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Written: Nov 15, 2006 (Updated Jul 20, 2007)
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Match.com is one of a plethora of online dating services where you pay money to post a profile, search for other proflies and gain access to them by way of email. In many aspects, it is similar to placing a personals ad in the newspaper but with the added bonus of searching using specifics. Before describing the product itself, I think that any interested party should be familiar with the general concept of online dating because there are some strong advantages as well as pitfalls, though most of the latter are more perceived rather than real. I personally had a very positive experience with online dating and everyone who actually followed my advice made out nicely as well, no pun intended. However, the biggest pitfall of all is the overall fear and misconception that it's wierd, awkward and/or for losers.
The internet certainly harbors a lot of dis and mis-information, psychos and baloney which gives the idea of meeting people on the internet a bad name. However, it is no different than meeting people through just about anything else. People can be nice, attractive, successful but they can lie, they can be crazy and you take the risk of interacting with them every time you leave your house. How many people are there that you'd not trust to invite to your house along your commute, at work, daycare, the mall, your local bar, restaurant etc?
Although at first glance online dating may be a refuge for the desperate, it actually is not and according to many studies undertaken seems to actually have taken a greater percentage of activity from people of high intelligence and socioeconomic status. It was calculated that over 30 MILLION americans had tried online dating by January of 2003 and that by the year's end another 10 million, most of them between the ages of 18 and 50. For it to work, you have to put a lot of effort into it, and everyone I advised to do so succeeded in that capacity.
My Succesful Experiences
I met some more or less interesting types on match and eventually went on to meet the woman of my dreams whom I subsequently married. My aunt who is a physician in her late 40's and delayed much of her life due to her profession. After she met my wife, she was so impressed with the results she herself spent 6 months on match and met the man of her dreams, and both of them live in Italy where match has much less of a membership. I had a nice, even attractive friend who fell by the wayside due to prolonged illness but now has his dream job, his dream car and met his dream girl through match. A friend of my wife's was moved by our own success and she herself met a man in similar fashion; we just went to their wedding 2 months ago. The people I know whom have had poor success posted things like "Yo, I am bored, life sucks, hit me up if you wanna do anything, later" and expected to be within days deluged by all sorts of hot sexy emails. It just doesn't work that way: garbage in, garbage out. What it does offer is a quick and convenient way to get in touch with a large number of people who are interested in dating that you generally would otherwise have not met.
I have spoken so well of match.com that some people thought I was either financially invested on match or that I should apply to be their PR person. However, I am a mere mortal like everybody else and a very busy one at that who discovered a great way to uncover a gold mine of interesting people who were like me dissatisfied with spending friday night alone. Overall I am tall, decently built and not unattractive. I have a good to excellent career, am young, passionate and energetic, but never managed to be in an environment that was very conducive to dating. I am intense about loving life and living every day to the fullest but I believe this attitude may have intimidated a lot of women my own age because they may not have been sure of themselves or what they wanted like I was. I had a wonderful time going back to Italy every summer and dating some of Europe's most exotic women who were on average much better cultured than what I was meeting in suburban american college life or even later in med school. Every time I would fly back I would resign myself to be celibate until next year. It wasn't for lack of trying to meet people, but suburban life is boring and what little I found was uninspiring. Through my circle of friends, I managed to meet a handful of people with some distinguishing qualities. After a while everyone starts dating everyone and it gets really stale by the time you hit 24 or 25. It can get so inbred you just stop hanging out with them and become more isolated from a romantic point of view.
It was just during such a period that I was turned on to the concept. Looking for some more exotic and intelligent women to date, I had planned my year to return to Italy but by November I was throwing my arms in the air. My mother was a bit worried to see me so despondent and secluded from romantic contact for someone of my age and attractiveness, so she was the one who suggested it in the most persuasive way possible. Seeing that I was looking for someone intelligent, she showed me an ad for Match.com in the Wall Street Journal, a reputable paper. If Match was advertising on the WSJ, then their subscribership was likely WSJ material and thus up to my standards which brings up the second element to my review.
Subscribership and Members
Whenever you want to meet someone who is a certain way, you must first find out what kind of things those people do and where those habits would make those people most likely to be found. Match is a website that is primarily composed of middle class people who have lifestyles to busy to go to bars or want something better than that. It also tends to attract people who are busier than average, more intelligent than average and have more stimulating/time consuming jobs and life situations than average. This can be good because women in this position tend to be lonely but motivated, are less likely to waste their time and yours and in general are more apt to appreciate a less time consuming approach to dating provided you meet their standards.
