The Experience – Online Dating

You’re cinematic razor sharp,
A welcome arrow through the heart,
Under your skin feels like home,
Electric shocks on aching bones,

Give me a chance to hold on,
Give me a chance to hold on,
Give me a chance to hold on,
Just give me something to hold on, to…

– “You’re All I Have”, by Snow Patrol

I told you all about my experiences with eHarmony and Yahoo in the last installment, and now it’s time to share some pearls of wisdom and experiences from some of Gear Diary’s brave readers regarding their own online dating processes. These are folks who have boldly gone through the same basic experience, and good or bad – they have lived to tell about it…

From what I have heard — most guys online are clueless. – Wayne

When it comes to finding a dating site, a lot of people seem to be simply overwhelmed by the available choices. Which one is safe to try? Which one gets the best results? Which one caters to people like you? Which ones offer good support?

I finally Googled SinglesNet to look for reviews and comments, found a lot of negative ones (no positives that I recall), and canceled my membership straightaway. In retrospect, I wish I’d thought to Google it earlier–I would have saved money and time. As they say, YMMV. – Derek, 35 []

Plentyoffish is free and a great way to meet mostly blue collar folk looking for either an affair or pen pals. The site is also unusually strict about their TOS and will think nothing of banning you for any violations. – Wayne

Come on – real geeks would hang out in IRC until they stumble over someone who’s worth it. That’s how I met and later married Mitchie – she was an OP in #cyberchat on the UnderNet. The result? She’s now typing stories from the viewpoint of Zuleikha, our small one. – Wolfgang, 51 [IRC]

Back in 1999 I used which was part of AOL at the time. Just like with anything, I had good and bad experiences, which you can have whether you meet someone online or in a bar/bookshop/restaurant/ etc. – Mark, 36 []

My secret weapon was always iVillage’s online dating messaging board — which is not a spamvertising site (most places that talk about OLD are) and is crawling with women of all ages, shapes, sizes and statuses — sharing info on what online is like. The most helpful portion of the site is realizing that every single person has good and bad experiences online. – Wayne

My friend Steven lives out in the country, and the nearest town only has 2000 people; not many of the females are single, and those who were at the time he was looking didn’t appeal. Due to his job as a hunting guide, he is basically isolated from meeting many awesome women, so online dating was his most obvious option. Steven gave eHarmony a chance…

I finally decided to take it a step farther and join a more professional and serious dating site, eHarmony. I went into it with the mindset that I wasn’t going to put any limitations on anything except the fact the I couldn’t relocate because of employment. I liked the fact that it only sent me matches based on my answers to the questionnaire and didn’t post a picture and a paragraph for the world to see.  I communicated with a few people through the sites Q and A segment, but it never really got any farther than that until I met June.  We followed the entire process all the way out until we finally talked on the phone, I think it took about 2 days to go through the eHarmony process, then email for a couple of days, and I think it was about day seven before we talked. – Steven 32, [eHarmony]

Of course, not everyone has had good results with eHarmony. Since you can be very specific about what you are looking for (as you should be!), you can also inadvertently cut your dating pool to nearly nothing. Sometimes you have to widen the geographical area you will accept matches from, just so you can get a few compatible ones at all. It can be a bit disheartening…

I’ve had no success with eHarmony in 5 years. The closest match (geographically) lives an hour away. Most are in other states. I’ve never even bothered to communicate with an eHarmony match.- Jennifer, 44 [Yahoo,, eHarmony]

One of my best friends, Grabb, has been using for a while. He’s had some success, been on a few dates, has even been in a relationship, but he hasn’t yet met his mate…

