Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 27, 2011

Bit, Byte & Handle: Differences in dating online and offline

As I would in real life, I feel weird getting winked at on this dating site. There is a button on everyone’s profile that sends a message to that person with the words “wink wink.” I actually cringed the first time I saw that someone had winked at me. I didn’t expect that such a surreptitious gesture in real life would manifest itself on dating sites. But winking is not the only way to get someone’s attention on Zoosk.com. You can “flirt” with other people by sending them private messages, which are called, not surprisingly, “flirts.”

Clicking on “homepage,” you’re directed to a page of updates of peoples’ profiles. On one person’s profile, he updated his “Ideal Date” section saying he would like someone with a “sexy body” and who smoked “mary janes.” Classy. Another person described his “Ideal Date” as having dinner, talking and falling in love afterward.

It is a bit intimidating seeing all of these people listed. I have not been the one to initiate contact yet but I’m still new to this. It might take some time.

There is a count of how many different people have viewed your profile and you can see the photo and username of these people. After uploading my photo, the first person who viewed my profile sent me a “flirt” with his phone number. I told my friend how strange it was to have someone send me a message telling me to text him. She replied, “Don’t do it! Keep it online!” I thought about it for a bit but came to the conclusion that online dating has to go “offline” at some point, right?

I texted him, asking him if he was from that dating site. He said he was, told me his name and asked for mine—in text speak. I do not like it when people shorten their words and say “2” instead of “to”—it is not hard just type one more character—and I was horrified that time when I heard someone had translated Shakespeare into text speak. But I got over that and replied, wondering what could happen, and then…nothing. He did not text back until the next day. He asked what I was up to, once again in text speak. It was a busy day so I told him I was going to a meeting and getting dinner afterward. Not the most exciting thing, I know. Once again, no reply from him. I might try to contact him again.

Another person sent me a message with his number. I have not tried talking to him with his number but I did get a friend request from him. On this site, you receieve friend requests from people and you have to download messenger software in order to approve friend requests and also allows you to chat with people. I have not talked to people yet but have gotten friend requests from several people as well as messages and “winks.”

The youngest person who has tried to contact me was 18 and the oldest was 27. They (it’s always “they,” isn’t it? But no one knows who “they” is) say that age is just a number but I am not sure just how far of an age gap would work out because I have not tried it yet. The guys who have seen my profile have different backgrounds in terms of ethnicities and education, from having no degree, having a high school degree to still being in school. I liked how different these people are from each other and how they are different from other people I have ever met.

There are some downsides to this site. After you send a reply to a message, you are asked to “subscribe” to see the rest of any messages you receive afterward, meaning you have to pay up to see the message. It is not too big of a deal but it does somewhat hinder the communication process of online dating. I plan on using more of the online messenger in the future.

I have just gotten this online dating profile off the ground and so far, it’s off to a good start. I’m wondering what else would happen and who else I would meet.

Seeing how different yet similar it is to real life dating, online dating might not be so foreign after all. But after all, the goal of online dating is to take the digital and make it into something real.

Sheena Leano


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