When finding love ain’t straightforward (Part 3)

For the context regarding this series of posts, please read the first post of the series here, and the sequel to that here

I have always resisted online dating platforms because I have heard so much about the sleazy activities that take place on these platforms e.g. single and married persons alike joining these platforms for casual relationships such as one-night stands and flings. Hearing this from real persons who did just that, these platforms certainly did not seem ideal when one is seriously looking for a life partner. However, as I exhaust the different various possibilities at finding Mr Right, and as friends took pains to assure me that there were legitimate and ‘serious’ sites available, I finally took the plunge and tried online dating.

If there is only one comment I can make regarding online dating, it would be how much work that entails. Firstly, signing up usually involves a lot of form-filling, which were essentially data collection by the agencies running these platforms to improve their matching systems. These forms were usually obligatory and there was no way to opt out, unless you choose not to sign up. This lack of choice and the subtle exploitation and insidious data collection did not sit very well with me. Because at the end of the day, filling these tedious forms did not translate into any benefit for me.

Secondly, after completing all the forms, you would now be asked to create an online profile. And depending on the platform you signed up with, there were different restrictions and requirements. Platforms like eSynchrony required documentary proof for every information you shared e.g. degree scrolls, transcripts and income statements, while others would vet all content e.g. personal write-ups and photos before they go ‘live’. Please do not mistake the latter as an attempt to safeguard user interests; the vetting is to ensure that the write-up did not include email addresses or phone numbers that would allow interested parties to connect directly and cut out the middleman. All in all, it felt like university application all over again. Yup, it was that complex.

Writing a personal introduction on an online dating platform was far more painful than writing a personal statement for graduate school admission. Because sounding too smarty pants was a bad idea, the personal introduction needed to sound decidedly feminine, whatever that meant. Thankfully I had good advisors in the form of family and friends who had been on this path, who were able to help me tone down my cognitive self to present a more palatable offering. I have also been asked to sound less “religious” online, which I considered it to be a compliment. *Grin* And you would think by now, we should be quite done? Unfortunately, we have only just begun. What’s next was profile photo selection, and given how all men are visual creatures, great pains were taken to select the most appropriate photo, which needed to show me to be attractive but also proper (in case anyone wondered, I do not take improper photos.)

With that, I was finally ready to start online dating. Whew!

Based on my biased description above, it was not hard to tell that I did not enjoy the process at all and found it to be quite the pain. It took immense effort to press on and to do so with a more positive attitude. As I reflect on the process that I went through with my friends and sister, I guess I resisted this so much, most among all that I have tried, as it felt like I was mounting a marketing campaign, and the product was me. That said, I am sure there are many out there who have a better attitude that I did and would not find the process as onerous as I did. However, that was still not the end of my woes with online dating.

For most of the platforms I used, they only allow non-paying members to view profiles of the opposite sex, which means to say, if you meet someone you are interested to get to know better, you need to pay to be able to message him via the platform. If someone is interested in you, and has paid to message you, you need to be a paying member to be able to read those messages. Now, tell me you won’t get pissed off after doing all that work for yourself only to find that it is futile if you don’t pay.

And even if you do pay, depending on how stringent your criteria is, you might find the system overriding some of your selection criteria, suggesting men that did not quite fit the bill, to raise the search statistics e.g. maybe only 10 guys fit your search criteria but by dropping some criterion (without notifying the user), they were able to generate 50 returns. Some platforms also have dedicated consultants to follow up with members, encouraging to sign up for the paid services and also to influence users to remove certain considerations e.g. religion for more returns.

In all sincerity, I started with a bias against online dating platforms and it took some time for me to change my mind about them. However, after seriously trying them out, I remain biased against them, but for different reasons. The above were merely some of the more significant encounters and there were more actually, including unsavoury messages sent by other users whom I had no way of blocking and payment disputes. I shall not go into them here because this post is not a rant against online dating platforms, in case that was not clear to begin with.

All in all, as much as I know that online dating platforms are viable avenues to meeting new people, through which one hopefully will eventually meet his or her life partner. I would encourage all (men and women) to exercise discernment and vigilance when using these platforms. Unlike dating agencies which offer personalised services, dating platforms are generally very open, leaving users in a rather vulnerable position. So, for all those who are thinking of trying this out, please do not let my bad experiences stop you, but just be more careful. 🙂

P.S. I was wrong to think that this series would end in three parts because there are just a couple more things I want to share, which would be coming up in Part 4. 

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