Everyone is internet dating. Except me. My reasons for this are many, including still being bruised from a recent break-up and knowing from experience that I never find love when I am actively looking for it. It has to creep up and surprise me.
But my main reason for resisting the urge to internet date is my feeling that it drains romance of all its... romance. Even worse, it turns romance into a commodity. When you post photos of yourself and wax witty on the "five things you can't live without" or "your most embarrassing moment," you effectively reinvent yourself as a product -- to be reviewed, assessed for quality, and either purchased or passed over. You, in turn, shop for mates the way you might shop for used furniture on eBay, weighing age, appearance, stability, and likelihood to last.
I have a friend who is an internet dating addict, and over a recent lunch, she listed the pros and cons of potential boyfriends with a pragmatism that was simply depressing. It was all market analysis, no poetry.
Beyond my own personal mooniness, I'm starting to think that internet dating has reduced all of our chances of real life romantic encounters. Because everyone is on the internet, daters are becoming lazy -- or perhaps bashful, from lack of experience -- about approaching potential partners in person.
Case in point: I was recently at a work party where a colleague I hardly knew seemed to be checking me out. We made eyes all night, but no conversation. A couple days later, my friend the dating addict asked me if I knew him; it turns out he was chatting her up online and had mentioned his place of employment. I couldn't help but think that something was wrong here. Instead of pursuing the girl he thought was cute at the party (let's just assume this is true, for the sake of argument), he was pursuing the girl he thought was cute on his computer screen. Since when did two dimensions become more attractive than three? What ever happened to chemistry? Flirtation? Body language? Pick-up lines?
Perhaps it's old-fashioned of me to hold the man solely responsible for making the approach, but isn't it likely that in the age before internet dating -- and after arranged marriages -- this guy would have struck up a conversation? Back then, it was sink or swim: if you didn't ask for a phone number, you'd never see someone again. These days, you have the option of forsaking the crowd for the comfort of your own computer, where you can go girl-shopping in peace. (Yes, personal ads have existed for a long time, but they used to be only for weirdos.) Internet dating marks the decline of what I'd like to call the Romantic Era, when love was somewhat left to chance, and people got butterflies in their stomachs, not messages in their inbox.
I'm sure that all the happy couples out there who met online would counter with something like, "It doesn't matter how you meet. Falling in love is still romantic." That's probably true, and I may be missing out on my next great love because of my outdated notions or misplaced purism. Or perhaps my next great love is missing out on me because he is too shy to sidle up and ask if I'd like another beer.