My 20 years of online Dating


Disclaimer: everything I will say here is my personal experience and strict opinion. Whether you are male or female, it may have gone better or worse for you. I tell you what happened to me, what I found, and why I decided what I decided. Just saying.

On Sunday, December 16, 2018, at 11:30 pm, I closed my last online dating account. I had been thinking about it all that week, seriously.

No, I’m not a silly, renegade spinster who’s going to talk about a superficial matter. Nor is it going to be a blog post full of memes to make it easy to digest. It’s going to be a long text, despite my efforts to synthesize … 20 years of meeting people online. So if you have little patience to read this online “paper” or just don’t want to know everything that I have learned or discovered in this trip, please go back to your memes and selfies. This is not for you.

(Well, actually, at least we will set some GIFs to make the reading less painful and frustrating.)

Here we go.

Starting at the end to return to the beginning

For the last eight years, I had accounts in Zoosk, POF, Happn, Tinder, and Bumble, which I had been systematically closing. However, when Facebook Dating was implemented in my country (Canada), it gave me pure curiosity. Part of my work consists of directing and realizing digital projects, so I decided to try it, mostly to verify its functionalities and real possibilities. Yeah, it sounds boring, but it is true. The only practical novelty of the site was the ability to spot frequent connections between you and the candidates. Something that compromised-sometimes-the privacy of your profile, because if you wanted to find a partner discreetly, but many common friend’s connections might appear. Maybe you and the candidate want to keep his privacy at all costs, especially if some people’s marital status is not single, but they are up to Dating. Bad business for many, I imagine. On the other hand, UX problems that make Facebook Dating experience quite cumbersome and exhausting.

But my analysis is getting very professional about Dating, and the goal of this post is not to scrutinize their technical issues. I am here because I threw in the towel right after trying Online Dating for 20 years. The thing is that I closed my last account. Curious about my decision? Read, and you will know more about it.

Everything starts years ago with an advertisement on my Advertising college news’ board, where I was studying audiovisual communication, back in 1998. It indicated that there were some free “Internet” courses at the computer lab, and every student was cordially invited. I liked (and I still do) technology, so curiosity was more than the prospect of spending several weekends locked in a laboratory full of equipment and I was, eager, with a friend, to see what mystery was that of the Internet. Those sessions changed my life forever. I think that event absolutely blew my head was the ability to connect with other people who are all over the world, in real-time. I clearly remember that feeling of amazement when using an online communication tool for the first time and someone answering me from the other side of the planet. That tool was Microsoft Comic Chat, an amusing application that allowed you to chat online, through an interface that looked like a comic page, in which you used backgrounds, colourful and childish aliases, which showed your interaction as text balloons. Then, the logical step was the MSN Messenger and, for the most advanced, was the IRC and the ICQ.

At that time, the Internet in Peru, the country of which I am originally from, wasn’t easily accessible. Only some colleges and universities in Lima, select government agencies, and several transnational companies had access via dedicated phone lines. The only public access was a couple of places that were always full of people in strategic points of the city. Connecting by modem was an expensive madness, and required you to have the telephone line practically dedicated. Many people used to connect to the Internet by night, paying a fortune, chatting online, or downloading files from other people. A fellow student, completely addicted, carried a very long telephone connection cable hidden in her backpack, going back and forth from home to college with it, basically so his parents would not discover that she was stealing their phone line at midnight, exploring the Internet and discussing with people from all over the world. They could not explain how the hell they got a huge phone bill, month by month.

That is to say, suddenly people that seemed to be far away were at the touch of the keyboard. Being able to communicate in a second language became a talent, especially if you did it accurately; it gave you the fortune to meet people from other cultures. I actually must thank my improvements in English and French for this specific task. The art of conversation became immeasurable, and that talent attracted or repelled people (nothing kills passions better than someone who does not know how to write in their mother language, I think). Then, you were curious to know what this person lived, with whom you were talking, and looked like. You asked for a picture that you dragged on a diskette if you were in a “cabin”(or cybercafé, as they called it later), and you kept your picture there too. The anguish of seeing an image uploading, line by line, felt like an eternity! The surprise or disappointment. Attraction or rejection. That strange feeling of talking with someone who was super away or geographically close, that you had never seen or maybe you would never see in your life (it depended on your vibe, mostly), but who shared your same frustrations or your same curiosity or … your same loneliness and nerdiness… and that sometimes you fancied it a lot more because of how his/her expressed their ideas than their physical appearance … it mattered the content, over the form.

The beginning, now, yes.

