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Looking for Love in the Online Dating World

Back in the very beginning, I was actually excited about a man who appeared to live about 15 minutes from me and whose profile sounded great. Although his wide acceptable age range for potential matches was 18-105, somehow I didn't see the warning flag in that. Some might call me naive.

This is an article I honestly never thought that I'd write. Although I sincerely would love to be in a committed, loving relationship, as a person who cherishes personal connection and one-on-one interactions, I admit I'm probably not the most likely person to be reporting on my experiences with online dating sites.

Alas, in this month of all things love and romance, I was compelled to sit down and share my stories. Experiences that have me wondering how anyone ever possibly meets someone of integrity on these online sites. The claim from that one out of five new relationships now start online, was eye-opening. Wow, 20 per cent! Got me thinking that something, so far, is definitely not working for me.

The current site I'm on, (which I discovered while doing research on intimacy), intrigued me and I was curious to take their online test and uncover my dominant personality type. The test was created by author and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher PhD, one of the world's leading experts on sex, love, marriage and dating. On this site, it's all about the chemistry between the four personality types. I was surprised to discover that I'm an explorer, with strong negotiator skills coming in a close second. Everyone I shared this with confirmed they saw me perfectly as an explorer. True to my type, I jumped in, ready to explore.

I've currently been on the site several months and frankly I've have had more conversations with their customer service people than with any prospective matches. The male supervisor, my inside connection, and I have had lively, laugh-out-loud conversations as he continues to encourage me to stick with it. In the last conversation, I actually asked if he was available, as he appears the closest thing to a match that I believe this site will offer me. He laughed. Gotta love a guy who gets my sense of humour!

Recent events finally convinced me that I just had to sit down and tell all. A few days ago I got three close together email interactions from what appeared to be a lovely man, who lives a mere four and a half hour drive from Toronto. Remaining open to possibility, I wouldn't let the distance between us stop me. In his photo, he looked impeccably dressed in a dapper smoking jacket with ascot. Personally I have no interest in a partner who smokes (or wears a smoking jacket), but when I checked out his profile, I was relieved to see that I could safely move forward. He claimed that he never smokes.

His email immediately flattered me and he expressed a keen desire to have a voice-to-voice conversation, suggesting we jump to that ASAP. So far, so good. Less than 12 hours later, I got a notice that once again I was being matched with the same gentleman. Same name, but magically he was now a year younger than he had been the day before. A bit confusing. I wondered if that was something he could teach me how to do, considering I just had a birthday and in a 12-hour period, I actually became a year older. His picture was the same, only now it was a close-up, so the smoking jacket and ascot were less visible. I was happy I hadn't answered the last email and given him my personal contact info.

When I called my trusty, laughing, in-house supervisor, he explained that sometimes this happens. Oh, this crazy world of online dating. I asked, "Wouldn't you at least change your name if you were attempting to get a profile backup?" More laughing from my inside man. The bottom line was that this match was flagged and his profile withdrawn and he immediately tried to create a new profile which was also flagged and removed. I asked if this happens often? Unfortunately, it happens.

Because this wasn't the first time this happened to me, I'm not sure why I was surprised. Back in the very beginning, I was actually excited about a man who appeared to live about 15 minutes from me and whose profile sounded great. Although his wide acceptable age range for potential matches was 18-105, somehow I didn't see the warning flag in that. Some might call me naive.

He emailed me after we expressed mutual interest and perhaps again I should have known something was wrong when he signed his email with a different name than his profile name. Hmm. And, he was actually a really lonely guy on contract in Malaysia. So much for the potential short drive to meet up with him. He too was flagged and pulled from this site. Where are all the real, authentic men? Does this happen to men looking for women too?

They've now sent me many possible matches and only a very few even look remotely interesting to me. Having just read Jane Fonda's new book Primetime, I remembered reading that sometimes you have to go through a lot of matches to find one worth exploring. For me, it feels incredibly time-consuming and two-dimensional. One of my main criteria is that men at least put up a photo. I've been told that many men don't because they are either hiding something (like they're married) or don't want to be judged by how they look. So, what would happen in person?

A recent Business Insider article reported that apparently smiles in online photos are out for men. I wondered why. Men who look away from the camera and don't smile have a much higher chance of getting a response than those who look directly into the camera. Apparently guys who look at the camera get less messages than those who don't, according to OkCupid CEO, Sam Yagan, who guesses the reason is because it's intimidating to women. I don't get that at all, as I personally always go for the smiling man looking directly at me.

The statistics relating to online dating sites are quite staggering. According to Dating Site Reviews, the dating service industry in the United States is projected to be worth $2.1 billion, with an estimated 1,500 dating sites in the U. S. alone. Sounds like a small country of hopeful relationship seekers. Seems any criteria can be a launching point for a dating site. Whether that be age, religion, spiritual beliefs, or your intelligence, there is probably a dating site you can sign on with.

In the United States, there are 54 million singles with 5.5 million of those using dating services. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians have tried online dating with 69 per cent saying they probably wouldn't try them. Sixty-four per cent of online daters say common interests are the most important factor in finding a potential partner online, with 49 per cent reporting it's more about the physical characteristics seen in photos and videos. Online dating sites in the U.S collectively had an amazing 593 million visits in October, 2011.

Not too long ago, a male friend actually suggested I write an article on online dating, after hearing a radio report that women are hiring private detectives to screen and check out perspective matches found on the Internet, as dating sites typically don't engage in any background checks. Hiring a private detective. "Count me out of that," I thought. It seemed absolutely outside my realm of understanding. One thing I do continually hear is that it is imperative to be cautious. Generally trusting by nature, I was curious and wanted to understand where people most often choose to misrepresent themselves.

Catalina L. Toma, an assistant professor in the communication arts department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, investigated how people present themselves and how they judge misrepresentation. For me, the findings were shocking, indicating that about 81 per cent of people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles. The "bright side" conclusion was that people tend to only tell small lies because they may eventually meet in person. My question: In these areas, are any lies actually acceptable?

So, although I'm staying open to being found by an ideal match, I do take a deep breath every time I open another email introducing me to a potential match. I know this way of meeting works for many people. I've heard numerous success stories. At the very least, I see it as a great way for me to do research on human behaviour. As an explorer and curious investigator, it offers a wealth of new personal experiences and potential stories. Maybe even some great new cyber friends in really far away places, too.

What stories do you have of your online dating experiences...whether good, or not so good?

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