Oh! Well How Realistic of You
In this day and age it is possible to find anything imaginable on the Internet. An old book? You can find it. Theories about the end of the world? You can find them. Hovercrafts for sale? You can buy one. A new dog? That’s how we found ours! Did you know that by using the Internet and social media you can now find new friends, significant others, and even a new spouse? For just $36 a month one can subscribe to the popular website, Match.com, in order to search for their one true love. According to Life Hacker, the Match.com dating website has “17 million monthly users” subscribed. In order to find out more about online dating, I decided to make an account on Match.com. For research purposes I paid the $36 subscription fee for one month in order to enable myself to view emails and “winks”, as well as see which users like my profile picture and to see all of the other information available. Primarily, I wanted to answer the question, how do people represent themselves on Match.com? I have grown up watching commercials for Match.com, and as a child I always made fun of these commercials with my friends. Why would people want to find love online? Why did they need to? In middle school and high school we were encouraged to try and stay away from websites where you could meet someone online. It was “dangerous”, the users on these websites “were not honest” and could make up information just to kidnap you. In addition, the television commercials always seemed so fake – having two people talk about how they started chatting online and had the same romantic beliefs. From the commercials the couples were portrayed romantically, the perfect clichés, although the commercials never focused on the individual profiles themselves. After further research, I believe that Match.com users represent themselves realistically versus romantically because they have to subscribe to use the website, but also they realistically represent themselves in terms of funny, revealing photos, and profile descriptions too straightforward and awkward for anyone to have falsified the information. Upon analyzing the users on this website, I realized that Match.com might actually have more going for it than I initially thought.
To begin with, one reason why I believe that users on Match.com present themselves in a realistic light, rather than in a more promiscuous light, is due to the fact that in order to have an account on this dating website one needs to subscribe. Different payment options include a monthly subscription or subscriptions that renew every three, six, and twelve months (Match). From watching the television commercials it seems that people who use dating websites either do not have time for dating in the real world, or do not have confidence in their abilities to meet new people; going to the effort of subscribing to an online dating website such as this one shows how committed a person is to wanting to meet someone new. The amount of money Match.com users spend to try and attract other people to their profile can demonstrate the depth of their profile as the more money they spend the more serious they are about finding a potential significant other. This goes with the idea that what you put into something is what you get out. The more realistically a person chooses to represent themselves, the more satisfied they should feel with the online dating process, especially if they do find a new someone special who appreciates the user for their true self. This makes users of Match.com feel more comfortable with the truth about themselves, which is good because to pay that much money (sometimes it can cost up to $42 per month!) would seem ridiculous if you didn’t advertise yourself as yourself. Having a profile full of cliché romantic descriptions and beliefs can lead a user to believe in a false sense of romanticism from the user who wrote the clichés, and if they were to meet and the user actually did not meet the romantic expectations of another user, then they would have represented themselves in a false, exaggerated manner. Why pay to exaggerate about oneself?
Secondly, another reason why I believe that users do not exaggerate stems from the questions Match.com asks in the process of creating a user profile. When I made my profile I found that Match.com asks very straightforward questions. By straightforward questions I am referring to the many multiple choice questions, where a user can pick multiple answers to describe themselves, compared to the few description questions asked where a user is required to describe them self. For example one question asked, “Which sports do you like to play?” (Match). Among the options were soccer, football, baseball, swimming, and volleyball. Some other questions asked if I smoke, drink, have kids, want kids, etc. I think that the straightforward questions compelled me to provide truthful information, versus trying to change my online persona into someone I’m not. While it might have been more fun for me to act as someone else, it did not even cross my mind to make up the answers as I received the questions. I say this because as I mentioned before, my friends and I frequently talked about all of the cliché descriptions people made up, just to try and sound “perfect”. I felt as though I didn’t have time to think about other answers, and it was so easy to answer the questions when the answers were provided. A person would have to think a lot more if they tried to romantically forge their answers to appeal to a certain romanticism, as the questions are so straightforward and to the point one thinks of the answer right away. Some answers such as, “Yes I smoke, but I am trying to quit” demonstrate exactly how specific a user can get on their profile (Match). If Match.com did not provide this answer, and the options ranged from “Yes, I smoke” to “No, I don’t smoke”, which answer would someone who smokes, but is trying to quit choose? Having the more specific option available makes people realistic because they know the correct answer right away and can choose that answer, versus someone who has to decide between which answer would better represent them self romantically. I admit that although I would not want to date someone who smokes, I would rather meet someone who can realistically describe their smoking habits, rather than a user who chose “No answer” (Match). Thus, Match.com offers simple and easy questions to answer in order to make one’s profile have the most realistic and important information about them as an individual.
