Now that I’ve entered a new phase of life, and find myself single again at the ripe old age of 66, I’ve put my toe into the online dating pool. The waters here can be so muddy, yet exhilarating that I thought it would help me think through the process to talk about it here. I’m going to start this series with a critique of dating sites.
Since I have an extensive online footprint, I thought I’d fit right into this dating world. I expected to run across scammers but hoped that the technology is advanced enough, and the algorithms on the sites were good enough to protect the user.
After all, I had virtually “dated” once before even though it wasn’t a romantic encounter. I was teaching online in a virtual school and had met a fellow teacher in the online training sessions. We were both struggling through learning the ropes, so supported each other professionally by chat and phone. As I went through my separation and divorce during that time, this colleague was awesome in helping me through the pitfalls, and keeping me sane with dealing with the challenges in the system. He was single and since it was my first holiday as a single person, we even had a virtual “date” on New Year’s Eve. We both rented the same movie, brought our favorite wine and snacks, and talked by phone and texting throughout the movie. This “relationship” never went past that virtual date, but I will always be grateful for the time and friendship that colleague spent with me during a challenging time of my life.
In addition, I had done online projects with my 4th/5th graders for years, taught online courses for universities, got my doctorate online, and created online courses, so how difficult could dating online be?
As I discovered, getting onto the sites was easy. You click on join or sign up, and most of them start you out with a “free” membership. A detailed critique of each follows, but they all have a section for you to create your “profile” that includes details about your life like whether you are single, divorced, widowed, separated, whether you are looking for a male, female, etc. Then they all go into questions about your height, body type, hair and eye color, and have a section to fill in or pick your favorite things to do or hobbies. Most of them have a section for you to describe yourself, and your ideal first date. Each site has their own special way of handling the algorithms for matching you up. Some have surveys for you to take, and they evaluate your personality, chemistry needs, and other characteristics. Of course, not all participants fill out everything, so you get a mix mash of results.
Once you complete (or not complete as some folks do), all the input, the sites then let you scroll through pictures of potential matches and even rate the pics, or profiles of others. And that’s where each site gets tricky. Once you mark the matches, several of them won’t let you contact the other people, even if you match, unless you pay their fees. Once you pay the fees, some of them make you do things to earn points, and so many points equal unlocking a match to see more. Others let you contact potential matches either with a quick “flirt” button, or a detailed message box. For you to better see the potential of each site, here is a basic critique of the ones I’ve tried:
Our Time: Since I’m a senior citizen, and I figured our dating needs are unique to our generation, I joined this one, paid the fees for a month and jumped right in. It wasn’t complicated, and there were people my age. However, over the month, the same people were on the site, and even though I’d messaged a few, I had very few responses. I don’t know whether it’s because our generation is not familiar with the concept that you have to respond and initiate conversations, or that I didn’t appeal to them. In this site you only saw the gender you were looking for, and couldn’t see your competition. I did find out very quickly, that those who contacted me and quickly asked for an email, were usually scammers. With this site, I didn’t have good pics as I am not a selfie person, and was the photographer for my family, so there are very few pics of me. However, the turn over of new people entering the site was poor, so after my month was up, I moved on.
Dating For Seniors: This site I entered for just $1 as a free subscription for a month. The site was interconnected with the one above in that some of the people seemed to be the same, and it too had a low turn-over rate. However, it also had a unique discussion board feature where you could discuss topics in general with everyone no matter what their gender. So you could discuss topics about dating, about life in general with both genders, and you could see your competition, only if they went to the discussion board. The best part of this was realizing that other people were having the same trouble getting others to respond as I was. This kept me from going into a downward spiral
about the fact that maybe my profile was so horrible that I shouldn’t be dating. This site also had scammers that used pictures off the internet, and fake profiles, and tried to lead me off the site and into the email system into my personal email. When I reported the ones I discovered, they were promptly removed from the site.
Zoosk: This site was a little more expensive, and locked you into at least a 3-month time frame. Their matching algorithms seemed more sophisticated, but this site, even as a full member, would tease you with seeing lots of pics but would make you rate pics alone so you could earn coins. You could then use the coins to “unlock” potential matches so you could communicate with them. This site was VERY good at catching scammers. As soon as the person gave an email for you to write to, the site pulled them off, and the profiles were no longer available. However, the scammers seemed to be good at “hijacking” profiles of real people to make those contacts. For example, I’d be having a conversation with a person, then all of a sudden, that person would want to move to email. When I’d communicate with them in email, they had no clue about things we had talked about in the Zoosk message system, so I knew they were scammers. During the 3 months on this site, there was a little more turnover that the other two sites.
Plenty of Fish: To be able to go “fishing” for a date sounds like fun, and it’s the easiest dating site to maneuver as a free participant of all of those mentioned on this blog. You can take three surveys that measure your relationship chemistry, relationship needs, and one to measure if your match is a keeper. Communication is easy whether through quick flirts, or a longer message. The only features that are not available in the free version are seeing who has clicked on “Meet Me” when they’ve evaluated your picture and profile. However, they can be seen under the Mutual Meet Me tab if you both had clicked on “yes”. Paying the subscription fee lets you see a little more of their profile and see more details about when others have been on.
In conclusion, the experiences from these four sites seemed similar, and my questions about results seem to hinge on more than the algorithms behind the sites.
I figured out that my profile was viewed by over 300 men, I messaged about 60 of them, received responses from about a dozen. Of that dozen about 8 were scammers (no – I didn’t fall for their scams), 2 wanted to give me a “massage”, and 2 more wound up having good conversations with me. Only one of those turned into a date, and one turned into an online friend. The date was fun, but the chemistry wasn’t there, so neither of us has contacted the other again. The online friend and I still communicate, but we haven’t met, and he doesn’t seem ready to go the next step. Not sure why…
But what exactly influences daters of this age group? Are we looking for something different than we would have been looking for earlier in life?
So I will be exploring more in future posts. If you’ve had experiences with any of the above sites, feel free to express your thoughts about them, or add some thoughts about other sites.
Future posts on this blog will deal with:
What does dating mean at this stage of life? See
- “Stitching the Ins and Outs of Dating as a Senior” written March 2017
- “Meetup” Magic of Senior Dating written April 2017
- Spotting Scammers on Online dating sites (Coming Soon)
- The Beats of our Lives – Reflections on Dating Widowers
And here are some articles about the World of Dating in General:
- New Dating Hazards You Need To Know About – Fashion Beam does a good job of explaining what terms like kitten fishing, ghosting, and refer to in the dating world…