the very complicated algorithms used in any reasonably crafted compatibility test. My eyes glaze over when I look at that stuff and I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. If I sign up to an expensive dating site offering compatibility testing (and, let’s face it, most such sites charge extra for the service) I want to know that the list of matches the site produces is going to be significantly better than the list produced by the cheaper site that allows me to search directly. In my experience of trying out various dating sites, this has never been the case. I instantly recognised the people I was offered as incompatible with me, not just because of looks, but by blatantly obvious personality-related factors that are important to me, but obviously were not deemed important by the tests. My professional experience of working on one of the UK’s first compatibility test-based site (dreamsdiscovered.com) has taught me that I am not alone in this. The site didn’t do well until we allowed users to complement the test-based matching with being able to search for matches themselves. The fact is, regardless of the theory that drives academic compatibility tests, tests on dating sites are even more limited because of the reality they exist in and this shows.

Here are a few more problems I have with compatibility tests:

  1. Not all tests are reputable. How do you know whether the test touted on a particular site is based on sound psychological principles? Some sites use heavy MarketingSpeak to blind people with science, while actually saying very little. It’s very easy to give generic commentary about someone’s character to gain that person’s trust. Try this test to see what I mean.
  2. Compatibility tests, even the most reputable ones, are built to measure particular factors. The particular factors measured will depend on whatever theory drives the test. This, to me, is no different than measuring people’s astrological compatibility — it’s just a bunch of factors. It’s up to you whether or not you believe in them.
  3. Scientific research is no guarantee of ultimate accuracy. All the dated theories in psychology were based on research as well. When you get into generalisation by personality “type”, genetics, astrological sign, etc. you are putting very limiting labels on people. In my opinion, that’s only a few steps away from skull-measuring. Just because a 1000 people in some study or other reacted in a certain way to something, doesn’t necessarily mean I’d react the same way.
  4. People lie on personality tests. Sometimes on purpose, usually because we all have a view of the person we’d like to be and tend to answer questions as if we were that person already.
  5. To stay competitive, sites have to keep delivering matches. What happens if there’s nobody who matches someone’s personality according to the test? It’s better for the test to err on the side of generousity, to keep delivering those matches.
  6. It would also be pretty bad for dating sites to present their users as anything apart from dateable. Personality testing is therefore likely to center on the good qualities that make a person and understate those qualitied that may be less good. This could end up with the test “marrying up” the two ideals, rather than the two people.
  7. Even if you use compatibility testing as a “predicting tool” (as mentioned by one of the responders on onlinepersonalswatch) there is still plenty of margin for error. Comparing it to doctors predicting the chance of future diseases doesn’t make it any more appealing to me. Go watch Gattaca.

In closing, I think compatibility testing is one of those things that dating sites use to one-up one another, but generally they fail to deliver the goods. It’s worth paying the extra money for the fact that most people on such sites are likely to be after a serious relationship/marriage rather than a passing fling, but beyond that there is no guarantee they will work. Sites that try to cover up for delivering poor results by touting their version of magic fairy dust to make you doubt your own ability to choose a long-term mate are really not worth anyone’s time. Why would we be given the ability to intuitively select a short-term mate but not a long-term mate? Surely what we, as humans, need to learn to do is to develop our instincts and intuition further so that we can make our own choices. Not to rely on pure logic (especially someone else’s) to do the job meant for our hearts.

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