I am a visual person; I like to see the person first. Match allows me to do this, because I can search for women “with picture only”. I didn’t like eHarmony as much, because they always seemed to send matches that they thought would work, but they were usually at least 200 miles away from my home. I like to get a summary of who I am looking at, so I can get a sense of their background and hopefully develop an understanding of who they are, by reading what they say about themselves and the terminology that they use to describe themselves. With eHarmony you are pushed to follow their way of doing questions, going through the likes and dislikes, etc.. I prefer to openly email or talk to the person I am interested in, as in one of my chosen fields I have been highly trained to both interview, as well as listen to a person’s verbal responses in order to gain knowledge of a person. Yes, I know I should not use that knowledge when talking to women, but I am human and I do it. But by doing so, I am able to weed women out, without wasting both their time and mine, by answering and asking a bunch of inane questions. I might think differently if I were more inclined towards technology, using at computer and the internet. Both sites are very good, I just like being able to see and choose who I would like to get to know, not only seeing the people a computer says I should. So for me, Match is better for me over eHarmony. – Grabb, 52 [ & eHarmony]

I think that all online dating sites are basically a numbers’ game; I’m sure no one has any doubts about that. The more people you view, the more likely you will be to find someone who looks promising. I closed many potential eHarmony matches because I simply couldn’t find anything that we might have in common, but I did eventually find a few potentials. I guess that I expected more, since we were supposed to have been put together in the first place based on some special algorithm,

One site I find interesting is eHarmony. It first came to my attention in 2005 when a colleague of mine was invited to give a talk to eHarmony employees regarding her research on marriage and relationships. I figured that if eHarmony was willing to fly in and host a real experimental psychologist because of what she could tell them, they may actually be legitimate when it comes to their stance that personality matches make for happy relationships. eHarmony has been given a lot of grief in some circles for rejecting individuals who are already married, or clinically depressed, have had 3 or more failed marriages, or are looking for same sex partners. While those individuals certainly have a legitimate right to happiness and a relationship, eHarmony’s position of asking these individuals not to participate on their site does provide a pool of participants that will provide a higher probability of success, rather than simply a high probability of match. In the end, I’d argue that I’d rather have a site tell me “Sorry, can’t help you” than one say “Here, 20 people that probably won’t be compatible with, but hey, you can find that out on your own”. Certainly other sites, such as argue that successful matches are possible without the need to exclude individuals, an argument that (given proper research background) may be valid. – Jon Westfall [Yahoo Personals]

Maybe Steven is right, and through rejecting unsuitable suitors, you’ll train eHarmony’s computer to pick better next time…

I know with eHarmony, as you reject matches, it will base future selections off of your eliminations as well. I think I was the 3rd week in, and June the 5th, before we were matched up. -Steven, 32 [eHarmony,, Yahoo]

Matches are certainly possible, even without the aid of eHarmony’s (sometimes sketchy) algorithm. As Mark found out, simply sending an email to someone on a site can sometimes have exciting results…

The good relationship was with Kristi. Her screen name was Miss Peaches. She had a really cute pic and I sent her an email. After a couple of emails we met at a restaurant and really hit it off! Phone calls and emails went on for about a month until we finally hooked up. We were together for almost 8 months, but then I had to leave the country. Really great woman 🙂 I regret letting her go!! She was down to earth. Easy going. And beautiful inside and out. The heart of an angel… – Mark, 36 []

And sometimes, there is no luck…

I believe that I have tried just about every site there was available since the time I was divorced in 2000 through today. I’ve paid money to the heavy hitters, including eHarmony and Yahoo Singles.

Eight years later, I am still single, and have had almost no luck at all. The few dates I have had, were oddly enough women I had known in college, but those didn’t work out very well, either.

Most of the time when I would write women, I would get no response. I understand that there are many more men on those sites than there are women, but being completely ignored wasn’t terribly pleasant. Of the few women who did write me, they were either very much older than I am or I found to be profoundly unattractive. Call me shallow if you like, but if I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you, I should find your face at least somewhat pleasant.

After paying hundreds of dollars for no results, I decided to remove my profile from all but free sites. The one I am concentrating my efforts on now is, and I’ve had one date and some conversations. After I changed my ad to something a little more unusual, I’ve received some messages from interesting women, and I’ll be meeting one this week.

