Would like to meet: The truth about internet dating

As published in the Independent

Internet dating may be all rainbows in the adverts, says Rhodri Marsden. But the truth is that many more hearts are broken than matches made

In 1966, The Supremes explained to us that you can’t hurry love. Sixteen years later Phil Collins concurred: “You just have to wait,” he sang, additionally noting that love don’t come easy. Those words of wisdom still apply, and particularly so if you’re one of those participating in the seemingly eternal worry-go-round of internet dating. 

The adverts for such services, featuring blissfully happy couples pushing each other on swings, would have us believe otherwise. eHarmony likes to stress how many members get married as a result of being matched via the service (236 every day, according to data gathered in the US in 2008.) Match.com did a survey last year indicating that an impressive 58,500 people found a partner on the site over a 12-month period – and they still offer a six-month guarantee of “finding love”, albeit underlined (understandably) by a 500-word list of conditions.

And we’re suckers for all this. When Time Out magazine recently ran a cover story offering free online dating for every reader, it was dangling a huge metaphorical carrot. We all want to be loved, after all.

But you rarely hear from those who, having failed to find a partner online, back away from the computer shaking their heads at the way the process distorts social conventions and leaves you slightly shell-shocked. Those 58,500 lucky members of match.com were vastly outnumbered by the 286,000 unlucky ones. Yes, anecdotes of hair-raising internet dates have become dinner-party staples – you know, like “he turned up wearing a toolbelt and immediately burst into tears” – and many were collected in a book published earlier this year. But what about the mental strain? The plunge in self-esteem when your ideal partner remains as elusive as a taxi on New Year’s Eve?

A quick disclosure: I have a couple of dating profiles online. It’s not going that well. But this isn’t therapy masquerading as a self-pitying article by some bloke in his late-thirties – well, not much, anyway. I’ve got a number of friends and acquaintances who share my feelings about the way online dating plays fast and loose with your emotions.

These people are relatively undamaged and sane, without many skeletons in their cupboards. Some of them are model-like in their beauty, rapier-like in their wit or both. All of them have approached internet dating with the most honourable of intentions: they’re lured by the promise of romance, be it jazz and croissants on Sunday morning, or leaping out of a plane strapped to someone nice. Whatever.

They’d just like somebody, but somebody hasn’t shown up.The search for love in any context is a lottery, of course. The odds are stacked Jenga-like against us. What are the chances of two compatible people turning up in the same place at the same time? Internet dating is meant to tip those odds in our favour – and it can work, of course it can. But the people I’ve spoken to who’ve been bruised by it are unanimous as to why that happened. They believe it’s a problem inherent to the process. So if you’re doing it, and you’re feeling down, don’t worry. It’s not you.

Well, it might be. But it most likely isn’t.Adam: “It’s blackly comic: we all say we’re fun-loving, up for a laugh, just seeing how things go – when everyone knows that we’re all on a dating site because, to varying extents, we’re lonely.”Internet dating pivots around profiles; lists of attributes, paragraphs where you attempt to make yourself sound appealing, a handful of flattering photographs. But there’s already a problem. Dozens of books and websites offer advice on how to write profiles; third-party services even charge 40 quid to save you the bother.

As a result, the uniformity is hilarious. Everyone loves travelling, particularly to Machu Picchu – which, if the profiles are to be believed, is an Inca site swarming with thousands of backpacking singletons. Men are singularly obsessed with skiing. All of us love to curl up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a DVD (or a VD, as one unfortunately misspelled profile said).The vernacular of online dating makes everyone sound the same. Rather than reflecting what we’re like, it reflects what we think other people want – because we’re trying to appeal to as many people as possible. Men will lie about their height, men and women will lie about their age, some people even upload photos of other people and pretend it’s them. It doesn’t correlate with real life.

And once you realise this, internet dating suddenly feels as random as approaching strangers in a car park and asking them if they fancy you. Which, believe me, is never a good idea.

Ruth: “I don’t want someone like me. Why on earth would I want someone like me?”Searching for a partner online has inevitable similarities to searching for a product. Computer algorithms have the herculean task of returning a perfect match from its database based on our own vaguely truthful submissions, and such copper-bottomed compatibility guarantees as whether both parties are fond of cats.Our natural impulse, encouraged by the way these websites work, is to seek people who like the same things as us. But while I wouldn’t want to date someone who gets a kick out of attending far-right political rallies, it’s certainly true that opposites can attract. I went out with a wonderful woman for seven years who loved Barbra Streisand. I can’t stand Babs. In a relationship these kind of things aren’t an issue, but internet dating makes them into one. After all, when I meet someone in real life that I like, I tend not to say, “Hi, I’m Rhodri, and here’s a list of food I don’t like eating.” The rules of attraction are just too complex to be held in a database and analysed by a computer.

