From flirting behind a screen to the dangers of overuse
By Jacey Gibb, Opinions Editor
“Let’s start with what your Plenty of Fish name was.” I began the interview with the intention of establishing a clear picture in my mind of what kind of a persona my friend had manifested for herself while dating online.
“What? I’m not telling you that.”
“If you don’t say what it was, I’m going to refer to you as Catlover007.”
“I don’t care. I’m not saying what it was.”
When I first decided to write about online dating, I thought it’d be great to interview some of my friends who’ve given it a try. However, I immediately ran into several problems while doing so. For one thing, people got annoyingly defensive whenever I asked about something that was technically already public knowledge—or at least public knowledge to people online. The second speed bump along my journey came when I realized that while the whole subculture may seem confusing to me as an outsider, it can be equally as puzzling to those actually involved. “Why did you first sign up for the website?”
“I don’t know. I was bored?” Catlover007 shrugged, “I didn’t really see it as a serious thing. I wasn’t looking for a mate, it’s just really funny… 99.7 per cent of the guys were just douchebags being like ‘hey gurl’ or just stupid stuff.”
With the library of social networking sites available to the masses, it’s no surprise that online dating has taken over a significant chunk of the Romeo and Juliet scene. In fact, while exact numbers vary between polls, the numbers range from between 15 and 30 per cent of couples meeting online these days. Not bad, considering the whole concept of online dating didn’t even manifest until about 16 years ago. The success rate isn’t just a statistical Loch Ness monster invented by the sites themselves either; over half the people I talked to about online dating have met someone in the past or are currently in a relationship because of it, including Catlover007.
Yet for some reason, signing up for online dating profiles has retained a bit of its taboo nature. A part of me still sees these websites as cesspools for creepy, older men and creatures of the night to come together and mingle—but I’m trying to work on that stigma.
Public opinion ignored though, there’s often still an internal conflict when a person’s ideals don’t agree with their actions online. Several of the people I talked to said they felt embarrassed about signing up for an online profile, though this hadn’t stopped them from still trying to make a connection.
Another individual I talked to, whose screen name is Callmeafool, has felt all the conflicting feelings a feeler can feel, but has continued to scour the depths of the Internet for that special person.
[quote style=”boxed”]It’s basic logic that people can treat screen names like armour, developing an even foreign sense of security and saying or doing things that they wouldn’t normally do. But the lack of meekness and newly-developed confidence can be damaging at the same time, encouraging people to say things they wouldn’t normally say even on the boldest of days.[/quote]
“You have to remember that everyone there is there for the same reason: to meet someone.”
But not every Internet connection is all smiley face emoticons and awkwardly coy email exchanges. In a somewhat contrasting light, I also had the chance to speak with a friend of mine, Xtreman, who’d signed up for an account on Xpress, a site he came across while looking at porn.
“So it was a banging website?”
“But it wasn’t,” Xtreman argued, “some people were treating it like a dating site, but then some people were just like ’I’m on the hunt for dick.’ It was about 50/50. I was looking at it both ways.”
While you don’t have to agree with the idea of hook-up websites, you could argue that sites like Xpress or Fuckbook are simply there to ensure maximum efficiency. Instead of having to go through the process of developing a connection with someone and progressing through the natural stages of a new relationship, you can just skip straight to the making whoopee part.
“You can’t go up to someone mid-day and just ask to fuck. In the end, these sites are for people who are saying ‘I’m horny. I’m lonely. I want to meet people.’ I guess it could also be for people who are just afraid. For me, I just know I couldn’t handle having a girlfriend right now.”
The “being afraid” factor is always an interesting piece to add in when considering the online dating equation. It’s basic logic that people can treat screen names like armour, developing an even foreign sense of security and saying or doing things that they wouldn’t normally do. But the lack of meekness and newly-developed confidence can be damaging at the same time, encouraging people to say things they wouldn’t normally say even on the boldest of days.
“On Xpress, they had these little things that you could send people, like winks and nudges. But you could also send them stuff like a golden shower, blow job, or a gerbil tube.” While I had heard that sending winks was a common thing, the ability to send a potential love interest a hot Carl was surprising to hear. Personally, I don’t even feel comfortable peeing on my closest of friends, so I’m not sure why people would be interested in sending complete strangers these types of things unless they were suffering from an overinflated ego.
“Did you ever send anyone anything?”
“God no. What, am I going to send someone a gerbil tube and tell them ‘I want to put a gerbil up your ass’ and expect them to want to instantly meet me?”
The easily-available and hypersexualized environments created online by these adult websites can also be a breeding ground for cybersexual addictions, where a person develops a compulsion to be “engaged in some form of online sexual activity.” While this largely relates to browsing visual porn, it also includes things like cybersex, as well as erotic chat and flirting. People can become addicted to the anonymity and convenience of online interactions, leaving real life relationships unsatisfying.
So why do people turn to the Internet to find the Kermit to their Miss Piggy or vice versa? I’m not sure anyone could tell you the absolute truth here. I’ve watched great, attractive people that have no problem getting laid sign up without even knowing themselves what their end goal will be. Is it human nature to seek out companionship, regardless of the route traveled? Or do people just wanna rub parts together? The only thing I know for certain is that wherever there’s an Internet dating site, there will be lonely souls and hokey usernames to flood the servers.