All in all, though, the experience has been discouraging. While I know I am not the richest and most exciting man around, it seems that, on paper at least, I don’t have as much to offer as other men in Milwaukee. I’ve learned very well how to be patient, if nothing else. – Tom, 42 [Yahoo Singles, eHarmony,]

But every now and then, two people will find each other and – for lack of a better word…click. Then comes the first  meeting. In Steven and June’s case, this involved an international trip and quite a few other obstacles…

Our plans were for Steven to come visit me in Canada in mid-February.  Unfortunately, his step-father passed away the eve of his flight, so he didn’t make it.  We changed our plans to the end of February and this time, he got on the plane but missed a connecting flight.  I was already half way to the airport (through a snowstorm), when he called and told me he missed the flight and would see if he could get another one.  Turns out, the closest place he could get to was Bangor, Maine.  This posed two problems.  I would have to cross the US border in a snowstorm and answer their questions and Bangor was about a 3 hour drive.  Well, it all worked out and I finally pulled up to the airport to pick him up.  He was standing there looking so handsome.  I wasn’t sure what to do, it seemed like we had gone through so much to get to that point.  There was nervousness, for sure.

We spent the weekend getting to know each other and I remember taking him to the airport and feeling sad and happy again.  Sad that I would miss him and happy that I had found him. June, 34 [eHarmony]

Here’s Steven side of the story…

The meeting part was nothing simple either, my first trip to meet her was supposed to be about 3 weeks after we first began communicating on eHarmony but a death in the family pushed that back a week. On top of that, my flight into the airport closest to her had been canceled due to a snowstorm and the closest I could get to there was about 3 hours from where she was supposed to pick me up. I called her and we discussed our options and she ended up driving 3 hours through a snowstorm to pick me up, which further impressed me to her true intentions to see where this was going. – Steven, 32 [eHarmony]

Like me, Jennifer had good luck with Yahoo Personals; there are always complications, however…

I signed up for Yahoo Personals in August 2003, and sometime that first day I saw a picture of a clean-cut guy with a nice smile. He was 9 years younger than I am, and I noticed in his profile that he had limited his search to women within a couple years of his age, so I knew I wouldn’t show up on his search. I signed up for the full service and contacted him on a Tuesday. On Wednesday he wrote back, and after a few e-mails, we decided to meet for dinner. We met that Friday night at a restaurant.

We talked for 6 hours straight. Neither of us drinks or goes to bars, so after dinner we stood in the parking lot for a while, talking, while deciding what to do next (it didn’t seem prudent to go to one of our residences when we’d only known each other a couple of hours). We went to get ice cream, closed the ice cream place down, then stood in that parking lot until 1:00 AM, when we reluctantly agreed it was time to go home.

We got together again the next day, and the relationship progressed quickly because we are very compatible. We’ve broken up twice (and narrowly saved a third break-up), but we are together now, 5 years later, and even when we weren’t dating, we have been best friends from the beginning.

Is it leading to marriage? Who knows? He’s an Air Force officer who had just moved to my town to get a Ph.D. when I met him. Two years ago, he was transferred to another city, and he is supposed to move to yet another city next summer. I’m not going to move my kids because they’ve been through enough (first the divorce, then their dad died unexpectedly a year ago), so we won’t be living in the same city until he retires from the Air Force, seven years from now.- Jennifer, 44 [Yahoo,, eHarmony]

Not all experiences are positive of course…

As for the bad ones…well, before meeting Kristi I met this other girl (can’t remember her name). We met for drinks at Chili’s or something. She was fine, but I got a bad vibe from her. So I didn’t keep in touch after that evening. Her on the other; she’s always send me emails and leave me voice messages…then after a few weeks left a really evil one on my mailbox saying “how dare you play with my emotions…” and crap like that…I’m glad nothing ever happened. She was a real bunny boiler! – Mark, 36 []

…but if you are willing to overcome a few obstacles – usually distance – you may find someone special.

I was chatting in IRC for a while, in the channel #cyberchat on the network called UnderNet. That channel had some advantages – it’s considered “family safe” or whatever – just swear there and you’re out.