The first person I dated with was a very young systems engineer who worked around the corner from my college and whom I spoke at the IRC. He knew, by our IPs, that we were close and he asked me to meet. I was amazed by the idea of ​​meeting people who shared the same curiosity about technology (and everything else!) as I did. In fact, I have not stopped marvelling at that, but now it is called Sapiophile. Modern times, huh. I was totally inexperienced in Dating, and he thought he knew everything about it, so it was fatal to us. He treated me poorly, and, for a long time, I thought it was my fault for trying to keep up with my principles. It took me years to realize that he was an imbecile. There are many internalized things in the Latin culture that just nowadays people will consider as aggression. But in those moments, I was an alien who thought if you say NO, it’s NO. Well, he left me. End.

Yes, I know that Microsoft Comic Chat, Microsoft Messenger and IRC were not dating sites. But those were places where people who wanted to open a conversation, would find someone with the same objective, and sometimes they were geographically close. The first “Online Dating” was born there, at these public conversation forums. If a person seemed interesting, you just opened a private conversation, and that was it. Regardless if you were a boy or girl, shy or extroverted, you were proactive, and the conversation flowed, without having pressure on who should take the first step and all those things. It was the revolution, hey. Sure, you were protected by distance and because the technology was not so developed to harass people. Obviously, there were people who lied and could even tell you that they were the king of Spain, and you would have to believe him … Unless you knew someone who lived in the same city as that person, who worked in the same company, who studied in the same place … Until the audio and video arrived in real-time.

Evolution (already, of course)

Wait, before talking about the video call and everything, I have to talk about the first dating web pages accessible at that time. The first one I explored was Cybercupid. Gosh, here I won’t pretend to speak about the interface problem and other technical issues that frankly interest a damn to people who do not work in web development. Better not. I’m just saying that, for the first time, I saw people looking for other people and seeing what happens. It was so popular, it was endless lists of profiles, and almost everyone had pictures (the selfie was not fashionable, thank heaven), and they did the effort of writing consisting presentations on their profiles (some of them very ridiculous). It was very entertaining to find someone who lived in the same city, and that encouraged a live encounter. There was no pressure for anything, you just had a coffee, or you share some fries, and at the end, you continued as friends, without the anguish of having to proceed with a script as in the gringo’s sitcoms … (I will develop later my theory about dating in my new country, ok). There was also Badoo and Meetic. There were specialized pages according to the land of origin, such as British Singles online or similar things.

Then some Latinos thought of making pages for Europeans and Americans to meet their “dreamy Latina.” I imagine that the same must have been similar to Eastern Europeans and Asians’ websites. Anyway, some sites looked more like escort pages than online connections. You went through a strict examination by the administrators, where they established that you were honest enough to access the service, which for women was free. Dating was something for a few people, but it was getting more and more democratic, and soon everybody was appearing. Everybody noticed their computer had access to a microcosm that was going to take them on amazing roads, and maybe the opportunity to meet someone special. What the heck, let’s open an account, we all told each other. There I was, spinning around for a while. I met people in my city, foreigners, people I never saw live and people with whom I still have a great friendship. Nope, not love.

Audiovisual, baby

The first time I saw an audio call, I was not the protagonist. I witnessed it. It was the first time also for them. She was my web design teacher, and he was a foreigner with whom she talked in the Yahoo chat, and who later became her husband. I remember her face when hearing his voice for the first time. The emotion of both. I went for a sandwich and left them alone.

I think I can not forget that experience that was not mine. Honestly, I do not remember the first time I heard someone speaking to me through audio, maybe it was through a webcam (a cute British guy who I did not see more than a couple of times online). But that beginning -my teacher’s- does not get out of my mind. I found the possibility of finding that person who would definitely be my destiny, fascinating. Looking at him behind a camera and feeling the mutual anxiety, reacting with joy and frustration in front of an inanimate device, was total madness, total happiness as well. You would like to thank everyone who made it possible, from the inventor of the binary code to the operator who made the wiring that allowed you to plug your computer into the network.

The emptiness in the stomach to see someone with whom you had gotten on in a dating website, by video, was fun and even romantic. There was that strange feeling that, despite the distance, “chemistry” was something feasible and sometimes it was replicated in reality, face to face. If that person was away or unavailable, there was also emailing, as well as conversations’ logs. We treasured it (the audio and video calls could not be recorded yet) and were evidence used in fights and reconciliations. I still remember reading a few logs of conversations with some of my exes, depressed, trying to understand why the relationship had not worked (IRC logs!). I remember a friend having printed those logs and brandishing them on her boyfriend’s face to tell him that he had lied about something or someone. “Here are the pieces of evidence, you shit! On line 42!! ” Good times.

