Why We Still Can’t Stop Talking About Online Dating

Before a time when the world was obsessed with flavor of the week apps and shiny new tech startups only to forget about them as quickly as you can swipe left, I got hired at an online dating site.

The year was 2010 and I had just turned 21 years old. The concept of dating online was more publicly uncomfortable then, although, almost 5 years later, the reaction remains more or less the same when people learn that I work for PlentyOfFish. Sometimes shock, often an involuntary facial twitch, always questions. Although the positioning of online dating in conversations is changing, one thing remains the same: we’re having the conversations. On the way to work, in the line at Starbucks, out for drinks with friends on Friday night, we’re having the conversations. So what is the big deal about online dating, and why can’t we stop talking about it?

Because We Still Don’t Know How It Works…But It Works

When we create these digital portraits for ourselves online, we’re navigating in a space we don’t really understand, but excites us nonetheless. This also makes us wary, though. We meet a jerk at a bar and we chalk it up to bad luck. We meet a jerk while we’re online dating, and it starts more of a conversation because we can’t make sense of the moving parts. The onus can be on cyberspace for bringing this loser to your inbox and not your own judgement. Still, most days I’d bet on the good judgment of matching algorithms and data scientists behind the scenes of a dating site over a great deal of my friends at the bar.

Even so, in the media you’re still more likely to hear about an online first date gone wrong than Harry and Sally (and thousands of people just like them every year) who met online and lived happily ever after, because those battle stories reassure us that there are still people out there who haven’t found anyone either! The thing is, Harry and Sally have told their friends, and their friends have told their friends, which results in a great deal of signups for us, and at least 1 in 5 marriages for those who are keeping track.

Because We’re Curious

Dating online means putting yourself out there – like really out there. Your hopes and dreams and wish list for an ideal partner is out there for your exes, coworkers and aunt Barbara to stumble across, and that can be scary at first. Maybe aunt Barbara actually met someone, and that pushed you over the edge, or maybe you heard that a celebrity is now considering joining a dating site after her latest breakup. Either way, you don’t want to be left behind.

So before you know it, you’re signing up too. And it’s strangely optimistic, to see those rows of hopeful faces smiling back at you, all of them single. So like a high school dance, you hang out on the outskirts for a while, maybe even until someone makes the first move and messages you. All of a sudden, our false modesty vanishes and the experience becomes more human than humiliating because you’re actually allowing yourself to have fun.

Because It’s Always Evolving

There was a time, so I’ve been told, when dating was not always this way. Despite this, I’m inclined to go the tough love route and tell you, sorry, but this is the way it’s going to be from now on. Technology has been seamlessly and irreversibly integrated into almost every nook and cranny of our existence, and the advancements in the online dating space are remarkable.

We’re obsessed with maximizing efficiency and tailoring all of our experiences to best fit our needs, but when it comes to our love lives, maybe we’re still more old-fashioned than we’re willing to admit. We routinely blog about deeply personal aspects of daily life, order our groceries, reserve a Car2Go, plan trips across the world and customize our own Nike sneakers, all online, but when it comes to dating online, we pretend it’s still just a little too out there.

But that’s OK! We’re still afraid that our stories won’t quite stack up when we’re recounting to our grandchildren that yes, “Grandma was checking her PlentyOfFish app on the commute to work and saw that Grandpa had selected her as a Favorite, and the rest is history.” We may not necessarily have the ancient family feuds or years spent oceans apart, but that’s only because life has changed. Dating has changed, and online dating will continue to evolve. But the hope and the intimacy and the love, that’s still the same. Besides, you have nothing to worry about, because in 10 years all the romantic comedies will be about online daters anyway.

5 Spooktacular Halloween Dating Tips for Singles

Looking to scare up a date or two this Halloween? Let the sparks fly with your favorite ghosts, goblins and ghouls, as POF’s resident Dating Coach Sarah Gooding shares some tricks and treats to help you find a hair-raising sweetie this Halloween night!

1. Choose a Costume that Plays to your Personal Interests

Halloween only creeps up on us once a year, so it’s completely acceptable for even the most conservative of people to dress on the sexier side. So go ahead – dress as crazy and outrageous as you dare! Rather than sticking to the typical sexy costumes, (ie. sexy police officer, sexy nurse) try your hand at a costume that plays to your personal interests. For instance if you love NFL football, dress up as a cheerleader from your favorite team. If you love race cars, try your best imitation of your favorite race car driver. If you love entertainment and current events, go as new mom Snooki clutching her new baby, a blue-wigged Katy Perry, or a happy dancing PSY from Gangnam Style. Playing to your personal interests will show off your humour and act as an easy conversation starter at the costume party.

Little Red Riding Hood2. Cast a Spell with your Interactive Costume

Of course it’s easier than normal to break the ice on Halloween night, but why not make it a bit more fun by adding an interactive element! We recommend including aspects in your get-up that will make it easier to approach someone or get a conversation started – and that means less pressure on you, too! For instance, Kelly, a POF user from NYC went as a graffiti wall last Halloween. She wore all white, carried around a few markers, and asked others at the party to contribute their creativity to her blank canvas. This could be a fun, flirty way to exchange numbers with someone you’ve been chatting with. Another POF user named Samantha, dressed up as little red riding hood and handed out candies from her basket all night. “It was an easy way to approach someone and everyone loves an unexpected treat

3. Stay Away from Bulky Costumes or Too Much Makeup

Costumes that take up a lot of space (particularly those made from large cardboard appliance boxes), or require makeup from head to foot are difficult to maneuver in – especially if you’re at a crowded bar or house party. These costumes attract attention and can be a big hit at the beginning of the night, but by midnight your costume is usually on the floor, or haunting the personal space of anyone who happens to walk by. Other party goers will usually try to steer clear of costumes like these rather than attempt closeness. 

Halloween Mask4. Behold the Man in the Mask

With all of the wigs, makeup, and masks worn on Halloween night, it might be a little too easy to pass by people you can’t quite get a good look at. But beware – the unknown and mysterious are often the hidden gems! Don’t be shy to approach these people…you may just get a wicked surprise of your own when they reveal their true identity!

5. Go Easy on the Witch’s Brew

The 31st has the tendency to be a bit of a wild card, so it’s best not to add to its uncertainty by having too many drinks too early on. Besides, drinking too much makes it harder to meet people and make a good impression with someone new – try having a glass of water, or take a break and bob for apples in between drinks. Most importantly, the thought of our members making rotten decisions when it comes to a safe ride home gives us goosebumps, so make sure you have established a designated driver for your fright fest!