These days it is possible to find almost anything you could wish for online. If you need a new flat, search on Gumtree. If you need a new job, well, try out Monster. If you need to fake your own death, why not deactivate your Facebook account.
This being the case, online dating is beginning to feel intuitive and natural. Whereas, in times gone by, people were forced to procure their goods from actual shops – and likewise their partners from actual pubs – today’s online daters are simply continuing the click-happy cybercapitalism that characterises the rest of their lives. Peopleshopping, if you will.
Of course, the shopping analogy is not something that everyone is happy with. Of all the attacks on online dating, the one which perhaps has the most credence is the idea that it reduces people to warehouse stock. Where’s the charm in an algorithm? The romance in a match questionnaire? The serendipity in a profile search, conducted as though you were an antsy Amazon customer on the hunt for electronics for your car?
The way I see it, this concern would only be legitimate if your ultimate aim was merely to locate a decent profile. At this point, if you were on Amazon, you’d proceed to checkout. You wouldn’t invest any effort in trying to get to know your TomTom GO LIVE 1000 Europe Satellite Navigation System first.
But a person’s profile, unlike a product description, doesn’t so much scratch the surface as brush half-heartedly at a few ready-flaked-off skin cells. It is the same sort of semi-revealing façade you’d get with any stranger in any real-life context – and in both cases, nothing is known for sure until after the initial approach. The real fun starts where the superficial stuff leaves off.
As to whether 0nline dating is too mechanical, and too pragmatic, and too targetted a search to be ‘romantic’, well, it is if you watch romcoms. I would rather skinny dip with John McCririck than watch a romcom, and so I’m personally glad to help fate out. Left to its own devices, fate tends to dither rather than to thrust you into a barn with your perfect partner whilst both taking shelter from a rainstorm or whatever other such bollocks happens in all the films I don’t watch.