Sometimes in life you really f*** up, and that’s what I did. Probably it can be explained and excused, yet the damage is done and won’t be undone. I really poured effort and time and energy into internet dating, and although it was all a waste, at least I can say that I survived to …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - I've Made A Huge Mistake, or, Misadventures In Internet Dating

I’ve Made A Huge Mistake, or, Misadventures In Internet Dating

Sometimes in life you really f*** up, and that’s what I did. Probably it can be explained and excused, yet the damage is done and won’t be undone. I really poured effort and time and energy into internet dating, and although it was all a waste, at least I can say that I survived to very much regret it.

It’s a jungle out there, and it’s filled with ravenous and even hostile creatures; many of these are lurking on the internet.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”, said Oscar Wilde. I’m uncomfortable sharing the truth about my miserable failures in understanding the world around me, but hope it will be ultimately worthwhile.

Probably a low point for me was a guy who had no photographs of himself who actually talked me into walking to his building and taking the elevator up to the night-time rooftop patio, in a brisk autumn air. I did so, and waited around, until finally I left and contacted him to ask what was up. In fact, he had been there the whole entire time — hiding so that he might visually inspect me while remaining unseen. He informed me that I was a liar and had misrepresented myself. I was humiliated to be accused of lying and pretending to be someone else, and totally ashamed that my looks were so lacking in appeal to others. He chided me for dishonesty and an unattractive appearance and cut off our communication.

This story has, virtually speaking, happened to me dozens of times. For me, internet dating was a bad cycle of humiliation and punishment that sent me back for more and more, constantly hoping for redeeming reward at the end of the road. It never came. It was never there in the first place.

That guy who coaxed me up to his building’s patio to spy on me was the liar: probably, he was jealous and envious of me and simply wanted to hurt and punish me to exorcise his own dark feelings, by sharing the poison in his heart with me, in order to lessen his quantity of it. It worked! I was scarred and poisoned! And it got worse.

People pressure you a lot for nude photos on-line. I always refused out of extreme modesty and an embarrassment surrounding nudity. I just like to have clothes on. I know I’m naked underneath them, but on the outside, I’m not naked, and that makes me feel good. Eventually, I caved in and took shirtless photos. These are totally tacky in concept and execution; people only get the desire to look at shirtless photos because of commercial advertising. Yet I succumbed, to my eternal chagrin. I was desperate; desperate enough to ultimately agree to take and send out nude photos. Probably everybody and their sister and employer and dogwalker have seen me naked now, and I’m a person who doesn’t really even like to be seen naked. People pressure me sometimes in a sauna room to take my underwear and towel off, to experience the liberty of nudity. To me, it’s about as liberating as the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush war in Iraq: at the end of the day, I don’t really feel all that liberated. I’m sort of a Never Nude. Still, I like to think I came up with some creative shots, at least:

Believe me, when people press you for nude photos, they are NOT satisfied with photos such as the above example, and they can be sort of mean about it, too.

But it gets worse: By far the vast majority of people who insisted on these photos would then totally ignore me afterwards. They pressed on my desperation to make me compromise my values, and, having gratified themselves on pressuring me and looking at me, they would move on to someone else. They used me and my desperation and they amused themselves by toying with me. Probably, I realize today, these were not even real people: they were probably using stolen photos and fake descriptions to reassure and seduce me.

(Almost weekly I read stories in the news of teenage girls who humiliate themselves to boys in this fashion, boys who then blackmail these girls with the photos they’ve already caved in on. Whenever I read these, I’m grateful that I was spared this same fate, because I was ripe for blackmailing.)

I can’t accurately tell you how many conversations I’ve tapped out on-line with people who never met me; how many times I agreed to send a ridiculous photo to people who never replied to my email including the ridiculous photo; how many occasions I did get to meet a person who, fairly promptly, asked me to leave and wouldn’t communicate with me again. I have met people who became friends on-line, but overall, internet dating eroded my self-esteem and trust and confidence. I’ve concluded that internet dating doesn’t work – at least, not for me. Connection is about chemistry and energy. My friend and ex-roommate Justin says that “there are people whose energy you just like to be around”, and I believe in this. There’s no possible way to gauge chemistry via text profiles or by photos. It is foolish to believe in finding that spark or connection on-line, though I didn’t know at the time how foolish it was. I am deeply embarrassed to admit that I wasted so much effort on-line trying to meet new people, and it’s difficult to write this entry on my weblog.

