Here’s my dilemma: the phenomena that is Internet dating came into full swing after I said my “I do”s. I’m not saying that I’m behind the times, but this is something that I never had to experience. As far as I was/am concerned, this is little different than leaving ads in the back of personals.

I hear all the time “I have such trouble meeting people.” Any advice I have to say on this topic I figured I could get away with by saying “Women, let me make this simple: cook something.” The shortest route to a man’s heart is, okay, through his ribcage, but his stomach is a close second. Men eat food. Especially free food. Especially free food of the home-cooked variety. If you cook something, men will show up, even if you don’t invite them. Fat ones, skinny ones, old ones, young ones, tall ones, short ones. Heck, if you can’t cook, order in. Even if he has to push through the empty Chinese food cartons to get to the table, he’ll still thank you for cooking. Because food on a table is still food on a table. I’m just saying.

Apparently, so I was told, this wasn’t always realistic.

My second inclination was to mock speed dating and the Internet as the last resort resources for the truly, pathetically desperate. However, several of my close friends quietly admitted to trying these options. People whom I knew were great catches (names and numbers available upon request), whom I never imagined had difficulty meeting or connecting with people. So I thought that maybe these phenomena deserved another look.

You get to a point in life where you have exhausted the natural prospects for meeting people. College. The bar scene. Work. Friends of friends. Church. Sometimes you just want a scene that’s relatively safe to mix and mingle. Speed dating, for those unfamiliar with this, is when a group of men and women basically are funneled down a line meeting people of the opposite sex in five minute intervals. This allows you the opportunity to meet people and learn their job, hobbies, and interests. It allows a snapshot of them, enough to basically rule out the immediately obvious. You learn if they can carry on a conversation, because even five minutes feels like an eternity if they can’t. You might get a feel for any chemistry or possible attraction worth exploring.

On the downside, you’re basically judging a book strictly on its cover because there’s no time to even get past the table of contents. Shy people are disadvantaged. They might come across as awkward or snobby. The strong, silent types with good character may get overlooked. One stupid thing or comment may get you ruled out. The game becomes mostly about surface issues, matters of physicality and style. You can’t truly get a feel for someone’s personality, intellect, and sense of humor in five minutes.

Then again, all you’re doing is interviewing for a date.

A similar thing is true of the Internet, except there the hurdle is the tyranny of “The List”. The wrong answer on a survey can get you eliminated. You can’t get a feel for chemistry. Or their personality. If misunderstandings happen because we can’t read the tone of an e-mail, how much more so as we try to convey humor?

Adding to the atmospheric environment is the relative anonymity. It’s hard enough getting part all the artifice of dating when in person. If all you have is a computer screen, it’s easier to say the right things. Of course, for some, especially the shy, this is the advantage. But you are judged on your picture. And it’s harder to get the vibe that a meeting provides. So see that stalker’s glint in their eye or feel the instant sexual chemistry. If you aren’t careful, they bring out the worst elements of dating. Dating becomes more of a game. More superficial. Again, some people will say that’s the advantage.

Another issue that has been an interesting recurring issue is that “traditionalists” have difficulty reconciling the rules of “courting” when it comes to internet dating. Maybe I just don’t get it. I am fully prepared to come back next week and repent. Tell me what you think and whether or not I’m missing the boat on this.

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