Publication / Thought Catalog
November 19, 2013
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The Missing Ingredient: Online Dating Isn’t Sexy

He seemed like the perfect catch. He grew up in a town next to mine, he liked hiking and the beach, was in graduate school for a respectable degree, had tall, dark and handsome features, and after a minute of meeting him I just knew it wasn’t going to work.

There’s a reason why the saying “perfect on paper” exists, and it’s even truer in the world of online dating.

Relationship-making websites like eHarmony, How About We and OkCupid market themselves as easy ways for people to meet new love interests either for the week or a lifetime. They let you search their databases for men and women with similar interests, engaging bios and cute smiles and let you hold out hope that all of the people you look at are great options. But despite being provided all the necessary ingredients and tools to find a respectable ‘match’ online, there is one thing that these websites can’t help you so readily ascertain—sex appeal.

Attraction is often the same as lust a first sight. It has been estimated that it takes a person 7 seconds to determine how they feel about someone else the first time they meet. That means it takes less than half a minute for you to know how you feel about another person’s character and overall persona—and whether you want to spend any more time with them.

Online dating sites have a problem in that everything is piece meal. You read bios, look at photos and develop a sense of the person you are about to meet in real life—your vision of an OK Cupid prince charming. But how realistic is it to assume your image will be accurate, or even more so, that you will feel any butterflies upon meeting? In my experience, it isn’t.

Although online dating websites let you peruse tons of photos before you meet a person—these aren’t blind dates for god sake—let’s face it, those photos are likely hand picked. Wouldn’t you want to portray yourself at your very best? Even if your date ends up being as dashing in person as he is shown in that photo he uploaded where he was a groomsmen at some wedding, a good looking face and an interesting background fall flat when a date ends up being painfully shy and awkward, a stingy tipper or a person who wont stop talking about how much he loves his mother.

Essentially, websites that vow to help a single 20-something or 40-something skip the monotonous and ego-crushing cycle of Friday night bar hunting in exchange for a streamlined system can’t promise you that the personality on the screen will transfer to the dinner table.

Like with many things ordered online, what you see is rarely exactly what you get.

The truth to the law of attraction is simply that it isn’t formulaic. The ways in which online dating lets you figure out whether a person is compatible with you can’t help you determine whether you’ll swoon at the sound of your date’s voice, like the way he carries himself, or can engage in witty banter together.

Yet online dating is a widely popular across the country, and for good reason. According to compiled statistics, there are more than 54 million single people in the country at any given time and about 40 million of those have tried online dating. The National Academy of Sciences says that one third of married couples in the U.S. met online and might have longer lasting and happier relationships than those who met through other means. These are all very reassuring statistics and might compel a person to open their wallet right now to pay for a dating profile, but the truth is with all dating, both options are simply a numbers game with odds stacked in different places. The odds of finding someone you have many similarities with versus the odds of finding someone you have a deep sexual attraction to.

Online dating has in fact posed to new-age singles a dating conundrum. Choose to look online for a person that sounds perfect, looks perfect, but might be completely uninteresting in person? Or trust your luck elsewhere and hope that the guy you are sexually attracted to on the dance floor at a bar is as interested in Hemingway as you are.

Online dating may have made it possible for unlikely people to connect to one another, but it still doesn’t offer a perfect dating alternative.  No matter what method you chose to pursue when looking for that special someone a lot of it still requires a choice between what you find most important in a mate, and still relies on simple chance, and maybe that’s how it should be.