I’m to blame. For all the poor treatment I received from people, I must recognize that they were only preying on my self-esteem. I see that growing up queer on a fairly remote farm made me too desperate: I used to really dream of and long for affection; I was obsessively hungry for love. I never had a date or kiss or hug or hand holding in high school; when I moved to the city, I was intimidated and felt totally inexperienced and clumsy in even contemplating the idea of dating, though I yearned to do so very much. It’s clearer to me today how that gauche desperation was evident to others; no one enjoys desperate company, and I experienced a lot of rejection. It was difficult to mount enough courage to ask someone out on a date, and I was always, every single time, turned down. I don’t really drink alcohol and don’t even enjoy the taste of it. I turn into a wallflower in (loud) bar environments. I at first thought that internet dating could be a terrific solution. I knew that it has worked out for others; I personally know two guys who have met lovely ladies whom they eventually either married or developed serious un-married long-term romances with, via tele-personals. I was shy but I eventually leapt in.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”- Attributed to Albert Einstein

Once in, I didn’t know of any other way to meet people as easily, so I stuck with trying on-line dating over and over.

Eventually, I one day had nachos and a citrus soda with a fellow named Jonathan, whom I met on-line. I thought he was pretty charming; as tall as I, well-read, easily conversant, and he had a New Zealand accent, which I dig a lot. He asked where I met guys and I replied that I met almost all guys on-line and he looked at me with the most denigrating, disgusted gaze I have felt on me since high school. I easily, quickly realized I’d made a major faux pas to him, and for the first time I thought, “Is on-line dating awful?” That lunch and that guy really hurt me; I saw Jonathan at a social event some time later, and he pretended to not know or even see me. It really settled in on me that internet dating was beyond “not cool”.

Interestingly, I have to tell you that I have actually met some terrific people through internet dating – people who did not ever pressure me for nude photos and whom I’m still friends with. It never worked out romantically, but it worked out platonically, and I try to focus on these positive outcomes of a bad experience. Surprisingly, these people have had little luck with internet dating, yet remain totally plugged in to it, and often have recommended me new internet dating outlets, which I almost always tried out, expecting different results. They were always the same, although one deserves a special examination: this is a location-specific application downloaded to your smartphone; you load a tiny profile and photo, and the application actually shows you other people BY PROXIMITY TO YOU! You view profiles of guys who are 2.6 km or 67 metres away.

I marvelled and thought, “Wow. The future is finally here.”

Yet it was actually by far the poorest of the entire crop. It remains in my humble view one of the greatest ideas for an application, and yet I’ve never experienced rejection like I did on this application: dozens of times I would say ‘Hello’ to someone, exchange a couple lines of chat, and invite them to meet for a dog walk or a hot chocolate. Almost none of them would take me up on these propositions. Please, take a moment to consider this: you’re on a dating application, presumably looking to date other people, and you’re exchanging thoughts and greetings with a person you find attractive and interesting enough to engage with who is 119 metres away, yet you don’t want to take the time or make the effort to meet up face to face – you just want to chat and “not rush into anything”. What kind of system is this? What kind of person are you? What are you really searching for? What is going on here?

I’ve read opinions that people are currently spoiled for choice: in an array of 60 or 140 or 300 options of single dateable people, no one looks good enough to beat out the panoply of other buffet options. Does that explain the tremendous amount of Non-Committed Flirtatious Interest one encounters in dating on-line? I don’t know. My suspicions are darker, though perhaps totally wrong: I often logged off with a certainty that people were using me to fluff up their egos, toying with me to boost their self-esteem, humiliating me to gain personal security and satisfaction. The harshest, most hurtful harassment I’ve dealt with was on-line. One guy I didn’t feel comfortable chatting with any more (he was boring and I recognized his dim, grainy, tiny photo from several years earlier; he didn’t have any others), or meeting. He messaged me for MONTHS afterwards, with a really bitter vitriol about how fugly I was, describing all the horrible things he hoped would happen to me.

