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Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution

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Yes, I know the statistics. All the happily married couples from online dating sites. Well, I don’t buy it. All online dating sites, regardless of the flavor or method, are more like Facebook than real life.

Here are a few examples of where online profiles don’t tell the truth.

  • Pictures lie. Even recent pictures, when taken with the right light, can make a NOT look like a HOT.
  • Words are made up ideas. Yadda yadda, we all like beaches and wine. Music maybe.
  • Chemistry is impossible online. You can’t imagine how that person will feel when you are together.
  • The mind is wonderful, but even eloquent emails and text messages can add up to zero when you meet.
  • Some people are on dating sites for the entertainment of the idea and not to date.

Yes, it is true, online dating sites up your odds of meeting people you might not otherwise ever come in contact with. But why is that? Because you come in contact with people when you are out and about and doing the things that are important and fun to you. There’s a reason that an extroverted creative type like me isn’t going to naturally run across an introverted mathematician. It’s because we have so little in common, virtually zero overlap. And while the idea of “getting to know someone” is intriguing, you’ve got to start with some common ground to establish a relationship.

So I’m bored on a weeknight and we have some unscheduled time. I can choose between a lot of different activities.  I could go out and get some exercise, that would be good. But barring the self-improvement regimen for a minute, I could

a. spend time on Facebook chatting about nothing,
b. spend time on browsing faces for a hit, or
c. do something creative.

What I’ve come around to lately is that c. is the only good answer. Let me explain.

Facebook seems like community. We call it social media, but it’s becoming more just media. They’re showing you approximately 8% of your friend’s status updates and messages. The rest… is Facebook. Pabulum. Media. Consumerism. Today Facebook is a lot more like TV than it used to be. After taking a 99-day break from my FB habit, I’m happier and more productive. I’ve dipped back in a little, but no more hours socializing.

Online dating may also seem like a beneficial and worthy activity. But because of the illusion of social media, we might think we have a pretty good idea of who these “potentials” say they are, and what they look like today, but we don’t. It’s simply not true. Profiles on Facebook or OK Cupid are very similar. You put your best pictures up, your best accomplishments, and your little quirks. Except on dating sites, you don’t get to see the quirks. (Well, OK Cupid’s questions sections are full of quirks, and kinks, but that’s a different conversation altogether.)

The creative process is where I grow as a person and as an artist (writer, musician, poet, whatever). And as I am growing myself up, and growing into my creative energy I am also putting out more energy and more joy. You see, I think this dating thing is all about joy. It’s a little bit about looks. And it’s a little bit about thoughts. But the chemistry thing, I think, is all about mutual joy. Do you feel it when you are with someone or not? If you feel joy at the sight of someone, there’s a hit. If you feel nothing or something less than nothing (negative) that’s also an indicator of where things might go.

I spent a good part of a week getting to know a new woman recently, and I could see the potential. I could admire her good looks, dark eyes, and flashing wit. And yet there was something that was not coming across. I couldn’t decipher it right away. I was hopeful and encouraged by our initial and mutual glow. And her persistence in getting back together again the next day. “Spontaneously.” I loved that. “Yes, yes, yes,” it said to my brain.


In my joyous engagement, I was missing something from her that I couldn’t identify. I thought I was listening well, responding well, and behaving well. I thought we were moving things along nicely. But I could only make those assumptions about myself and my own thinking. While she was sharing a lot about life and asking a lot of questions about me, she wasn’t really lighting up. She was reserved. She admitted to being an introvert. I initially thought, “Oh, that’ll be interesting, to see how I am in relationship to an introvert.”

And even in the real world, with all of our faculties between us, the miss between us was something deeper. And after three “dates” and the promise of an actual “date” for the weekend ahead, I was feeling good and yet still mixed. I walked away from our meeting wondering, “Am I’m pushing this one along? Am I making this one happen? Am I trying to construct my lover?”

I think I was. She pinged me the next morning saying she’d considered our time together and felt it wasn’t going to be a match for her. She was canceling the date. And would catch up with me spontaneously as the occasion might arise in the future.


I was feeling the miss on a deeper level, but I was trying to make it all right. I wanted “her” to work. And that’s when I understood it was time to kill my online dating profiles. I WANT a relationship too much. My focus has gotten lost in all this browsing, assessing, and pursuit. What I really need to pursue is my dream and my creative output.

I have time for a relationship. I have the will and the energy. I need to put myself and my life in the places where “she” already is. In real life, not online.

