Cynicism: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


Loyal readers, bored procrastinators, and conspiracy theorists who have stumbled across this blog via a search for ‘zombie apocalypse’. (The stats say there have been four of you so far.)

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I was going to concoct some excuses but realised they’d be a bit too transparent. You know how it is when you don’t want to exercise, and you can think up a thousand reasons not to get off that couch and go for a run? Well, it may be true that you’ve got a sore knee and it’s raining and there’s a small hole on the back of your running shorts, but if you really wanted to run you’d be out there irrespective, impervious to the raindrops on your bum.

I think this blog has gone that way for me. The truth is, when it comes to online dating, I’ve lost faith. My trajectory has been one from acolyte to agnostic to flat-out unbeliever. And while the agnostic stage made for interesting reading, the atheist stage is a bit too Richard Dawkins for my liking.

This I realised the other day, when I got chatting to a friend of a friend about dating. I happened to mention, as you would, my chequered record of meeting people off the internet.

She was enthused. “Online dating?” she said, eyes shining brightly, “wow, I’d love to try that, what’s it like?”

I laughed bitterly. “Oh, it’s a terrible idea,” I said, bleakly, my tone leached of all humanity. “I’ve met over twenty people off the internet. I don’t have any faith in it at all.”

“Really?” she quizzed me, “no successes? Was it really all such a failure? But I have a friend of a friend of a friend who met his fiancée that way…”

I flattened my voice to a cadaverous monotone. “I’m dead inside,” I told her. “I’m emotionally and spiritually defunct.”

Apparently she thought this was hilarious, which heartfelt confessions of inner annihilation do have a tendency to be.

Anyway, doubtless if this girl joins the site, she’ll wonder what on earth it is I’m talking about. Exceptionally pretty and clever to boot, she’ll be so bombarded with messages she’ll barely know where to begin. Tall? Blond? Dark and lean? Rough? Tough? Strong and mean? The internet has them all and then some. That song was a prescient moment for The Weather Girls.

And after the novelty’s worn off, who knows? She might get lucky. Not everyone ends up resembling Jack Dee chewing a wasp.

Nah, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from trying it out, especially since it’s now the second commonest way to meet your partner. According to Stanford University research, nearly 30% of couples who met between 2007 and 2009 did so via a website. This easily trumps ‘coffees got mixed up in Starbucks’, ‘began to see best friend of six years in a new light’, ‘infiltrated his sports team dressed as a bloke’ or any of the other things apt to happen in the romcom reinterpretation of your life.

What I’m wondering is whether there’s some kind of cut-off point for online dating, a critical window within which it’s worth the effort. After this point, I’m guessing cynicism might build to the point at which faithlessness, in itself, becomes the limiting factor, snuffing out the newly-kindled flame of romance. You need a bit of hope left to get things started. Nobody likes a girl wot looks like Jack Dee.

I’ll let you know if my friend of a friend has any luck though.


About Abi Millar

British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands
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32 Responses to Cynicism: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  1. anonymous says:

    Online dating is a very attractive prospect at first. It makes many promises but the longer it fails to deliver, the less rose-tinted a world it becomes.

  2. Mark says:

    I have met a lot of people off the internet, and I find the best thing to do is not exchange hundreds of emails and wait forever, as if you do that, it will go one of two ways, 1) you will never meet, or 2) you will be disappointed…

    Just meet up with someone, and don’t think of it as a date, but more just as someone you have met and want to have fun with! And I don’t mean fun as in go find a hotel room, but fun as in go pull faces at monkeys in the zoo, or act like kids when visiting a museum.

