Recently, a colleague has been discussing his previous experiences with online dating. He has been telling stories of the crazy women with whom he interacted and, for some reason, those stories intrigued me.
As he talked, it dawned on me that I never had the online dating experience. It’s not because I am a girl magnet (Not even close). It is because I was in the serious relationship that ultimately resulted in marriage before dating websites became popular instead of taboo.
Naturally, I concocted a plan. I decided that I was going to create a dating profile on the site he used, Plenty of Fish*. The twist was that the profile would be for my dog, Sheldon.
I created a profile under the name “sheldondawg” only to discover my profile picture needed to include a clear view of my face. So, I borrowed a picture from a friend and added Sheldon’s picture as the secondary image. My list of interests were those typical to a dog. The about section was no different:
I am a big runner. I have plenty of energy but also like taking long naps and am big on cuddling. I have a hard time with strangers but, once I get to know someone, I am incredibly loyal and can be your best friend.
In my mind, I was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes and it would be hilarious.
After I completed my profile, I sat back and waited for my inbox to fill up. It did not. I started hitting refresh to see who viewed me profile. One person viewed it. One person, that’s it. That could not be right. Maybe my browser was cached. Firefox produced the same results as Chrome. Come on!
When I refreshed the page, a list of pretty women appeared at the top, followed by a banner ad with scantily clad women. None of these women had interest in me. The list of women who the site found to be suitable matches were more along the lines of Melissa McCarthy’s stunt doubles. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it is natural to want to be found attractive by the most attractive people. Right?
I even clicked randomly on the profiles of other people in hopes of someone reciprocating but still got nothing.
This was insane. The profile was filled out as if it was my dog answering the questions and the picture was not even of me. Yet I was still disappointed. Why didn’t anyone view me or want to meet me?
I wanted to do more to get women to click on my profile and say that they wanted to meet me. I wanted an inbox full of requests from supermodels. I started to question how I could achieve that.
I did not know what I wanted to write about when I started this little experiment. I assumed that I would learn a little bit about dating sites, chat with some people and have some crazy stories to tell. Best case scenario, I hoped that I could find a girlfriend for the buddy whose picture I borrowed (without permission).
I never got that far, though. At exactly the 24-hour mark after creating my profile, I deleted it. The reason I selected for deleting my account was, “I give up.”
It is sad that the option even exists but there is a reason that it does.
I learned very quickly that, even on a primitive site like Plenty of Fish that looks like it has not been updated since 1998, users are subtly lured in by images of attractive people who best met their sexual preferences at the top of the page and in the banner ads. Then, as a user discovers his or her list of potential matches, none of them quite lived up to those preset expectations represented by the images on the homepage. After traveling far enough down the spiral of desperation and disappointment, it is likely that a user will be more willing to cough up money for their premium level of service in hopes of finding that out-of-your-league match.
Even after I deleted Sheldon’s profile, POF suggested that I sign up at eVow. With no intention of signing up, I clicked the link to see what it was. As it turns out, it is a new, paid service run by the creators of Plenty of Fish. It has subsections within the site that allow you to search within your preferences (unless you are black or gay, for some reason).
Although plenty of people have found suitable mates on dating sites, this is still a business and it quickly became apparent that the focus was on making money, not scientifically pairing people. That should have been obvious from the get go but, as someone who rushed into this hoping for quick and fruitful results, that was overlooked. Chances are, many people who signed up for these sites were too excited about its potential to realize this too.
The whole experience felt dirty, as if these sites preyed on the weak and gullible. What felt even worse was the realization that my subconscious intention was likely to do the same thing.
*Disclaimer: As a good husband, I informed my wife of this plan and even gave her the login information to our dog’s account. Below is a screenshot of our conversation. She probably was not incredibly fond of the idea that I did this but she is awesome enough be OK with me doing it.