A group of psychologists recently released a study that says meeting a date in a bar can be far more effective than encountering someone online. Which is great news, because it clearly means we’ve cured all mental illness, otherwise why would shrinks be wasting time on something so utterly frivolous, right? Wait. We haven’t cured all mental illness? And people are still scared of going outside, or the number 13, or flying on an airplane without their assistance animal who happens to be a duck named Fred? Well that seems like a poor use of resources. ANYWAY, their main argument is that internet dating can be too overwhelming, and there’s no evidence that the algorithms designed to match daters actually work. Which they could’ve found out by reading this website for maximum 15 minutes. 10, if they skipped right to How is This My Match?
Obviously this is an issue I’ve thought a lot about, as I have both a website about internet dating and a tremendous amount of free time. Is bar meeting really better than doing it on the world wide web? Sure, you get a better sense of a person when you’re face to face at the pub, but you’re also required to put on clean clothes, and, depending on local health codes, leave your duck Fred at home. So let’s break it all down. Is it better to find love online or on tap?
The Chemistry Test: We’ve all been there. You have an email exchange that’s as if you’re talking to your twin. Well, your twin with boobs. Every joke is on point, you share a disturbing amount of mutual interests, even the timing of the emails is perfect. You sign on to Match and BOOM, a note has just arrived from TwinWithSweetRack45, neither too soon to be creepy, nor too late to make you worry she’s lost interest. Or, you know, died. You’re so sure the first date is going to be a home run that you’re already considering what you’ll plan for date #2, and if you should wear one of your three pairs of presentable underwear. (I’d kill for three pairs of presentable underwear.) Then you meet in person and HOLY CHRIST were you wrong about everything. No chemistry, no attraction, no physical certainty that the person you’re talking to is actually even a human being. How does this happen? Was someone else writing their emails? No. That would be too logical. What happened is…the internet. It’s like that line from Chinatown. Forget it Jake, it’s Match.com. This sort of confusion doesn’t happen in a bar. If you click, you click. So, if chemistry is what you seek…
The Winner Is: Bar
The Time Test: I once spent an entire evening chatting up a girl who worked in the coat room of a swanky SoHo bar. I know, I’m as surprised about it as you are. It takes a lot of effort to flirt with the coat room girl, mostly because there’s no organic way for you to be spending that much time hanging around a bunch of jackets. “Yeah, hey, I just wanted to check if my blazer was doing OK. Sometimes it gets lonely.” But I did it. Standing there in front of that weird dutch door thingy, dropping every bit of charm and wit I had swimming in my extremely shallow reservoir of charm and wit. But shockingly, Coat Girl seemed to be a big fan. So big, in fact, that when I asked for her phone number, she readily handed it over. I know, I’m as surprised about it as you are. And although the phone number she gave me turned out to be 100% fake, it did connect me to a very nice gentleman named Alan who wondered if I was calling about the lost cat he’d found. “No, Alan, I am not. But if you happen to locate my dignity, do you think you could give me a ring at your first convenience?” Coat Girl had wasted an evening of my time, simply because that was easier than saying she wasn’t interested. Online, she just would’ve deleted my email and we both could’ve moved on with our lives. Of course, I never would’ve met Alan, but I’m willing to take that loss. So…
Pants Test: To meet someone in a bar, you are required to wear pants. Sitting in your living room, you are required to wear nothing at all.
Terror Test: I don’t know if women can ever fully understand how terrifying it is to walk up to a lady or, heaven forbid, a group of ladies in a crowded bar. Every worst case scenario starts running through your head. “What if I have nothing to say?!” “What if she laughs at me?!” “What if I start vomiting uncontrollably?!” To the doctors who said internet dating is overwhelming: I challenge you to approach a group of women and try to win one of them over, with the rest of her friends watching, and not pee in your pants just a little bit. Online, no pee. Your worst fear is a rude response. Once a lady responded to my patented Not a Form Letter Form Letter with “Please. Do you send that lame-ass email out to everyone?” Which hurt. But again, I was in my house, not wearing any pants. How bad could it possibly have been?
Excitement Test: At the same time, when you do it off with someone in a bar, and there’s chemistry and real phone numbers and the potential of makeouts, well, there’s no better feeling in the world. Pulling off the same thing online is great, but it takes a week or two of emailing, meeting, and not acting like a jackass. Meeting someone great online is like a fine, aged wine. You gotta let it breath. Meeting at a bar is like crack. And who doesn’t love crack?
Winner: Bar (and crack)
Algorithm Test: The shrinks were right, the algorithms that dating sites use to match up their members don’t work. But it’s hard for me to get all that upset about that, as I don’t really understand what an algorithm is.
Winner: People Who Paid Attention in Math Class
The Future Test: 30 years down the line, do you really want to tell your kids you met on a computer? Some people worry about these things. Not me.
Winner: If you meet someone you’re with 30 years later, do you really care where it happened.
By my tally, that makes internet dating the winner. But come on, the site’s not called It’s Not a Bar.com, so what did you expect? What say you: do you still believe in dating online, or are you back to buying drinks and hoping for the best?