The Microsoft Messenger, the ICQ, Skype -and I can not remember what else- occupied a large bandwidth, and the conversation fell several times. The image was deplorable (when the application allowed it), and the audio was a mess. Little by little, the quality was improving, and it was becoming more comfortable, faster, also democratic. More and more people who had no idea of how the Internet worked, (its initial codes, its free culture), were arriving. All kinds of people and from all over the world. The first users began to age, and the vast majority no longer needed to continue hunting for someone to talk to or spend time or live. People found what they were looking for or stopped doing there. Some of us stayed.

The cell phone and everything else (dating applications)

Portable telephony made it possible for people to be connected at all times. In. All. Moment. That means that there was not -like nowadays- a place to hide. Before that, you just turned off the computer, and that was all. Now everything is a touch of a button, a text message. Suddenly you could know who is calling or texting you. In the beginning, if your phone had the service you were lucky to notice who was calling you. If not, just to imagine. Suddenly you could avoid people. Quickly you could see images on your phone. Sexting was not born there, by the way. It was performed in the private chat channels, I have the feeling. Was funny when, in full sex discussion, the network fell, and the debate was abruptly ended. “Next time,” we said ourselves, resigned, while the other guy was desperately trying to reconnect.

Then Social Media arrived. Everything was too fast. From the dating pages to the dating applications. From the standard phone applications to geolocalized ones. You felt desperate when you realized you passed 500 meters away from someone who could become the father of your children if he were interested. The whole depression when he ignores you Olympically. They are local meat catalogues.

Because Dating is transformed. It stopped trying to help to approach lonely, curious and very busy people, who wanted to find other people alone. Interested and very busy too, to become catalogues of images (some dreamy) with profiles of people who basically say the same things and have the same objectives. They became a place to self-gratify the ego in its purest expression. You are a piece of tenderloin in a butcher shop where you need to be supported with the opinion of several potential buyers. Maybe you want them to buy you, but perhaps you just come to see how your personal ranking is, and the rest does not matter to you. Are you hot? Are you still handsome? What is your rating, according to the market? Of course, dating sites are diversified: if you are straight or gay, if you are Catholic or Muslim, if you are a geek or you are in old age, if you are single or married … a simple search on Google will have fun.

All of the above to tell you about my experience -now I am- through two decades.

After trying (basically for curiosity) all the online dating places, I can say that the possibility of finding someone, it’s as high as finding a needle in a haystack. Besides, regardless of marketing strategies will tell you, the relationships that start by this means, do not have any element that makes them last. Basically because, unless that person is absolutely tunned into you or your goals, or takes you more seriously than you take him/her, the rest of people is always looking for the fast track. Therefore, yes, you will indeed meet couples who have met online, and who have gotten to marry or established lasting relationships, but it will be 0.1% of reality. In fact, levels of loneliness are growing more and more in our highly technical societies. But loneliness is real (although being alone is not tragic, either). Here comes the statistics, Mommy.

Online Dating nowadays is the bar scene, but in virtual, without the pressure of having to make an interesting conversation, without the real punch in the belly of rejection live. Virtual Dating allows you to show the best image you have of yourself, even if it is not valid, to catch something – even temporarily – that makes you feel better, so you usually lie, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes with joy and advantage.

If you have bad luck, and you try to be exactly the same online and offline, the possibilities of failure are endless. People are here to get therapy, not to find someone. Therefore, if you make someone notice something you do not like, or do not think is right or requires a bit of patience, you will make the famous ghosting; which is nothing more than the virtual version of “I’m going to buy cigars, and I’ll be back .” But sometimes you do not even have to have a reason; It can be only boredom, or because there is something else in the catalogue that the other is examining, that shows it can be better than you. Because giving explanations is too painful for someone who is basically looking for a good time. So why not put a profile that you want a serious relationship (in my opinion, the worst) or whatever that make people interested? You want to catch the interest of the market. Where, inevitably, in a vacuous culture where the image is everything, you will be cataloged by your age, by how you look and what you do. There is a lot of competition, so if you “ruin the experience,” they discard you and start over. A fast and fresh start, anytime. No time for regrets, no time for considering if it was wrong or right, just moving out. Next.

