My view is that internet dating is neither more nor less risky than walking up to a stranger in a bar. Is it any worse to finally meet in a bar the man with whom you have been corresponding for a month, than to be accosted by a complete stranger in the same bar? The best form of introduction is through mutual friends. Everything else is fraught with uncertainty and the potential for great frustration. Women are more skeptical of internet dating, whereas otherwise timid men become emboldened by the anonymity and therefore become more aggressive online than they would in a bar. This may also explain why the online male/female ratio is so skewed. I do not however believe that internet dating is making a significant impact on Americans' sexual habits, as it is unlikely that many online sexual overtures enjoy a consummation in real life.
To truly know a person is essentially impossible. I thought that I knew my former wife (9 years married together) quite well, but I was utterly mistaken. All that I genuinely knew was a projection of my personal preferences and attitudes onto her person, while she remained reticent and grudgingly accommodating. Her real personality was inchoate and withdrawn, communicated to me in haphazard and quizzical fashion, such that I was unable to comprehend. It’s useless to argue whether her guardedness or my obtuseness was at fault. The point is that genuine knowledge of another person, even an intimate partner of many years' duration, is impossible and should not even be sought as a goal. Instead, I propose a sort of cost-benefit calculation: is intimacy with the person in question a sufficiently keen pleasure that partaking of it overrides the risk of some noxious or unseemly development? Of course, some knowledge of the person is essential. But it will necessarily be fragmented, shoddy and uncertain. We must be bold enough to tolerate this uncertainty!
But why be so concerned over finding a jewel or ideal soulmate? Breeders must worry about optimizing their potential mates’ genes, and religionists worry about making sure that their intended is “the one” explicitly chosen for them by god. For non-breeding atheists, both considerations are moot. Be your own jewel; just focus on finding some one who is merely good enough. The future mother may not afford to “settle”, but a woman who is energized by her career, her avocations and so forth, has no need of that magical male deliverance to “complete her”.
In sum, I can not blame women for their skepticism over online dating, but I enjoin them to make less distinction between this form of dating and "real life" analogues. Cads and rogues abound in any venue, and good judgment is always difficult. Just as we should avoid foolish risks, let us not shortchange ourselves from too critical an eye.
"All that I genuinely knew was a projection of my personal preferences and attitudes onto her person, while she [he] remained reticent and grudgingly accommodating."
This is the truest, most universal (with my added ) assessment of relationships I have ever read. I see this unfold daily in the world, among friends and acquaintances, across borders and oceans.
You put it succinctly! These conditions make dating and finding a match for where you are in your life nearly impossible.
I so totally agree with you. There seems to be a large number of this sort in atheist groups :(
Simple twist of fate... And, a hell of a lot of bad decisions!
I'm single because:
1. Perhaps I'm too picky. I want an honest intelligent atheist that can forgive common minor human faults. I've never met a girl like that. My ex-wife was intelligent except she was extremely religious, a lying con-artist, and could not forgive minor faults.
2. Perhaps I'm a coward. I don't ever again want to experience the sadness and pain I went through in that marriage and divorce.
3. I'm not good socially. I get embarrased too easily with my poor dancing abilities and other things connected with being social. I also get disgusted listening to the religious (and other) BS that emanate from most people.
Here is another question about dating in general, do you suppose Hollywood chick flick movies have muddled some women's brains? I believe the "knight in shining armor" is a load of crap. I don't there is ANYTHING wrong with seeking the support or love of another nonetheless those with that mindset are disenchanted by reality.
One more question, the male sex is guilty of separating the "ideal" woman they find attractive in movies and magazines vs. women of reality who have flaws. Do think the media has a part in this male mindset?
The media-inspired muddling of brains (female and male) on dating-angst has been going on since Daphnis and Chloe (http://www.amazon.com/Daphnis-Chloe-Penguin-Classics-Longus/dp/0140...), some 2200 years ago. All that's changed is the medium. Today we read fewer books and watch more movies, and the pace of communication is more intense. We have more leisure time and more opportunity to consume information. But the message and the befuddlement that it engenders remains invariant.
Idealization of the opposite sex, and dejection upon reality failing to comport with the ideal, goes both ways. Men are no more guilty than women. Both objectify the other, and then become resentful that they’re misunderstood by the opposite sex.
