When I lived in my tiny west Texas town I chose not to try the Internet dating thing. I had no problem with it I just felt like my town was too small and I was too well-known to maintain any sort of anonymity. It's one thing to meet someone for lunch somewhere like Houston and, if things don't work out, easily fade away. That doesn't work too well in a small town. After living in my tiny town for 31 years I was pretty sure that anyone wanting to track me down could probably do so fairly easily just by showing my picture around. I didn't want to have to worry about that. I have to admit I occasionally browsed but anyone listed in my local area was always someone I already knew and in whom I had no romantic interest. I was quite sure the same would be true in reverse, had I chosen to put myself out there online.
Once I moved to my current tiny town in Virginia where no one knows me, I thought I might give it a whirl so I signed up.
In case you are unfamiliar with the way Match.com works, you post a picture of yourself and a little information, answer some questions and you're off. People search for matches by specifying their criteria and hitting the search button. The results are supposed to represent the mate for whom you are seeking. Unfortunately, there are some problems with the way the whole thing is structured so the results are a little skewed. As an example, if you check the box indicating you don't want kids but you don't mind if your partner has some and he checks the box that he doesn't want kids at all, you won't match on that criteria, even though neither of you want kids. There are lots of little inconsistencies like that.
Their search engine is a little awkward as well. As an example, one of the criteria you can select is marital status. Your choices are divorced, widowed, never married and currently separated. You can choose all or you can choose one. You cannot exclude a single criteria within a choice. Personally I find "currently separated" unacceptable but am unable to exclude that one option from my results while still including all the others. That's some fine-tuning that Match.com could easily take care of and I'm surprised they haven't.
The real problem of course is that the twenty criteria by which people are matched are mostly fairly shallow and therefore probably not all that useful as far as predicting a good match and perhaps they're not meant to be. I'm not critical exactly, I understand that Match.com is a jumping-off point. You make your contact, meet and then decide for yourself if you are a good match. I'm sure it's as good a way as any to make that difficult initial contact. I have a good friend who is happily involved with someone she met on Match.com so I know it can work.
If you find someone in whom you are interested you can email them or send them a "wink". A wink is a coy way of dipping your toe in without really committing yourself. It reminds me of grade school when you would get a friend to ask the object of your affection if he or she liked you before you made any advances on your own. Additionally, every day you are served up your "Daily 5". These are five possible matches that the Match.com computer has put together for you. As you go through your 5 you express your possible interest by clicking either a "yes", "no" or "maybe" button. You can't look at the next selection until you have marked the current one. If you appear in someone else's 5 and they mark you a "yes", an email is sent to you letting you know. Again, this strikes me as a rather coy, uncommitted way to court someone's attention. I get lots of these and I ignore them based on a lack of effort.
As the recipient of these winks and nudges, you have the opportunity to wink back, returning the ball to the initiator's court; email them or ignore their communique altogether. It's like a little game. They wink, you wink back; they email, you email back; the presumed next step being a meeting. I've done the wink back and forth thing a few times. I've exchanged short emails a couple of times and then wandered off. I came close to a lunch date but was completely unwilling to have a pre-meet phone conversation, which the man insisted on so that didn't happen. I am admittedly very ambivalent about the whole thing and as a result, although I've had a lot of contacts, I haven't followed through with anyone. I've been more of an observer than anything else and, as a sociological study, it's fascinating.
Match.com allows you to publish any number of pictures and most of the men I've looked at have chosen to post pictures not only of themselves but, like a male bird showing off his nest, they post pictures of their houses, cars, boats, airplanes, motorcycles; presumably whatever they've got with which to impress. I wonder if that works? If it did, I wonder if they'd come to resent the fact that their "match" had been attracted by the material possessions which they had chosen to show? After all, wouldn't you want someone to want you for who you are as opposed to what you own? I suppose the same could be said about women who show overtly sexual pictures of themselves and then are unhappy when that's what attracted their match.
The whole issue of the photograph is troubling in another way. If you were to strike up a conversation with an interesting person in a bookstore or at a cafe, you wouldn't be so terribly concerned with how they look. But when you are shopping on a dating site, the pictures get more weight than anything the person might have to say about themselves. Let's face it, lots of people take a terrible picture. Alternatively, what if you didn't post a picture and then someone chose you based on your stellar prose and then couldn't hide their disappointment when you didn't live up to their preconceived notion of what you looked like? That would be pretty horrible. What if you chose someone based on their attractive photograph, totally overlooking the information in their profile, which clearly showed they were no match for you? I'm not sure what the answer to that problem is.
There are both multiple choice and essay-type questions to be answered when you fill out your profile. I'm continually amused by the number of men who list "cuddling and walking in the rain" in their list of things they want to do with a partner. Those seem more like things that men think women want to hear than anything else. Does anyone actually like to walk in the rain? It works pretty well in movies and television commercials but really, who wants to walk around in wet clothes? Alternatively, men who list "Hooters" as one of their favorite places are probably swinging a little too far in the opposite direction!
Since I've never actually met anyone through an Internet dating site I can't personally address the issue of misrepresentation, although I understand it happens a lot. I did see a picture of a man once who looked a lot closer to 65 than the 45 he was claiming. I don't really understand the point of misrepresenting yourself. Surely as soon as you meet someone it will become obvious that you lied about yourself. That doesn't seem like a very promising way to start a new relationship.
Clearly I don't have the right attitude to make Internet dating work for me. I'm still hoping to meet someone the old-fashioned way, unexpectedly striking up a conversation while doing something I enjoy. Does that still happen? I'd be interested to hear about any experiences anyone else has had with Internet dating. Have you tried it? Did it work for you?