    Don’t give up on the internet, even though you or I haven’t found love on there yet, I have had a lot of fun dates and am still friends with a most of the girls I went out with, but you never know who you will meet next 🙂

    • Abi Millar says:

      Oh yeah, well that’s exactly the approach I’ve taken. If I’m going to meet someone, I tend to meet them after a relatively short exchange, and nope, after 20+ meetings you don’t really think of them as dates! It’s just – time-consuming. If you have a busy life, you begin to wonder whether meeting so many people is really worthwhile. You question what you’re hoping to get out of it. Sure it’s fun, but for the most part you’d have more fun hanging out with your existing friends. The whole thing just becomes a bit of a drag. My point stands though – it’s a matter of attitude and really if you go into something feeling cynical and disillusioned, you’ll no doubt find this attitude being reinforced.

      • Mark says:

        I agree if you go into something feeling cynical and disillusioned, then you won’t have fun and won’t enjoy yourself, and the person your meet will probably feel the same.

        Though I can’t share your cynicism of meeting people, I love meeting new people and finding out all about them, you never know what interesting things people have done until you meet them and get talking. And if its on a date with a cute girl, then that’s just a bonus 🙂

        • Abi Millar says:

          Can’t argue with you on the meeting new people front. It’s just that, say I’m tired after a long day or whatever, meeting new people < having a laugh with friends.

          • Mark says:

            I see what you mean, its easier to just talk with your friends and people you know understand you after you have had a long hard day rather than someone who may look at you weird when you start ranting on about that person at work who annoyed you.

            I think I might be a bit of a hermit though as after a long tough day, having a laugh with friends < vegetating on the sofa in front of the TV 😉

      • For the lulz says:


  3. Matt says:

    Abi, I feel like I’m your subject matter here and that there is an age, at least for guys, and I’m sure for gals, when you actually have to give up on your ideals and either go for “Miss, you’ll do for now” or “Ms, well we’re fairly compatible, but we’ll still live by ourselves” or leave it to lady luck.

    The annoying thing is you get people to look at your profile, you spend time crafting a good email and then they look again (did I spell something wrong, was I wearing my Nazi uniform in the picture, or had every first letter or each line spelt a rude word….I don’t know). After that nothing, except they’ll look again in a month’s time.

    I’m actually of the opinion, and tempted to try, sending out a standard email on the lines of:

    ” Hello luv, think you look hot. Fancy a drink and then whatever; you never know you might enjoy it”

    I suspect blasting out a few hundred of these will get me more responses that actually reading a girl’s profile and responding to it.

    Cynic – yup that’s me.

    p.s. that age is somewhere in the mid to late 40s.

  4. Matt Baker says:

    Tried Duke Nukem and the rest but found it was mainly guys posing as girls!

    As to being cynical in your mid 20s….. hmmmm…….just rewinding the brain a bit to dredge up some old memories (think I store those on tape now). I was totally cynical then and still am, its a long bloody road. I do bursts of dating, usually with the same results (but some success) but I do climb back on to the wagon, time and time again so I think that may be what you need to do. Must admit I tempted by speed dating, mainly cos I can say what I like for 5 mins – if she likes me, well its a good start.

    On another thread are the guys you meet just too similar? Sometimes I think we go too much for the 99% matches (there’s a possible blog here..) and forget that some of those difference are what makes us want to go out with new people.

    Also don’t meet them when you’ve had a crap day (save it for the weekend) , though I suspect that is most of our normal days, go out with your mates then, blow off steam and discuss the future prospects with them – that can be just as much fun. New idea, OKC review parties – get to laugh at your mates choices and vice versa; maybe even swap dates or write each others messages for them.

    • Abi Millar says:

      I think what it boils down to me really is that online dating doesn’t easily allow you to play the long game. Brits in general (I’m sure it’s different elsewhere) aren’t naturally adjusted to dating – most of my friends in long-term relationships met their partners not through dating, but rather through slow-burning friendships that turned into something more. If you’re ‘dating’ someone I’ve found there’s a tendency for things to move faster than perhaps they ought; different elements of the relationship get out of sync. Nobody really invests time in building emotional intimacy with someone because they’re so busy rushing around, responding to their other messages, dating other people concurrently, treating the person they’re seeing simply as their Tuesday evening diversion before swapping notes with their colleagues on the Wednesday and daydreaming about the friend they have a crush on.

