The trials of dating on the Web

By Ruth Davenport

Every now and again, I’m reminded of what a slothful race we really are.

My friend Ted recently informed me that if his current four-years-and-going-strong relationship ever ended and he was in the "relationship market" again, he would employ an Internet dating service. According to Ted, the service handles most of the "dirty work" involved in finding and assessing a suitable dating partner and boasts a pretty impressive success rate. In short–it’s quick, efficient and minimizes the possibility of rejection.

The exponential increase in Internet dating over the last three or four years indicates Ted’s not alone. Thousands of people are opting to find romance by filling out the blanks on an electronic form, cutting the crap and just getting on with the business of falling in love. Internet dating eliminates–or so I’m told–all the stress, lumps, bumps and possibilities for painful rejections or unrequited affections that normally occur in the "traditional" dating process.

I wonder if Ted would ever ask the nhl to simply elect the winning team for the Stanley Cup every year without playing any games? After all, the games are loud, sweaty and violent and require an awful lot of work. The schedule has to be arranged, people have to buy tickets, the teams have to travel. There’s sweat, the players get hurt… really, wouldn’t it just be easier?

Well, yes, but it sure would be boring. I submit that using an Internet dating service leads to an individual with low self-esteem and no imagination compounding this problem and becoming even duller and more insecure as a result. By cutting out the "crap," an Internet dating service user also eliminates the need to strain and think of neat ways to engage someone’s attention, make them laugh and keep them interested. Any resulting relationship will likely be just as cold and uninteresting as the method by which it was established. Dating a guy who spun you around the dance floor at a swing club is vastly different fromdating a guy who was chosen by an array of microprocessors as a statistically probable match. There’s excitement, chemistry and vigour in the first; there’s really nothing in the second but an expectation that this should work so let’s get on with it. Blah.

And what happens when an Internet dating service user has a relationship crisis? I assume that Internet dating doesn’t provide a help-line with electronic forms to fill out in case of "Awkward Conversation Pause," "Fight," or "Asking for Next Date." If Ted depends on a computer for even the first step in a romantic pursuit, can he ever function for the rest without it? Aside from having underdeveloped communication skills, both parties will lack a sort of fundamental familiarity they might have gained from feeling things out during an orthodox face-to-face dating process. This familiarity is what helps resolve or even avoid any disputes. One dysfunctional relationship doomed to failure, served piping hot.

At the risk of sounding preachy, the dating game is a critical life experience. There are lessons to be learned, bruises to be acquired, and yes, skills to be developed. The whole package as an exercise in personal growth is far too important to sacrifice to the gods of convenience, lassitude or social timidity.

Using the Internet as one’s exclusive dating tool does no one any favours. Ted and his cohorts need to accept that the dating game means getting dirty, getting hurt, taking risks and occasionally sitting on the bench–but the long hot shower with a new paramour afterwards more than makes up for it.

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