Not so long ago, the computer world was considered to be ruled and run by geeks. It was a common speculation that anyone who was into online dating had to be a pathetic soul who couldn’t find a date in the real world. Even the phrase “dating profile” would conjure images of pocket protectors and suspenders.
A lot has changed since then and computers have managed to be neatly intertwined in everyday life —- from the way we shop and find driving directions to how we manage our bank accounts. Now, the easy access and the sheer multitude of people going online makes the internet one of the hottest pick up joints on Earth. People interact without leaving the comfort of their rooms. They exchange thoughts, feelings and create whole new social networks. With a few mouse clicks and some stretching of the truth here and there, people become the best version of themselves online. But when putting your best self forward, it’s hard to tell if someone is looking for love or just a good time.
While Match.com and eHarmony advertise exclusively for love, the local allMSU.com online daters are looking for anything from the sincere “looking for a relationship” to the blunt “looking for the third in an orgy.” On March 10, a student was even so bold as to post that he was organizing a sex club and needed one more girl for the group. In the allMSU classified, people place ads to get rid of their virginity and offer money for blowjobs, where the standard price of $350 goes up with one’s “hotness level.”
“It’s a good way to find people. Some of them are creepy, but others I talked to online, and I’m like ‘wow, this is okay conversation,'” junior psychology major Yekaterina Afonina said. Afonina’s experience online was one orchestrated by her friend.
Although skeptical at first, when push came to shove, Afonina grudgingly allowed her friend to make her an allMSU profile. It was one of those, “if it will make you shut up” moments between friends, Afonina said. That was how she found herself herded in front of the computer screen, poised to type something alluring about herself.
The problem was, at first, she didn’t know what to write because she could write anything. The petite brunette could become a tall blond in a few keystrokes. But she didn’t know if she wanted to become just another online personality that doesn’t exist in real life. “[Online dating] does have a stigma. Since you can be anonymous on the internet, it brings up the question if you are ever going to know these people,” Afonina said. But she said she doesn’t think that prevents people from having success finding love. Afonina said that just because someone has a chance to lie doesn’t mean a person will take it. After all, she didn’t.
But that doesn’t mean Afonina was drawn to the every profile she read, even if it was authentic. “I did have a couple that were like ‘Hey, let’s get together.’ And I was like ‘Uh, no thank you please,'” Afonina said.
And sometimes social networkers are looking for any kind of relationship, even if it’s not loving. Afonina’s friends who use allMSU have found people to hang out with casually, even though their first intention was a relationship. “You can do it and have fun with it. It depends on how hard you want to try for it,” Afonina said.
Not everyone who has tried online dating with allMSU has come out with this carefree point of view. Physiology senior Omar Khalidi has had his profile up for a while and, contrary to Afonina, has found the whole situation uncomfortable despite his efforts to make it fun. His advice is not to do it or, at least not to take it seriously. That’s because people online are always different than in person and even if someone meets a person, their physical appearance is often disappointing, Khalidi said. “You can’t be into someone for who they are when you don’t know what they look like,” he said.
Even if Khalidi made arrangements to meet up with a real bombshell, her looks may not make up for the fact that she couldn’t hold a conversation. “A lot of people just talk differently online. They’re interesting. You meet them in person, and it’s just uncomfortable,” Khalidi said. He said his experience made the meaning of a one-sided conversation clear to him because the girls he went out with refused to talk. He found out that people who are only comfortable conversing through a keyboard are no fun to hang out with in real life.
So why do people continue to log on and update their profiles? Khalid still has his profile up today, despite his recommendation for everyone to stay away from online dating.
“All these people have goals. They are there for a reason,” Catalina Toma said. Toma, who works for the department of communication at Cornell University in New York, researched online dating to understand how people use technology to achieve personal goals, like finding potential relationships. What Toma found was not surprising — people lie. “Online is ripe with deception because people can say anything they want. Technology really allows you to lie a lot so you can present yourself in the most positive light,” Toma said.
However, most profilers don’t lie excessively. Often the lies are so little that they wouldn’t even be noticed in a face-to-face meeting. Women claim their are a few pounds lighter while men say they’re a few inches taller. Toma said her research showed that no one is extremely deceptive in their online dating conquests. “People lied, but they didn’t lie by much. We found that there was the most deception in the photograph,” Toma said. Perhaps, this is because physical appearance causes more anxiety than personality issues for most people.
Despite the issues with online dating, some people can find love. Sarah Sears, a communication freshman, met her boyfriend on allMSU. The first time she met him, it was a disaster. She said he was a complete jerk at first. “He put on an act like he was all that and more,” Sears said. She was determined never to see him again after his charade, but he kept messaging her. The next thing Sears knew, she was going out with him again and, the second time, found that he wasn’t at all how he first seemed. They dated casually, then decided to make it official, and Sears still keeps her allMSU profile up, but searches for friends instead.
Besides allMSU there are plenty of other options to find love on the Internet for people who aren’t MSU students. Online dating services are popping up everyday. A popular site for the relatively younger generation is Plentyoffish.com, which offers a “chemistry test” to match up with others. They also offer a block function, that will force an unwanted admirer to leave their virtual crush alone.
Other nationwide services include craigslist, Match.com and eHarmony. Craigslist is notorious for its personal ads. It offers everything from “strictly platonic” to “casual encounters,” and the person logging on must certify that they’re 18 or over and will report any illegal activity. Interesting finds include an “exotic real handyman” whose rates are the same for fixing things clothed or naked to a “lonely chef with no one to cook for.”
Match.com and eHarmony will guarantee to shield your eyes from anything so forward, but there are fees involved. It’s generally free to look, but contacting anyone will cost you. Match.com costs $16.00 per month and eHarmony.com costs $50.00 per month. It’s more expensive because they do the matching for you — the eHarmony staff and software helps manage searches, pointing an individual toward people they think might be a good match. Match.com, on th
e other hand, offers a “Make Love Happen Guarantee,” where if a user doesn’t find someone special in the amount of time paid, the company will give the users months for free.
But keep in mind when using any dating site, that not everyone has the same luck as Sears, or gives people second chances like her. Some taglines indicate that someone is looking for a good time rather than love. Titles like “chill guy looking for four girls to please me” and “just for kicks” are giveaways. Others are harder to spot, but meeting a person face to face several times will help flesh out exact intentions.
Online dating is becoming more popular with the average joe because it is more accessible than it was ten years ago. It’s no longer just a nerd’s land — anyone who wants to can date online. But the key word is anyone, even the naked handymen and the 6 foot 5 body builder with deep blue eyes and a raspy voice to die for. If a person doesn’t act true to their profile, chances are they are not serious about having any type of relationship, in real life or in the virtual world.