Interestingly, most people seem to have multiple photos of themselves. If they had used fake photos, which generally I was taught that online predators use fake photos, they would find it harder to get different photos of the same person in various positions and places, and it may have even bordered on theft identity. Thus, it seems to me that the pictures on Match.com represent real people who haven’t stolen anyone’s identity! (I recognize though that with increases in technology use it is becoming increasingly easier to manipulate photos, but again, why go through that effort for a website that requires users to pay?) The different pictures people post demonstrate what Match.com users value. One 23-year-old man’s picture shows himself with a little girl on his back, which tells me he tries to represent himself as a caring, nice guy who appreciates his family. He looks fun and friendly, which probably exemplifies the exact look I bet he wanted! Many women find that a man who values his family is romantic, so to have fun, real pictures on a profile is not only realistic, but will attract other users romantically. I have also run into a few profiles where the men have no shirts on with their arms and abs flexed. A few also included the must have – sunglasses of course! To me this suggests that they want to broadcast their body instead of their personality, which demonstrates insecurity as to what they have to offer personality wise, but shows that they have confidence about their bodies. At first glance I might think that a man who has this as his profile picture would not have as nice of a personality as someone who represents them self as a family man. Lastly we have the men who post pictures of themselves giving the thumbs up, wearing sombreros, in the bed, taking mirror selfies, making scary faces, and of their baby blankets! I think that these profiles represent more unique personalities and demonstrate that the users represented by these pictures have no fear of using photos of what they really are like. The boldness of these different photos, in addition to the fact that the photos are of real people demonstrates that the users who have these accounts realistically choose to represent their personalities. The users could simply edit photos as well and claim those pictures to be of them real selves, but as mentioned before that takes time, and potentially more money, and why waste time and money when Match.com already makes it so easy to be your trueself?
One of the easiest ways to get someone’s attention on Match.com comes from having an interesting description. Before making my Match.com account, I thought that all of the profiles would be full of cliché responses about walks on the beach, romantic dinners, and true love. As it turns out, I did not find many profiles with these descriptions. I actually encountered some profiles where the users’ descriptions almost seemed… too realistic, needing a hint of something romantic to be attractive. One user writes that he has “Tried Match.com before with terrible results. Definitely interested in seeing what’s out there again. My friends say I’m a pretty good guy and I really love getting to know new people. If you’re passionate about something that’s a big turn on for me” (Match User). His body type is “a few extra pounds” and he is a social drinker. He is 23, looking for women between the ages of 18 and 26. I don’t know why someone would lie about having terrible results on a dating site, or about their weight (not that having a few extra pounds is a bad thing!), so I assume he’s being fairly realistic. That’s the thing about having to pay for an account! People on this website aren’t afraid to say what they want and really portray themselves as they are in real life. Although I cannot be sure of what other dating sites are like, I think this goes back to the question – why would someone pay to falsely represent himself or herself? Another user writes, “I’m just looking for someone to occasionally fool around with” (Match User). He sounds like so much fun! That’s why I would pay for an online dating site – to really find someone to “fool around with.” Again, this bold description could only come from an honest user profile, I do not find anything romantic about his description! Similar to that user’s description is the guy who admittedly writes, “I like bowling and sex i am real easy going and i am a nice guy to get to know and i am really good bowler i love rough sex” (Match User). I guess you can say that I respect his honesty – but seeing that in his description would definitely turn me away if I seriously wanted to use this site to meet a respectable guy to date! What makes people write so openly and honestly? The need to meet someone new who has similar values, comedic preferences, and personality inspires Match.com users to write (brutally in some cases) realistic descriptions.
So it’s specific. People are realistic. What does this mean about Match.com? Learning this information actually made me believe that Match.com represents a really great way to meet new people online. It matches you with other users based upon the similarity of your profiles – and since I believe that most users use Match.com honestly, I believe that the matches generally should be accurate. To come to this conclusion really surprised for myself. When I first made my account I could not stop laughing – I always thought that Match.com was for desperate, lonely people who typically were older, thanks to my television stereotypes and old jokes with friends. I also have grown up learning about online predators, cyber bullying, etc. I was skeptical of making an account on a website I did not trust. I did not understand why people would prefer to meet someone online instead of going out to meet other people. After spending some time exploring the website though, I realized that hardly anybody on the website is actually over 40 years old. It also was fairly easy to create an account, so to use Match.com is actually less time consuming than meeting with someone a few different times so they will know all of the important information about you. On Match.com all of the important information already shows on one’s profile, which is also beneficial in choosing who you message on the website. In real life it is impossible to look at someone and already have a sense as to whether or not you will like them. If you can do that, not only does it mean you are judging someone based upon their looks, but in addition a first opinion about someone has the potential to be completely incorrect. Also, with so many people on Match.com, a user has a lot of different options for people to get to know. There are not time commitments, worries about talking with too many people… I actually think it might be a lot easier to meet people on Match.com than in real life. Although I’m in no way hesitant to delete my account, because I do think some of the older people who have messaged me are creepy (one guy is 19 years older than me), but in the future if I find that I am having trouble meeting people in person, or that I do not have time to meet new people, Match.com might not be the worst way to find an honest, real significant other. This realization is important, because maybe if other people knew how good of a dating site Match.com actually is, they would feel more compelled to utilize all that it offers, allowing them to potentially have happier, longer-lasting relationships.