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The emperors new clothes of online dating

John Davis

by John Davis
Writer, Comedian and Star of Come Date With Me
Monday, 23rd April 2012

I know I wrote a three part guide to online dating. It’s an important part of the singles world these days. The problem is, I just don’t like it. It’s not because it’s impersonal or because, according to some research, it strips dating of its necessary mystery or has a very low success rate. It’s more the way it promotes similarity as a positive.

Some sites ask you to fill out a questionnaire the size of Manhattan asking you the most personal and surreal things. A complex algorithm then searches for your most likely match. It’s psychometric testing for singles. Psychometric testing is all well and good for business where it’s necessary to have a certain homogeneity among the workforce. This allows problems to be solved in a consistent manner and predictable processes to be maintained. Even the ‘radicals’ within business express new ideas through a given process.

The online dating system works in that it promises nothing more than to match you with people who are like you and share the same interests, goals and aspirations. All well and good you might say and at first glance it appears so. Why trawl through hundreds of profiles of people who are clearly not your type.

But there is something to be said for difference. There becomes less to know about someone, particularly if you’ve already chatted extensively online before meeting. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to and the number of profiles I’ve seen where their greatest desire is to meet someone ‘different’. An algorithm cannot account for the relative strength of this desire. It can do some crazy maths in the background to try a quirky match but the spark that ignites desire is still a mystery to rational processes.

For a number of years I worked in lefty type politics, what some would call the ‘loony left’. I shared very broad aspirations, goals and beliefs that were simply unknowable to people outside of that belief system. It’s a little like trying to have a conversation about ASCII and C++ with someone whose understanding of computer coding is limited to liking everything on Facebook.

I dated a few people who shared my ideals. It was a disaster. Not only was broad disagreement difficult so conversations were somewhat short, when disagreement did come it was based on minute semantic details and the dispute took on such a level of importance that it literally tore relationships apart.

As humans our fundamental desire is to learn. There is nothing more exciting than meeting someone new and learning about them, or watching their reaction to something you feel is mundane to you but to them is a source of endless fascination. There are of course negatives but the positive ‘I didn’t know that about you’ is incredibly attractive. It maintains interest, both parties broaden their experiences, and it opens the two of you up to new things.

I may be accused of having a conflict of interest in writing this article. I am after all a Speed Date host. But people will always go speed dating just as they will always try online dating. The pace of life is such that online dating offers the busy single an efficient and innovative way to meet people. So this article is more a caution against expectations that much of the online dating industry promulgates with questionable research and shared databases. Tread wisely through the digital forest because remember, even binary bears poo in the woods.

topic tags: online dating, speed dating

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about the author

John Davis

Like a modern day Moses, John Davis (formerly Jay Sivad) was rescued from under a bushel by the Dating Trail team. Cleansed of his past as a serious journalist, John emerged, the proverbial butterfly, as the country's leading dating writer. He's got practical skills too and can attest to being nation's most experienced dating host having run over 250 speed dating events for Original Dating. A stand up comedian, radio host, philosopher (it's true! He has the paperwork) and budding media personality (Channel Four's Come Date With Me), Jay turns a wry eye on the travails of modern dating and its participants.

John writes regularly for Dating Trail. If you'd like to be be first to find out about his next installment then please follow us on Twitter or 'Like' our Facebook page for updates.

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