Zelophehad’s Daughters

Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VIII, My Experiences with On-line Dating Sites

Posted by Seraphine

So, various people have expressed interesting in hearing how my experiences with dating (especially on-line dating sites) have been going. I thought I’d do a quick review of my experiences with the three sites I’ve used, and also talk about how I’ve been approaching the whole on-line dating thing more generally.

eHarmony

I like the idea of eHarmony, but as someone mentioned in a comment on one of my previous threads, the reality doesn’t really live up to the ideal. For me, I think a lot of this has to do with being Mormon. eHarmony asks a lot of questions when you sign up, and one is religious background. This doesn’t show up on your profile, but it does affect who you’re matched with. I found that a lot of my matches were people from non-traditional religious backgrounds (Muslim, Hindu, etc.), whether because eHarmony thought we’d match because of our non-traditional backgrounds, or because these members were more open to dating people from other non-traditional backgrounds. Overall, a lot of my matches were people that I didn’t really feel I was compatible with. Also, unless you limit your preferences to people nearby (which means fewer matches), eHarmony will match you up with a lot of people who live a good distance away. While I know this works out for some people, I decided that I’d prefer to find people nearby to date and develop relationships with in person (especially since I’m in a city with a lot of people, and there are quite a lot of people here to date). I am currently not subscribed to eHarmony–for me, the money wasn’t worth it.

Match.com

Match.com doesn’t really have a good matching algorithm. It doesn’t have the “29 dimensions of compatibility” that eHarmony has, and it doesn’t have the compatibility questions that OKCupid has. This means when looking for potential matches, you have to do all of your own legwork. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve found that a decently-written profile can tell me 1) if there’s no compatibility or 2) there might be compatibility. In cases where I think there might be compatibility, I will message the person (or respond if they’ve messaged me), and take things from there. My dates from Match.com have been all over the map–some great, and some not as great. I would recommend Match.com because there are a lot of users, and while you do have to do some sifting, you can meet some pretty great people. It’s definitely best used as a tool to meet up with people in your area that you might not otherwise run into. I am currently subscribed to Match.com, and currently, for me the money is worth it.

OKCupid

The biggest plus of OKCupid is that it’s free, but it’s also a good site in its own right. On OKCupid, the way they test compatibility is to ask you a lot of questions about you and your ideal match (lifestyle, religion, ethics, views on relationships, sex, etc.). Then they check your answers against the answers of other users and give you a match %. For all you statisticians out there (i.e. Ziff), here’s how they calculate this match %. The more match questions you answer, the more confident they are in their calculations. That being said, I’ve had a similar experience on OKCupid that I’ve had on Match.com—it’s a great way to meet up with other people in the area that you may not meet up with otherwise. And even though they’ve calculated your match %, you still have to do a certain amount of legwork–you have to look through the people with a high match % and see if these people are actually people you are interested in dating. And like with Match.com, I’ve met a variety of people.

My experiences overall

I was a bit slow getting started, partly because it takes some time to find compatible people and set up dates, and partly because my life was busy with school, and I only had a limited amount of time to pursue dating. However, since about May, I’ve been going on at least one date a week, and there have been a couple weeks I’ve had 3-4 dates. My average, however, is 1-2 dates per week.

The frequency of dates is going to vary from person to person. It will depend on how many people contact you, but it also largely depends on how big your filter is. I definitely don’t respond to people and go on dates if their profile indicates we wouldn’t be compatible (they use the words “lady” or “princess,” or if they talk about how they spend all their free time going to dance clubs and sports games). I started with a pretty wide filter—a little picky, but not super picky. If someone’s profile seemed interesting, he didn’t give me weird vibes or wasn’t too out of my age range, and if he wrote me a thoughtful message that showed he read my profile, I’d usually respond and go on a first date. I think this was a great way to start, but recently I have begun to narrow my filter a bit. Mostly because I’ve found myself getting overwhelmed with the number of people I needed to respond to (I wasn’t getting tons of messages, but it was enough that it was too much for me). I’m also finding that my instincts about whether I might be compatible with someone are pretty good.

