The problem with honor system and dating sites…

Before I get started, let me answer those of you who wanted to refer single men or women to me.  Thank you, first of all, for reading my post!  Tell your friend/colleague/family member to either email me or leave a comment below the postings.  Or, if they don’t feel like contacting me yet, they can Follow my blog until ready.  I’m thinking of organizing a singles event at some point, and will keep track of those who’d like to be contacted.

Today, let’s begin with one critique I have of current dating sites:  They all rely on the user to self-declare his/her own traits.

Now, I like to think that the honor system works because it warms my heart to believe that fundamentally, human beings are rational and self-policing.  While the honor system generally works when it comes to paying 75 cents for a package of M&Ms;, reality shows a different human face in the dating world. (For example, see OKTrends’ stats from OKCupid: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-biggest-lies-in-online-dating/)

This is consistent with the fact that people do not naturally vote to benefit themselves in the long-term (which requires some work in the areas of self-awareness and critical thinking), but rather with their emotional beliefs (For more in-depth reading, do an online search for “econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/selfir.doc”), and with a preference for affiliation with the perceived “winner.”  Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Tall&Handsome; shows up at the first date two to four inches shorter than portrayed and with a decidedly plain face, or when BronzeGoddess24 actually has a shapeless body, tubular legs, and speaks in a high-pitched squeak.

With the exception of the bona fide predators, the main problem with online dating sites is that they create an easily-accessible, competitive marketplace that brings out the fears and testosterone in a subscriber, with these heightened emotions roiling while staring at the computer screen or smart phone device in isolation.

In this situation, it’s easy to get carried away and inflate one’s assets with a few quick taps on the keyboard, thinking that as long as one is recognized or chosen with a “wink” or “flirt,” the white lies are justified.  And as my friend Susan added, the same way that applicants who pad or fabricate part of their resumes think that foot-in-the-door for an interview justifies the lies.  After getting through a few dates, those who do not resort to white lies (or even those that do, but aren’t honest with themselves about it) begin to fear that majority of the people online are lying, and may feel:

  • Vulnerable and confused
  • Cheated and angry
  • Creeped out and turned off
  • In some cases, that it’s okay to inflate one’s assets
I can hear you asking me now:  “So what do you expect me to do with this problem?”

Well, just as there is an efficient way to screen out candidates in the process of filling a position, I propose a similar method to help you quickly sift through the avalanche of winks, flirts, love notes, and cut-out hearts piling up in your Inbox:

  1. Before you even look at your Inbox, review your own profile, and
    • Ensure that you’re emphasizing your assets, but not inflating or fabricating them.
    • Say something like “Please do not contact me if you are not completely honest in your profile,” and actively report liars to the administrator.
  2. Set aside a limited amount of time either daily or weekly to look at profiles, being disciplined about cutting yourself off once time is up (use an alarm if necessary!)
  3. Once you have a batch of, let’s say, ten people you’re interested in, contact them at the same time, giving each person a maximum of 20 minutes.
    • “Interview” those who reply to you using a list of prescreening questions, asked in the same order, weaving them in like a conversation.  You can start with a set of questions to compare what they say versus what’s stated on the profile, if they’re truly important to you (e.g., When I meet you, what will your height really be?)  Decide ahead of time whether any white lying is acceptable, and if so, what the range of the acceptable fib is (this is different from a job resume, where no fibbing is acceptable.)  Take note of the answers, and assuming they are acceptable, move on to other important questions not covered on the profile.
    • Do not commit to making a date at the end of the call, but say you have to go, and thank the person for speaking with you.
    • Cross off those who do not reply, and those who do not meet the basic phone screen.
  4. Once you’ve spoken to all those who replied, decide which ones, if any, are worth meeting in person.
  5. Call those people up to set up a first meeting in a public place:
    • If he/she hems and haws about meeting in person, say goodbye, and cross him/her off your list–you don’t need to waste time with someone who doesn’t have time to meet, or prefers free phone sex.
    • If he/she doesn’t want to meet in a public place during hours when others will be around, ask whether it’s okay for you to bring a friend along.  If he/she says no, don’t schedule the meeting, and cross him/her off your list.
  6. At the meeting, note both what is consistent with the profile and phone screen, and what is not.
This should save you from wasting some time, energy, and money, and help you screen to out the wheat from the chaff.  Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!
 / 2 Comments  / in Dating

2 Comments

  1. Wonder Girl June 25, 2011 8:27 am - Reply

    I like your method. I have often got disgusted within the first week of trying online dating and given up. Maybe I will try one more time using your suggestions 🙂

  2. oluvme@facebook.com June 27, 2011 11:33 am - Reply

    Thanks, Wonder Girl! And I'd love to hear whether the experiment works any better for you.

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