Though stories abound of unstable people doing inappropriate things on match, the tendency is for people to be a bit more conservative. Therefore, if you want to engage in wild orgies, bondage or meet people who are very unconventional, this is not the place for you. That's OK though, because there are many other sites each with its own subscribership, some of which are very specific. There are plenty for the crazy things mentioned above, one for Indians, others for Jews, some for wealthy people that charge an arm and a leg and I have even heard of one for senior citizens and many many more. If you can think of a race, religion, sexual practice/preference this is such a lucrative market that there is probably a dating site for that. As with the rest of life, in order to have a good experience here it is best that you have an idea of what you want and join Match because it can give you access to meeting people whose general expectations are congruent with yours.
Joining Is Easy
In order to join, all you need is an email. What happens is that you will post a profile with a username and any communication from other people gets sent to your email by way of alerts. However, you cannot write anyone directly unless you join. If you are lucky enough that the person initiating the message included their email, then it can fly but otherwise you get isolated quickly. However, the profiles are all screened so that you cannot include your email in the profile, so it behooves you to pay if you want to write people. Although you are far more likely to come up on a search, sound credible and thus be contacted if you have a photo, you actually don't have to have one. My wife is attractive and didn't want psychos just emailing her for her photo so she didn't post one, lurked in the background and emailed who she wanted, finding me in the process. For women this may work better than for men, but I suggest that the guys always post a picture. Ladies should probably at the least send one to the guys they trust as well.
Its also important that the picture be recent, honestly represent your looks and not include anyone else in it. Don't post a wedding picture with your ex cropped off or with you and seven other friends toasting at a party! Also don't post anything too goofy or extreme with costumes or other crap just to get attention. The profiles are reviewd for content and anything not acceptable to their rules, obscene or not appropriate will be deleted from your profile. If you are overweight, its better to just be honest about it. If you post a head shot and say you are "average" in the profile, you will come across that you are hiding something and appear dishonest if and when a meeting takes place, so just be frank and do your best with other elements. Remember, though people can be shallow you can write people as well and there are many ways to impress. I have talked to people who are wheelchair bound that manage to have sex; if they can, then you can too!
There are features that will be later discussed which can require a lot of bandwidth. Though writing messages and reading profiles doesn't take a lot of computing power, if you want to use a lot of this websites other perks and frills, you will need at least a good DSL if not cable modem outright. I did all my experiences on dialup because I didn't care for those features, but if you do good bandwidth is strongly recommended.
Paying Is Therapeutic
To pay or not to pay? Well, when I joined it was either 25 dollars a month or 100 dollars for one year. Now the price is substantially higher though still less than double that; the package is also different, I think now it's in 6 month installments instead of a full year. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you would pay less than 50 cents a day for the services rendered. I am a very thrifty person that leads a low consumption lifestyle because I want to be the millionaire next door by the time I am 50 (I was born in 1979, do the math). I initially hesitated about paying but after seeing the possibilities decided to splurge wholeheartedly. If you are so cheap that you cannot spend 100 dollars to improve your life situation and have a good time for a year's enjoyment, then you will have difficulty attracting dates if you show the same parsimonious nature to them. 100 dollars isn't a lot of money and you can easily blow a lot more than that on a date. If you don't think you have that money, then you should work on your finances because you may be in serious monetary jeopardy and getting dates is the least of your concerns.
On the plus side, the fee is not totally insignificant, and that's a good thing. It keeps unmotivated people from joining and screens out the wankers who will waste your time. There is no guarantee that you WON'T meet wankers, but this makes it far less likely because once you fork over the dough, you want your money's worth and the only way to do that is to put some effort into the whole process.
Critical Element #1: YOUR Profile
The one thing that makes the whole process work so efficiently and can be used to your favor is the profile. There are different sections, some which ask multiple choice style answers, others where you can give short explanations, and then there is the big essay question: tell the world about who you are and what you are looking for. Questions asked include education, age, body habitus, income, smoking status, phyiscal features including hair and tattoos, political views and many many more. Although you may not want to share every critical detail (don't post that you just won the 200 million powerball for example!), it's important that you be as honest as possible. To find people, you do a search and depending on what people are looking for the places you click will either include you or exclude you. You don't want to overwhelm potential dates with info so that people get bored with reading it, but you want to mention some key factors that could potentially attract who you want and repel those you don't want.
