Adventures in Online Dating (and the Characters You’re Likely to Find Along the Way)

By | April 3, 2016

I am a believer in the merits of online dating. To be honest, I have been fond of the concept for a number of years, but it took a while for Al Gore’s Internet to become more mainstream and gain people’s trust in the idea of meeting someone online before it really became a legitimate option. Online dating always had that unfortunate stigma of being “for geeks and nerds” or for hopeless people who couldn’t find someone the “normal way,” but it’s nice to see those bits of silliness are fading away. We probably have Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to thank for that. Facebook wasn’t built for dating, per se, but it seemed to be the big gateway for mass acceptance of socializing via the web.

So yeah, I’ve had a couple different stints with online dating. One was back about ten years ago when I was fresh out of college, during that earlier phase where the options were a little more scant. I met two people that time around, one of which wasn’t a good fit and the other who frankly scared me after out eating me in a Chinese buffet…by a few plates. I’m not saying I’m all that picky about social expectations and rules and whatnot, but I have a pretty voracious appetite, and this chick doubled what I put down on a good day. Anyway, I digress…

Online dating phase two has been much more…um…normal? It’s felt just like dating in any other way with just one new channel by which to meet people. There’s nowhere else where you can sit down and scroll through hundreds of people and find a handful of potential dates who are most likely to be a good fit. Perhaps making the process efficient removes some of the romance, but we’re only talking about the meeting people part of things and getting to the first date. The rest of it from that point on is “normal.” And theoretically everyone is on a dating site with the same goal of finding other people to date, so that eliminates some of the awkwardness by keeping similar expectations across the board (nice opportunity to drop a relevant link to my post on awkwardness).

Phase two has lasted a shade over a year now with mixed results. It’s been a nice, “on my own time” way, however, to meet people. I mean, you get periodic emails with people with which you might be a good fit, so you can “socialize” a little at a time without having to go to places like bars and clubs. As a natural introvert at my core and a rather not-bar fan, especially as a venue for attempting to meet someone I may spend significant amounts of future time with, this is very welcome. Also, I was reading this article the other day, and I couldn’t believe how spot on it was with my thoughts on bars. Sometimes I wonder if everyone really feels this way but people are just in different levels of denial about it.

Anyway, I haven’t necessarily found a soulmate yet, if such a thing exists, but I have met some good people (and some not as good) and even wound up with an actual friend out of the deal, something I did not expect. All along the way, after viewing hundreds, if not thousands, of profiles and meeting a small subset of the real people behind those profiles, I started to notice the emergence of a handful of recognizable “characters,” if you will. And a story of adventure would be quite blah without some character development! To that end, I reveal my view of the online dating scene and who you’re likely to find there if you dive into the pool.

The “Just Trying This Out” Person

They just want to make sure you know that they’re better than this, but who knows, maybe they find someone, so they started a profile “just to try this out.” Or their friends convinced them to start the profile against their better judgement. Or they lost a bet and these were the stakes. This person is part of the group of people that hasn’t lost the old stigma of online dating and thus has to qualify their membership to everyone: “Hey! I’m not weird, but message me maybe now that I’m signed up for this thing, you know, before I come back to my senses and cancel my account and find hotter people elsewhere?”

  • How concerned they are about self-image: 10
  • How likely I am to message them: 2
  • How likely I am to respond to them if they message first: 4 (I mean, if they’re into me…)

Little Miss Filter Much

An excerpt from her profile says it all: “Serious inquiries only. And if you’re unemployed or living with your parents, don’t bother. You gotta be a real man. But no old creepers either, like, I’m 25, so if you’re 30, check out the nursing home. And if you don’t know how to entertain a woman and keep her happy, keep scrolling. And you can open doors for me too, cause chivalry ain’t dead. No hipsters either; just not my crowd. Must be okay with a woman with a strong personality who’s gonna be herself, cause I’m no pushover. Life’s too short to spend it with someone who isn’t worth my time.”

  • How likely they are to find someone who is worth their time: 2
  • How likely they are to be worth my time: 1

The Fabricator

They look and act nothing like they did in their profile pictures. The pictures either came ten years ago, thirty pounds ago, or before “the incident.” Their profile discusses the importance of being health conscious and how they went through a “lifestyle change,” then, upon meeting them for dinner, they order fried grease with a side of cheesy dip and a soda. Their body type is stated as “about average” when they weigh, well, not average. They claim to exercise three to five times a week and then during dinner discussion let it slip that, “God, I need to get back in the gym, it’s been like two months. I really like candy and TV, though, hehe!” This person finds the truth to have a lot more grey area than the rest of society, and thinks that words are just things people say when they’re doing stuff.

  • How likely it is that they had a fake ID in high school: 9
  • How likely I am to communicate with and meet them: About as likely as anyone else, so 5
  • How likely I am to see them a second time: 0
  • Their level of accountability for anything: 2

The Bait & Switch

The Bait & Switch is someone who takes the initiative to start the communication with you and is very funny, intellectual, and/or witty when emailing and texting. They genuinely hold your interest and make you rather excited for the date. Then you meet them and they are as dull as grey paint chips. And this is why it’s always wise to pick a date location that is someplace you enjoy going regardless of the company, because at least you can enjoy the guacamole, live music, or a few frames of bowling so the night isn’t all lost. You could also make an argument that people with misleading profile pictures belong under this description, but we covered that already with The Fabricator. I consider The Bain & Switch to be more of a personality tease.

