Love at first site

In Communities /

Meeting people online has become increasingly popular in recent years. But what happens when students turn to the online dating world as a result of hectic schedules? Victoria Stunt took the plunge

“See, we’re normal people,” said the man sitting across the round table from me in the middle of the mall.

The 21-year-old’s dark hairline was receding.

He sat back from across the table and had one leg crossed over the other so that I could see his clunky black running shoes. His long leather jacket hung off the back of the chair he was sitting on, much like how it hung off his own skinny frame. This almost-stranger who was sitting across from me was my date, and I had met him online.

According to Match.com, one in five singles in Canada have dated someone that they have met online.

Just over a week ago, I signed up for a whack of online dating sites. I didn’t set out to meet a prospective partner like most people. Instead, I signed up as an experiment. I wanted to talk to people to find out why a community of university students are drawn to the online dating world.

For starters, I began by creating a profile on a free dating site called OkCupid.com. The site has about 320 Ryerson students who are registered according to a simple search on the website.

I uploaded a photo of myself but I didn’t state my name. I then proceeded to write a vague and relatively generic description of myself, acknowledging only that I was a university student who loves music and travel.

As generic as my profile was, I still had 159 “prospective partners” visit it, and I had received 68 messages my first eight days of having the profile.

“Excuse the hour of the message, I just returned home from an A-list party,” one message read. Another just said, “You look like Lindsay Lohan.” I had to laugh.

Somewhere in my full inbox was a prospective date. I scrolled through the list, and went to the first message I had received: a York University student who claimed to “study a lot.”

Harmless, right?

After sending a few messages back and forth, he asked me if I wanted to hang out with him, and I agreed to meet him in a coffee shop.

This was my first date with someone I met online, and I was a little hesitant to go alone so I asked my friend to tag along with me.

He went to the coffee shop first and sat down at a table by himself. I came in a little later (trying really hard not to look at him and laugh) and recognized my date right away based on his pictures I had become acquainted with over the past few days.

He stood up as I walked over to the table, and greeted me with a hug.

We went to the counter where he bought me a coffee then went to sit down at one of the tables.

“So, do you go out a lot?” I asked.

“Yeah, I go out a lot,” he responded. His eyes widened and he started counting off his fingers.“I go to class, I go to the library…” he went on.

And there it was.

He didn’t go out in a conventional university student way; no bars, no clubs, not even parties. Instead, he said he went to the library, a place where it is generally difficult to pick up the ladies.

For this guy, online dating was the most practical way to meet people, and you know, more power to him.

With student schedules being hard enough to manage on their own, meeting new people outside of your group of friends, social groups, or different communities you encounter on a regular basis can be difficult.

Kate Bilenski, the chief operating officer of the popular dating site PlentyofFish.com, believes that it’s only natural for young people to use online dating services to find their soulmates.

“Historically, online dating was reserved for social outcasts,” she said. “But now, why not turn to online dating? Everything else is turning online.”

With that being said, Lexi Mckenne, a fourth-year fashion communications student at Ryerson, said she would not try online dating at this age.

“I wouldn’t use it right now because I have a lot of opportunities to meet people when I go out or when I’m at school,” she said.

“I think that when you’re in college or university, you don’t have the same need to use an online dating site because there’s so many people to meet on campus,” said Matrix.

Dimitry Kadunov, who is returning to Ryerson for his fourth year of computer science next September, has an account on OkCupid.

“I had to move to Markham for work, and a lot of my friends are downtown. I can’t really hang out with my friends too often, so I’m online dating to look for new friends in my area,” he said.

He has had an account on OkCupid for about two months, and has been on three dates so far. He’s gone out with one other person who also goes to Ryerson. He said that they didn’t work out romantically, but are remaining friends.

“I know a couple of other friends who are also dating online, but they don’t really like to talk about it. It’s a bit of a taboo,” he said. ‘There’s this notion that if you online date you’re a loser.”

“It’s low stakes, and low risk. It’s easier to explore potential relationships when you have a bit of anonymity online,” said Sidneyeve Matrix, a professor of media and mass communications at Queen’s University.

Online dating used to be frowned upon as an unsafe place to meet people. But Matrix said that now each of us have an online presence, it’s easier to find out more information about the people we’ve met online.

We’re able to obtain crazy amounts of information on a specific person by simply searching each other on Facebook, following someone on Twitter, or even by doing a simple Google search.

“Our online presence matters. What Google says about you will make a big difference as to whether you’re perceived as someone I want to date or not,” said Matrix.

To those who have reservations with online dating, Bilenski said there is nothing to loose and so much to gain.

My date ended on a good note. We talked for almost two hours about travel, school, our families and our friends.

It was the kind of conversation I’d expect to have on a first date.

He was a nice guy, but he wasn’t my type.

I figure there are lots of nice people on the site to go on a date with, but I chose the wrong one.

Our personalities didn’t click. I’m quiet and he was kind of bossy. I’m open-minded and I felt like he was a bit of a know-it-all.

Even though a dating profile advertises your interests and how you like to spend your time, it can’t give a true representation of what your personality is like. I guess you won’t know until you to meet the person to find out if you’re compatible.

In this case, we weren’t.

He walked me to the subway entrance in the mall, and hugged me goodbye.

I guess the thing about online dating is that you both meet each other with little to no attachment to one another. You can choose how you want to leave, or if you even want to see the other person ever again.

If you go into the situation with an open mind, then it could be for you. As for me though, I wont be visiting one again.

Sayonara, online dating world.

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