You also have to fill out a reverse profile for your "ideal date" which has the same questions as for your profile but details your ideal match instead. You check off all the same questions regarding what you would like in terms of who you meet. This is important so people know whether you might be interested and also affects some factors of the search engine, so again you want to spend some time thinking abou specific things that you absolutely want or don't want without getting so narrow that you never get anyone.
The other part of the profile is the essay. If your standard characteristics (age, sex, body, height, education and the boilerplate stuff) match someone's search, you will come up with your pic. If they like what they see in the pic, they might click on the rest of your profile and read your essay. This is your chance to impress. Essentially, you want to talk about who you are, what you can offer and what you are looking for. Even if you are a pretty average person in looks, money and intelligence you can really sway people if you are passionate and happy about your life, or at least write about it. Remember to use a lot of positive words and expressions because if on reading the profile people have happy thoughts, they will be more likely to want to be with you. NEVER, EVER mentioned how much your ex ruined your life, or that you're lonely or bored. Just think about the reaction you the reader of my review just had reading those negative words and imagine how someone reading your profile will react.
If indeed you email a lot of people and don't seem to get any hits after a reasonable amount of time (say 2-3 weeks), don't dis the site as being useless. Usually lack of interest in your profile means you have an uninteresting profile! Most people who fail to meet anyone have profiles that really suck, so at this stage getting a friend or two's advice on your writing style may be of help. This is actually a good community when it comes to literacy about being literate, so if you have trusted friends here, you can bounce it past some good writers if you need help.
Critical Element #2: Searching
As much as we would all like hundreds of sex kittens to be lining up at our doors, that just isn't going to happen. Dating is a numbers game and the more people you get in touch with the more likely it is that you find someone with whom you can have a good relationship. Waiting for hits is OK, but the best way to meet people it to pro-actively get out there and search reasonable criteria for what you want/expect and then writing. The most important factors are gender, sexual orientation, age, distance from your zip code, marital status, kids and maybe education. As mentioned, the profile can be VERY specific, so you can search for 19 year old ethnic Albanians living in Ulan-Bator Mongolia who speak French and play Cricket. You might get one person in the whole world if you extend your zip code search. You want to have an idea of what you want so you don't wind up with people who have qualities you don't like such as not enough education, too old, too young etc but don't restrict your search so you get enough people to write.
I think the nicest part of searching and reading profiles is that you can be somewhat specific and the key element is being able to read and digest the profile long before you ever meet the person. If you ever meet, the benefit of internet dating in this fashion is that you already have something to ask and talk about without having to resort to corny pickup lines or a nervous approach in some dingy bar. Again, it's all operator dependent so its up to you to verify the honesty of people's profiles and after reading whether you really want to go on a date with that person.
Although people aren't always truthful, the amount of information you can glean from the 2 minutes of reading the profile would take you an hour of more of going out with that person on a date. This step of the process is not good for finding wether you would really LIKE that person, but it is fundamental in determining whether you would NOT want to date them. If their short profile is lousy, do you think you want to spend an hour getting coffee to find out that they suck? If you think you might like, then write them, otherwise don't bother! Again, you want to have standards, but don't be too picky or you will restrict yourself excessively.
The computer CAN be programmed to search automatically through their "cupid" service which performs a search and emails you profiles whose parameters meet your specification as often as you'd like; in the algorithm is also programmed by what your "ideal mate" profile is. This is not a bad feature but requires more bandwidth and if you're proactively searching like you should, may not be neccessary. I used this feature but given how large the emails sent me were I just deleted them and turned it off. I only met 1 person through this cupid and it was OK but it didn't pan out that great. On the other hand, if you're looking for someone a little more unusual, then as soon as they join those parameters you plugged in will find the profile as soon as they sign up.
Critical Element #3: Writing People
Once you search for profiles you like you have to write people. My profile got a handful of "hits" and I even had a few write more extensively but the only person who emailed me that I ever went out with was.... my wife! Most of the dating that I performed through match was because of my efforts to write people. I don't remember how many people I wrote but it was a LOT. Some wrote back, many didn't. If they don't pay they can't write back so make sure you give your email off the bat to ensure continuity. A lot of people get turned off by all the time they spend writing and how so few people write back, so the moral of the story is to write shorter emails to more people. After having written to a few dozen people I realized some of the things I was writing were all the same so I cut those parts and saved them into a text file that I used as a "canned" email including a little about myself and very broad questions that I would ask anyone. Then, I customized the last line or two to ask some detailed questions. That way I could send a nice introduction without wasting much time just to assess if people were interested or not.
