Why does online dating feel like a cop out?

Dear Lisa,

Thanks for answering questions here, I’ve learned a lot! And now I have one of my own…

Basically, I’m a busy guy – I work long hours and I have a long car commute – other than work, I work out, spend time with friends and family when I can, and very occasionally get out in public. After a pretty serious dry spell last year, I started online dating even though I’m not sure I feel comfortable with it.

Lately, though, the whole online dating thing has really started to bug me. I contact a girl, ask her out, we hang out for a bit, the chemistry wears off and we call it quits, I meet another girl and repeat. It kind of feels like a cop out compared to when I used to meet girls randomly in person, but it seems like this is how dating happens now. There must be a way to make it work. Right?

–Cop Out (♂ Duncan, BC)


Dear Cop Out,

Thanks for reading, I’m glad I can help. The short answer is, yes, online dating can work. How is a longer answer. Here’s my take:

Obviously, nothing gets a woman’s heart racing faster than when a man she finds attractive approaches her. And I have never seen a man more stoked than when he approaches a woman he’s attracted to, asks for her number and gets it. By the same token, there are very few situations that can bring a man down harder than shying away from an opportunity to approach a woman; not even rejection.

It makes sense that the chemistry created in these first stages of courtship are foundational to a relationship that not only lasts but remains sexually charged. Everything matters – your presence, your body language, your scent, your sense of direction. It’s very primal.

For this reason, I often compare dating to hunting. To feed yourself takes skill. Practice. Experience. A man does not simply wake up one morning, walk into the woods and shoot a deer. No, he earns his rifle, his license, his gear; he sits for hours, aims, misses the mark then gets up and does it again. It is a reckoning. But when he bags a deer, he fucking mounts the head on a plaque on his wall.

Though the goal isn’t a trophy rack (heh.), attracting the woman you really desire, like hunting, takes skill, practice and experience. You aren’t going to be content with the woman who walks up to you and throws herself in your lap. You will only be satisfied completely with the woman you risked losing for the possibility of having.

Okay, so, online dating. To continue the metaphor, online dating is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel: there are hundreds of women, available, and primed for your approach. And if this one doesn’t satisfy, there are always more. You don’t need to be particularly skilled either; a written approach is much easier to control than a spoken one. Hell, by texting, you can avoid using your voice till you meet. Above all else though, you don’t have to risk a thing – she doesn’t know your name, your friends, your face, and you don’t know hers – you have essentially mutually agreed that it’s okay for you to have no balls at all.

A bit harsh, isn’t it? Maybe. But let’s take an look at what plays out before you meet a woman online.

You know, deep down inside somewhere, that online dating is a cop out, partially because of the above reasons, but also because you wonder if it means you are too afraid/too lazy/too stupid/too ugly or whatever painful excuse, to close the deal with a real human being. The very wondering is the issue. Online dating would be fine if you felt comfortable and content with your face to face successes. But you don’t.

She feels your secret weakness as soon as she sees you, and more often that not, the moment she views your profile. It’s probably not conscious, but deep down somewhere, she feels your fragility and starts to take care of you. She messages you, she calls you, she arranges dates; she basically lets you know how it’s going to be. And you go along with it because you admitted defeat a long time ago.

The bottom line? It’s not that I completely disagree with online dating. I think it’s a super efficient way for people to hook up, and a great way for the inexperienced or apprehensive to gain their footing. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, I say forge ahead; shooting fish in a barrel will at least teach you how to use a gun. Of course, online dating isn’t a magic bullet for your inner battle; nothing can replace the reckoning of desire, risk and reward that old school, face to face dating yields.

Your case doesn’t seem so cut and dry to you though, so it might take digging a little deeper. I get the sense that you didn’t used to fail at face to face interaction… but, due to your dry spell, the question of ability is still tugging at you. My guess is that you need to be able to do all the normal busy dude stuff AND be able to consistently get dates with women face to face before the online dating option doesn’t bother you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts,

– Lisa



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