I signed up for an online dating site, not to look for a lifetime partner or even a serious relationship, but to see if I could meet people and maybe make friends. Although I am doing well 45 months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I am still plagued by loneliness, and I thought it would be fun to have someone to go out with. There are so many things I haven’t done. During the early years with my deceased mate, we concentrated on building a business, and during the later years, we had to contend with ill his health and the ensuing financial restraints.
My wants are minor — maybe go bowling or dancing, play miniature golf, go on a picnic or for a drive to the beach (after we get to know each other! I’m not about to get in a car with someone I recently met online). I’m not looking for a deep thinker, a romantic partner, or someone to pamper me. Nor am I looking for someone whose lifestyle will mesh with mine — after all, I’m still looking after my almost 97-year-old father, and have an early curfew. (He doesn’t mind being alone during the day but is nervous about being alone at night.)
I went into the experience planning to do whatever I could to meet people. To that end, I sent about 50 charming messages to local men around my age who said interesting things on their profiles. I got two monosyllabic responses and one argumentative one. (I didn’t understand that. I only mentioned what was on his profile. How can he argue with what he himself had said?)
Even the men who posted on their profiles that they would respond to anyone who messaged them didn’t respond.
When I mentioned this experience to a friend, she sheepishly admitted that she too had joined a dating site, and even before she posted a photo or filled out any of the information, she was inundated with messages — from women. Turns out that she’d somehow signed up as a male.
This made me wonder about the ratio of women to men on such sites. By my lack of connections and my friend’s great number of messages and flirts (flirts are like “like”s on Facebook, but if you click “send a flirt,” the site sends messages that say you’re interested in that person), I assumed the ratio would be 10:1. Ten women to one man. In fact, the sites are fairly even in their numbers, with men slightly outnumbering women. At least that’s what the various sites profess. According to one comment I found on the article What Is the Ratio of Men to Women on Dating Sites?, the real ratio of men to women is 4:1, which is a closely guarded secret, because if men knew how much the dice is loaded against them they would not bother signing up. To keep the numbers balanced, some sites kept women on the books after their subscription had run out.
Further research indicates that some of the best-looking folks on the site are generated by the site itself, which makes sense, especially on the sites for older people. In their forties and fifties, men tend to look better than women, but after sixty, men seem to age much more quickly. I realize this is an unfair assessment, and might be false, but the truth is, the men who look as if they were around my age turn out to be ten to fifteen years younger. The ones my age look ten to fifteen years older, perhaps because of all that wind in their face because of motorcycle riding. (Almost all of the men whose profiles I checked out had a photo of themselves posed by a motorcycle. Figuring that turn about was fair play, I posted a photo of me and my car.)
Since men tend to be the ones to initiate a contact, supposedly women’s inboxes generally have more messages than men’s do. If this were true, you’d think the men would see my messages. But here’s another kicker: Most of the paid subscription sites let you sign up for free. You can set up a profile and even look at photos, but anything more than that, you have to pay for. Another friend signed up for the free version of the same site I am on to help me look for possible matches, and even with a blank profile (except for my age and location), she has several messages and flirts. We can only figure that these messages are generated by the site to pique her curiosity and get her to sign up.
The truth is, the sites do not indicate whether the people you see even subscribe to the site. I could be sending messages to a) people who don’t exist or b) people who can never see the messages since they didn’t pay.
Online dating is big business. As of June 18, 2013, online dating generates revenues of $1,049,000,000 each year. Yep. All those zeros. More than a billion dollars every year.
There are 54 million singles in the USA, and 40 million who have tried online dating. (40,000,001 if you include me.)
And here’s another truth according to Statistic Brain:
A woman’s desirability online peaks at 21
At 26, Women have more online pursuers than men
By 48, Men have twice as many online pursuers as Women
Which is probably why, on a site geared to people older than 50, you can sign up as young as 18.
To be honest, I don’t know what all this means. Some people do find love online. Most people probably don’t but won’t admit it. Who (besides me) is willing to tell the world that she signed up for a dating site and got not a single date? (I know four women my age who signed up. One went on a date, had fun, but the guy shied away afterward. Another woman got one date after six months, but when she talked to him on the phone, she ended up cancelling their date because she couldn’t stand him. Two others didn’t get any dates at all.)
I still have 158 days left on my paid subscription, so I’ll let you know what if anything happens in the next 5 months.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.