But the problem of misplaced physical attraction is not of reality vs. media-idealization; it’s a problem of accessibility. It's summer now, even in the Midwest. Young women are dressing, ahem, appropriately for the season. They go about their business, and we men do not keep our eyes pointed to the ground with sullen humility. What we see amongst "regular" women really is not inferior to what's in movies and magazines. This is even true in my town, which is small and comparatively poor, where there isn’t much of a fashionable high-society. People's appearance varies widely, but I assure you that there is no dearth of examples in regular life that titillate the eye no less than what's on magazine covers. The problem isn't that real women are homely while airbrushed magazine women are beautiful! I don’t think that the media creates unrealistic physical expectations. What it does create is unrealistic expectations about accessibility – that people can just “click” and find their perfect soulmates with comparatively minimal effort, and that there’s some one out there for everyone. Maybe there is not. Maybe there is no ideal mate, and even if one exists, finding him/her is impossible.
I must disagree slightly with your observations, I do think both sides are guilty of idealization of the opposite sex. However, women take the greater constructive criticism a little more. For instance, we have shows that allow you to have your dream wedding and plastic surgery or a show like the "Bachelor" that shows one guy opting for an array of lovely women. I think magazines are finally taking responsibility for their part however it doesn't stop men seeking out pictures on the internet.
Women have come to a crossroads between marriage and being single, children or no children, and independence vs dependence. Women are still trying to have it all yet they are failing miserable.
The message that is pounding in women's head frequently "you can't be happy without the perfect man", "your image is more important than your inside, and "Women need to have a fairytale wedding to be recognized as "fitting in" with society.
I do agree with you on accessibility to a point but I diverge from your path when you say regular women are inaccessible. I think single women today are choosing to stay single than deal with someone who doesn't meet their criteria. Criteria means basic information and personality.
I would say that here it's a more urban setting. The street call out hasn't gone out of style. The men in my neighborhood are mostly married with children, Christian or Catholic, and have settled into a constant rhythm. I'm not saying it's like that EVERYWHERE but I wanted to give you an example of one of the demographics we have here.
Appearance seems to matter more and more on both sides. I read a profile header that stated "Kids? Overweight? Disqualified."
I agree with you about the ideal or perfect mate. I think that's where we set ourselves up for failure when listen to friends and family saying "The perfect guy or girl is out there".
The matter of level of exposure is also a good one. I have lived all over the Canada, and in the far North, people are constantly covered, and the expectations to perfect visuals are quite high here. In my years spent in Florida and the Caribbean, people constantly expose their flesh, the good and the bad, and I found the expectations are much more reasonable in Florida than anywhere I've lived in Canada, and even better than other areas in the USA, even California. Being constantly clothed has allowed humans to live by delusion and projection instead of realism (which is also well reflected in Canada having a higher level of penetration of social media than even the USA, Canadians are often content with the 'idea' of people rather than the real thing). Hanging out in nudist groups is humbling and freeing.
I think the difference between false expectations and reality, as you say, has always existed, but the modern lifestyle, our sedentary, cubicle/screen driven lifestyle, has shifted that perspective to a much wider degree of psychological penetration.
I'm not much of a television watcher, but isn't there a reciprocal female version of the bachelor shows, where the girl picks from an array of guys?
Not ever having been a woman, I can only view women’s perspectives from implications or inference, so of course I can’t speak with any authority on how media influences or societal influences make women feel, or even whether generalizations about such influences make sense. I concede that women are under greater pressure than are the men, to form families and to pursue a self-identity of parenthood. But at least in our part of the country, the message to men and women alike is that "you can't be happy, fulfilled or even a decent human being, unless you have a wife/husband and children". The single person is viewed as an overgrown adolescent, while the childless are wanton ingrates and sociopaths.
But just as being child-free is a disadvantage in dating and in one’s social standing, it ought on the contrary to be an advantage in overcoming the invidious trap of “gotta have it all”. By explicitly desiring less of one particular thing (having children), it should be possible to desire and to attain more of other things, and to feel less hounded by the tension between inapposite priorities.
Then there’s the question of women’s criteria for men. If you’re looking for a genetic complement to your progeny, of course you have to be choosy. But if reproduction is not a factor, if you are individually successful and secure, then I would imagine that the criteria become: (1) not a boor or a parasite, (2) a person of some integrity and responsibility, (3) a modicum of intelligence, and (4) some level of physical attraction. Not all men meet these criteria, but assuredly a great many do. One should not “settle” for a mate failing in any of these criteria, but if a candidate meeting them is found, then why not “settle” then? This is truly a time to invoke the adage, “The optimal is the enemy of the good”.
Another great essay... only one point missing from your 4-pt enumeration, sexual satisfaction. From all the girl talk with the females I've known, that if the male is able to make the female happy in bed (I'm not limiting here to ejaculation), it may overcome failings in one other sector.
Thanks for the new word: invidious
1. calculated to create ill will or resentment or give offence; hateful: invidious remarks.
2. offensively or unfairly discriminating; injurious: invidious comparisons.
3. causing or tending to cause animosity, resentment, or envy: an invidious honour.