Thomas: “The idea that someone likes to spend weekends mountain biking or, I dunno, shaving lions – that’s the kind of thing that would send me up the nearest bell tower with a sniper rifle.”But we’re forced to filter the mass of potential datees, and we do it savagely. We start to adopt a power-shopping mentality, disregarding people for arbitrary reasons; as my friend Sam put it, we cruise past people’s pictures as if they’re caravans in Daltons Weekly. “Yeah, no, no, yeah – ooh, yes! – no, no, ugh.” It’s a compelling, but ultimately exhausting, process that these services have adapted, refined and streamlined because it’s a brilliant way for them to make money. While a service might lure you with a strapline saying “Meet sexy singles in your area”, the truth is more like, “Reject perfectly decent singles in your area while waiting for the maddeningly elusive sexy ones.” Everyone is trading off current opportunities against future possibilities. In a thoughtful moment, you might even realise there are people you’ve had relationships with in the past who, if they appeared as an online match, you might reject. And when you’re the one being rejected, it can hurt.

Charlotte: “It’s a brutalising process. You join thinking you’ll be nice and civilised and honest with people, but once people don’t reply to your emails, you start doing the same to other people.”Rejection may be a strong word to use. It doesn’t approach the horror of being told by a partner that they don’t love you any more. But despite our inclination to present ourselves as optimistic – verging on an almost deranged bubbliness, in some cases – we enter the process on the back foot. We’re not part of a couple, and we may have hang-ups about our attractiveness. Suddenly, every unreciprocated gesture hurts way more than it should. Unreplied-to messages sit in the “sent” folder as a grim reminder of your failure to connect with someone, almost prompting you to fire off another message saying “What’s the problem? What’s wrong with me?” So we have to develop a thick skin. But, you know, having a thick skin is overrated. Thin skin is just fine. It’s just that thin skin isn’t compatible with internet dating.

Francesca: “It’s also a horrible feeling knowing that there are potentially a lot of other people in competition with you. It’s like being in a deck of Top Trumps cards – what are my stats? What is it about me that might or might not trump someone else?”If you live in a city, the seemingly inexhaustible array of potential beaus strewn across these websites is part of the appeal. But that very abundance is also why the rapid cycle of rejection can feel so disheartening.

“Plenty more fish in the sea” isn’t just a well-meaning phrase uttered by a kindly relative after you’ve been dumped. Internet dating presents you with rock-solid evidence. Thousands of them, right there, smiling at you. (Except me. I’m kind of glumly staring at you, which may be one of the reasons why I haven’t done so well.)Long-term internet dating participants know only too well, however, the cycle of knock-back followed by a speedy return to the site in search of someone else. You start seeing the same faces across multiple sites, and some people (especially men) will start to play the percentage game, firing off multiple cut-and-paste emails in the hope that someone will reply. One friend of mine was even sent a cheery message of introduction from a man who she had already had a disastrous date with via another dating website. 

Richard: “But you getthat thrill when someone responds. For a short time you’re on top of the world – and that’s followed by a low point. It’s like a fast-working drug with a terrible come-down.” It’s an addictive process, there’s no doubt about it. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is the burst of elation associated with a stranger suddenly deciding that you’re attractive, amusing, a good prospect. New members on these sites receive a flood of attention that can be exhilarating. As one friend said to me, there was a time when she felt like the most popular woman in the country. After a while, though, you develop a more realistic view of the thing. You realise that, for example, the match.com “guarantee” isn’t so much a guarantee as a hard-headed business decision based on probability and likely cost. But the knowledge that it’s working out for some 17 per cent of members brings hope, and makes you loath to pack it in.The other undeniable reason: with options dwindling as you get older and friends start families, giving up on internet dating feels like giving up on love altogether. But sticking at it can seem to reinforce your single status.

