Trying to beat the Odds: Online Dating with Match.com
Aug 7, 2009 (Updated Nov 23, 2009)
|Sense of Community:
Being recently thrown back into the pond, it's time for me to learn to swim again. A busy work schedule and less than stellar social opportunities to meet new people really are the main reasons for me to try the virtual path. (Then again, isn't that everybody's excuse?) Being a Udate.com veteran (10 years ago), I pretty much knew what to expect, but still got surprised how online dating evolved. It's one of those things that nobody really admits to "need". It's a bit of a pride thing. At the same time, it offers tremendous possibility to truly see beyond beauty if you choose to. (Of course just like in the real world, online dating is at least equally image driven and the pretty gal or handsome guy certainly get more if not all attention. Here, a picture is by far the only first impression you're judged by.)
This review is naturally from a male perspective, but can be easily applied to female members too. Either way, two months were enough to significantly beat up my self-esteem, time to pull the plug and look at it in a more casual way. ;-)
For a review w/ comparison to eHarmony.com: [Click Here]
IN A NUTSHELL
Online dating like Match.com offers an opportunity to extend the search to people you would never meet otherwise, and you have an opportunity to get to know them without ever meeting them (to weed out what's perceived as "bad apples").
That's the theory, and lucky for those where that works out to be reality. They do exist! However, it cannot be ignored that it's also even more heavily driven by appearance and image than the already superficial bar scene. Keep your expectations in check. If you didn't date supermodels by now, Match.com is unlikely to change that.
Be careful when using online dating services, as it not only poses the risk that come with meeting strangers. (Make sure a friend knows who you're meeting where and when.) It also opens up many opportunities for scamming unsuspecting people. Match.com is loaded with scams and pranksters along with what seems to be the company's own teaser accounts. (Be prepared to get "motivational" winks from people way too far away. This typically picks up right before the next billing cycle.)
Be avised that it's Match.com's policy to use your profile even after your subscription expired (to make it look like there are lots of members, really): "Yes. If you resign only your subscription, your profile will appear as long as it is not hidden and members are conducting searches with criteria that match you." That's important for active member as well as your information whereabouts after you resign. Make sure to hide the profile before the subscription runs out. Further, the temporary scam accounts are not endoresed by Match.com, but certainly are included in the claims of total members and daily new accounts. Those are the only ones that get automatically hidden after the free 3 day period.
Overall, despite all the potential, the greed of the service provides scammers with an open door by allowing free sign-up. It then turns around and boasts phantastic sign-up rates (obmitting the un-published percentage for scams). Generally, the service is expensive and the paying member doesn't come first in the site's practices and policies. So if you're lucky ... good for you. The majority seems to have a less than satisfying experience.
For a review w/ comparison to eHarmony.com: [Click Here]
Sign-Up: [****-] It's not difficult to create an online account which allows free browsing but no contact to any of the members. I think winking is actually possible. That's a bit better to check out the members before paying that say eHarmony which doesn't let you in until you paid (with exception of those occasional promotional "free" weekends). Either way, there is a lengthy initial survey to create the basic profile which is needed to find matches. It feels pretty standard and of course once you're a free member, be prepared to be reminded to sign up for virtually anything you want to do beyond viewing. Once subscribed, expect special attention for the first week or two. So you want to make sure your profile is at least somewhat complete. After that time it's likely to drop significantly (unless you're one of those incredibly pretty girls which undoubtedly are pummeled with messages -- provided the profiles are even real).
Community: [**---] Just like any given place, the average person won't walk in and have immediately 10 supermodels match and all drool over you. Won't happen, and if you aspire to be Hugh Heffner, you're in the wrong place to begin with. On the other hand, if you're Brad Pitt or Angelina, you wouldn't be here either. However, if you're taking it for what it is, there are good ways of occasionally meeting people in your area that you otherwise would never cross paths with. Of course it also raises competition as those you're interested in have a larger selection as well. It takes patience since people come and go. In my rural area it's not the most common to search online and more accepted for folks in their 20s but nevertheless there were a few interesting seeming people. If you keep your criteria too broad, you're most likely bombarded with lots of profiles from the nearest large city. The number of inactive accounts (have not visited the site for 4 weeks or more) is rather large, which becomes more visible the more stringent your requirements are. To counter that, you can select to show only accounts that are online right now. With all the right adjustments, my metro area of roughly 250k people yields between 2 and 10 active matches within 50 mile radius. Further, a little bit of research showed that in this area only 11 members within a 50 mile radius joined less than 3 weeks ago (even counting two brand new accounts that meet all the signs for scam accounts). The "3 weeks" status is Match.com's maximum posted activity and includes everybody from just 3 weeks ago to the beginning of the service! (This is the basis for some of the frustration in other reviews.)