      The format is what rankles with me, really, rather than the people – I’ve dated a huge range of different guys and oversimilarity has never been a problem. (Even within the realms of the 99%! For me, I can take a 99% match to mean, fellow Guardian reader, and that’s about as much as there is to it.)

      I do like your idea about OkC review parties though. Parties are much more fun.

  5. Matt says:

    Agree on that “dating” issue; things seem to run out of control rather than taking their natural course. Because we know there are lots more potential partners out there and we can “hook up” easily, there is a tendency to treat relationships like fast food; we can always start up another one. I believe in our parents days, well mine at least, because divorce wasn’t easy you had to work on getting the relationship right and making sure that your partner was the right one for you; it didn’t always work out but I think they spent much more time building relationships rather than just enjoying them for short term.

    I’m interested to know how the format of internet dating needs to change – go on, tell all!

    (Like the 99% match to be a fellow Guardian reader; didn’t realise they were so compatible)

  6. Natalie says:

    Agree completely. I’ve met 12 men and you’re right, the whole process is SO transient. I always have ‘back up’ men that I’m messaging because so far, every guy I’ve met on OKC and liked has let me down, and the best way to cope with the rejection is to move on to the next one. I’m sure it isn’t very healthy and it does get a point where you feel like you’re an actress going to each meeting, cracking the same jokes about climbing out of the bathroom window and having the same conversations over and over. I haven’t quite reached the total cynicism stage yet, but give me 6 more months…

  7. Matt Baker says:

    Catch up – Britain needs more cynics!

  8. stevesw says:

    You state in About “Here lies the wisdom I’ve purveyed from the dating site.” Cynics have no wisdom, you do. I for one, do not read your blog because “the agnostic stage made for interesting reading;” I read it because you can articulate that wisdom. There is a point where one has to stop and regroup; the point where there is no enjoyment, cynicism replaces sarcasm, where you go through the motions without positive expectations. I believe if you enter a room with no positive expectations, it will be reflected in your eyes for all to notice. So step back and regroup; not give up, but take time to smile. And no one should ever feel that online dating is a reflection of their self worth, because online dating is a difficult task of trying to make an impersonal system be personal. Steve

  9. Nick says:

    Do you know about what they call the hyperreal? It’s the imagined thing (in this case, a man) you created based on the profile that can never completely represent a person. You fill in the details with your imagination. It’s one of the biggest reasons people get dissappointed on internet dates.

    My experience with people who met on OKCupid and got married was they went on a few dates but felt dissatisfied and stopped calling each other. Then a month later one of them remembers that “though that person didn’t light me up like gasoline, they were pretty ok.” Then they begin to date anew, but with a more open heart

  10. Clappers says:

    I never really realised it but looking at every relationship I’ve known personally, all of my friends have been from slow-burning friendships. Even if some needed to be told the obvious truth. I’m horribly cynical to the point my friends ask who the 60 year old taking over my body is named, but at the same time I’m aware of the fact I can be proven wrong. Just not as often as I like, admittedly.

    Though for all the Jack Dee comparisons, the man himself is happily married…

  11. Natalie says:

    Heh Abi, I’ve just done a match search for girls and you’re my number 1 at 99%. Obviously we both read the Guardian and understand the relative size of celestial bodies…

    • Mark says:


    • Abi Millar says:

      Fantastic! I love your profile by the way. As you can probably tell from mine, it’s expressly designed to scare people away from messaging me 🙂

      • Natalie says:

        Thank you! I thought writing at the top of mine that I’m not answering messages at the moment would do the trick, but apparently not. I’m trying to do the whole ‘taking a break from OKC’ thing because I am starting to get seriously cynical, but I’m too addicted. If anything, your profile probably just sets them up for more of a challenge!

