– by Wes Colton, Introvert Unbound
Obviously, online dating is one of the main ways people meet these days. Many introverts in particular consider these apps and sites to be godsends, making it possible to get dates without leaving the house.
While there’s no question online dating can enhance many people’s dating lives, I’m going to explain why, as a dating coach, I don’t often recommend it to my clients.
(Editor’s note: This article will be primarily discussing heterosexual relationships, as this is my expertise.)
If you’re a woman who hopes online dating will encourage men to judge you by more than your appearance, I’m afraid you’re in for a rude awakening. If anything, due to the fact that many apps now consist almost entirely of photos and nothing else, your deeper qualities are actually less likely to be appreciated online than they are in person—especially since you’re being compared to the many Instagram models who use these sites to get more followers.
So, if you’re a woman looking for a genuine relationship, you may find online dating—especially a swiping app—isn’t any more effective than meeting people in real life. And not because there aren’t plenty of good candidates out there, but because the nature of these apps and sites can skew a woman’s mate-selection process similar to that of men—focused initially on looks, or more accurately, photographs of faces.
This isn’t to say women don’t consider physical traits when weighing potential partners in person, because of course they do. But if you think the vast majority of women are anywhere near as looks-centric as men, you’re either lacking in dating experience or not very observant.
Naturally, when literally all a woman has to decide about a man online is his headshot, that’s how she’s going to make her choice. And since most women tend to be far more selective than most men as to who they date, this leaves the vast majority of men unswiped. Indeed, one study conducted on a popular swipe app concluded that women rate 80 percent of men as “below average” in attractiveness—which, despite being a mathematic impossibility, doesn’t change the fact that women are still ignoring most men online (though not in real life, which I’ll get to shortly).
At first blush, this might sound like a great deal for women: You can access the most attractive men (or at least the ones with the snazziest headshots) without the messiness of having to reject men to their face. But any woman who’s been swiping for a while knows there’s a catch. Since only about 20 percent of men are getting nearly all of the female attention online, many of those guys are focused on casual sex with multiple partners. And since those remaining few who are open to a relationship have caught the eye of nearly every woman within a fifty-mile radius, there’s a good chance your average woman won’t be their final pick.
Needless to say, this alternate reality of online dating is the main reason I don’t recommend it to most of my male clients. Luckily, a man’s results online often have little correlation to his real-life attractiveness.
There are many factors that go into whether a woman is interested in a man when meeting him in person. As I said before, his looks certainly play a role, but offline it goes beyond how photogenic he is to how his face actually looks (which can be different than in photos), his fitness and health, height, build, grooming and style, how he carries himself, his scent, and other chemical components science has only begun to understand.
When it comes to attracting women, personality (i.e. intelligence, confidence, sense of humor) and status (social and/or professional accomplishments) are far more important than physical appearance. And even more crucial than all of that is the indefinable connection two people feel—or don’t—which can only be determined when meeting face to face.
So, the good news is if you’re not among the 20 percent of men getting attention online, you can still do extremely well in person. And if you’re currently not getting dates in person, a dating coach (ahem) can help you get there. Of course, if you only do online dating you’ll never know this and, therefore, have a very inaccurate perception of your value on the “sexual marketplace.”
Another issue with online dating is that big number floating near your headshot. Usually, when men and women meet in the flesh, they discover whether they’re attracted to and interested in someone before finding out their age. Even if the person ends up being older or younger than their arbitrarily decided upon acceptable age range, it’s easily overlooked because they’re seeing the whole person.
Not so in online dating. Other than your picture, nothing is more prominent in your profile than the number of times the Earth has gone around the sun with you on it. Therefore, online it’s almost always the case that you’ll be dating within a far narrower age range than you would when meeting people in real life.
This is unfortunate for women, who already experience plenty of age-based discrimination when competing with younger women. But it’s also bad for men…and then back around to women again.
That’s because many women actually prefer older men, largely because they have more character and stability, but also because they’re frequently the ones ready for long-term relationships, while younger men are still busy “sowing their wild oats.” But since online dating for women is mostly about culling men, the big fat number staring them in the face is one of the easiest ways to cut off a wide swath of potential suitors to make their selection process more streamlined.
The end result of this focus on age is many potentially happy couples never even get the chance to meet.
An additional problem is that, even if you’re a man who gets matches online, you’ll quickly find they only sometimes translate into conversations, much less actual dates. By the very nature of these apps, women are flooded with attention, so they often get caught up in a carousel of new stimuli where they can find it difficult to actually pick a man.
Beyond that, the fact that you’re little more than an avatar on a screen without any context to your “relationship,” means you’re not quite being seen as a real person. Therefore, it’s easy for a woman to cease communication without explanation, cancel on a date last minute, etc. Especially since there are no social repercussions as would occur with a friend of a friend or having met you somewhere she might run into you again, it’s far, far easier for them to just flake or ghost you.
A lot of the appeal of online dating for men is not having to endure the humiliation of rejection. After all, it takes courage to walk up to a woman in a public place and say hello and it can be quite the shot to the ego when she immediately turns away and runs to the bathroom.
But I’d argue that spending hours saying yes to hundreds of pretty faces without any reciprocation (especially since many women don’t even check their profiles very often, if at all) is actually more devastating to a man’s self-confidence than an equal amount of time getting rejected in real life.
First of all, you’re obviously not going to be talking to hundreds of women in one evening, so the physical limits of human interaction will keep your rejection number far lower than it would be online.
Most important, the very process of going out, summoning the courage to speak to women and giving it your all, builds your character and social skills the way sitting on the toilet swiping does not. Because even if you’re getting dates from online, if you’re not coming across well in person, it’s kind of a moot point.
But once you get some practice in, you’ll find many women in public aren’t just willing to talk to you, but happy to. Even if most of these interactions don’t end in dates, you’ll be having positive social experiences which will improve your mood, boost your confidence, and give you a more optimistic (and realistic!) outlook on your possibilities.
And here’s the kicker: Since most men are dependent on apps and sites to get dates, if you develop the skill to talk to women in person—not just at bars, but coffee shops, art walks, concerts, festivals, etc.—you’re going to have a real leg up on the competition.
Finally, as much as women use dating apps and the social stigma of doing so has largely gone away, trust me when I say your future girlfriend or wife would much rather say she met you in real life than through Tinder.
Wes Colton—founder, CEO, and coach at Introvert Unbound—can teach you how to meet women “in real life” by honing your strengths, shoring up your weaknesses, and becoming the Introvert Unbound. Contact him today at IntrovertUnbound@gmail.com for your free 30-minute, online or phone consult.