Online Dating and the Cyber-Self

Who am I?

It’s a question I’m sure everybody has asked themselves at some point in time. When we’re unsure of where we are going, or why we have done something. It’s a question that is completely valid to ask, it’s only natural to be introspective. Unfortunately there is no valid answer.

To explain who a person is in a sentence, a word, or even at all, is impossible. No person is so simple. Yet we constantly seek a simple answer. An impossible answer.

From time to time people believe they have found that answer. They believe who they are is finite and fixed. We’re good or evil. Happy or unhappy. Black or white.

But they haven’t found any reasonable answer at all. Who we are is a complex thing, we change constantly. In different situations we are different people. Really, we are a lot like a rainbow (lame!). We consist of a range of different colours and different shades.

A lot of people don’t understand this though. They can’t comprehend that a person is made of many different identities.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld which perfectly illustrates this. George reveals he has two distinct personas. One is “Relationship George”, the type of person he is when he’s with his girlfriend. The second is “Independent George”, the type of person he is with his friends. But George realises that if his girlfriend becomes friends with his friends, then his two personas will be forced together.

We all act differently depending on the person we’re with, or the situation we’re in. We change ourselves to reflect our circumstances.

As technology improves though, our means of communicating have changed. Our circumstances are now almost as complex as our personalities. Which has lead me to ask another question:

Who am I online?

We now have a new persona: a cyber-self – who we are on the internet.

Unlike our real life persona though, our cyber-self is something we are in complete control of. We can be whoever we want to be. We can edit out the bad bits and leave in the best bits.

Reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve already come to a conclusion about what type of person I am. This person is Internet Dan. But the thing is, Internet Dan and Real-life Dan are completely different.

Which leads to a problem. What if you meet Real-Life Dan, when you expect to meet a real-life version of Internet Dan? Can both Dans survive together?

The meeting of Cyber Persona and Real Persona is never usually a problem, we can take into account that people will differ slightly in real-life from how they appear on the internet. But sometimes a real-life relationship might hinge on a relationship made online. Never is this more important than during online dating.

Now it’s time to admit the sad truth. Last year I tried online dating. I say I tried it, but really I never went on an actual date. I signed up to a few sites, and waited. And waited. And waited. But nobody knocked on my door. I started to wonder why. Perhaps it was the unflattering photo on my dating profile that showed how massive my nose is?

So I changed the photo. And waited. And waited. Still no knock.

So I took another look. Maybe it was because I mentioned I was an atheist? If a girl was into her God, that might put her off.

So I changed my religion to Other. And waited. And waited. No knock. Another change. More waiting. No knocks. More changes.

They say the most important thing in online dating is to be honest. Please. We aren’t even honest in real-life, so why should we be on the internet? Honesty doesn’t make a person attractive. Unless you’re the type of person who likes the look of somebody who’s profile says “mostly I just like to sit around in sweat pants and watch TV.”

The problem of how we present ourselves online, has another layer though. Even if we do decide to present ourselves truthfully online, we wont manage to come up with a realistic version of ourselves, because as I’ve said, we can never truly answer the question “who am I?” and whenever we do answer this question it is just our own perspective.

In presenting yourself online, you are making a document of your self-image, the person you see yourself as. But what you see, and what others see can be completely different. We’ve all met people who think they’re hilarious, who think that everybody is laughing at their jokes, when really everybody is laughing at how pathetic they are. If you asked them if they were a funny person they would say “of course, everybody thinks I’m hilarious” and their online-persona would reflect this. But if you asked others they’d say “that guy’s as funny as cancer.”

With all of this in mind, I attempted to make my online-persona more attractive to the opposite sex.

Internet Dan was a millionaire, he owned a small island in the Indian Ocean, his profile photos weren’t even of him, they were photos of a male model, stolen from a website. To top it all off his penis was huge, so huge it was worth mentioning on his dating profile.

Yet still nobody knocked at my door.

Eventually it dawned on me. The reason I was receiving no messages was because girls don’t send messages to guys on dating sites. The guys chase the girls. It’s like being in the playground at school, playing catchy-kissy. You have to catch the girl before you can kiss her.

So I started searching for girls to catch. I started scanning their profiles, looking for my perfect match.

Unfortunately, a lot of these girls weren’t as smart as I was. They were simply too honest in their profiles, or they didn’t understand what persona they were projecting online. Some had pictures of themselves where it was clear they had a double chin. Some couldn’t use apostrophes. Some thought it was a good idea to mention their love of taxidermy.

But eventually I found her. My perfect girl. She was intelligent, funny, she was into baking and Scrabble. To top it all off, she looked smoking hot.

I started to wonder. What’s the catch? There’s got to be a catch, right!? She’s perfect!

We arranged to meet. She’d be wearing a red silk scarf she said. When I arrived I wondered why an obese man had stolen her scarf. Then I realised that the obese man was actually her. I was shocked. She had a full grown beard and everything.

