Virtually dating

In this, the 21st century, we find that our possibilities are endless. Women can be doctors, men can be soft-spoken, but the ancient dilemma remains: how does Jane meet Johnny?

Once you’ve hit the bar scene hard enough to leave a bruise, you come to realize meeting someone in a drunk tank maybe isn’t the best idea. So you join some activity clubs, go to the gym and sit in the newest coffee house. Still, all you get are bigger biceps and a mild caffeine addiction. When everyone is connected by e-mail, cell phones and other celebrity-endorsed gadgets, how do you make a true romantic connection?

When we were young, people told us that love comes when you least expect it. The same can be said for a zit. When we were young, we were also told that if you want something, you have to go out there and get it. With such conflicting hypotheses, no wonder we find ourselves lost when looking for that special someone.

The dating scene today is like a war zone filled with belly-baring shirts and cargo pants. As the suburban mall infiltrates every aspect of the dating world, many of us feel that style, originality and personality have been put on the back burner. Just when it seemed the metrosexuals had the cornerstone on the dating world, the empire struck back in the most modern of ways.

Being a graduate student, I constantly use the Internet for academic research. Increasingly, it seems the Web is being used to access both data and dates. Match.com, the world’s largest dating site, states, “Love is complicated. Match is Simple.”

My friend, Chico, a wonderfully funny and caring man, joined the Match.com community looking for a simple match. Within this virtual world of singles, he found anything but simplicity.

After the profile was posted and the searching began, Chico found himself in a cold culture filled with cyber winking and ill-mannered women. In our flesh and blood reality, I like to believe there is still something called respect. If you meet somebody, you go out, you don’t click, you say ‘not interested’ and go back to your lives.

But in a virtual world, men escort women to dinner, send an e-mail asking for another round, and find the women are lost out there, floating in cyber space. Common decency and respect are lost on computers, and amazingly smart and kind people like Chico are discarded.

With virtual dating, potential partners become expendable and there are a million more out there waiting for your e-mail. Maybe too much choice isn’t so great.

According to Chico, “Women leave men by the cyber roadside simply because they can. Maybe they need a boost of self-esteem, and dating lots of guys gives them that. I’m looking for a relationship without games. I just want someone nice that I can talk to. I never understood the bar scene. I don’t want to talk to somebody out of the blue. I want to have common interests, not just the same taste in beer. This site allows you to show your interests, not just your belly button.”

His argument is valid. How many success stories begin with, “We met at the Irish Tavern on ladies night”? Wanting to meet someone with common interests and beliefs is your constitutional right; so is wanting to date as many people as possible. Still, I find something glacial about Chico’s experience. Virtual dating looks like the newest way to lose our humanity and feeling for others’ feelings.

Maybe people don’t come off well over e-mail. Perhaps a talking picture of a prospective date would make life easier. Cable television offers you hundreds of channels ranging from Japanese history to porn to the history of Japanese porn. And now, with the ‘On Demand’ feature, you can get basically anything when and where you want it – a perfect spectrum for singles.

Comcast cable now makes the possibility of meeting your soulmate as close as your remote. Dating on demand shows interview clips of men and women of all ages looking for love in all the wrong places. In the comfort of your living room, these singles summarize themselves in three minutes or less and display their virtual contact information. I’m sure their families are very proud. Has computer and television dating become the next frontier, or yet another line that should not be crossed?

One can say those participating in these activities are adapting to the technological age and putting themselves out there. Others say these people spend too much time indoors. To the single cyber community, I beg you: leave your virtual reality and join us in the real world. Simply step away from the BlackBerry. If you are willing to put your energy into finding somebody to love, then stop staring at your computer and television screens.

The Webster dictionary defines “virtually” as, “for the most part, almost wholly; just about.” That is not enough for me. I like to live for the real thing, and I don’t want my dating experience, or any other for that matter, to be almost whole. The real world at times can be harsh, but at least it has a pulse.

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