Most of the regulars there were also “channel ops”, who watch others and care for the rules and stuff. Most of those came from the US or from Canada, however, there were also some Europeans, Australians, and a few Asians as well – channels like these never sleep. You can get the idea what IRC really meant during that time from J.C. Herz’ book “Surfing on the internet” (note that this was before the invention of browsers).

My intention wasn’t flirting or even dating, but I’ve met a girl from Denmark in “Real Life” (or RL) a few times (I’m from Germany, so that was a 300 mile drive or so). And after a while, someone who called herself “msmitchie” and I started “talking” more and more. Turned out that she’s from Malaysia, some 6,200 miles from my place. – Wolfgang, 51 [IRC]

Of course, there are also the downsides to putting yourself out there, especially if you are a pretty girl like Jennifer. I’m not just saying that, either; we’ve met. 🙂

I’ve met a couple other guys online along the way. One led to a very nice date with a very nice guy, but he wasn’t Len (the first guy I met), so I really didn’t care if I ever saw him again. I’ve pulled my public profile from all the sites now because I get so many creeps contacting me.

The other potential downside is getting matched to someone you know, and don’t particularly want to date.

I had one odd experience where a guy who showed up on one of the site’s searches was a member of a church choir I sang with. On paper, we may have been a match, but in person, he was not someone I’d be attracted to. – Jennifer, 44 [Yahoo,, eHarmony]

And if all else fails, there is the tried and true…

My brother in law tried it for a while; met some nice folks but none went anywhere. Now he is back….to hanging out in bars… 🙂 – Rabbi Dan Cohen

Putting yourself on an Online Dating Site may or may not pay off directly, but an indirect benefit is that unsuccessful connections (assuming that you are both decent people who just didn’t mesh, of course) can lead to friendships which might create other opportunities to meet the right person, as George learned…

Honestly, I didn’t get much interest in my on-line profile (I don’t think I’m very photogenic), but where I had a lot of success was at Match’s singles parties! Back then, they would have singles events with different themes at various restaurants & bars; I met a lot of ladies this way and dated a lot. I really learned how to be sociable with gorgeous women! It was great! What was really cool was meeting Charlotte at my second match party. While we only went on one date (she wasn’t interested in me romantically) we stayed friends. A few years later, I went to a Christmas party at Charlotte’s place and met Charlotte’s co-worker, Emily. She was beautiful! Tall, blonde, almond shaped green eyes, smart, has a close family and loves dogs too! And she’s also taller than me! Well-she doesn’t mind, and we always joke about it! Anyway, we’ve been together a couple of years now and and are planning to get married. I guess the point of this on-line dating story is, you just never know the friendships and connections you’ll make through on-line dating-just be open to the possibilities! – George, early 30s []

Whether you meet someone through an online dating site or not, if nothing else the experience can be rewarding as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, while interacting with others you might not have otherwise met.

I think that dating services served their purpose.  I spoke with and met women who were also looking to meet people.  I would not have met them had I not been a part of the website.  I felt it allowed me to play the numbers;  the more people you meet, the more likely it is that you find the right one,  plain and simple.

Everyone I went out with/met was pleasant and for the most part honest about what they expected to get out of the experience.

I have positive things to say about the experience, but I don’t want to do it again. Seems counter-intuitive, and I agree that it is, but I think, if you’re not completely ready and motivated to make it work, it won’t. – Rob, 33 [j-date]

Of course, for most people, the end goal is to meet someone they can build a life with.

Previously in this series: Online Dating: Choosing a Site, Online Dating: Writing Your Profile, Online Dating: the Do’s and Don’ts

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

2 Comments on "The Experience – Online Dating"

  1. Wayne will most likely be contacting you and giving your info to the company in the next day or so. It takes a little bit of time to manage everything, plus his birthday was yesterday…which may have taken precedence. 😉
    Congrats on winning!

  2. I found online was a great way to meet people. You absolutely need a thick thick skin to keep at it very long.

    My experience was that the best services were also the biggest (Match).

    The worst were the freebies and/or cheap ones.

    But just like you can meet someone in line for a restroom — I found there’s no one size fits all / easy answer for dating.

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