Sure, I will have another great love. First, I must become the lover I hope to meet, by becoming large enough to call her in, without the help of a dating site.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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image: dining alone, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Melissa

    Hmm … it could have been that your lady friend’s introversion was problematic. But speaking as an introvert myself, I think it’s more about the communication style. People communicate on various levels, or depths. There’s surface communication. You know, “How’s that weather for you?”-type parlor talk. Boring. And medium-deep communication — like this comment, for example. But communicating deeply, in a way that resonates with your conversation partner, necessitates skill and, yes chemistry. Introverts may have a harder time opening up at first (especially to extroverts, who can be overwhelming), but the communicative link can be made. **Not with all.** Just some.

    1. jmacofearth

      Brilliant read, Melissa. Thank you for your perspective. I think you’ve nailed it.

  2. Melissa

    Okay, well more to the point of online dating sites and such (warning: deeper communication forthcoming): my experience with these — and my impression — is that everyone is there to sell the version of themselves that they deem will be most palatable to the masses. They’re one big “Like me! Pick me! Choose me!” competition. All those guys with their pictures, rock-climbing, standing in front of the Great Pyramids, white-water rafting, that’s all fine and good, but that only tells me who someone is three weeks out of the year.

    Personally, I just can’t play that game; I’m far too blunt.

    Dating isn’t resume swapping to see who has the most prestigious alma mater, it’s getting to know a very unique individual — a one of a kind — and each one of us is so precious, we’re worth far more than two hours of squandered time. And most of it will be squandered. Because first impressions, IRL, say so much. Just the microexpressions that you see running through someone’s eyes, their body language (are they at ease with themselves?), the tone of voice, their general sense off observation and perception of their environment. All of that is absent on those sites.

  3. Nona

    YES!!! You said it so well!

    I’m still fairly new to the world of dating as a single parent, but I hit the online dating websites before I was even ready to date (as part of my research for a character in a novel I’m writing). What I found was amusing for *entertainment purposes* (you are so right that not everyone on those sites is really looking for dates!)

    My research taught me personal lessons beyond the character studies I had set out to do, as well. Since I wasn’t putting up a picture or my real name, I decided to answer all of the questions deeply and truthfully. With nothing to lose, I allowed my pessimism to show–even if I thought it might be a turn-off. Before long, a very sweet gentlemen “fell in love” with me based on my words alone. I was open with him about the fact that I was there for research and not sure I was ready to date, but he still wanted to meet me. After chatting online for several weeks, and discovering a lot in common, we decided to meet. And just like you said, all of the compatibility we found on the page went out the window when we met and there was no chemistry.

    I thought this lack of chemistry with my 99.9% match might have just been cold feet on my part, but within days I ended up connecting with a wonderful man–IN THE REAL WORLD, not on a dating website–and the mutual attraction sparked instantly. A common passion for screenwriting had brought us together during award season when we ended up viewing screener after screener together, then reading each other’s scripts, and one “non-date” that morphed into a “non-non-date” led to another and another and another… and it’s now been 10 months.

    My real-world man has been incredibly patient, as he has had to essentially share me with the ghosts of an abusive past. There have been many times when my fears (based on a bad marriage that took up over half my life) have led me through an awkward (and I’m sure quite annoying) dance of cling and retreat, cling and retreat. As dysfunctional as I still can be, I’m amazed that he’s stuck it out with me. I’d have to say that the main reason is because of an approach much like what you presented in this blog: meeting in the real world, organically discovering all we have in common (both creatively and personally as single parents strongly committed to our kids), and continuing to individually focus on developing our creativity and bettering ourselves as people.

    We might have skipped past some of roller-coaster derailments we’ve experienced if I had waited a little longer to start dating and focused on strengthening myself and becoming the sort of lover I wanted to find before plunging into a relationship… but I don’t know if I would have known what that was without the real life practice in learning to trust and to love without fear.

    I’m so glad to have discovered your blog, because I think a lot of our struggles as single parents are not gender-specific, and for those that are, I really do want to understand the male perspective on life as a divorced single parent.

    Looking forward to reading more!

  4. W

    While I like the idea of meeting someone IRL it seems being a single parent who has full custody of their kids doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of doing so. My life revolves around transporting kids to/from school, homework, cooking dinner, packing lunches, volunteering at school events and working part-time from home. There’s not really any opportunity as far as I can tell to meet eligible men that I might want to date and I simply don’t have the time or money to hire a babysitter to sign up for some club or activity where there is a .99% chance I meet someone I have enough in common with and there is some initial attraction to proceed with dating. I make an effort here and there to go out with friends on the few occasions my ex has the kids but I don’t imagine meeting a potential partner during those outings. I’m just not sure what people mean by finding things you like and you’ll find a compatible mate. I just don’t have the luxury of doing those things right now because a significant portion of my life is dictated by the needs of my children. OLD seems to be the most efficient and realistic option for a lot of single parents whether we like it or not IMHO.

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