There’s something about browsing profiles on OkCupid that feels like shopping for a pre-owned car. And it’s that something that makes me profoundly uncomfortable with getting to know someone via text on a screen. For a blogger and an Internet entertainment writer, I’m remarkably discomfited with the idea of connecting with someone online.
Call me a huge chicken, but I have deleted my OkCupid profile on the cusp of arranging a date not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. There was the guy with the impressive dark beard who admitted to playing Scattergories on Saturday nights with buddies, the guy who made his own bread, the guy who brewed his own beer, and the impossibly cute ginger guy who had just built a massive grill out in the wilderness and promised to grill me fresh barbecue. These are the fantastic men I have had the foresight to dump before I ever met them.
Without fail, whenever I get close to that moment when this actually pretty cool guy I’ve been randomly chatting with is going to ask to meet me, I suspend my profile for a few weeks. I’ll bully myself to come back and tell myself it’s no big deal, that this whole online-dating thing is much preferable to being accosted at a bar, and that there’s probably someone really cool on there, someone not creepy at all, and that I should just take the plunge and go on a date. And then the cycle starts all over again.
I spoke to my cousins about this recently, when they told me they’d never tried online dating and probably never would. I said, “It’s doesn’t feel like a real connection. It doesn’t even feel like you’re talking to a real person.” I like the thrill and the excitement of meeting someone randomly, or even being set up—a living, breathing person whose facial expressions you can unconsciously monitor, whose eyes give away their warmth or their sense of humor or their level of vulnerability. I like the element of surprise that comes with getting to know someone through mutual conversation, and not via stock responses and Q&As. “The most private thing I’m willing to admit” is so not the most private thing I’m willing to admit, and I hate having to look through a person’s profile and try to piece together his personality through these seriously inferior means.
But is that enough reason to consistently flake out and blow off sincerely interesting men and retreat back into my cocoon? Probably not. So, first in my x-step process is to make the announcement: Hi. I’m Lisa. And I am a serial OkCupid account deleter. I’m sorry for not responding. I just seriously hate the idea of “meeting up and seeing where this goes.” I take you seriously when you say you’re a “laid-back guy” and I appreciate your earnestness when you ask me “what’s up.” I just hate having to wade through your blurry, half-dog profile pictures to see if you have humor in your eyes.
I suppose I agree with Luke Danes, Gilmore Girls’ diner-owner extraordinaire, when he said, “There’s the gut. I can tell if I’m comfortable with someone within seconds of meeting them.” And I can. I knew it with every single guy I’ve ever dated; I knew instantly upon meeting them if I was interested. Luke continued, “Well, it’s just knowing that someone will let you be. That’s a gut thing.” I’m a firm believer in enjoying my single life until I meet someone I’m willing to sacrifice my independence for, and even though I want a relationship, I think dating is simply the worst. And worse than the worst is online dating. Online, I am constantly aware of a niggling fear running throughout my correspondences with these guys: the fear that this is not worth it, that it’s not even real, that online dating is futile and frustrating. It’s so easy to run away; all it takes is a few keystrokes and a single click—“Deactivate account”—and suddenly, it’s like I never existed online at all. There’s no proof I was ever there, and my vulnerability remains unchanged and unchallenged. But so does my singledom, alas.
So I haven’t taken the plunge, and every time I try to leap into the water, instead, I just delete the water and keep my feet on dry ground. But here’s my solemn promise, if I dare to take the oath: I’ll try my hardest to never delete my profile on you again. And hey, maybe want to get some coffee and awkwardly stare at each other?