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It doesn't approach the horror of being told by a partner that they don't love you any more.But despite our inclination to present ourselves as optimistic – verging on an almost deranged bubbliness, in some cases – we enter the process on the back foot. It's just that thin skin isn't compatible with internet dating.But the people I've spoken to who've been bruised by it are unanimous as to why that happened. Adam: "It's blackly comic: we all say we're fun-loving, up for a laugh, just seeing how things go – when everyone knows that we're all on a dating site because, to varying extents, we're lonely." Internet dating pivots around profiles; lists of attributes, paragraphs where you attempt to make yourself sound appealing, a handful of flattering photographs. Dozens of books and websites offer advice on how to write profiles; third-party services even charge 40 quid to save you the bother. Everyone loves travelling, particularly to Machu Picchu – which, if the profiles are to be believed, is an Inca site swarming with thousands of backpacking singletons. All of us love to curl up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a DVD (or a VD, as one unfortunately misspelled profile said).They believe it's a problem inherent to the process. The vernacular of online dating makes everyone sound the same. " Searching for a partner online has inevitable similarities to searching for a product.
While a service might lure you with a strapline saying "Meet sexy singles in your area", the truth is more like, "Reject perfectly decent singles in your area while waiting for the maddeningly elusive sexy ones." Everyone is trading off current opportunities against future possibilities.
But while I wouldn't want to date someone who gets a kick out of attending far-right political rallies, it's certainly true that opposites can attract.
I went out with a wonderful woman for seven years who loved Barbra Streisand. In a relationship these kind of things aren't an issue, but internet dating makes them into one.
e Harmony likes to stress how many members get married as a result of being matched via the service (236 every day, according to data gathered in the US in 2008.) did a survey last year indicating that an impressive 58,500 people found a partner on the site over a 12-month period – and they still offer a six-month guarantee of "finding love", albeit underlined (understandably) by a 500-word list of conditions. When Time Out magazine recently ran a cover story offering free online dating for every reader, it was dangling a huge metaphorical carrot. But you rarely hear from those who, having failed to find a partner online, back away from the computer shaking their heads at the way the process distorts social conventions and leaves you slightly shell-shocked.
Those 58,500 lucky members of were vastly outnumbered by the 286,000 unlucky ones.