I also use my profile description to do some filtering for me. While I’ve certainly chosen to present myself in a positive light in my profile (who doesn’t want to do this?), I’ve also made deliberate choices to represent myself 1) honestly, 2) in ways that indicate I’m outside of the norm, which hopefully does some filtering. Some examples:

  • I’m specific about things I’m interested in—I mention things I love, some of which people might not recognize, like Allegri’s Miserere, or Richard Powers.
  • I use large vocabulary words like “pithy” and “insouciant” (and I’ve had multiple guys mention these words in their responses to me)
  • I mention “feminism” and “spirituality,” indicating that I’m interested in religion and I’m liberal. (I don’t mention being Mormon, which I think is currently the right decision—read this post and the responses to hear my reasoning.)
  • The first sentence of my profile talks about how my life consists of contradictions and how I don’t take the path of least resistance. I think it describes me well, but a guy who’s just looking for someone cute and fun is probably not going to view my profile or message me after reading this. Which is good.

The point of these choices is that I’m not trying to get the most guys I can to message me. Instead, I’m hoping the guys who do message me are interested in my uniqueness. And I’m finding that the dates that are going the best are with guys who seem to really appreciate the ways I’m outside of the norm.

Right now there are a few things I’m still trying to figure out. While I feel right about not putting my Mormon-ness in my profile, I do think I want to highlight my religiosity a bit more, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do this. The other thing I’m trying to figure out (and I have a post coming up on this) is what to do when you move past that first date. When do I go on a second (third, fourth) date? And the bigger question, how will I know when something is right? I’m currently figuring out what works for me through trial and error and trusting my instincts/feelings, but it’s messy. But I know that’s pretty much the norm for dating and relationships.

37 Responses to “Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VIII, My Experiences with On-line Dating Sites”

  1. 1.

    Are you having fun? I hope you’re having fun.

  2. 2.

    Ann, I am having fun! (Thanks for asking.)

  3. 3.

    Ann and Left Field are my inspiration in this area.

    I tried to put my sister on eharmony and a Mormon dating site, but she was so rude to anybody who contacted her it didn’t go well. Well, it was my dream. I still think of that nice truck driver who wanted to meet her and think maybe he could have changed her life.

  4. 4.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I tried eHarmony and OKCupid, but I haven’t tried Match.com. I agree with your assessment of eHarmony. It just didn’t work for me, and it was too expensive. I didn’t really give OKCupid much of a chance because I signed up right before I decided that I need to take a bit of a break from dating. I’ll probably give it another try when I start dating again.

    I’ve found two concerns that I’ve had to deal with for online dating. The first is that it feels so objectifying. I put up a picture on eHarmony, and I got a lot of sexually oriented comments as a result. On OKCupid, I decided to forgo the a photograph, and it worked alright. Some guys pestered me for a picture (on the first conversation), and I decided that I didn’t want to deal with them. I’ll give a picture to a guy when I’m ready to meet him, not before.

    The second concern I’ve had is kind of a silly one. It has to do with the (real or perceived) social stigma of online dating. I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but it almost seems like I’m admitting that I’ve failed at regular dating. (Of course, by LDS standards, since I’m over 25, I’m already perceived as having failed at dating…)

  5. 5.

    Haha, annegb. I think that for on-line dating to work, the person doing the dating has to want it to work. :)

    Keri, I’ve had pictures up on all my profiles, and I only look at profiles where there are pictures. The picture definitely isn’t the main factor that affects whether or not I message someone/respond, but physical appearance (for better or worse) is one of the things that does factor into whether or not people are attracted to one another and end up dating.

    That being said, I’m pretty lucky that I’ve had a very minimal amount of sexually-oriented comments. I can definitely understand why if that was happening a lot, you’d be reluctant to post a picture!

    As for the social stigma aspect, I find it’s fading quickly. Most people I know that I talk to about my on-line dating will tell me a story about how their friend/cousin/niece/etc. found their significant other from an on-line dating site. And most singles I’ve met just see it as one more way to meet people.

  6. 6.

    Hey Princess, er, oop, I mean Seraphine,

    I was hoping you were going to write on this subject, as I was curious about it.

    Have you tried a specifically LDS site, or is the thought that such a site would probably have too few people locally?

    Have you done any second dates yet, or all firsts?

    I think a picture is essential. And I really don’t think there’s a social stigma anymore.

    And Seraphine, I actually know Richard Powers. Or I did, briefly, in high school. He was a year ahead of me and went by “Rick” back then. I think he’s sort of a recluse these days in Urbana.

  7. 7.

    I am sending this to a few of my friends who have been thinking about using online dating sites. Your insights and experiences are ao useful. Thank you.