  • How likely they are to benefit from a public speaking class: 8
  • How much I wonder if their friend was actually writing their emails and texts: 7

The Mystery

They have one picture, answer nearly every question as “I’ll tell you later,” and their profile description simply says “message me if you want to know more.” I get that you’re trying to take advantage of the teaser effect here, but an online profile is already supposed to be a teaser, kind of like a movie trailer, and now you’re shortening it from a beautiful two-minute collage of cool scenes where things explode and people make out to a ten-second shot of a snowflake falling that fades out to a black screen with a white question mark. And you’re expecting me to be that enticed to do all the leg work in this pre-date phase?

  • How highly they rate themselves: 10
  • How highly they rate other people: 1
  • How likely they are to initiate conversation: 2
  • How likely I am to message or respond: 0

The Not So Undercover Cheater

Their status is “currently separated,” they joined yesterday, and they have three kids that live at home. Sure, no one’s suspicious. And can you believe they actually allow “currently separated” as a relationship status? I think if that’s your selected status, you’re closer to belonging on Ashley Madison than any real dating sites. And how desperate are the people messaging you? They’re willing to take a chance on someone they barely know and have never met for someone who is “currently” separated? Doesn’t that sort of imply they won’t be separated in the future? And that you might leave them to get back together with your spouse? And that he might whoop the living crap out of whoever you met online when that happens? No. Just no.

  • How much this person hates being alone: 10
  • How much this person craves drama: 9
  • How likely it is that this person has a profile for a very elaborate plan towards a make-up session with their spouse when all is said and done: 7

Faceless Person

Come on, you really think you’re going to get someone interested without showing a picture? No one is so un-shallow or morbidly curious enough to take the time to message you, get through some email conversation, and then finally ask for your picture when the other thousand profiles they have available at their fingertips do have photos. Let’s be honest, while looks aren’t everything, they’re something, and you can get a good feel for a person by seeing their expressions, how they maintain themselves, and what they’re doing in a picture. It’s not just all about vanity and assigning a “hotness” rating.

  • How likely they are to have self-esteem issues: 9
  • How like it is that they simply started the profile but haven’t yet finished it and thus don’t have a picture uploaded: Hm…good point…6

The Friender

Their profile description reads “Hey, I’m not really here looking for a relationship, just looking to meet new people.” They are either full of crap or need a social networking GPS cause everyone else, generally speaking, doesn’t belong to an online dating site to make friends (although I did make one friend, by chance, but that completely unique and coincidental).

  • How likely they are to be liars: 8
  • How likely they are to actually make friends: 3

The Quirk

All of The Quirk’s pictures are of her making funny faces or doing weird things or of weird things that aren’t even her like turtles wearing tiny Asics and reading the latest issue of Runner’s World. You don’t really have a great feel for what she looks like. And you can’t tell if any of her profile question answers are real or sarcastic or just random things she plugged in that have nothing to do with her at all. Her profile description is usually a short sentence like, “It is…well…you know…don’t you think so?”

  • How likely I am to message them: 6 (I do have a certain level of curiosity as well as an appreciation for quirkiness)
  • How likely they are to respond: unknown, flip a coin, roll some dice, “Pick a card, any card!”

The Profile Description Novelist

This one is pretty self-explanatory. They have absolutely no problems whatsoever meeting that minimum character threshold, and after reading the autobiographical profile description, you pretty much know everything about them. If you would happen to meet for a date, it’s more like a book-signing event or a fact-checking session because you can’t think of a single thing to ask them that she hasn’t already written down for you. Also, I have no stats to back this up, but when I recall them in memory, they are almost always blonde.

  • How likely I am to message them: 8 as I am obviously wordy myself and appreciate someone who enjoys writing, though there must be some quality within the quantity
  • The most popular genre of profile description novels: romantic comedy, of course

The Dedicated Christian

Her profile description starts out with her favorite bible verse and ends by saying “My faith in God is very important to me, and anyone I end up with must feel the same.” That’s wonderful, truly, but why are you not on Christian Mingle? As it stands, 95% of the members on this dating service to which you subscribed are “undatable” in your eyes, so why are you wasting precious time searching through all the atheists, agnostics, spiritual but not religious, and religious who believe in a god (or gods) that isn’t yours?

  • How likely they are to find their match: 1
  • How likely they are to have a picture of them with a puppy: 9
  • Or a horse: 8
  • Or their nieces and nephews: 6

The Hopeless Romantic

There is a hopeless romantic character in every conversation about dating, and the online variety is no different. The Hopeless Romantic is a close cousin to The Profile Description Novelist, but there is slightly less content about her and a lot more about her potential match, ideal first date, and her vision of your future together (do you like the name “Brayden” for a boy?).

