It has always been fashionable to say that online interaction is inferior for any number of reasons and to urge those of us who prefer the Internet for whatever reason to “just go outside”. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of dating. Think-pieces upon think-pieces extol the virtues of meeting people in a more “real” setting than the virtual ones available in this year of their Lord 2016 (notice the distinct lack of studies upon studies).
Online dating gets blamed for hookup culture, disposability culture, sexism, standards dubbed “unrealistic”, the death of romance, and, bizarrely, the end of dating (all of which predate the Internet, which merely expose them out in the open). Declarations of being done with dating sites have become common. This all leaves my over-a-decade OkCupid veteran self at a loss. While I see nothing wrong with saying no to a tool that doesn’t work for you, to me, saying that you refuse to put up an online dating site often if not quite always means that there is something going on that doesn’t apply to those of us who find dating sites to be useful tools.
You’re comfortable asking out people who you’ll be seeing again or cold-approaching Strangers.
The idea of non-platonically approaching a fellow member of my social circle or community fills me with terror. What if they say no and I and/or they have feelz about it? I wouldn’t want to make things awkward, and there is absolutely no way to know whether or not that will happen. Post-college friends and communities are hard to come by, especially for someone like me. Granted, I have gotten involved with people I knew, but not without my having a lot of reservations about it beforehand.
Cold-approaching can be just as terrifying. A lot of us do not have the nerve to tell a stranger out in the wild that we find them attractive. For some of us, that’s more due to a lack of mainstream attributes than a lack of will. That I am a polyamorous, married, genderqueer, pansexual atheist means that I am a walking list of deal-breakers for most people. There is no easy way for me to convey that to someone I’ve randomly met offline. Disclose what might put someone off dating me too early and I might come off prickly or edgier-than-thou, but disclose too late and I’m a time-wasting liar.
For fuck’s sake, I’ve asked a girl at an LGB club night to dance with me only to be met with a disdainful sniff and an annoyed “I’m straight, so came here to dance with my cute gay boys and to not get hit on.”
You know how to flirt in a way that is alluring to the kind of person that would be attracted to you and Understand How to pick up on their flirtation.
While I know plenty of people for whom a blunt “I am attracted to you, and if you find me attractive, would like to see what you’re interested in doing with me” would work, most people would find it off-putting. There’s almost no way to know beforehand whether someone would find such an advance charming or terrifying. Unless someone is signaling hard that they are into me, I won’t generally flirt because “subtle” flirting is difficult for me to pick up on. Plus, there are people for whom flirting is a pleasant hobby, not necessarily an indicator of interest of any kind.
You’re considered attractive enough in the sphere you inhabit.
In college, I found myself to be one of a handful of women in mostly male-dominated circles. People warned me about all the “desperate, annoying guys” who were supposed to be hitting on me left and right, yet I found myself with no interest from any of them despite being open to (let’s not quite say eager for) it. I’ve watched friends, coworkers, classmates, and so on develop crushes on each other, fall in love, date, marry, break up, divorce, you name it, while I was left out of all the drama and fun.
I do not pretend to know exactly why that was, though I have some suspicions, and honestly I’m glad that I didn’t bother overmuch with it. I am proud that I didn’t change who and what I was so that I would be considered attractive enough in my spheres to have been approached and/or been accepted when I approached. That I went online and had a love life rather than remained mired in the mess of self-esteem, weight, gender, relationship style, and other issues that rendered me so unpalatable to the people I met was a good thing. Through dating sites, I gained experience and the resulting confidence, even encountering some people who went on become lifelong friends.
According to anti-dating-site reasoning, I should have stayed desperate, possibly setting myself up to losing my friends to ever-growing resentment. No thanks.
Your tastes and person are somewhat mainstream, or you’ve found your people.
If you’re straight, your dating pool is automatically much larger than if you are not. The same goes for those who are monogamous, not kinky, religious believers, SQWs, not fat, and so on. Being able to assume that the person you are hitting has even the remotest chance of being interested in you is something that doesn’t apply to a lot of people.
There definitely are people who are not mainstream who are against dating sites, but those people have generally found their communities. Having access to spaces and events like that isn’t the reality for plenty of us.
Your self-esteem is strong enough to take the hit, or people say “yes” to you Enough.
Getting turned down a lot in person can shred even a confident person. Getting turned down almost every or literally every time you’ve tried? Without some assurance of openness and mutual interest, something much more easily ascertained online, that can mean never wanting to try again, and with good reason.
You don’t have much of a wish to meet New People and date.
This is the simplest and most straightforward reason to not use a dating site. Not actively seeking out people to date is a perfectly valid choice. If this is you, though, vilifying dating sites is disingenuous. They exist to serve a need that isn’t yours.
The ratio of terrible to good is not doable for you.
The amount of verbal abuse I get on dating sites is not unsubstantial, but doesn’t stand out to me as especially horrendous because I get the same insults and harassment offline from people who are far more able to hurt me. Keeping a profile up is worth it to me because I can block the awful and potentially awful online the way I can’t offline and occasionally, through all the filtering, meet awesome people. This isn’t true for everyone.
You have the ability to get yourself out there.
If you lack transportation and/or funds, it can be hard to go to events and spaces where you might meet someone who might be interested in you and/or vice versa. This goes double if you live in an area that isn’t very urban, if you are a parent, and if you have a disability, among many other factors.
You aren’t Desi.
Interestingly enough, I recently found out that meeting online is more acceptable among certain Indian and Pakistani circles. Since arranged-marriage-style biodata is just like a dating profile, it’s easy to see why that might be so. Conversely, since any kind of romantic arranging or matchmaking is considered old-fashioned, desperate, and embarrassing in the West, people feel the need to put it down. Perhaps the lingering influence of my background has something to do with my shamelessness about my dating history and love life.
Online dating is one of those matters where people in the majority, i.e. people who think less of meeting on the Internet than meeting offline, are oddly defensive about their choices. Those of us who cannot easily find dates offline often envy of those who can, so it feels rather bizarre when they come out swinging against us because they have certain advantages. In a world where nearly no one is being forced to put up a profile or download an app with a swiping feature, and where most people lie about their use of and look down on dating sites, shunning them is popular and mainstream, not an edgy minority view in need of defending.
Main image by s for safari