  8. 8.

    Fascinating to see how your experiences have differed from mine. I’ve come up against a whole separate set of challenges. First, to be friends with someone I don’t care what religion they are, but for even a first date they must be openly LDS, active, and in it because they believe it not because its convenient.

    Even in Utah, that (what I thought was simple criterion) apparently narrows my pool down to nonexistent, even on LDS dating sites. (Perhaps especially on LDS dating sites, oddly.)

    Hence, I’ve had some good conversations with a few men, but not one date. Not one even interested.

    I am gradually coming to the conclusion that the sort of men I’d be interested in dating do not go to online dating sites. Either that, or I’m not the sort of women men like that want to date.

  9. 9.

    Kevin, I’ve tried LDS sites in the past, but aside from meeting my ex, I had very little luck. Though I’ve generally had bad luck finding Mormon guys I’m compatible with. As for your second question, I’ve done a handful of second dates, and there’s one guy I’ve gone on multiple dates with. (And you’ve told me about going to high school with Richard Powers, but it’s still cool.) :)

    SilverRain, I think the population of men you’re looking at is already pretty small, and while I don’t have any evidence to back this up, I think fewer active Mormon singles (looking to date other active Mormon singles) use on-line dating sites as compared with the rest of the population.

    thanks, EBrown. Keep in mind that this advice is going to be more useful to people who are in a similar situation to me (i.e. open to dating non-Mormons) than someone in a situation more similar to SilverRain’s.

  10. 10.

    Seraphine, thanks for posting about this. After your last post on the topic, and enduring months of pressure from a good friend to try online dating, I signed up for okcupid.

    But my experience has been pretty different from yours. I got lots and lots of emails that were either sexually explicit or down right creepy. I only emailed 2 or 3 seemingly normal men a few times and went out with one of them. But we really hit it off and have been dating ever since.

    Navigating the Mormon issue has been harder in some ways and easier in others, than I thought it would be. The things I thought would be the hardest (no sex, wearing garments, sabbath day observance, no drinking) have been easily resolved. Well, sort of. The more difficult thing, that I wasn’t expecting, was how confusing it has been to express exactly how spiritual I am and why and what being Mormon means exactly in my life. But I’m starting to think that’s because I’m not entirely sure myself…

  11. 11.

    So where DO they look? ‘Cause if it’s Dee’s Dances, I think I’m going to become the first Mormon nun.

  12. 12.

    I only emailed 2 or 3 seemingly normal men a few times and went out with one of them. But we really hit it off and have been dating ever since.

    That’s awesome, Enna! Well, I’m sorry to hear it’s still somewhat complicated, but still, that’s pretty cool!

  13. 13.

    Thanks, Ziff! Somewhat complicated, but it has been fun :)

  14. 14.

    In my late 30s, never having married and rather prudish/virginal, I signed up with LDS and non-LDS sites. Surprisingly (to me) it was the men on the LDS sites who were into raunchy talk, sexting, offers to fly me to their locales for cheap rendezvous, etc.

  15. 15.

    I read an article or blog post recently about your profile picture and what kind of response you will get. If you want to reduce the sexiness of the responses, perhaps a slightly different picture? (They analyzed things like how much you smile, where your eyes are looking, etc.). Interesting stuff.

  16. 16.

    Seraphine, every time you mention Richard Powers I’m going to forget that I already told you I know him and tell you all over again. So just plan on it.

  17. 17.

    I use the same dating sites. eHarmony generated a lot of conversations when I used the LDS filter. But many of the conversations faded because of the geographical distance involved. I talked on the phone a bit with one individual, and she even flew me out for a visit, but she had second thoughts about me after another guy started doing skype video with her. Now I rarely get matches because I lifted the religion filter but set the location filter to like 50 miles. Of the people I still talk to on eHarmony, there are a couple of women who live a couple miles apart and who both work in health at Stanford. I don’t think they know about each other because one has a couple years left in YSA and other has been in SA for a couple years. But I don’t know if I should ask one of them if they know the other.

    Match.com uses a 20-point matching system, but I think most users get more interested in pictures and profiles. Initiating conversations with people far away doesn’t really work, but I will probably have lunch or dinner with some of the local women I have talked to on the site. The total number of LDS individuals on the site whose politics aren’t conservative is relatively small. But just last week on the site I found an LDS professional in my town that I didn’t know about. We were supposed to have lunch this week, but her firm had to send her somewhere at the last minute. So instead she invited me to coffee next week. We’ll see how that goes.

