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What one Englishman learnt from 2 years of online dating in New York - Part 1


How about that online dating eh?

From the number of recent UK newspaper articles I’ve been reading on the subject I think the English are finally coming around the idea. There maybe some remnants of stigma attached, but it seems like meeting people through the internet is quickly becoming mainstream. However, back in 2012 when I was still working on my PhD in Oxford I told a friend that I’d probably start doing a bunch of online dating when I moved to New York later that year. Her response was: “But you’re not THAT weird?”…

She may have underestimated me.

One thing's for sure; after two years in New York and 85 first dates I am definitely a lot weirder.

From that number you might assume that I am either not very good at dating or that I am some kind of commitment-phobic man-whore. I like to think I am neither of those things, but I’ll admit the possibility that I am both, (should you wish to delve into tangled depths of my twisted psyche here is my book to laugh at and judge me with). However, regardless of my personal deficiencies you can’t go on 85 first dates without learning a few things, and so here I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you…

(Well maybe they’re more like observations, I’m not going to try to seriously advise anyone ‘how to date’, that’s for people to figure out on their own, but forewarned is forearmed and hopefully there’s something useful here for all genders...)

Lesson 1 -  Sexism bitches!

Sexism is very much alive and well in America and it affects the very basis of the dating ecosystem. Men usually have to act as the aggressors to get anywhere and women usually act as the gatekeepers. If you want evidence for this you simply have to look at the number of messages women receive versus men on online dating sites. Furthermore the overbearing dating paradigm seems to be that men are encouraged to appear wealthy and dominant, in order to achieve dating ‘success’ (or at least the numerical, notching bedpost, type success), while girls encouraged to be attractive and submissive.

I consider myself a feminist and I am in no way endorsing this model, in fact I’m not sure which gender is more disadvantaged by it, but I’ll accept that it’s probably primarily the patriarchy’s fault that things have gotten into this state [1]. I’m not saying that everyone follows this paradigm either, but we’re social creatures and whether we like it or not we are influenced by the movements of the shoal around us, so I think we have to recognise the market forces of the dating economy we all find ourselves trapped in.

Now it is very tempting to rant about the shittyness of dating culture and how it should change, but I might quickly start sounding like King Canute attempting to command the tide, so instead I’ll move on to the matter of surviving in it...

The fact is that if you’re a guy you’re probably going to have to put in a lot of effort into sending messages and getting noticed. Much of this effort will end up fruitless and you will spend a lot of time sighing over an empty inbox. If you’re a girl on the other hand you’re going to have to deal with a lot of shit being thrown at you (just metaphorically… I hope), and also learn to quickly weed out the deceptive and manipulative ass-hats from the other varieties.

Are we feeling dehumanised yet? I’m afraid it gets worse... but then you don’t want to die alone do you?

Anyway my advice to those sending out the messages is not to take it personally when no one replies to you, it’s just the nature of the game. To improve your chances pick your target audience and try and make yourself stand out to them; it’s a marketing exercise at the end of the day. Still it’s best to remember that you don’t want to be advertising oranges when all you have to sell are lemons; promote what you have!

On the other side of things my advice to those of you suffocated by your clogged inboxes is less well informed. However from a personal standpoint I’d suggest not being afraid to be honest with people about what you’re looking for and whether or not you’re interested in someone or unsure. If a guy isn’t mature enough to handle rejection and throws a tantrum, try not to let it get to you, everyone has to grow up someday. Oh and be suspicious of everything suspicious sounding, there are some real ass-clowns online.

Either way when entering the New York online dating arena be prepared for all kinds of failures and assaults to your ego, it’s a jungle out there so don’t go wandering in expecting it to be a walk in the park. The irony is that when trying to survive in the dating rainforest it can be tempting to abandon a certain amount of empathy and compassion to achieve ‘success’. However at the end of the day I think empathy and compassion are what we all need to make actual relationships work, so if you want to ever really escape the dating jungle then don’t let go of them, however much they seem to slow you down!

(Click here for dating lesson 2 - Girls like sex too!)


[1]-  I do think though that both genders are now responsible for perpetuating this dating culture. Yes my gender is probably more terrible and may have set the awful charade in motion in the first place, but the massive pricks out there are still getting laid enough to continue their dehumanising behaviour. I’d hypothesise this has something to do with them getting too many plus points for ‘wealth’ and spontaneous ‘chemistry’ because of their manipulative social tactics, and not enough minus points for being arseholes. Similarly guys probably put far too much weight on appearance and other poor predictors of compatibility... but anyway, I think we can all learn to do better.

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