You can't trust everyone you meet online. Photo: Thinkstock
Last week, I talked about why you can't believe everything you hear when it comes to online dating. Here's part two of the series - you won't believe what you'll read about the internet's dating hot spots.
A predatory environment
If you think your local bar or nightclub is the quintessential “Meat Market,” you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The online dating world is fraught with pick-up artists. (Disclaimer: Are there women scammers who troll online dating sites? Sure, but in my research the amount of women scammers isn’t even close to the amount of men.) In truth, online dating sites allows these hustlers to become anyone, say anything, claim anything, and portray an image that sells them to as many willing/hopeful/desperate/naïve people as possible. In many ways, online dating provides a finishing school for amateur pick-up artists.
Early failure does not deter them from achieving success. Quite to the contrary. Online dating provides them with a world-wide arena they would not have otherwise, where they can perfect their lines by trying them out on a multitude of people; where they can pursue whatever it is they're after. Maybe it's an ego boost or maybe it's online sex, instant emotional gratification, short-term love, one-way companionship, etc.
I interviewed 50 men who use online dating sites to meet women. Here’s what a few had to say (and all of them requested to be kept anonymous):
From G.S. in New York: “Online dating is easy. I check out their profile and can find out really quickly what they are looking for in a guy. Maybe they want a relationship, so I tell them I want one, too. Some want a guy to be all adventurous, so I tell them about my last mountain climbing exhibition or how I bike a lot. It doesn’t matter what I say, because once I get in there, I probably won’t see her again.”
From E.B in Chicago: “I have a really great profile. I paid a professional writer to help me with it. It’s general enough to appeal to many different types of women. It usually only takes me a short email to get her interested. From there, I just pour on the charm. A smile, a little shy attitude over coffee, and she’s mine.”
From M.D. in London: “You just tell them what they need to hear. It’s not complicated. Women on online dating sites are there because they want a boyfriend or husband. They’re prequalified, so it’s really like shooting fish in a barrel. I tell them I want something exclusive - a real connection. I take it a little slow, and before I know it we’re in bed. They’re eager to land a guy, so if I play my cards right, it’s easy to get laid.”
These men also shared something they have in common: They all play the numbers game. They each send many, many emails out to lots of different types of women, resulting in many email exchanges and chat sessions, and a few dates — the goal of which is to end up having sex. These scammers deal in volume because different women take different lengths of time to coerce into the bedroom. If a woman proves she’s too challenging to get into bed, these predators move on.
From F.H. in San Francisco: “I test the waters with soft lines. But I don’t want some lady to fall in love with me. It’s too hard to get away from that. If I see that she’s ‘really’ after a relationship, I move on. I can find easier targets.”
And in this simple statement, perhaps we find one of the most common reasons why he seemed so into her on that first date and then never called her again.
This predatory environment has far-reaching implications. These men play on/prey on women. After a few bad dates and misplaced emotional investment in the wrong guys, many of these women decide that all men are like this. So, when a genuinely nice guy comes along, she’s not interested, or else she decides that he’s “just like all the rest.” The nice guy then laments that women only date the jerks, and he sets out to become a jerk in order to garner a woman’s interest. Rinse. Repeat.
The real lies and secrets of online dating sites
The business of online dating is business, not love. You want the dirty truth? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The online dating industry generates $1 billion (with a “B”) of revenue every year, earned mostly from monthly subscriptions. The typical dating site customer spends an average of $239 every year in their quest to find love; just under $20 a month. However, were those monthly subscribers to find love quickly (as these dating sites promise to deliver, thanks to their algorithms and science), they wouldn't stay subscribed to the site for very long. They will have found love and won’t be dating anymore, and there goes the dating sites’ monthly subscription fees. Think about it: If everyone fills out a 400-question compatibility survey, chances are decent that there will be some commonalities - perhaps even a connection or two. If that’s the case, and the science/algorithms are so good/accurate, why would anyone have to spend $239 over 12 months to find someone with whom they click?
Meet Sally (not her real name). Sally is a senior consulting programmer who has assisted programming teams in setting up the matching/compatibility algorithm at a number of online dating sites — from the early days of online dating to the present. Her story is fascinating:
According to Sally, it costs the average dating site approximately $120 to generate a new customer. (In the subscription-based services world, this is called the Cost of User Acquisition, and includes the fees associated with advertising, promotion, sales bonuses, transaction fees, and more). But if the monthly fee is only $20 a month, the dating site needs to keep you using their services (read: unmatched) for at least six months just to break even. To show a profit, they need to keep you unmatched even longer. According to Sally, this is how it’s done:
“When a subscriber completes their online questionnaire and profile, the site’s technology matches them up with compatible potentials, and the subscriber is shown a selection of matched profiles. However, although the algorithm is capable of matching based on compatibility, only one of the profiles shown is actually a match based on their algorithm; the others are either random profiles of other users, or fake profiles entirely. If the subscriber doesn’t happen to click on the profile generated from the algorithm and instead selects one of the other randomly generated profiles, the algorithm shuts off for the next four to five months in an effort to recoup the cost spend of acquiring that subscriber. It’s been done like this for years, and is the way the business works.”
My opinion? Any time you put people on one side, and the potential of love on the other, you will find someone in the middle with their greedy little paws out.
Online dating isn’t the best way to quickly find lasting love; there are just too many holes in the system. Still, it can be a mechanism to meet people, provided you have your expectations clear.
Cast a wide net. If you are using an online dating site, remember that you’re dating. Be prepared to let a prospective match go if you — or they — aren’t interested.
Manage your expectations. Find someone you’re interested in? Let things marinate a bit, and remember that people reveal who they are slowly, over time. Who they are on Chat Session #1 isn’t who they will be on Date #3, and that isn’t who they will be on Month #6.
Be approachable. Have fun. You’re just meeting people. It’s no different than meeting them at a nightclub.
Stay safe. No matter how connected you might think you are, you don’t know them. Keep your wits about you. Meet in public places.
This week's links:
1. Romantic comedies are pervasive in our society. But from Disney movies to "Pretty Woman," they are setting a unreachable goal for love. Read more here.
2. Porn is fine as adult entertainment — perhaps to add spice to a long-term relationship or assist with impotence. But it's not sex education ... and for many men, that's what's unfortunately happening. Here's my rant.
3. Getting blind-sided by a break-up not only affects your sense of self-worth, it makes you wonder what you missed and how long they were just going through the motions. Here are the Top 6 Signs they are out the door.
What's up and what's down:
Up: After a mother in Ottawa, Canada, was scolded by a customer for nursing her baby inside a Starbucks, a young male barista came to her defense. Thank god for common sense. #mindyourdamnedbusiness
Down:Teams Bosnia, Russia, Chile and Mexico are all under orders not to have sex during the World Cup so their game play doesn't suffer. I would think by getting some, they would be lighter on their feet, so it's no surprise to me that they are all out of the running.
Charles J. Orlando is relationship expert and author of the bestselling book series "The Problem with Women... is Men®." Find out more about Charles on his website, or visit him on Facebook for real-world love advice.