    One thing I like about Match.com and OkCupid is that people seem more realistic about dating because it is easier to set up face to face meetings. But it also cuts the other way in a medium-sized metropolis. The nonmember I am having dinner with tonight already knows some of my coworkers and works with my home teaching district leader. Another nonmember that I started talking with online is actually a community organizer I met in a meeting about six months ago. We both have pretty good memories, so I was teasing her to see if she could remember my name. So it can be hard to preserve anonymity. The woman I am having dinner with tonight told me she googled me, but I have no recollection of giving her my last name. Oh well, I still take it as a compliment if people are interested in figuring out who I am.

    The hardest part of using OkCupid and Match.com is that I seem to get the same response from women even after I substantially revise my profile. And curiously I get about same the number of responses from OkCupid (where my religion isn’t listed) as from Match.com (where it is listed, but I say it doesn’t limit who I date). It’s sad, but I get as many comments about my pictures as about my profile. You’d think those hours I spend crafting and refining my self-narrative should count for more!

  18. 18.

    So it can be hard to preserve anonymity.

    I found that to be really true, too. A rather creepy guy that works at the same school as I do was on okcupid, found me, and started sending me messages. That was really awkward.

  19. 19.

    Enna, I’m glad that things are working out for you! That’s weird that I’m not getting lots of sexually explicit e-mails and others (you, Keri) seem to be getting a lot of them. But I’m not going to complain. Maybe I’m scaring the really creepy guys away. :)

    SilverRain, I am the last person to ask about where to find single Mormon men. Sorry!

  20. 20.

    Unnamed…, interesting. I had little to no interaction at all when I was on LDS sites.

    jks, I haven’t seen any such studies, though I’m sure it’s possible. Part of me thinks, though, that most women trying to do on-line dating are going to get creepy messages, regardless of pics, etc.

    BTW, I just discovered that there’s a way to filter who can message you on OKCupid–you can filter by match %, distance, etc. Also, you can filter out anyone who’s looking for casual sex.

  21. 21.

    Kevin, haha. It’s good that you know that about yourself. :) And anyone who mentions Richard Powers is good in my book.

    Sterling, I luckily live in a large enough city that I’ve managed to avoid awkward encounters thus far. Fingers crossed that it will continue.

  22. 22.

    Sterling – A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t underestimate the power of the picture. It isn’t just about physical attractiveness. Take time to pick the right picture. It says a lot.
    Here is an article about profile pics.

  23. 23.

  24. 24.

    http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-4-big-myths-of-profile-pictures/

  25. 25.

    jks–I read that same article and found it very interesting. I purposely choose an unconventional profile picture for my dating profiles in order to discourage the kind of interest I do not want. I still occasionally get chats from men clearly interested in nothing more than a hook up (don’t call me gorgeous; just don’t; I’m attractive enough but when a man calls me gorgeous I’m pretty sure he’s trying to get in my pants), but not many.

    I have to say that I have found many more interesting possibilities on OkCupid for Los Angeles than I have for Salt Lake City (which is where I’m relocating to). I’ve only done some quick perusals of the Salt Lake listings; maybe I’ll find more options when I spend more time looking.

    I did match.com once about six or seven years ago and ended up dating someone I met there, but I haven’t tried again recently. Maybe I should give it a go again, since I don’t give a damn whether the men I date are Mormon or not.

  26. 26.

    I have never used e-harmony but your comment reminded me of something a friend of mine said when she used e-harmony. One was that she said she wanted to stay close to home they kept matching her with people far a way. The other was the matching criteria. She said it took a long time to complete. Then after completing it they would match her with men that would leave her thinking ” What is exactly wrong with me that keep matching me up with these men”?.:)

    I was using match and fitnesssingles for awhile. I met some nice people who I am still friends with. I liked fitnesssingles but it does have a rather small pool. About a year ago I got tired of the entire thing and decided to give it a break. About the same time I met somebody in another completely different setting and have been dating her since.

    Online dating is time consuming. So time consuming that I recently read an article about a guy who has a business writing and responding. You can hire him to run your online profile.

