This last week there was a lot of attention given to a man who posed as a woman on a free online dating site because he thought it would be easy…and he gave up two hours later. You can check out his thoughts on the experience over at reddit.
The man who tried this walked away with the thought that online dating is harder for women. Some of the commentary I’m reading is taking the direction of “He didn’t even make it 2 hours therefore online dating is harder for women”. So is it true? Do women have a more difficult process with online dating?
It’s Hard for Everyone
I talk to singles of both sexes and I don’t believe that either side has it better than the other. To me, it’s just a different kind of “bad” if you’re a woman versus a man.
For a woman, I think it’s like an obstacle course. You have a goal but there are tons of absolutely irrelevant and discouraging distractions between you and that goal. Things are interesting (sometime ridiculous) but no one will claim that the race is boring. Frustrating enough to quit sometimes? Sure. But boring? Probably not. For many women, it’s more about being chased away from the free dating service than it is about “giving up”.
For men, I think it’s more like a marathon where for long stretches at a time absolutely nothing changes. Some days you wonder if you’re even making progress at all…how is today different than yesterday? You work at your profile, work at improving your emails…and still there’s silence. If you’re a man who has considered contacting the dating service to make sure your emails are actually being sent, know that you’re not alone! So where women are chased off of a dating service, a man is worn down until he slowly walks away.
Now maybe you think that an obstacle course is MUCH harder than the marathon men deal with. Maybe it is. But I think that argument is making the opposite sex the enemy when really both men and women share a source of many of these troubles…
A Few Bad Apples
The truth is, there’s a small (or maybe medium) segment of men in the free dating population that bombard women with garbage emails. We’ve already looked at how this affects women but men are impacted by these spammers too.
Consider this situation: a man who genuinely wants to find a relationship signs up at a free dating service. He works through his profile, creates a great email and sends it off to a woman who also just joined the dating service. Little does he know that his genuine email is buried in a sea of spam. Even if the woman does make it to his email, her discouragement in the male sex at that point will be high…what are his odds of a response?
Also consider the fact that many women are chased away from these free dating services which removes opportunities for the genuine men out there. You may be laughing cynically at this point, but I promise you, I talk with lots of genuine men who want to find a relationship but can’t fathom why they get no responses on a free dating site.
The Cost of a Free Dating Site
Arguing that men or women have it harder on a free dating site is concentrating on something irrelevant to solving the problem. We’re not addressing the problem at all. I’ve discussed this, so I won’t get into it all here, but check out these articles if you’re interested:
Whether you’re a man or a woman, we have a shared enemy (men that spam women) that is making both of our lives more difficult. Recognizing that is more valuable than having a pissing contest over whose life is more miserable. I think a lot of this rests on the shoulders of the free dating services themselves and I’ve even come up with ideas on how to fix free dating services…but I think changes like these are unlikely.
So if the free dating services won’t fix things…
This Would Never Happen on eHarmony
A site like eHarmony has structure around the communication. You are matched based on your personality, there’s a process for the communication that prevents harassment. And anyone who did find some loophole to spamming women would be kicked off the site very quickly.
Free sites earn revenue through advertisements so they’re going to be less motivated to kick anyone off. They want as many eyes on their advertisements as possible. And even if they do kick people out, won’t that person just create a new free account? Pay sites earn revenue through happy subscribers and if they allow a minority of jerks to chase off the majority of women, then they don’t deserve to be in business.
Yes, for eHarmony or other subscription-based sites, you do have to pay for it. However, there is a cost to the free dating service as well. Would you rather pay money and improve your odds of finding a relationship or pay in time and deal with all the trash? That answer will be different for each of us.
I’m not trying to talk anyone into using a pay service, but I do think it’s unfair to paint all of online dating as a cesspool where women are endlessly harassed. Yes, there are services where that is true but free sites aren’t the only option.
Persistence is Key
It’s worth pointing out that I spend a lot of time on this site emphasizing the importance of persistence when you use online dating. I make this a big part of my free online dating guide. Recognizing that online dating will likely be a challenge is critical in helping you respond to the spam on a free dating site. Likewise, having the right mentality will also help that man who’s written dozens of emails and only gets one or two responses.
You need to be motivated enough to work through the challenges. While it’s true this man gave up in 2 hours, what motivation did he have to continue? He wanted to prove that women had it easy and when he found out that wasn’t true, he gave up. Someone who properly prepares will realize that challenges exist and will persist through them. Otherwise, the free dating sites would be empty of anyone at all.