  • How likely I am to message them: All else being equal, probably a 7 (I’m a little HR myself)
  • How likely we are to wind up together: Hopelessly…2

The Shy Artist

The Shy Artist only has a small handful of profile pictures, and none of them have that model lips kissy-face thing, the hand-on-hip pose, their other friends alongside them, or their favorite adult beverage that some people find a need to include in a picture (and in the case of some people, evidently they only take pictures when they’re drinking). The pictures do, however, contain cute and understated photos, perhaps one of which is subtly seductive without being over-the-top. The profile description and details are somewhat minimalistic, but not near to the extent of The Mystery. The details include a plethora of her favorite bands and artists, and her “last read” section is well populated.

I find The Shy Artist adorable. If that’s you reading this right now, please message me.

  • How likely I am to know half of the bands she lists as favorites: 3
  • How likely I am to message and ask about said bands: 8
  • How likely it is that any possible first dates will be in a coffee shop: 7.5

The Active Athlete

You know this person from your local sand volleyball league. They also joined the softball league, the bowling league, have a gym membership, yoga membership, and drop in on Pilates classes here and there. They are very active (obviously) and love to spend time outdoors. They just returned from backpacking in Guatemala, and if you want to meet them, you better do it soon cause in two weeks they’re leaving for a month-long, advanced sky-diving retreat in Phoenix, Arizona. They ride their bike to charity runs, and they run to their spin classes. They finished their first half marathon this summer and plan to start training for a full upon return from the sky-diving retreat. And they have a black lab.

  • How likely they are to order a protein shake smoothie when you first meet them: 8
  • How likely I am to message them if they also show evidence of a personality: 9
  • How likely I am to message them if they don’t show evidence of a personality: 2

The Person You Already Know From Somewhere Else

It’s a small world out there, and the dating scene is even smaller. The online dating scene smaller yet. Eventually you’re bound to run into someone you already know, someone you work with, someone you’ve already dated, or maybe even, God forbid, a family member. I’ve seen three or four different people I know from other places show up in my daily emails, and I always wonder if it would be better or funnier to just call it out and message them about it, or if it’s just best to keep deleting it and pretending it doesn’t happen. What do you do next time you see them in person? I haven’t really worked out the best solution to this scenario yet.

The Normal Person Who Happens to Have an Online Dating Profile

There are actually far more of these “non-characters” than one may realize. Some people don’t necessarily fit into any stereotypical bucket or a loony bin of any kind, they’re just another normal person with a profile, exhausting another potential avenue for finding someone to spend time with in some capacity or another. I like to think I fit into this category myself, but perhaps I’ve inspired another character on someone else’s blog post about online dating personalities.

The One

I don’t know if you exist, but if you do, message me 🙂

Thanks, everyone, for tagging along with me on this adventure. Anyone else out there have good, bad, or other unique thoughts about online dating? Perhaps an interesting story to share? Do you find online dating to be a viable method for meeting someone? Is there a “character” I missed out there? As always, comments are welcome. And if you liked it, share it (buttons below)!

7 thoughts on “Adventures in Online Dating (and the Characters You’re Likely to Find Along the Way)

  1. Anonymous

    How about the person that doesn't want anyone else to find out they are doing online dating? I would say it is similar to the "Just trying this out" person with one major difference, they are trying it out because they want to truly find someone but for the still unfounded stigma of it wants to keep it a secret. Even after they meet someone and start dating. What are your thoughts on that?

  2. Brett Bloemendaal

    You mean kind of like the person that comments on a blog post under the name "Anonymous?" Just kidding 🙂

    Anyway, yeah, I think that's totally a reality for some people. The problem is that I'm not sure how you would identify them when you read their profile, so it's hard for me to give any examples of them just by seeing them on any of the websites. Unless you're saying they give some distinct signs of not wanting to be known or fake pictures or something?

    For what it's worth, and I probably should have elaborated more on this, I also think the "Just Trying This Out" person truly wants to find someone online too, they just don't want you to know that, or they somehow feel ashamed about it within themselves, so they put in those distractions and justifications. In that way they're really quite close to the person you described, I think, but correct me if I'm wrong.

    Appreciate the thoughts!

  3. Anonymous

    I would say ashamed is not the right word, but more being able to be accepted when asked how you met to the mass generational gap that might not fully grasp a "love at first sight" cute way of meeting.

    Could this "anonymous" person be speaking of their self for this question… it's a mystery to all. What if this person tried online dating and ended up marrying the person they met online with very few people knowing how they really met. Instead, they decide to fabricate a first meeting that others would find as a more "normal" way of meeting. Even though as you described; it is simply a starting point, a platform, and everything that comes after setting up a first date has zero reliance back to the platform and all about natural dating.

    Regardless, great article and keep the search out. As an "Anonymous" example of being able to find "The One" on this platform of dating…

  4. Brett Bloemendaal

    More great points! That certainly can be awkward trying to describe to older generations how you met, so I certainly respect anyone's desire for anonymity. Now I'm really curious to know the fabricated story, but I won't pry!

    So glad things worked out for you in the end, Anonymous. I'm more inspired than ever 🙂


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