Something that haunts me is the idea that people have, in this Nordic society in which I live, on Dating, as a succession of actions that must lead to preconceived results. I think I have to put it as a parenthesis in this analysis, because I think it’s right here, in Canada, that I have decided to stop insisting on online Dating. People expect you to act according to a preconceived script: You suppose to do something on the first date, another thing on the second one, and so on. Men in whom I have been interested, have stopped contacting me, simply because I did not kiss them on the first date, or whatever they expected. Nor does they seem intrigued to know why my reservation or intensity. Some guys told me also that (Canadian) women seem to be in Dating as if they were in work meetings, sometimes two daily encounters; and girls have no qualms about letting you know. It must be my city full of singles. It seems they do not have time for anything serious, except for themselves. Check it out people: I won’t even talk about a commitment, that monster for most of the guys here…

Going back, you will see that I only say ghosting, but there are also aggressive people, obsessed with you, who spy on you, who do not understand a NO for an answer and who play aggressive passive when you are near. People who will be able to violate your real and virtual security, who will call you bitch because you want with others and not with them, etc., etc. and a high, etc. that you should already have seen in accounts like Byebye Felipe.

Why not anymore – my conclusion and farewell (sort of)

That is, 20 years after my first date, I decided that I did not leave my search for love in the hands of an algorithm. I decided to delete my account after my last appointment, which had ended cordially because I am a lady. I saw him yawning for the third time while we talked in front of a few beers. He was a physically handsome man, adult (apparently), hilarious, absolutely disinterested in my life, who spent it talking about himself since he arrived, after spending a whole week courting me via WhatsApp, almost without letting me sleep. How formal (face of sarcasm here).

I don’t do it not because I do not believe in technology, I do it because of what it is doing to the human being, it is transforming relationships. The ease to achieve everything makes people stop working on getting something and value it. Tell me old fashion, but I am not a typical example of a “Xennial,” the one that was born without the Internet. I love technology, I use it regularly, I am fascinated by its future possibilities in the life of people, society, and the world. But it scares me how interpersonal relationships have been trivialized, to the point of being cataloged by my age, by how I look and by what I earn per month. For heaven’s sake, I am not a Martian. I do not have any fear of loneliness, in fact, I think it is an excellent state for self-improvement, creativity, and empowerment, not only feminine. But there are moments in your life, in which you feel so good about yourself, you want to share it with someone. Technology should help you find that too, don’t you think?

It’s in online Dating the last battlefield where the preconceived structures about love and happiness should begin to be demolished? (patriarchal all, sorry if you don’t like it, but it is the truth); where communication should bring people together instead to send them to hopelessness? I got tired, then, of disappointing relationships with people who are mediocre sentimentally; bored about the imposed silences, tired of small talk. Fatigued of their horror for any kind of commitment. It doesn’t mean that I lock myself to meet people. I am introverted, but I can make an effort and develop acceptable extra “social” skills. I came from the last century when those things worked, you know. I am also an inmigrant. My best asset is that I adapt to new cultures, new situations.

Consequently, I’m not afraid of the real world. Maybe the reality isn’t always so perfect, but it is still more rewarding than a message in your cell that you have waited for hours. I get positive at the end: Maybe the one that will make me smile like a fool has already appeared and is spinning, thinking that I hate him or that I ignore his advances. Hey, it’s not true! Maybe he is reading this, and he wonders if it’s worth taking a coffee to talk about anything trivial but feel good together. Hey, call me, fight a little with yourself, be proactive. As it says this magnificent poem by Alexandrie: Come, always, come (in Spanish, sorry).

Ridiculous bonus
How to recognize the “right” profile in a dating site? How to know if it’s worth even clicking on the profile or establishing a conversation? It depends on your goals, of course. But if you want it to be “safe” at least for your mental and emotional health, maybe you will be served by some criteria that I have followed. As they say here: the use in masculine is only to save space. That is, it is valid for both men and women. I do not have the magic formula, in fact. That’s why I’m not there anymore.

