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Why Online Dating Doesn’t Work

July 1st, 2011 Posted in Tips For Love

If it hasn’t happened already, the Bitter Single Guy wants to be the first to welcome you to the Internet Age. In these heady days of instant gratification, it seems that everything anyone could possibly want is available with a few clicks. Heck, it’s not even necessary to use a computer, the BSG is finding that more and more of his random immediate needs can be met with his handy smartphone! Need to find a plumber? Just a few clicks. Have a craving for cantaloupe? Heck, have it delivered this afternoon. Feeling lonely? Yup…that’s available too.

The BSG is (and, he suspects, many of you are) aware of a myriad of online locations where he can find a bowling league, a coffee date, or sex. Yup…plain old every day sex is increasingly available with just a few clicks of your smartphone and the BSG has it under reliable authority that it’s not just creepy pedophiles who are cruising the InterWebs for some nookie.

Now this is where you’ll be wondering if the BSG has any judgement of those who partake of these online opportunities, so let him say enthusiastically no! The BSG is a fan of consenting adults having their buttons pushed in ways that also push other people’s buttons! So if you have a fetish for people who wear lace tutus into coffee shops, the BSG is pretty sure that there is someone out there with a fetish for wearing lace tutus to coffee shops. Now, with the magic of the Internet, you and your perfect match are MUCH more likely to meet than if you simply sat in coffee shops with a doleful look on your face, waiting for a random tutu wearing stranger to brighten up your life.

Yes, there are still the pedophiles and creep-o-zoids seeking to victimize the unaware but the BSG thinks we’re all getting better at knowing how to avoid them. Mostly, the BSG thinks all this technology being used to connect us is a good thing.

However, many of you will venture into online dating (for the sake of brevity, the BSG will include online hookups in the term “dating” because it’s easier than modifying every sentence) believing that the dazzling array of pictures posted to these websites will make your search nearly instantaneous…just like the aforementioned cantaloupe.

Then however, you’ll click a few pics, have a few chats, and find out that it’s not nearly that easy. The BSG believes that there are many reasons why this is so, but here’s one of the big ones.  The dreaded profile picture.

For the shortest version of this cautionary tale the BSG wants you to think about the mechanics of attraction. When you look at a picture of a person to whom you’re attracted what happens? For the sake of this exercise, we’ll imagine a simple face picture, and in that picture you might see a smile (or not), might see that the person is outside or inside, in sunlight or not, wearing a hat or not, and tons of other indicators of what’s going on. You see, your brain’s job is to categorize the input you provide and build context around the input. When the input is limited to a brief face picture, your brain (and the BSG’s) fills in the details without us even being aware it’s happening.

So, the picture ends up having a voice (deep, lilting, melodious, gravely) and maybe a laugh (titter, guffaw, hoot, chuckle) and eventually even personality traits (shy, gregarious, coy, brazen). All of these traits are ones that your brain desperately WANTS to be true about the picture you’ve provided to it, so it builds the traits around the picture even though they ARE LIKELY NOT TRUE AT ALL! Yes, dear readers, your brain will assign random traits to pictures based on what you provide.

Your eyes: “Hey! Here’s a smiling brown-haired girl with a tan and green eyes!

Your brain: “Well heck, smiles means she’s got a good sense of humor, brown-haired girls usually have sexy voices, a tan means she probably owns a boat and green eyes always go along with girls who appreciate Thai food! The eyes haven’t shown me any other part of her body, but Thai-food-loving, boat-owning, sexy laughing girls are usually also athletic, so she undoubtedly is a runner! We love girls who run! This girl is PERFECT for us!”

You see here how your brain has simply run away (pun intended) with this limited information and created a completely ridiculous person around a simple face pic? Yes, this is how it typically goes and your only hope is to recognize your brain’s tendency to fill in gaps with made up stuff so you can remember that online dating is great for volume, but in order to fill in those gaps with real information you’re going to have to meet in person and give your brain some actual information to work with. Good luck out there.


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