Ultimately, I can’t know, yet I propose to you in all earnestness that internet dating has eroded and damaged trust among people. Again, these darker suspicions may be false: certainly they are deeply influenced by my hurt feelings.

Over and over, I return to the idea that we are spoiled for choice to a point where nothing looks good enough, but the point goes beyond that: in a universe of millions of dating profiles, perhaps people obsess too much over their fantasies and fantasy ideals. Whenever I saw a profile that said, “Must have good relationship with family,” or “PLEASE be over 8 inches, don’t waste my time”, or “27 to 32 ONLY”, or “no Asians”, or “no fatties”, or “Seeking an experienced lover who knows what they’re doing”, I wondered if these restrictions or specifications are too much. What if you met someone in real life who was fun, smart, with a good energy you liked, who was 24, or 36? Or a B-cup? Or black? Human literature is full of stories of unexpected love in surprise places, of characters and people who find fulfillment and affection where they didn’t anticipate them. I recall a chat room experience where, for weeks, every time I logged in I saw a fellow who described himself as 35 and who specified that he sought a partner 18-23. He flashed the same message every 10 or every 15 minutes; no one ever responded. I eventually challenged him; he replied he was only interested in younger guys. Look, I liked Leonardo DiCaprio in 1995, too. He’s still dateable in 2012, and he still will be in 2032, too.

I have worse stories to tell, some of them are shocking and may point to some character flaws. For example I once hung out with a rich kid who casually drew an enormous and heavy handgun from his dresser drawer to display to me. I met people who strongly pressured me to try crystal meth and cocaine, and who grew frustrated when I declined and then angry when I refused. Hanging with the wrong crowd out of lonely desperation is a character flaw.

I accept the blame for things not working out: I was desperate, I was the fool, no one put a gun to my head, and ultimately, I may have simply expected far too much from the exercise.

I was thirsty for love and affection and I found neither on-line; at best I found some cheap physical trysts that gratified others more than me and that generally also lowered my self-esteem. I should have held out instead of putting out; I was embarrassed and dismayed over my total, complete lack of experience and ashamed that anyone would find out about it. Now I can say I’ve had sex, but I overall regret it and don’t look on it as a positive experience. The worst part is that I came to eventually believe and accept that this is what the real world was actually like, that lust truly mattered most, and was all there was. Monkey see, monkey do. Now I know that’s not so.

I’m not against internet dating; I know people who have married through personals and I think that’s great. I am, however, against it for me. Although that lunchdate with Jonathan really stunned me and woke me up, making me realize that there were other, smarter, healthier ways to meet people, I have to be honest: I still have days where I grow lonely and desperate and discouraged, enough to want to log on to an internet dating site and desperately try to meet someone. I downloaded and installed NetNanny and gave the password to my webmaster Kaleb; I listed all the dating sites I’d ever logged in at and had ever heard of, so that I would be blocked from accessing them. It’s not a perfect system (I discovered I could still post personal ads on craigslist by accessing totally different pages on it) but it’s more or less kept me off-line and in reality.

All of the biggest crushes I’ve ever experienced have always been on people who would not be photographed on the cover of GQ yet who had great characters and personalities and passions; yet on-line, it’s impossible to gain any sense of a person beyond their image and a few cute or clever turns of phrase they may have in their text profile. When you do meet up, the energy is often off — which is to be expected, since your energy doesn’t correspond to 90% of the world in the first place: that’s the very thing that makes romance and love and affection special and sought-after. We like to be around people whose energy we like.

Man, this is will be a tough entry to hit the “Publish” button on! I’m disappointed in myself, and how I lowered my standards and in general I am suspicious of intention and character in other people. I view guys in a similar manner to that of a 1960’s mother lecturing her daughter: “They’re dogs who only want one thing and have no respect for you.” I can realize that this is an impression, not a truth, and yet it is often a thought that crosses my mind. The damage is done, like I said. Now, I have to put it behind me. I’m back to asking people out; I never had any success rate there before, however it carried less shame and manipulation and fewer games and humiliations. Man, this is a tough entry to hit the “Publish” button on! Yet, there’s no point in hiding things; it is what it is and it is what it was. I’m embarrassed, yet on the other hand, I’m only human. Of course, humans are totally awesome and I’m proud to be one — we’re pretty adaptable and grow and change.