Why Online Dating Works: A Rebuttal

Dating Websites: Why They Work

Online dating is flawed. But if you're 30+, busy, and rarely date, it's the best medium you've got.

If you're a card-toting, New York Times-reading liberal, like I am you probably get as upset as I do when the GOP spends all its energy trying to repeal Obamacare, based on fictional tropes like "death panels". While Obamacare is an imperfect act, the major ideas behind it are to get 30 million more people affordable health care, and to prevent insurance companies from denying care for pre-existing conditions. Those ideas seem largely uncontroversial — that is, until you watch those TV ads with Uncle Sam holding a speculum between a woman’s legs.

After reading Charles J. Orlando's YourTango piece, Online Dating: Is It All Just One Big Web of Lies?, I felt like I'd just watched Sean Hannity call Obamacare socialism.

Statistics were cherry-picked. Anonymous allegations were slung. The half-full glass spilled all over the table. How many egregious errors, half-baked ideas, and scare tactics could be thrown into a four-page hit piece? Keep reading and you'll see.

The author begins his assault with the use of statistics. He cites a 2013 study that says that 35 percent of marriages began online and then explains that the 35 percent isn't simply from online dating. True; 45 percent of that 35 percent comes from online dating — the rest is social networks, gaming, blogs, chat rooms, IM, discussion boards, etc.

Who cares? Whether one-third or one-fifth of all marriages are the result of online dating, the fact remains that millions of people have gotten married thanks to online dating. More interestingly, by citing a study that shows that more people meet through work and school (38 percent) and friends and family members (27 percent) than online (17 percent), the author actually makes the case for online dating.

100 percent of single people go to school or work.
100 percent of single people have friends or family members.
20 percent of single people use online dating sites.

So one-fifth of the population dating online accounts for nearly half as many marriages as the entire population meeting through work and school. Are we to tell those presumably happy couples that they are victims of a big corporate scam? I wouldn't.

Next, Orlando talks about how online dating "short-circuits" the natural courtship process. Which natural courtship process? The one where parents marry off their daughters? The one where two young people get married right out of college (and later, 75 percent get divorced?) The one where you can go out, get hammered, hook up, and then never talk again? People are the problem. Online dating is just a big box filled with people. Its primary purpose is to make introductions between two humans who would never meet in real life. People who live in adjacent towns, people who work in small offices, people who are in their 40s and 50s and over the bar scene, people whose friends are all married, people who haven't had a date the "organic" way for over a year.

So what's wrong with this medium that creates so many marriages? The author creates quite a laundry list, leading off with everyone's favorite punching bag — honesty. You do realize that people who date online are the same exact people that date in "real life", right?

So tell me: is the 51-year-old woman who lowers her age to 49 to remain visible a fundamentally dishonest person? Is she a higher relationship risk than everyone else? Are the 80 percent of the people who lie in their profiles doomed to be alone because of their deeply deceitful behavior? Or, in a more nuanced worldview, is this simply a more mundane sort of lying, akin to the way companies advertise their products? Or the way people put only attractive photos and positive news in their status updates?

Fact is: most people aren't out-and-out liars. They only misrepresent themselves because they're insecure about being short, heavy, or older. Furthermore, the lie can't last all that long; the truth comes out immediately on a first date. So when the author claims that if you're dating online, "you are starting a relationship based on dishonesty," well, that's a little dishonest... unless you know of a story of a woman who dated a man for six months before suddenly realizing he was 5'7', not 5'9'.

To be clear, I'm not defending lying. I'm just trying to escape this very black and white worldview, where online dating is filled with liars, scammers, and cynical corporate drones. It's a small part of the truth; it's far from the whole truth. In fact, some of the very things that Orlando thinks are negative, I believe are positive. Don't get me wrong: it's great when you meet someone in "real life": your eyes meet, you flirt, you exchange phone numbers.

But it just doesn't happen all that much for most hard-working adults.

So to complain that online dating is flawed because it leaves out "non-verbal communication" is like complaining that Hawaii doesn't have great skiing. It’s not the point. Online dating introduces you to people on a mass scale — all ages, races, distances, body types, and communication styles. What you do from there is up to you.

The great part about online dating is how it can simulate real life meeting, except now you have MORE information about the person before you meet. You read a profile, you email back and forth on the dating site, you move to your regular email address, you talk on the phone — and if all of that goes well, then you agree to go on a first date.

Contrast that with real-life meeting: a guy at a bar or a party approaches you. He's cute and funny. He gets your number after 20 minutes, texts you a few days later to meet up for drinks, and you go out with him. How much have you learned about him? Do you know whether he wants kids? Do you know what his religious preference is? Nope. You just know he's cute. Keep reading...

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