As readers might be able to tell from my articles, I find online dating to be interesting both for its methodology and how it has transformed our culture. This recent article in the Observer serves as what amounts to the beta male counterpoint to my earlier article about the 40-something woman who used 98 men for first dates. The author laments his inability to find a relationship via online dating, which he asserts cheapens the entire romantic interaction.
It is immediately clear that the author operates from a low-SMV mindset—he talks about being scared around girls, having a “relatively barren” dating history, and repeatedly proclaims that he prefers a long-term serious relationship. Anyone who’s dated online and knows the pitfalls and idiosyncrasies of that process know what this guy is in for with that combination of traits:
“I realized my lifetime date count had, like a strain of mutant amoebae, multiplied by more than sevenfold. But only one date—and I went on close to 50 via online services—made it past the first encounter. That one petered out almost as quickly as the rest.“
Too often men who are socially uncalibrated take to the field of online dating because it feels easier to get dates. This is the devil’s bargain of online dating — any schlub can scroll through pages of girls and even exchange messages with them, but few realize that it does nothing to change the traits that women find attractive. If you haven’t developed the real-life attributes that girls find attractive, you’re going to end up spending lots of cash feeding female egos with nothing (relationship or otherwise) to show for it.
“I am, as the Jerome Kern tune goes, old-fashioned, even though I’m 26, and I like old-fashioned girls. If I could bend the world into another reality, I would mold it after Woody Allen’s great musical comedy Everyone Says I Love You, in which attractive couples dance about the sidewalks singing old jazz standards.”
In a move common to social castaways of the sexual marketplace both male and female, the author would rather dwell on his idealizations of what the world “should” be like, rather than face the realities and adapt to achieve what he is looking for. He does at least make what he figures, to be an honest college try:
“When I’d completed my new online profile, I sent it over to a female friend for vetting. Add an inch to your height, she said, and put a few female writers in your list of favorite authors. I took her advice, making myself 5-foot-11 while adding Nora Ephron, Katie Roiphe and Gail Collins to a list that included E.B. White, Dwight Garner and Tobias Wolff. “
List some female authors? This is why you should never listen to a woman’s dating advice. We can also see the author’s lack of understanding of sexual market value in the way that he writes about casual sexual relationships:
“While any slut can game the system if he or she [emphasis mine] so pleases, bedding the city via Tinder or any number of online dating apps, what’s less often acknowledged is that regular people are going on an inordinate number of dates and getting very little—sexual or otherwise—in the process.
The trouble is, I’m not that kind of guy. Oh, how I wish I could be a slut, if only for a little while! But I’m shy and insufficiently assertive and quite anxious and have trouble reading women.”
The author uses the term “slut” to describe men, which immediately invalidates any of his theories on the sexual marketplace. This is because he fails to realize the abilities necessary to attract women for casual relationships are identical to those required to attract them for the eventual long-term commitment that “normal people” (his words) desire. He also does not understand that in this climate, the men who are looking online for serious relationships are no longer the “normal people.” The futility of his approach is made painfully clear throughout his other dating anecdotes:
“Like the cute 22-year-old paralegal from Florida who told me, on our first date in the Flatiron District this past winter, that I was a “diamond in the rough.” Alas, maybe a little too rough. “You’re great,” she said in a text the next day, when I’d asked her out again. “But I honestly don’t think I could see myself being romantically involved with you.”
The problem here for our protagonist is multilevel. First of all, the kind of man who has no success with women cannot magically change his ability to attract them by altering the medium in which he meets them. Dating and attraction is a Markov Process: once you’re on the date, future results don’t hinge upon how you got to that point. Online dating is not his problem. The man simply fails at being attractive.
The second problem with the author is that he’s seeking a relationship and is likely telegraphing this desperation to all of his prospects. New York City is a well-known dating minefield, where random hookups and multiple-partner harems are the norm for both sexes, likely created by the abundance of choice and the pressure to forsake human relationships in favor of building up other aspects of one’s life. The vast majority of New York girls who sense a man is looking to jump into anything serious will run in the opposite direction.
In a culture that punishes men for taking relationships serious, men who are looking for relationships have only two options. The first? Follow the myriad game advice for making himself the kind of man that girls would want to have a relationship with. The second? Settle for dating girls who can’t do any better than you. One of these paths is hard but worth it. The other, well… good luck.
We have easily diagnosed the problems of our hapless narrator, but what about the assertion that the online dating itself has warped our sexual marketplace? Anyone who has spent time in the online trenches can attest that it has created even more of a steep pareto distribution—that is, despite the increased exposure for everyone, the vast majority of the success filters to those at the top of the hierarchy. The rich, in essence, get richer.
Making matters worse, the so-called “paradox of choice” affects online daters at all levels of sexual market value. This makes some sense, since the presence of large numbers of choices devalues any particular one of the selections. Why should a girl respond to my message, or why should I put up with crap from a girl, when they are basically just colored pixels on a screen that could be just as easily replaced with other colored pixels? The complaints with online dating can be boiled down into these groups:
Desirable man: “I can date and get laid, but have to put up with lots of flaking, annoyance, attention seeking, etc. Why should I put energy into any specific girl?”
Undesirable man: “I go on a bunch of first dates but can’t get girls to call me back no matter how nice I am”.
Desirable girl: “I go on a bunch of first dates and none of these guys are up to my standards. Where are all the good men?”
Undesirable girl: “I rarely get messages and guys only want me for sex.”
It’s obviously better to be in the “desirable” situation for either sex, but online dating is only a panacea for those who are already high in sexual market value. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the best course of action is again to work on other areas of your life so that when you’re ready for a relationship, you’ll be able to attract the kind of girl that you’re looking for. It’s both a simple solution and a hard one, and one that will continue to elude the author of the Observer piece and many other men who refuse to accept the realities of dating in the information age.