< SWITCH ME >

Rain pelted against the slabs of rock. The water poured down outside Sarah's flat where she was completing her masters at the University of Saint Andrews. With just weeks to go before Sarah's dissertation was due, her anxiety was at its highest - her fingers flying across the keyboard, configuring the last fragments of theory that would fit into a 25,000 word count, condensing 19 years of her education into one final but highly symbolic (not to mention expensive) paper.

Needing space from the stress of it all, Sarah's aunt came to whisk her away to Paris. Here, in the city of love, she would try to find some clarity as she bound together the last threads of her education. Yet ironically it was in the world's most romantic city that as one part of Sarah's life cumulatively came together, the romance of Sarah's life fell apart. Sarah's boyfriend of six years spoke the words no girlfriend wants to hear.

girl computer night

Photo: mislav-m (CC BY)

Dating websites can do wonders for your ego

'I cheated on you.'

'He said that he went to church that morning and prayed,' says Sarah. 'God told him it wasn't working out. After I pressed on, I found out that the reality was that for two years, he had been cheating on me with the girl who was his best friend.'

Not only did the bloke decide to tell Sarah on the cusp of her dissertation due date, Prince Charming decided the perfect venue for doing so was email. Classy, Mutherflubber. In an instant, there went six years of everything Sarah believed in. Yet more than the betrayal, more than the heartbreak, more than the shock, Sarah found that the heaviest thought on her mind was something else.

'I missed the glory years of dating.'

At 25 years old, Sarah hadn't been on a real date in six years. So Sarah decided to make up for all those lost years. She wished her (ex) boyfriend the best on his voyage, and hoped for the sake of the other passenger on board that their journey would be exciting enough to keep him from docking his ship in other ports. Then, instead of feeling sorry for herself, Sarah did what many young adults are finding themselves doing nowadays. She got online, and she got herself a date. In fact, during the month of January, Sarah got herself 31 dates in 31 days.

Instead if feeling sorry for herself, Sarah did what many young adults are finding themselves doing nowadays: she got online and got herself a date.

'I dated an aspiring UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter, a model, a surfer, a tweaker, a guy who made guitars, a manager at a game store, a security guard, a life guard, a teacher, a few guys who were 'finding themselves'. I dated a lawyer who couldn't find work, a lawyer who was practising, a lawyer who quit and decided to be a blogger, and a guy who stood on the corner in a lady liberty costume selling tax refund things.'

Perhaps the most hilarious of Sarah's encounters was one guy who was really into World of Warcraft.

'He told me I reminded him of an elfish queen with flowing red locks and ask if he could see my wings later.'

Online dating: a democratic business

With over 32.1 million monthly users in the Europe alone, the old stumble-into-a-club-make-eye-contact-with-first-passerby-leave/exchange-numbers, cold call isn't just old fashioned….it's a real gamble. Online dating allows you to find out a rough idea of the basics – what a person looks like, what they are interested in, if you both have similar outlooks on life, etc., - before you make that cold contact.  The best part for those of us living in a cyber generation who find human contact (and rejection) a bit daunting, all it takes are the buttons of a keyboard to find out whether or not we have liftoff.

Further, online dating is a billio- dollar industry that offers multiple platforms for each person to find their niche. Platforms have become so diverse - such as, nerd passions, fitness singles and the infamous grindr - that there's really something for everyone. From hookups to relationships to even the casual relashopping (a term used for people who casually browse online dating profiles) there are multiple areas of dating culture to delve into. Intriguingly, online dating has become an extremely important space for people in underrepresented communities to meet and identify with one another.  

An opportunity for the lgbtQ community

Danielle, a 25-year-old social worker who identifies as bisexual agrees, 'I found OkCupid useful in my experience because it lets people know that I'm queer… you end up seeing a lot of the people from OkCupid in real life because the queer community (can be) small.'

Travis, a 24-year-old who hails from America - the land of the free which still infamously struggles to accept its LGBTQ population socially and legally - agrees.'From a young age, there has been a hesitancy to ask strangers out and to basically act on my nature. There's a fear that a heterosexual guy will overreact to being hit on by a gay man, either ending up in a verbal or physical overreaction for being perceived as gay.'