Sarah: “Internet dating is essentially a lot of single people, of varying degrees of loneliness, blundering around with their arms out hoping to bump into someone.” Sarah’s right. In that sense, it’s not much different to real life. It’s the usual random process of love-seeking, but cleverly tarted up with psychometric testing and percentage matching and with a monthly fee slapped on it. I suppose it works out cheaper than going out every night and keeping your fingers crossed. But if it’s not working for you, do take heart from me – and from Thomas, Pip, Catherine, Charlotte, Matthew, Steph, Sian, Francesca, Sam, Vanessa, Richard, another Richard, Jane, Adam, Juliet, Tim, Michelle, Sarah, Courtney, Michael, Helen, Vicki, Claire, Saj, Juliet, Stuart and Ruth, all of whom contacted me to get their feelings off their chests.We’re not bitter. If anything, recognising the improbability of finding the perfect internet date makes participating a lot easier. In fact, we’re all magnificently well-adjusted. Maybe I should start trying to match us all up…

LuvDrop or Internet dating

LuvDrop v Internet dating

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       You’ll know that the people coming to LuvDrop are single; the rest is all there to be discovered

  • Online, you know all their likes and dislikes and have already made up your mind about them

♥       With face to face meetings, you meet the true personality with no place to hide

  • With internet dating you will only read the person’s CV and that’s just what they want you to know

♥        At LuvDrop events, you may find yourself liking someone who on paper would have been on you ‘no’ list

  • With internet dating you will reject everyone that doesn’t conform  to your wish listinternet dating speed dating dating BirminghamLuvDrop events

LuvDrop or Speed dating?

LuvDrop or Speed dating

Speed date, single, match making, dating, LuvDrop, Dating in the city, Birmingham


↓ You have to stop talking to someone even if you like them and by the time you see them next time, they’ll be talking to someone else

  You can talk to someone all night with LuvDrop. There is no timer on you.

↓  Host is there to seat you, administrate the evening and make you pair off

  Hosts are there for you; to make  introductions, to help you feel comfortable and confident

↓ Anyone can go to speed dating events, un-vetted, single or not

  LuvDrop host invitation only events for members who have applied to join

↓ You have to exchange numbers there and then if you want to see anyone again. Everyone at speed dating will know numbers get exchanged so no-one will feel special

♥  If you’re don’t want to hand over your phone no straight away, you can email another member later – or we can get in touch for you

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More info about LuvDrop: Dating in the City

Luvdrop – a new enterprise

In case I haven’t mentioned, just wanted to let you know about a new enterprise I’ve started.

There are plenty internet dating sites around. LuvDrop is not one of them.
LuvDrop is not about finding Mr or Mrs Right, although that may come along later. LuvDrop is about encouraging people to date again. The only criteria is to be single.

Put simply, we use modern technology (MeetUp, Twitter, FB) to enable single people to be in a room together. Thereafter, we introduce them and let nature take its cause.

It’s like we’re holding a small party and have invited our single friends to it. Naturally we introduce them to each other, make sure they are comfortable and have a drink in hand and are not left alone for any length of time.
Ahead of time, we’ll make sure they have plenty of notice, know where they are going and provide them with contact details.

There is no dating scene to speak of in Birmingham or maybe I’m just spoilt by spending so much time in New York. In any case, a friend and I were talking about this one day and a few weeks later, we decided to start LuvDrop.

The first event is planned for October 12th
All the events will be Monday to Thursday around 8pm or possibly during weekend daytimes. There will be no events on the busy Friday or Saturday unless it’s a special occasion. 8pm starts allow people to go home, get ready and present themselves in the dress code of ‘first date’!

At nice venues around Birmingham city centre where we can have a private corner but not necessarily tucked away from the rest of the customers. After all, LuvDrop is about enabling people to get out and start dating again.

By membership.
We’ll accept members by application and then we’ll ask for a token membership fee. We only want to include intelligent, professional and mature men and women who will show respect to their fellow other members.

This is run jointly by me and my business partner Darren Hawkins. We will both host each event and each be available to assist members by email and face to face. Our job is to make them feel welcome and introduce them to the others, just like good hosts do.

I’d really love to know about any experience you’ve had generally in the dating arena. Please comment here or drop me a line at rickie@luvdrop.com

Link to article on The Business Desk

Journal April 17th 2010 Love – Home – Work – Social – Passion

Love – Home – Work – Social – Passion

I find it difficult to write my journal these days, not because life isn’t eventful, on the contrary, but life is serious and you’re used to me writing about the light side, the exciting side, the new experiences; apart from losing my right to travel to the USA, being estranged from all my belongings currently in New York and breaking up with the BF, apart from that, that is.