Apparently this "effort" factor didn't go un-noticed by management because just when I met my wife, they overhauled the website and inlcuded a "wink" feature. "Winking" basically puts an alert in the receiving person's box that you are interested. That way, they can read your profile and then respond back if they are interested. I would personally still like to write my own than to "wink", but I did receive a not insubstantial number of "winks" from some very attractive people I didn't think to email. If you're a bit shy or not used to writing around the internet like that, this can be a good feature to initiate contact as well.
Although you can mail on match, it's best to just exchange emails. Once you pay, you can pretty much write people anything you want because the cross-member emails aren't regulated like the public profiles though this may have changed since I used the service. You can reveal your outside email, write dirty messages, send all sorts of pictures, clean or not. I am not saying that you should do all of the above, I am just saying that once contact is established you can handle it how you want it. Women may be advised to use a secondary email that doesn't identify them, but males may be better off using something less discreet. The biggest barrier for a woman is trusting the guy won't be dangerous. If you have some email from some reputable company that she can google and find you are who you say you are it goes a long way to increasing willingness to meet. It's a matter of being forthright enough to be believable versus protecting your privacy; I think guys should focus on the former while the ladies should focus on the latter.
I was in med school at the time and had an email with my real name associated with my school, so I just used that one which went a long way to reassure because I could be googled accurately. However, it backfired once and some crazy girl found out my phone number from a friend of hers who went to my school and used the student directory. She was kind of fun, but it was freaky to get a call from someone whose name I didn't even know after writing just one email. It was all good fun and enjoyed her company (briefly) and I would still do things as I did them, both our few weeks together and the use of a revealing email. The take home point is you can reveal as much or as little as you want but if you wish it to be so, you can remain anonymous and when red flags about as long as you keep anonymous you can hightail it back to anonymity without having risked anything.
Critical Element #4: Meeting People Face to Face
That's why you joined the website in the first place, isn't it?
Some people are under the impression that internet dating stays online with cybersex and is a lousy substitute for real dating. Well, with match.com, you can keep it on the internet with love emails for months but the whole purpose of the effort if to actually meet face to face with people. The more people you write, the more you give out your phone and the more you ask to meet, the more people you will meet. The numers are kind of paltry because maybe only 1/3 the people you write will write back, and of that 33% maybe only 1/4 you might meet face to face. Of all the first dates, maybe only 30-50% of them might go well enough to progress past that. It seems discouraging, but if you write enough people and do it just right, after a few weeks you can have a nice flow of people to screen once you keep writing lots of people.
The most important thing to remember when meeting people is the first date should be short, close to home, cheap, in a public and well lit place. Coffee shops are ideal. The reason behind this is that you don't want to be in a secluded place with a psycho, but even if the person is nice you want to focus on them without risking too much time, money or inconvenience. Thanks to their profile which you should have committed to memory, even if you get nervous you can always revert back and ask something that struck you about what they wrote. The attention should be on the other person because you want to see first off if they are psycho, second if they are who they say the are and third if you might want to venture into a nicer, longer date. It's a really bad idea to meet at one of the parties' private residences. That said a few women invited me directly to their houses to pick them up, but I was really forthright and dowright foolhardy. Then again I only saw them maybe another time or two and went on to more compatible mates.
It may take a long time to meet people or to get yourself going, but don't forget what you are really looking for and remember that the more effort you put into it, the more people you will meet. The more people you will meet, the better the chance of finding something good. If you realize the likelyhood of any one person being any good is small but with effort you can cycle that number to a level that is sustainable and satisfactory, you will be more motivated to continue if you haven't met the love of your life after the first few weeks (my friend actually did after only 11 days, but that's rare!). It took me the better part of 6 months of internet dating and 2 months on match.com to meet my wonderful wife, so to have a fulfilling experience requires a sustained amount of effort, almost treating it like a job.
Simply put, Internet dating is the best thing to happen in the area of love since Adam pulled that leaf off of Eve. It works well as a number-cruncher, setting you up with profiles that match criteria specified by the participants. Used this way, if you put the time in and use the computer as the kind of tool it was designed to be, you can meet more people more rapidly and effectively screen them than ever before. Although most people don't pan out, even a bad date is still better than sitting at home lonely and bored on a Friday night. With luck but above all persistence, you might even meet someone wonderful just like I did. If you think internet dating is not for you for any reason other than you are currently involved in a fulfilling relationship, then you probably need to be on the internet more than anyone else. The asking price is a bargain for what you get, and with some perseverence you might wind up getting married!
What are you waiting for, stud/babe???