Online dating has become an extremely important space for people in underrepresented communities to meet and identify with one another.


For the LGBTQ community in America, especially those living in areas where openly identifying as gay or trans can result in oppressive isolation online dating provides a safe platform to connect with others and more so, a steadfast reassurance that there are others like you.But just because online dating provides multiple venues where you can find your niche, that doesn't mean it's always an easy shop around in the journey of finding your partner. In other words, there are the horror stories.


online dating horror stories

This past Christmas, single 24-year-old Callie found an online dating gift card under her Christmas tree wrapped up from none other than… her mum. Although Callie didn't create an account according to her mother's wishes, she had tried online dating before and experienced enough of a Spanish inquisition on one of her first dates never to try it again.

'All he talked about was sex: how many partners did I have? How many did I want to have? What have I done? What did I want to have done? After two hours of awkward sexual details, I said I wanted to go home.

'Though the entire experience turned Callie off from dating for life, it did leave her with some good stories. 'I did get messaged from a guy who thought I would make a good third person in a polyamorous relationship between him and his wife.'

girl dating online

Photo: mislav-m (CC BY)

Desktop, laptop, smart phone or feature phone: any gadget does the trick!

Cindy, another former online dater, has an equally epic horror story.

'The guy – who was white - kept trying to 'talk ghetto' to me (I'm black). At one point, he said he'd lived in New York. He'd been to Bed Stuy. He'd walked those streets.'

In one hilarious encounter, a reader didn't fully understand an online site's promise of 'all kinds of relationships' was a reference to sexual relationships, and not friendships. She went out with a fellow female to a club called 'P', and on her way home, her new friend took her to an underground sex party. What can we say? It's the little things in life.

Raluca, a 24-year-old from Bucharest, Romania, who found her long-term partner on on OkCupid two years ago, sees people's unfortunate encounters with online dating as a factor of trying to make yourself appear normal on an abnormal platform.

'Those who value being normal in a partner, whatever that is, tend to be disappointed with online dating. The more you put yourself out there with all of your little quirks the more likely you are to be matched with someone (whose company) you actually enjoy.'

Raluca has a point – the creation of your online profile is the rite of passage that comes with online dating. How you conceptualise yourself in your profile, mixed with what you want to gain from another online dater, can greatly affect your experiences. If you're willing to present yourself honestly, you're sidestepping someone setting expectations for you that can lead to disappointment.

Another way to avoid disappointment is to be honest with yourself about where you are in life. This will help you set realistic expectations of what you are trying to gain from online dating.

Where the princess meets the prince

THREE TIPS FOR ONLINE DATING

Sarah gave us these great words of advice for online dating so we could start our online dating adventures on the right footing.

1. Take your profile seriously. Be honest with what you need and who you are. If you say you're just interested in hooking up, that's what you're going to get. If you're interested in a relationship, say it.

2. Be confident in who you are and what you're looking for. If you don't want to see them again, tell them.  Although you need to be sensitive to others' feelings, part of the experience is learning what you want, and what you don't want.

3. You'll probably get hurt, but that's what dating is. There will always be a lot of hurt in anything that's worth it, but there will also a really great reward.

While Sarah was going on her 31 dates in 31 one days, she came across a profile of a guy whom she thought was cute: 'I talked to Joey in January. He was on my list of potential people to date. But for some reason, it never happened. I'm glad I didn't talk to him because it wouldn't have worked. I just wasn't in that space.'

Over the next few months, Sarah started dating another guy, but for various reasons, it didn't work out. When things unraveled, Sarah gave it some time, and decided to online date again. This time around, when she saw Joey's profile again, she went for it. Seven months later, they are in a relationship and Sarah is 'the happiest I've ever been'. Ultimately, if you're looking for something serious, don't give up. Online dating can be exhausting. Regardless of whether you have bad or good experiences, you will learn a lot about yourself. So even if you only date losers, you're learning what you don't want and developing a better sense of your own value and what you deserve.

 

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