        • Abi Millar says:

          There’s an idea for my next post – I’ll explore the rationale behind deliberately offputting profiles. My profile used to be pretty ‘straight’, in the sense that it included some actual factual information. Under its current incarnation, it does receive significantly fewer messages, but there is still a determined contingent who press on regardless!

          Did you see this? Apparently online dating is ‘eroding humanity’. Now there’s a man who’s even more cynical than we are 🙂

          • Natalie says:

            Yes, I’ve seen some really interesting profiles, particularly from girls, where they essentially write “piss off, I won’t like you, don’t bother messaging me”. They usually have about 80 awards, so it can’t be that much of a deterrent.

            Oh my goodness, that link…!

            Although when he says that

            “We don’t want to harm ourselves; we don’t want suffering; we don’t want hardship; we don’t accept difficulty and disappointment. We simply want (and demand) the 100% consumer fulfilment of obtaining products based on rationality”

            I think he is missing the point a little. Although online dating might (in some respects) be an attempt at a rational approach to love, it certainly doesn’t enable one to avoid the hardship, difficulty and disappointment. In fact, it probably heightens it, because you become fundamentally aware that you’ve had the opportunity to pick your ‘ideal’ man from a selection of candidates based on looks, interests and philosophical/political/religious perspectives, and yet somehow they/you still manage to fuck it up..!

            • Nick says:

              I was merely going to say ditto, but I can’t help myself. A rational approach to love, whether offline or online doesn’t work. We always start from the point of what worked out the last time, but everyone is different, and individual, and different things work with different people at different times.

              I think I may have used up my quota of the word “different” for a lifetime, but just one last time, I would say that women, very different, have made my life happy. Women who if they were asked to write down their essential characteristics, I would never have been with.

              The problem here is that you can tie yourself down to a profile, which may just be a snapshot, and a backward looking one at that, based on who you were in your last successful relationship.

  12. Abi Millar says:

    Too right! I get the impression that John Walters has probably never tried it.

    • Matt says:


      I think John did his Inter-dating dating review as a purely academic piece; I think if he’d signed up and gone through the motions then he’d have been more objective.

      Still, I think I need to do an OKC review party just on you.

      Profile picture if great – OK I like red hair, not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but good smile and great eyes – you’re not putting people off with this. The muddy look grabs most guys too, and I’m sure a few men are hoping if you say no, you’ll pass their details on to your sister (don’t say she’s your sister, tell people she’s your social worker or psych nurse). Skydiving one, makes you a bit sporty too – big come on!

      Secondly, you’re profile comes across as someone who isn’t full of themselves – god are some of those profile high on the ego trips – who is irreverent and who doesn’t take life too seriously. You’ve got something to say, even if its sarcastic, you know how to use words – I can’t bear text speak – and you love gin (though you don’t specify which brands), what more could any guy want!

      You’ve answered loads of questions, you’ve an interesting personality profile and the tests make you much more 3 dimensional than you think.

      Seriously though, you look good, sound like a normal girl, you’re not poly something, don’t have 2 husbands already, and to the best of our knowledge have no overt fetishes, apart from said gin. I’m afraid you don’t come across as cynical enough in your profile.

      I’d say you’re worth meeting – if it can’t be me (I only hit the 95% mark), take up Natalie’s offer, or just become really dull and boring on your profile.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I bet you’re the sort of girl who aims for the top dog while being a plain Jane then wonders why you can’t meet the “one” or Mr Right. Maybe the sort who says “why should I settle?” When your female hugbox of friends tells you you’re wonderfull and that James Bond who looks past you doesn’t know what he’s missing. I’ve seen your profile and you’re a 5 or 6 out of 10, (like most people) I’m betting you’ve passed up loads of great guys because… Why should you settle for 2nd best?

  14. Reg says:

    ” Not everyone ends up resembling Jack Dee chewing a wasp.”

    That, right there, is my favourite thing ever.

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