Click for love

Author: Paul Wyatt

“Excuse me Sir, but your friend is outside vomiting into a bin”. It’s not going well at the exclusive Paramount club’s single and mingle night perched high up on a pile of sixties concrete known as Centre point. For my mate Steve the evening is ending on a rather sour note.

He’s 26, a games designer, friendly but lacking a bit in confidence. Decked head to foot in his finest H&M you can’t fault him for not having made the effort. Even the straightening irons ( an essential bit of kit for the fella with frizz) have been brought out for the occasion. Steve’s armament of floppy haired, geek infused emo posturing have been eclipsed by the taller, bolder, richer, sharper and slicker players of the dating game. Giving up on finding love (or at least a snog and a touch up at the bus stop) he’d clutched a bundle of free cocktails and necked them.

It’s the 21st Century and it can be a lonely place for the single man. There are more leisure time activities available but seemingly less time to enjoy them. Looking for “love” is hard as we live lives which are mostly unrequited. Wanting what we can’t have is a familiar pattern for most of us.

Everyone apart from those with egos the size of a planet will knows how stressful, stomach churning and occasionally sweaty this dating lark can be. It’s a scary truth that in the real world you have to put your goods out in the window if you expect to have any takers. The confidence reducing stress of this has some men reaching for their laptops or iphones for a much needed hit of dating website appreciation. On these sites people are bolder, more charming and (thanks to Photoshop) better looking than in real life. You can “wink” at someone, flirt, then if you’re fed up with them just hit “block” to make them vanish forever. Oh look, 16 messages and 4 winks. O.M.G the world LOVES me!

Online it’s all about your postage stamp sized profile picture. It’s usually taken at arm’s length or perhaps from above which greatly foreshortens features and helps the subject appear cute. To look your absolute best though, take a photo of yourself in the bathroom mirror and be sure to Include the camera (and/ or toilet) in shot as well as this looks very classy. The amount of reflected light bouncing off tiles, mirrors and that shiny toilet seat will light up even the craggiest of features making you look an absolute stunner. Just be sure to meet up in the real world in a similarly well lit environment – under the floodlights at Wembley stadium perhaps?

Women (or other men) will see these images as they flip through reams upon reams of photos on any dating website. It’s very similar to shopping from a catalogue shop. It usually comes with the same downsides as well. How many of us have excitedly bought something on the merits of a great photo and a flash description only to get home and realise it looks cheaper, falls apart easily and is nowhere near as big as it looked in the picture?. Sadly, unlike catalogue shopping dating websites aren’t subject to the trade descriptions act.

Purveyors of online love “eharmony” are one of the most successful and promise to find you someone who has the “deepest level of compatibility” to you. It’s a place where “real values” and “intellect” count. It’s all a bit…nice. One imagines couples in passionless “Stepford wives” existences lacking passion, zest and the occasional dirty weekend. Of course if that’s not to your taste you could always run g string in hand over to “benaughty.com“…

The recent TV campaign for e harmony proves that in this (nearly) new century the stigma of online dating or the world of the lonely heart has gone. Love quests now take place in online chat rooms, text and MSN messages.

The cheeky charm of the lonely heart ad, the sexy play on words and the subtle innuendo has been replaced by dating site profiles where a copy and paste job of a “Cold play” lyric will do.

With websites, face book, google and webcams the whole idea of a “Blind date” in the 21st century seems quaintly outmoded. We now approach dates with a dossier of facts, figures and photos which would make MI5 proud. Online “meets” can help soften the pain and awkwardness of the first ten minutes of a date but prolonged online titillation before eventually meeting up can cause the date to nose dive into “they’re not as funny/good looking/interesting as they are online”

Some profiles are not what they seem. Mate Jake had a successful date. She laughed at his jokes, smiled at everything and wasn’t even put off by his collection of dungeons and dragons figures. He was shocked. He’d pulled! He was on fire! At last a woman truly desired him. The £400 fee the next day came as rather a surprise. A chase down the Euston road by the young lady’s pimp has since caused Jake to become catatonic at the slightest mention of online dating.

As soon as technology progresses someone, somewhere finds a way to use it to help them hook up. It wasn’t long after the iphone was released that a whole array of dating apps arrived. Called “Friends finder” or if you’re gay the “does what it says on the tin” and Stephen Fry endorsed app “Grindr” use a global positioning system to help you find the nearest “date”. Gay friend Terry is addicted to Grindr. He’s actually been caught in friend’s wedding photos with iphone welded to his hand checking to see who’s gay and who’s available. Unfortunately this app doesn’t come with a built in breathalyzer to stop Terry sending embarrassing messages when he’s drunk. The golden rule should be that if you have to close one eye to text or to send an online message- then don’t do it.

Hopefully the future of dating won’t see us flirting and winking in a completely virtual world. It would be an interesting statistic to discover how much flirting online actually results in physically meeting up. Has this world become so big and scary that we’ve become more wary about meeting new people ? Virtual dating allows us an element of selfishness in our connection with them. Online people are so easy to , quite literally, turn off when we’ve had enough of them. In the real world we’ve seen speed dating take a sudden peak in popularity. Well, why not? It’s the real world equivalent of virtual dating. You meet someone, have bite sized conversation with them, do a yay or a neigh as to whether you like them or not then move on to someone else. No danger of getting hurt there – if they don’t like you you’ll always convince yourself that it’s because they “didn’t have time to get to know the real you”. We’re always coming up with sensible reasons as to why people don’t like us.

However dating evolves it’s a fact that 21st Century dating is big business. Whether you’re looking for a quick hook up or a lasting relationship you’ll find a site or app which will give you what you’re after for (at least) a few quid a month. Some even offer money back guarantees – who knew finding love was so easy.

However there’s a lot to be said to for the more traditional route and if you’ve the nerve for standing in a club or bar with strangers and can string a few sentences together to someone you’re interested in then give it a try.

If you don’t have the stomach for it you may find yourself like Steve with your head in a bin on New Oxford Street. I walked past there not long after. They’d removed the bin.


This opinion piece was originally featured in issue 5 of “Eggmag”


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