Tom’s diner
I’ve been back from New York exactly a year now and since then, there have been no first time visits to the opera, Carnegie Hall, BB Kings or indeed discovering the house band at Cafe Wha! or the live music at Café Vivaldi. There has been no witnessing the Empire State building turn blue for President Obama’s election victory, no going to the recording of Martha Stewart’s Christmas special or passing Kevin Bacon in the street going to my favourite Upper West food store, Zabars. There have been no snowy walks across central park to report, no new dates, restaurants or friends or discovering that the café across the street from my coffee shop is Tom’s Diner, as featured in Seinfeld. Nope, I never watched it either.

Since taking on my first job in 6 years, a first flat in nearly 2 years and singledom all in the same month, it’s been tough.

I love having my own place again instead of sharing even though it feels extravagant and empty. It’s more like a holiday apartment but with more of my stuff in it. Well the stuff that isn’t in New York, which is definitely in the majority. I have no idea where I’m going to put eight large boxes of belongings collected over a lifetime plus a triple wardrobe of winter clothes and all the stuff I had in the apartment share. With the split from the BF, there is no reason for it to be in New York anymore as it could be 1, 2, 3 or more years till I make my way back there. The question remains, how will I get it back?

Cold winter in New York
Every day I remember something else I’m looking forward to seeing again; my luxurious silver cashmere throw and cushion, my years’ supply of gorgeous toiletries from Bath & Body Works and of course my CDs. I’m not as bothered about the clothes at the moment as the city virtually holds for ransom all my cold winter in New York attire.

I love my new dream job that encompasses pretty much everything I have learnt over the last 25 years of working but the project I’m managing is hard. Who’d have thought I’d have trouble finding unemployed/disadvantaged people in Kidderminster, a town which includes one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country? I envisaged the hardest part would have been the actual training, keeping 15 people who are not used to corporate discipline entertained and interested in skills that will help them both find and keep a job in the hospitality, travel and leisure industries.

Switch off, switch on
In a strange way it feels like I have pressed the re-boot button in breaking up with the BF. I miss him terribly and feel like I’m running around town without ear rings – not essential but I don’t feel like myself without them. It’s one thing less to worry about, although try telling that to the part of my brain that pops him into my thoughts approximately every 57 seconds. It saves me time in calling and emailing him not to mention an absolute fortune in travel, socialising and treats and a significantly smaller amount for a Skype subscription.

At the risk of sounding like a SATC sap, even though he broke my heart, I miss him. This week I was in London, staying in a fancy hotel in an area we spent time in when he came over last summer, Soho and Marble Arch. I walked around the block once as I really fancied noodles but settled for a burger joint as I was starving. I sat down in Guerrilla Burgers, ordered, then looked down James Street and there were loads of restaurants! Not noodles but 2 Italian choices. Still my burger was interesting; I ordered goats cheese and aubergine burger and wondered why the youthful waitress didn’t ask me how I wanted the meat cooked, burnt. It turns out the cheese was the burger – no meat. I chose sweet potato fries to accompany and although the burger was on the cold side and I like my hot food to be steaming hot, the service was good.

Good enough for me to go back having walked half way round the block towards Selfridges and to my hotel and one, ask for the receipt I forgot and two, a slice of baked cheesecake to go. Ridiculously expensive buying one portion from a restaurant for more than the price of 2 slices, or indeed a whole cheesecake from Marks & Spencer.

The BF and I did the exact same thing, buying 2 slices ‘to go’ on our last night of the Christmas break in Montreal. Turns out, that was our last night together, ever.

NB I miss the him that I spent 14 months with, not the him that broke my heart.

Out with the girls
I’ve added two areas to the Love-Home-Work triangle, Social and Passion. I’ll think of better names later but my social life seems to have all but disappeared. My good friends are mostly far away or the local ones are too busy for socialising so after being repeatedly asked why I don’t set up Meet Up group, out of desperation, I have. After less than a week Out with the Girls already has 23 members and the first event, a brunch of course, is full. I hope it’s as good as the MeetUps in New York that literally saved my social life.

Passion is things we care about, for me that is in the main music, writing, reading, delicious food and football. And my work but only until 5pm after which I’m throwing myself into the aforementioned list. As soon as work gets less busy that is.

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