Lauren Agresti | Eight dates a week
Piece of Mind | How I navigated the internet dating jungle and why I eventually decided not to set up camp
February 11, 2013, 10:59 pm·
Piece of Mind
This week’s story starts at a dinner downtown for a birthday celebration. We were a comfortable crew — a pleasant mix of old friends and some girls I had never met before. If you ever go to Cuba Libre for a birthday, be sure to ask for one of the desserts with the sparklers stuck in them — they are thoroughly Instagrammable.
Firecracker cake aside, the conversation was bubbling with laughter. Roughly 2.7 mojitos into the evening, one member of our little party whipped out her phone with a wry smile and passed it around the table. She was messaging a boy on a dating app, and we were all reviewing their exchange.
It was weird. Funny — but weird. Sure, I had seen several of my homosexual friends casually playing with Grindr before. And I knew from recent articles in The Atlantic by Dan Slater and Alexis Madrigal that people genuinely believe online and app-based matching tools are changing the mainstream dating landscape.
Unquestionably, many would argue that this sort of thing is the new normal. Still, the idea of meeting people through some sort of Internet-dependent, game-like mechanism made my whole body recoil.
So obviously, I signed myself up.
Within mere hours, I had a profile on four websites and three applications on my phone, including the ever-popular OkCupid.com and the newly explosive app, Tinder. In the name of investigative journalism and in the spirit of “because why not?” I jumped in headfirst. Go big or go home, right?
Online dating, for the uninitiated, typically involves making yourself a fairly simple personal page on which you post photos and answer short questions in an attempt to make yourself appear more interesting and appealing than you probably are. Ultimately, members mainly peruse each others’ pages and decide whether or not they’d like to initiate communication.
My first night online, I was in total awe of the concept. It’s kind of like going to a bar where everyone tapes their resume to their forehead. Except you get to wear your pajamas and not actually go to a bar.
The following morning, I had 56 new emails alerting me that people of the internet and iPhoneverse found my profile(s) nonrepulsive.
I flipped through messages running the gamut from “hey there” to “sup sexy” to “[500 poorly-combined words about who even knows].” Several of them, however, were well-composed, short and personal introductions from educated, attractive people suggesting we meet up in perfectly safe-sounding public places.
The only logical solution, it appeared, was to go on all of the dates.
In the interest of brevity, privacy and personal integrity, suffice it to say I did not eat or drink at home for a solid week. Of course, I was secretly hoping for a horror story or at least for something outrageous to report. Fortunately (or unfortunately), my extensive Googling of all prospects weeded out most of the potential crazies. Instead, I can honestly say I met some utterly normal people and had a perfectly fine time.
That said, I’m retiring. It’s not because dating at 21st century speed sucks up all my homework hours (it does), because all this date food is affecting the way my pants fit (it is) or because I’m embarrassed to admit what I’ve been doing (life is the no-shame game and she who plays, wins).
I’m giving up on the pajama non-bar because for me, it’s missing the social aspect of attraction. Meeting outside of the context of mutual friends, peers or at least a shared social experience feels artificial.
Of course, everyone develops attraction differently. And no matter the circumstances, some rare pairs will just “click.” But seeing someone in his element — observing his body language, the way he speaks and the manner in which he interacts with other girls — offers a wealth of information.
The online dating industry is not wholly unaware of this deficiency — some sites and apps are beginning to offer happy hours and “mixers” for subscribers.
I haven’t tried these particular approaches yet, and I’m not sure I will. My thesis and my real-life friends are pretty desperate for attention. And I’m not sure I’ve entirely stopped cringing. So for now, I’ll be seeing you … offline.
Lauren Agresti is a College senior from Fulton, Md. Her email address is email@example.com. Follow her @lagresti. “Piece of Mind” appears every other Tuesday.