Manage expectations! Keep in mind that everybody on this site is there for a reason. If they're in general as easy-going and undemanding as they claim, they would not likely be on Match.com with the looks and positive energy they always seem to have. Looking for Mr. or Ms. Perfect typically goes both ways, as not only are you prone to raise expectations beyond normal but you're facing the same shift in judgment against you. Further, be aware that there are many accounts that have other things in mind than finding a mate.
Matching: [***--] The matching process is rather simple. Match.com starts with age and location to provide you with possible matches (generic list), which you have to narrow down yourself. So-called Compatibility compares your criteria to the other person though "no preference" doesn't seem to make it all-inclusive but rather no match. There don't seem to be any "sophisticated" algorithms at work to unearth surprising matches. It's more or less about what you have in common, instead of what personality types are comaptible which is a huge difference. It's pretty direct (basically by personal reference starting with physique and location etc.). A slightly more "scientific" method is the link to chemistry.com which is a plug for another subscribed service. Hence a whole different topic.
Image: The computer generated matches create a fair chance to consider your whole personality. Good start. Nevertheless be aware that even then your picture is by far the most important gate to your profile from the list of matches! If it's not an appealing picture, potential visitors are far less likely to invest any effort -- even if it claims 100% match. (Yes, it's a superficial world!) So make sure your picture is recognizable. A smile is a must (!!!), don't underestimate that people want to be happy and that's the main criteria to even consider you fun (a witty writing is secondary, as it's only important to those that got interested in the picture). Men, please be aware that we outnumber girls on virtually any dating site. Hence you have to stand out more and girls get easier annoyed with us!
Interaction: [***--] Overall tools are pretty much standard for today's services and include online profiles which can be browsed or searched. It's possible to send non-committal "winks" which sounds like a neat tool but is relatively ineffective. The e-mail feature retains your anonymity as it send your messages to and from match.com only. The premium membership even lets you spy whether the email has even been read and who has been reading your profile regardless of follow-up actions. The Daily 5 is a relatively innovative tool where every 24 hours you will be introduced to up to 5 profiles you may not have seen yet but who could match you. So far this has yielded absolutely no contact as most hits are too far away and not all seem to be active when researching -- a detail that's not visible on the Daily 5 page. There is absolutely no trace that any of these ever looked at my profile (despite supposedly letting them know you're interested). Hence it's questionable that this actually works. Another non-functional tool for me has been the IM function so far. Even 100% matching profiles never seem to answer when starting an IM, and it's very easy to overlook the IM notification too.
Get the hint: It's tempting to use the available communications tool to try to "convince" a member to consider you. Match.com limits winks to one per month for exactly that reason. Further, members can be blocked from contacting a particular member and you can hide your profile for a member's search. Pushy behavior is likely to get you nowhere, if you didn't meet their requirements the first time it's unlikely that you can convince them otherwise. On that note, the "Who's viewed me" is a fairly useful tool to figure out if you're even getting any traffic, but make sure that you understand they already looked and presumably read your profile. Another feature with good potential is the "Who's Favorited me" list, which is empty for me, so I guess that's just what it means. (Though there is some evidence that it may not be working too well.)
Credibility: [**---] While generally it's a dating site and therefor no guarantees for success, Match.com appears to deploy fake accounts to make you feel more welcome I guess (at least for guys as I am sure the women are outnumbered by some factor anyway). It's easy to confuse with the numerous scammers (not endorsed by Match.com), but there is still an odd coincidence with some of the accounts. For instance, I inquired with customer service if the "Who's favorited me" feature actually works and low and behold the very next day two (!!!) accounts did indeed favorite me after 6 weeks of nothing. Coincidence? I think it can quickly turn into frustration that the "pretty girls" aren't interested and leave the naive member wondering. There are some sites using such drones to get people to sign up (even if that unethical), but it's rather meaningless for paying members.
Scam Alert! Be careful with accounts that typically sport only one stunning picture, and the description couldn't be more prefect (albeit without details); meanwhile they're extremely modest in their requirements. Reality check: it's unlikely that someone who just joined, lives in another state and has perfect details ... really is just looking for a nice guy ranging from 3' to 8'. Typically it's easy to spot as those fit the "too good to be true", and they generally wink without ever looking at your profile. Further, if they're pushing to contact via different email, be especially on the look-out for scams that are generally designed for ID theft or even to get you to send money.