About the profile

  1. No photo. Sometimes it’s interesting, if what he says in his profile impacts you. If you ask him, it is often because he has found that a co-worker is there, or because he is married (run). Without a photo and without much text, it must be a vulture or a dog typing.
  2. The group photo where you don’t know who he is. It’s the ugliest, I warn you. He has self-esteem problems, and he will reflect them to you, even if he has the most spectacular conversation. You have to rely on friends to flirt. Zero personality
  3. The photo of his personal assets instead of his face. He has nothing but money. Nothing else. Materialist, looking for another materialist. Give him if you want a sugar daddy.
  4. Only photos of him/her doing sports, each one riskier than the previous. The picture on the top of the mountain, surfing, etc. The same if they are selfies in the gym. He wants sex.
  5. Semi-nude photos or in swimwear, selfies of him lying on his bed. He wants sex.
  6. Specifications about the physical attributes of the candidates he/she wants. Superficial.
  7. Selfies with puppies effects or other signs. Superficial. You will not go far from small talk.
  8. Photos with their children (nephews, or other infants). He/she wants you to believe he/she is a good father, often the contrary. Showing pictures of their children or children who are not theirs, in a dating site, what do you think?
  9. Photos in which his ex (exes) appears. Change his relationships a lot or still doesn’t get over the previous one. Run.
  10. Photos of memes of all kinds, artists, or anything else, except his face. It is abnormal and doesn’t know how anything works in this place. Maybe someone created him the profile. Perhaps it’s not him.
  11. Texts where he says he wants a serious relationship, that he likes to cook and spend a weekend at home instead of going to the stadium. I guess it is true. Nah, but he knows you’ll talk to him about it.
  12. Texts where he writes a sheet of things about what he thinks Dating is. He is disturbed, you do not answer him/her. Then he (mostly guys) will tell you that he wants to be your pet, he wants to clean your house in exchange for whipping or something similar.
  13. Texts where he says he does not want anything serious. Come on, if you do not want the same, leave him/her alone.
  14. Shocking and obviously sexual texts. You already know.
  15. Geeks texts that make you google it. Entertaining, if you like, but maybe you’ll get bored of you soon if you find someone more attractive unless you’re more geek than him/her.

About the conversation and the date itself

  1. Pay attention to what he tells you. If you ask everything and he does not ask you anything, he is not really interested in you. Egocentric on board.
  2. If after the first lines of conversation, he wants your phone number, he is collecting. Asked for a reason, he will tell you it is because the dating app is failing and etc. Maybe he’ll send you a text. Perhaps you’ll never hear from him again.
  3. He asks you about where you live and what you do and so on. At 10 minutes he loves you deeply and makes plans for the summer, with you. He is a mentally disturbed person. Run.
  4. He does not want you to call him. He does not wish video calls. He is not the person in the profile.
  5. He makes you several attempts of dirty talk without your consent. No matter how hot he looks, and although he says he wants something serious (those are the worst), you already know that he does not. It depends on your mood.
  6. He is asking for pictures every time. He sends you his photos (not necessarily his genitalia) without you asking for it. He does not want anything serious.
  7. You are on the first date, and he makes repeated physical approaches that you reject. No matter how good the guy looks, it is a NO. It is NO in every case.
  8. He knows you 10 minutes ago and already tells you to meet that night. Better yet, he asks you if he can come by your house, to give you a massage. Absolute NO LOL.
  9. He talks to you all week, you both agree to see each other, and he does not speak with you since that day when you booked that appointment. Do not go. The same if he does not respond to your messages with reasonable delay. Give it for dead.
  10. He talks to you all week, you both agree to see each other, and then he tells you that he has something else to do. He tells you that you misunderstood the day, or some other relevant information you weren’t aware (like he is separating, but he is still living with her wife and 10 kids). Do not get mad but stop answering his messages. Killed in action.
  11. He talks to you all week with passion, you agree to meet. When are there, he treats you like his sister. Have a friendly conversation about the weather (very Canadian subject), pay your bill, and leave with dignity.
  12. He has a bizarre schedule, and always sets appointments on bizarre times of the day: he is married or dating someone else. He can only see you during the week: he is married or dating someone else.
  13. You are on a date that he has propitiated, he organizes everything, and even give himself the pleasure of ordering for you; but in the end, he asks for separate bills. Here and in China, it’s a big NO. Unless you have previously agreed (the reasons may be diverse), this is a sign that it is NOT worth seeing him again.
  14. He makes the appointment in a costly place and expects you to pay your part (so far ok here). He talks about himself for the whole event. He does not ask anything about you. He keeps looking at his phone all the time. DO NOT stay.
  15. He sets the meeting in a fancy restaurant, saying insistently he is inviting you. When you arrive, he tells you, in the middle of the main course, that “he was fired.” Be kind, have a great conversation, pay your (costly) bill, and never see him again.
  16. You agree to see him, you arrive on time. You call/text him several times, but he doesn’t answer. You have been planted. Always have a plan B in the same place or nearby. Wish him the best (that the Viagra is in his medical coverage or something), and forget him Olympically by doing something else instead. Go back to the same place where you were planted, but with someone with whom you will have a great time. Exorcize everything.
  17. He asks you what your measurements are, how much you weigh, and if you are fat. Stop answering. Block him.
  18. He tells you that with age you have “you must know many things,” and that he has always been “interested in older women.” He worries about how old you are, whether you are older than him for 3 months, 1 year or 20. He will be embarrassed to walk with you. Machismo in all its beauty: a man can take decades to his partner, but a woman can not. It’s the 21st century. Enough, right?