Does it shock you to learn that an estimated 85% of online dating profiles are inaccurate? If you’ve been dating online, probably not. If you haven’t, it probably makes you wonder – yet again – why so many people trust their love lives to the impersonal, unpredictable algorithms of cyberspace social. If it’s hard to “judge a person by a profile” in the first place, and most people are lying in the profiles or posting 10-year old photos on top of that, then… what’s the point, right?
I don’t know of a single person (pun intended) on a dating site who hasn’t experienced that appallingly awkward moment when they approach their intended date-in-the-flesh for the first time, and realize the current version of the photo they’ve been chatting with is at least 10 years older, 4 inches shorter, maybe 30 pounds heavier and… wait… perhaps not that person at all?!
This comes on top of required submission to everyone on the web seeing your photo, knowing personal details about you and your “on the market” status. It’s surprising how many folks - who’d otherwise shred old credit cards, regularly change personal passwords and withhold their last names, birthdates, addresses, etc., will eagerly slap up a photo and spew out their romantic wants, needs and wishes in a public forum hoping Prince or Princess Charming will appear.
A friend I recently spoke with expressed being “up to here” with all of the 20-30 year older creepers peppering her inbox with “I think you’re hot” trolling emails, (and those were the polite ones). “What are they thinking?” she wanted to know. What was she thinking, I wanted to know.
For her, and many of our busy clients, modern matchmaking offers the antidote to all that ails contemporary (computer-based) dating culture.
The comfort of a private profile only matchmakers can see, instead of everyone with internet access. A personal advocate and trained eye to spend hours screening out sub-par suitors so they don’t have to. And - bonus - someone else to wrangle date details for each initial meeting to eliminate first-date logistical challenges with an extra pinch of pressure and anxiety..
Speaking to a lot of “had it up to here” online daters, I can tell you that the time suck black hole is their second most common complaint. Just to get to that actual first-date point with just one attractive, non-creepy, ostensibly safe, actually single human with whom you share an interest or two, plan on jumping through quite a few hoops and devoting many hours... As in sending/receiving over 50-100 messages, working to narrow down those options through a series of hundreds more back and forth messages,, eventually perhaps texting or chatting with a dozen or so on the phone, and then finally planning, organizing and setting up your initial face-to-face with your chosen one. And when it’s a no-go? Back to the drawing board.
And that’s only if you’re particularly young, female, good-looking, photograph well and/or have the ability to represent yourself attractively in profile-form, which is tougher than you’d think.
Imagine all of these profiles lined up on store shelves, like cereal boxes, chip bags or every variety of kombucha now on display at Whole Foods. You’re walking by and see all of their photos (so many photos!) and the same tired adjectives and aspirations that neither mask nor fully convey their inner longings or partnership potential. They all start to blend together. They all start to look more like products than people. And by the time you reach aisle four you’re starting to feel depressed, because you can’t tell a good person from an axe-murderer - much less discern which might be the love of your life – and it occurs to you that YOU, too, are lost somewhere on these shelves. Online, you look just like the 500 other “packages” you’ve just passed. You've used the same marketing lingo even, and you know it doesn’t capture who you are, or why someone might want to hang out with - much less date - you at all. And how could it?
How could you – or anyone - possibly convey everything that’s unique, interesting or attractive about one’s self on the packaging of one of these boxes? Welcome to the reality of online dating.
And so here’s the axe I want to grind today: even if everyone’s profile was guaranteed to be 100% accurate and you could speed up the tedious process, it doesn’t speak to the real fatal flaw of online dating. The complaints about time-suck and profile lies, the occasional creepers and the startling invasion of privacy are all valid, but overlook the more essential failure of online dating. Even if everyone took great photos and could eloquently, and originally represent themselves in writing: the fact remains -
NO photo or profile can capture the essence of one human, or convey what makes them uniquely attractive to another human.
How someone laughs, tilts their head just so, meets your gaze, or stands while waiting in a line, or waiting for you. How someone responds to a challenge or disappointment. How they enter a room and take their place in it; their unique scent, the exact bent of their particular sense of humor, or the expression that takes shape when they talk about their family or dog, or their tumultuous trip to Nepal. These indescribable gestures make up the essence of everything a person is that cannot be captured in a profile – any profile.
No one is the simple summation of their photo, hobbies, interests and/or relationship priorities. When we match people at Tawkify, we start with some of these simple, surfacey compatibility factors, of course. But it’s the human element, that “spidey sense” of all the above that clicks in the freaky combo analytical/intuitive mind of a good matchmaker that is key to why it works. Often better than a person choosing for themselves… and almost always better than online dating.
In an article on makeusof.com, “Online Dating – Men Don’t Get It And Women Don’t Understand,” Ryan Dube quotes a friend “Anonymous Woman” who sums it up perfectly:
“Words on a page can only tell you so much and often, they are not the best “first impressions”. Personally, I think there is so much more to be gained from talking with someone face to face – you are able to read their body language and listen to intonation in their voice, which are much better indicators than online messages or profiles.”
