Until the last month or so, the only thing I ever knew about online dating sites and services was what I’d heard second or third hand and seen in movies. I thought you signed up, paid a fee, filled out a questionnaire, and they found a perfect match for you.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who presumed the same thing since such a scenario seemed to be a major plot point in the movie Sneakers. The collaborators needed to bypass a voice recognition security device, so they had Mary McDonnell pose as a computer date for Stephen Tobolowsky and record the necessary words. All goes well until Ben Kingsley discovers that Mary is supposed to be Stephen’s date. He says, disbelieving, “A computer matched her with him?” And so the story took a turn for the worse for the collaborators.
Now that I know the truth about computer dating — at least the sites I signed up for — the movie seems a bit less riveting.
To the extent that the computers are matching me with anyone (it doesn’t seem as if they are really finding matches, just notifying me of a random mix of people in my current geographical area), they seem to think I am looking for an inarticulate, overweight, tattooed smoker who rides a motorcycle. (Um, no.) The two characters in the movie were a much better match for each other than any I’ve been paired with. In fact, when I was watching the movie, I thought that very thing, that the two characters had a lot in common — both were educated, fastidious, articulate, and lived well.
Another movie that deals with online dating sites as a major plot mover is Must Love Dogs. Diane Lane seemed to find plenty of dates almost immediately, yet after five weeks, I haven’t managed to connect with a single person. Of course, she is Diane Lane, and I obviously am not. Also, the photo used for her profile was her high school photo, and that makes a big difference. As I wrote before, 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.
What started out as a sort of a leap into the future or maybe even just a fun dating game has fizzled into . . . nothing. One or two men did manage to tear themselves away from their motorcycles long enough to send impersonal replies, another two or three approached me and begged for my phone number and email address first thing as if they thought I were so desperate that I would pass out such information like pretzels at a singles bar. Such tactics might even work — apparently, a lot of people think the computers on the sites have more insight than they do, or the members are so psyched to go out that they go on a date with the first person who makes any sort of move.
I’m used to meeting people online who live on the other side of the mountains, the other side of the country, even the other side of the world, and it is a bit disconcerting to think I am making myself known to locals. Sometimes I wonder if anyone would recognize me if they saw me on the street, but I don’t think they would. So far, I’ve managed to remain invisible, both online and off.
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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.