Success: [**---] I can't speak for everybody, but overall I could see that if you're -- like me -- in real life challenged to find the right mate, it's not necessarily easier online. It does, however, make you somewhat independent from two critical parameters: time and location. Of course timing still has to be right for the two of you to be using the service at the same time range, but it's certainly not limited to a single location (i.e. bar) anymore. The ability to review a person's profile helps tremendously to narrow down quicker the ones that are compatible (unless you're still looking for that professionally successful homebody supermodel with perfect dimensions and a down-to-earth attitude and low maintenance).
Be realistic: While you shouldn't settle for less than you're worth, it's easy to chase windmills and eliminate lots of viable candidates by judging too quickly (i.e. picture alone). If you're really looking for a companion and not arm candy, make sure you're reading the profiles. Love can happen quickly but likely will take time. Be sure to meet your own requirements before imposing them on others! The more honest you are with yourself and others, the more likely you will attract the right person beyond the first date. Always remember, he/she could be living next door and don't completely rely on online dating only if a mate is important to you.
Cost: [**---] Compared to local dating services which cost male members typically several thousands of dollars, the $110 for premium membership over 6 months isn't all that bad. Of course you don't get any other service than having search-able access to a pool of potentially like-minded people. It gives you the opportunity to review your potential date's likes and dislikes and if you're honest about it, one can weed out many mismatches that on the surface may have been compatible (typically based on looks). So it's hard to hold the price against the vendor, but it's not cheap and premium access should include free iPhone access (since it provides the same info). But it costs extra and the same is true for phone calls.
It's a business: Match.com's first purpose is to make money and the pricing is such that members can spend a lot of money if they're gullible or desperate enough to sign up for all the services. It may improve your reach, but it doesn't change the mere fact that if the other isn't interested, you can't force it. So keep your expectations and spending in check to make this an enjoyable experience. Remember, you're buying a service not the person. ;-)
For a review w/ comparison to eHarmony.com: [Click Here]
TIPS and "TRICKS"
Smile! To some of us a big smile feels as unnatural as a walk on the moon. Nevertheless, if your picture looks like you could get a main part in "Grumpy Old Men", it won't do you any good -- even if you're the nicest person. Current state of society is that normal mood is supposed to be happy, and everything else abnormal. So don't take your most important picture on a bad day. Unless you're a natural, make sure you're feeling upbeat when taking your profile picture as it shows. You don't have to look like you're a habitual user of Prozac, but it shouldn't look like you just lost your job either. Also include pictures of activities and honest full body shots. The latter is tempting to disguise for some of us who aren't too happy about the shape they're in, but you would be essentially setting yourself up for disappointing first dates. Further, please don't make your pictures a guessing game who in that group is supposed to be you. Last but not least, it's nice to have visually beautiful friends, but this is your stage and keep your picture's focus on you!
TMI?. Aside from too little information, one can easily overdo in the attempt to paint a complete picture. What's meant as a good effort, can turn against you as long profiles are seldom read, and disclosing all information can deter interest. I am not advocating to lie and post wrong facts, but some touchy subjects like religion and kids are sometimes better left for a follow-up discussion. I.e. it turned out for me that having a 2-year-old daughter was the perfect repellent, despite her being (reportedly) cute as a button and not even living in the same state.
Honest, honestly. There is no question that standard canned profile phrases like "I love life" (who doesn't?), "I'm easy going" (really?), "open minded" (to what?), and "know how to treat a lady" (and that would be?) are nothing more than thoughtless recycled canned phrases. Sounds harsh? Well there is nothing wrong with any of the phrases themselves, but they're over-used and don't provide any detail as to what that means to the particular person. Don't stop there and begin to elaborate. Don't make up traits that only sound good but may not really be what friends would describe you as. (Find someone for honest friendly feedback.) Don't describe yourself as a homebody if you like to party all night, and likewise don't make yourself all "fun loving" (another empty phrase) when you really rather stay home. There is nothing wrong with who you are, and it's all coming down to presenting yourself right and how it holds up on the subsequent dates.
Don't OCD! Generally try to wink first, an e-mail should follow sometime soon but if you do it in too short order you may just get lost in the stack of similar contacts a particular person might simply ignore and delete. Anyway, don't hesitate to contact somebody and try maybe one more time if no response. Match.com makes it easy to keep track of your activity. After those initiations and once a few weeks have passed, it's adviseable to delete those correspondences to not fixate on people. Blocking would be unreasonable at this point, but it doesn't have to be a constant reminder in your account that you've been trying without success.