“The problem with online dating is that you can’t see the person’s face when they’re telling you about themselves,” Dube explains. “You can’t watch as they smile, and that smile spreads up into their eyes and transforms their face into one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen – a thing that warms your heart and makes you realize you want to spend more time with the person. No…online dating involves just cold, shallow text. Not much else.”
And photos of course. But everyone isn’t photogenic. Most people aren’t photogenic. Nor do most folks have a good camera, know how to take good photos, or seem to be aware that selfies are inherently unattractive on as many levels as the phyllo dough in a good baklava. Moreover, as a matchmaker I have to tell you that people just aren’t very good at picking for themselves from pictures.
Both men and women – when given a choice visually – seem easily swayed by what others find attractive, without a sense of who/what really “works” for themselves in real life. The same gal who would find herself entranced by the artsy guy’s witty banter and crooked-tooth smile when they met at a gallery opening last week, will click right by the photos of every guy without a straight-white grin like George Clooney’s.
Because she’s “shopping”, you see?
Physical beauty is nice to behold, but it’s just never accounted for what attracts most people to most other people… and that can only manifest itself when those two people come face-to-face, scent-to-scent and smile-to-smile.
When trolling the dating sites, however, cultural norms of “handsome” or “beautiful” that have been shaped by media representations of attractiveness more than actual humans we might meet or know seem to take over. Both men and women routinely skip over average nice looking people, and even people resembling others to whom they were previously attracted, as if the marketplace of the dating site universe should pony up dreamier options than attainable IRL.
Of course, that’s not entirely isolated to online dating. I think there’s something about the mindset of many who are actively pursuing or investing more time and money to find an “ideal other” that raises their expectations in general. I can’t tell you how many clients name this actor or that model as their “type”, even though when they show us photos of exes, they’ve clearly never dated such a person in their entire lives. Nor do they seem aware that said “type” might not find them attractive in turn. But I digress…
The bottom line is that people trolling through photos – whether they’ll admit it or not – are making split-second decisions based on those photos… regardless of what’s in the profiles – true, false, or in Swahili. And to compound the celebrity-wish lists and inflated expectations challenge - fanned by what I'll call the abundant marketplace effect - people are also just… dare I say it… not terribly skilled at choosing potential partners based on looks alone.
Which means, people generally swipe past dozens of candidates they might actually have clicked with and been suitable for in return, and only afterward try to justify their split-second visual choices with those specious profile details. If you’re wondering why just 10% of successful couples met online when there are more dating apps and sites than Donald Trump jokes these days; there it is.
Recent post-date feedback from one of our San Francisco clients bears this out. After the date we created for him to meet his matchmaker-selected next introduction - whom he adored - he wrote,
“And my favorite part, I saw her profile after our date. It did not begin to capture how vibrant, attractive and engaging she is to be with. And I know I would not have gone out with her if I’d seen it first.”
He thanked us for not showing photos before introductions, even though he protested this policy upon sign up. He also summed up in a few lines why online dating doesn’t work for 90% of people, and why our matchmaking so often does.
Not only do we withhold pre-introduction photos and much detail, some of our matchmakers are so superstitious, they won’t even reveal first names! Firstly, ya’ll can’t be trusted with your own love lives based on visuals. Secondly, when you happen upon some new person and meet them in real life, you don’t know anything about them. Not their name, none of their profile details and you’ve definitely never seen a photo. You just meet. No preconceived notions or projections or judgements, just - bam! - there they are and how does that feel?
That's what we're going for here with each match.
Almost 80% of our clients are successfully matched after working with a is at least 6-months. Okay, okay, it’s not 100%; but it sure beats online dating, and although I can’t prove it with data… I suspect it beats what most folks accomplish themselves – when left to their own devices – while going about their daily lives. If someone said, “Hey, just keep doing what you’re doing and in 6-months there’s an 80% chance you'll meet someone great whom you'll want to keep dating…” well, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation; there’d be no matchmakers or dating sites.
When I met my last boyfriend, I saw him from afar, and while I noticed he was tall and nice looking, sure; I don’t believe I’d have picked him out of a lineup, or from among a sea of photos if I were an online dating kind of gal. I didn’t get that little stirring of interest until after we were introduced and had been speaking for about 10 minutes or so, when he sheepishly admitted he’d forgotten my name. When I repeated it, it was the way he tilted his head just so, leaning forward to bend toward me just a bit, and extended his hand to shake mine and “meet me” officially… then met my gaze, grinning in a crookedish way and said, “I promise I will never forget it again.”
So when someone whines a little because they’ve grown accustomed to shopping the photos and they’re expecting us to follow suit, we try to help them understand that we do this to help them stop sabotaging their own happiness with superficial concepts of who might be right for them. “Has it been working for you so far?” may be too abrupt. So we try to explain that we’re attempting to recreate what it used to be like when people met other people in real life – in bookstores, at social gatherings, through friends or on a walk in the park – when people actually used to talk to other people they didn’t already know… and then notice that sometimes, every once in awhile, magic would unfold.
Listen to your heart,
Author of The Heart Beat series
Art by Charles Dana Gibson