  27. 27.

    jks: I don’t dispute the power of pictures. My pictures went up with a lot of thought. What bothers me is the women who, even though they have little in common with me, feel the need to comment on how I look in their very first message to me. I am fine with someone commenting on my appearance if they are taking the time to get to know me as a person. I just object to being objectified.

  28. 28.

    My sister used ldssingles.com (actually, her best friend put up the profile for her). It worked — she married a guy she met and they are happy, but there were a lot of jerks and she had to put some tough rules about meeting, etc. (I.e., always met at first at a neutral location, drove their own cars, etc.).

    My sister said that the LDS site worked better than the eHarmonies of the world because at least she could drill down by religion a bit more quickly.

  29. 29.

    my personal experience with ldssingles was nothing but bad. Mostly because about 90% of the profiles were blank (at least that’s what it felt like). Like the people who made the accounts wanted to see who was there but didn’t want the stigma of dating online to attach to them. I had no success whatsoever there. Maybe it was because I was outside the intermountain west, but there are quite a few Mormons in SoCal. Maybe it was because it was several years ago and now it would be better. I don’t honestly know. But I had a bad enough experience that I’m not really willing to give it another try.

  30. 30.

    Heads up: Today starts ten days of free communication at eHarmony. I have never seen the free period last that long, so it might attract a fair number of new users.

  31. 31.

    I got married before the advent of online dating sites, but when I was single and spending a summer in Salt Lake, I put an ad in the Tribune. The setup was that it was free to place the ad, but respondents had to use a 1-900 number. I put what I thought were code words in my ad to act as a filter, but apparently to a large number of SL skeezy divorces, “liberal-minded” meant I was likely to put out, not that I was looking for a Sunstone type, and “graduate student” meant I would like guys with associates’ degrees.

    After getting a few voice mails from completely inappropriate types who wanted to take me to Lagoon, etc., I changed my outgoing voicemail to a list of about 20 names, and said that if a guy didn’t recognize about 75% of them, he really shouldn’t bother leaving a message. After that the only message I got was from somebody I knew from home, who didn’t realize he was responding to *me*. We went out a couple of times, but the timing was off. He ended up placing his own ad after I went back to school, and meeting someone he later married.

  32. 32.

    This is interesting to see your experience. I haven’t bothered with dating sites in several years, because no matter what happens, I tend to either get weirdos (and not MY kind of weirdo, which would be fine) or no response at all.

    No matter how well online conversations go, if we get as far as meeting in person, they disappear soon after. Usually the fact that I agreed to meet them is just a sign of how little I get out, I’m sure, because I know for a fact my 2 dates last year were from guys who I should have filtered out from sheer non-interest long before meeting in person.

    Every now and then, especially when I’m feeling down about yet another year going by with maybe one date, and a bad one at that–if anything–I’ll look at online dating. But it feels like a vicious cycle, and that I’d just end up annoyed and/or disappointed. I’d rather meet someone in person and have a friendship grow over time (but look where that’s got me so far).

  33. 33.

    And I forgot to add: But now that I’m in a new city, on the East Coast, I keep thinking that maybe it’s time to think about online dating again. Perhaps it was more a function of location (too few men with whom I had anything in common professionally or in political outlook?) than anything wrong with me.

  34. 34.

    stacer, I think that location can affect one’s experience, so it sounds like it might be worth giving it another shot. I can definitely understand (given your past experiences), though, why it might be a hard leap of faith to take.

    and janeannechovy, that’s a great story.

  35. 35.

    Maybe you should try alikewise.com, a site that matches people according to their book tastes. Awesome.

    Or, having lived in Germany for several years, there is a Mormon version of Facebook for German speakers that was really awesome. Of course you still get the different levels of Mormonism and liberalism and everything, but you at least have that basic level of understanding to start at. Check it out if you want to sift through some German. Jaes.ch

    And, or course, there’s that new site that’s trying to become the world-wide Mormon facebook. 101saints.com

  36. 36.

    The key on first dates (I think anyway) is that they are already out with you so just try to be yourself. They agreed to go out with you in the first place so the groundwork is set.

    For the record, I am 34 not Mormon and Scottish. I just spent a whole wedding with a smile on my face but feeling incredibly single for the duration.

    All I can say is – do not lose heart but let life come to you. God has a plan!

  37. 37.

    […] those of you who followed my posts from last spring/summer know, I was doing the whole on-line dating thing. My fiance (who will hereafter be known as J) and I met through match.com. He e-mailed me, and at […]

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