Is she real? While there are gorgeous real people on this site, scams are often so blantly easy to recognize; it's surprising they still apparently work. Look out for that extremely beautiful girl which seems to be extremely fun and modest and basically all the right things, and be advised that there may be a catch. Most foreign scam artists don't get ethnicity right and post as "Native American", while going on to post an obvious Caucasian picture. Just the other day I found a profile boasting in the text to be Canadian, but having a Brazilian and American mom, born in Brazil and raised in the States. (Geography certainly wasn't "her" strong point!) Bad English isn't limited to foreigners, but be advised that lots (!) of blatant spelling and grammar errors are hardly good advertisement. Another pointer towards a scam is income is generally posted as $25k or less. While quite a larger group in the US earns that "much", it's unlikely for a Bachelor's degree and up and typically part of the "too poor to travel, please help with money" scheme.
For a review w/ comparison to eHarmony.com: [Click Here]
Nigeria Connection? [!!!] So most of us have heard of the scam artists operating from Nigeria. I can attest that they're also active on Match.com and in this case I made consciously contact with one of the questionable accounts: let's call "her" Belinda for now. Anyway, she sported the typical one picture, winked and dropped off soon after. The difference this time was that I initiated the IM window and got to talk to her. I got quickly directed to a Yahoo messenger account and the chat there was very one-sided. No info really about her, but lots of questions about me (most geared towards finding out how vulnerable/desperate I might be). Careful, don't divulge any information that makes it easy to identify and/or locate you! It turns out she wasn't in the US but Western Africa (yes, Nigeria) for research right now and planning to come back by end of month. Ahh, the standard treatment (as described in many scam reports), expecting some sort of problem when she is going to come to the US and probably requiring some help ($$$). By now all flags should be up and waving, since (a) it's 5AM in Nigeria and (b) her English wasn't the greatest for being a US citizen and (c) no information about her while diverting any specific questions and (d) she quickly became inactive on Match.com where (e) she never even looked at my profile. Translation: "Belinda" is likely to be a male living in Nigeria who's job it is to make unsuspecting (desperate) males in the US vulnerable for money scams.
Russian Girls: Scams are also using the real "mail order bride" scheme as a background and in my case "Svetlana" from Kirovgrad (Ural) was working hard to convince me that she just wants a nice man (a.k.a. me). Of course her model looks and admittedly very good English would have convinced even the most discriminating male, and we will ignore for a moment that all pictures were taken by someone (professional?) who knows how to use fill lights etc. while still using a rather domestic setting. E-mails quickly established her as my "girlfriend" with subject lines like: "From the sweetest girl in the world!!!" and "Hopefully your future girlfriend!!!" quickly followed by trip preparations to come to America soon, just to run into predictable money problems. Meanwhile, Sveta has not even acknowledged a single one of my questions, but of course I have not provided anything personal either. (One would think that someone making such a big change in her life would be interested in those details. ;-) I even changed names (to John), and the person posing as "Sveta" simply replied to that without skipping a beat instead of picking up on the difference. The scam went to a dead end when I "offered" to buy the ticket instead of sending money. Ha!
Check this link out for a related story (of an American male posing as Russian girls on Match.com):
Jane from London: With all my guards up and active, I still got a bit surprised by this one. Not the typical "safe me" location, but still all signs were on caution. Heart-wrenching story where parents and sister died, and overall very casual in the discussions (this time via Y! IM). It goes without saying that she was gorgeous and a dream of every desperate man. She was trying hard to get a job in England, but really wanted to come back to the US. Very inquisitive about me (mostly geared toward financial background like size and type of house or what job) and very little if any information about her. So overall very deceiving, but it turned out to be just anoter scam, when suddenly the passport was lost and she needed money to replace it. The 160 Pounds were almost a bargain compared to flights etc., but it is just to show you that it's not limited to "poor" countries.
Tip: Although there are many scams and Nigeria as well as Russia are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the overall scheme is the same and generally very simple. First of all, you're not the only one and the scammers simply don't invest the time to write specific letters just for you (or even pick up on differences). Using your favorite search engine, look for the supposed name and probably a unique phrase from that letter (i.e. subject line) and you will likely find the letters are often reused and so are the photos. Of course you could always apply common sense and ask yourself how likely it would be that Ms. Gorgeous is falling for you so quickly without much to base that on. If you still need convincing, being asked for money is a pretty strong indication too. Nevertheless, if you know the catch, you can always interact for fun (as long as you keep personal info and money out of this kind of relationship.)