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The Ultimate Online Dating Showdown: Fantasy vs. Reality

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 10.13.08 PM

If you asked me whether you, yes, you, should online date, I would without hesitation say Heck. Yes. Heck yes. I am definitely pro-online dating (and currently professionally online dating, which is another kind of pro-dating). However, dating online comes with a twist: your first impression of a person is indeed a fantasy.

Look, you see someone’s profile and his words, smile, or the fact that he too loves Head and the Heart jumps out at you, so you message him – hopefully something mildly witty and relatively short. He responds in kind. And then, things can go one of two ways:

I. Online Dating — The Outline that Should Have Been a Flow Chart*

A. First messages sent. Then either…

1. You message back and forth. A lot. Often. Until the correspondence is what you look forward to about your day. You might even move on to emailing (and thus Googling that person), texting or the increasingly romantic yet decreasingly existent phone call. This goes on for a few weeks. Eventually you meet in person — and this can go one of two ways:

a) Great!

b) Um…he doesn’t look like he did in his photo (because photos don’t move and people do, because light and shadow affect the photo, because his pheromones alter your perception of them) and in person he tells crass jokes which never came across on the phone and oops, he also doesn’t smoke (but you do) which you never noticed.

OR…

2. You send one more pair of messages agreeing to meet and where, and you see how things go. They either go:

a) Great!

b) Um…he doesn’t look like he did in his photo (because photos don’t move and people do, because light and shadow affect the photo, because his pheromones alter your perception of them) and in person he tells crass jokes which never came across on the phone and oops, he also doesn’t smoke (but you do) which you never noticed.

Whoa, check out that same outcome! Only with the first option, you invested time, got hopeful and probably even got a little emotionally involved in what was destined to be a fantasy. And if you wound up with the “Um…” feeling after you met, you’re likely to feel let down to a degree you wouldn’t have if you’d gone with option two and gotten the “Um…” feeling, where you’d probably just shrug and move on (no emotion necessary).

Before this trip, I was definitely an option one-er. Partly because I’m a writer, and partly because I’m usually really busy and just don’t have time to meet right away (plus, I’m secretly gauging the likelihood that a date is a creepo).

But during this trip, I’ve realized that most of my best dates have come from people I had little contact with before meeting. Truth be told, I’m low on time — so once I find someone who is willing to go out with me, I set up the date and move on to the next task at hand (like figuring out what city I’m in at the moment and how far it is to the next cup of coffee, or wondering if while Megan is napping I can listen to music she hates that I love. Important stuff!). It’s interesting that not having a wildly fantastical view of my dates has made it easier to absorb them as they are, instead of comparing them against what I imagined they’d be.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from corresponding with someone I’ve never met back in Oakland — old habits die hard. While I’m actively doing the meet-n-greet that comes with fifty first dates, I am also slowly chatting away with someone back home in a lackadaisical fashion. I’m simultaneously seeing the reality of some people and the fantasy of another all in the context of one another.

But all this leads me straight into what I realize is the biggest concern we all have in online dating: What if the fantasy of me is better than the reality?

*Dear Self: Figure out how to make a flowchart on WordPress. Or, just draw the chart and take a photo of it. That works too. Love, Self.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Great analysis. I think online dating can be a different experience for everyone, but the creepy men, rejection, etc. are topics that many don’t speak about.

    – K.

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