I’m ashamed to say, I snuck away and didn’t speak to her again. I would feel bad, but she’d sold me a lie. Maybe she was intelligent and funny. (She was definitely into baking, you could tell she enjoyed her cakes!) But her physical appearance was so different from her online appearance, that I knew it wouldn’t have been the only liberty she’d have taken in presenting herself.

I realised then, that it was pointless to make Internet Dan the most amazing man alive, because Real-Life Dan could never compete. A girl would only feel disappointed if she met me, because she wanted another guy. Just the other guy would be some freaky version of me. I couldn’t exactly fight myself in a duel, it’d just be suicide.

So maybe the solution is to be honest after all. To let people meet our real-life persona online, so that the transition from online to real-life is easier and harmless. Maybe it’s time Internet Dan became just a part of Real-Life Dan, instead of a separate entity.

Although Internet Dan, really doesn’t want to give up his huge penis.

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18 thoughts on “Online Dating and the Cyber-Self”

  1. I’ve actually been thinking along these lines recently. A friend held a party and invited all the different people in her life. The fear of all those separate worlds colliding made her unable to eat for around two days. Everything turned out fine, it may have been the dim lighting, free food and loud music which kept the crashes at bay but it did make me think of all of my separate worlds that make me who I am.
    Thankyou for the read, I’ve only ever met you a couple of times and we didn’t really talk much. I think that makes me more in the Internet Dan world, or at least, Internet Emma is more in the Internet Dan world. Either way, merci! Oh, and congratulations on The Massive Internet Penis.

      1. Yeah, I recall a Gin and Lucozade combo? Also lots of drifting in and out of rooms making yourself food when I was visiting Andrew. I don’t think you were drunk then but you were quite mumbly*..
        Drunk Dan, Mumbly Hungry Dan and Internet Dan. You’re practically a 3D person!

        *Should “Mumbly” have an E in it?

  2. Thank you for bringing up this subject! The simple question “Who are you?” always struck me as odd. As easy as it should be to describe yourself nobody can really understand oneself. I mean, I know I can’t honestly understand myself.

    I totally agree with you that their are different personas in everyday life such as online persona and who you are in person. I don’t understand how to make the online version more like the real person I am because I have a problem with being completely open for anybody in cyber-space to read and view.

    I actually just wrote about a blog about crossing the online dating profiles with Facebook. I am not fond of the idea of a potential date individual have me on Facebook. To me Facebook is much more personal and should stay private from the online dating. What do you think?

    1. Yeah, probably best to keep your online dating separate from your Facebook.

      I guess it just depends how much you give out on your Facebook though. A few people have added me to Facebook after reading my blog (not for dates, just to be friendly!), and although I don’t really know them, I’m not too bothered they can see all my stuff on Facebook because I don’t really post anything serious or personal on there anyway. I think people sometimes forget that posting something to Facebook is just posting it into the public domain, so they should just follow the etiquette.

      Keeping dating separate from your personal life is good though. Because with online dating it’s handy if it doesn’t flow into the rest of your life, that you can just turn it off for a bit and ignore it. You’re more protected if it’s separate I guess!

  3. I actually think Internet Goldfish/Internet Crystal would actually be Real-life Goldfish/Real-life Crystal IF I wasn’t so shy, easily embarrassed and insecure on a day-to-day basis. But then again, if my Internet Self were to become my Real-life self, then I’d probably have some obscure internet persona where I pretended to own a unicorn or something.

    It’s probably impossible for Internet Self and Real-life Self to be the same, in the same way that I’m not the same person as when I’m with a co-worker versus my boyfriend versus my grandma. Having all of these versions of the self, though, are crucial IMO. If I pulled out my “I’m-tough-and-willing-to-literally-fight-for-what-I-believe-in” persona in the workplace, I’d be as good as fired because I’d elbow someone in the eyeball for not letting me write an article that I wanted. THAT would make for a good story, but not much of a career. Sadly.

    1. In your case, whenever I visit your blog, I always picture you as some really petite, constantly-teenage girl who twiddles her toes uncomfortably.

      Mostly this is because I know nothing of your actual physical appearance, and also because the persona you’ve chosen on your blog is that of a goldfish. I think of you as the personification of a goldfish. Is that how you are in real-life? If so: good job.

  4. This post is great and very true. I’ve done internet dating before as well and it’s so necessary to be able to write something out of the norm to make you stand out other than “I like long, romantic walks along the beach and pub lunches” or “I’m equally happy in my jeans as in an evening dress, and I have a GSOH”. Blah. I usually ended up writing something that made me stand out from the crowd and invited conversation, such as how much I loathe eggs, although Goldfish has a great idea with saying she owns a unicorn – I like that one.

    But it’s not only the way you project yourself, it’s also a lot about the way the person reading it perceives you, and what kind of mood they are in when they read your profile. You lose so much emotion/chemistry by communicating over the internet. You might be the most warm and down to earth guy ever but come across as the world’s biggest tit on match.com!! (I’m sure you don’t/didn’t)

    1. Did you ever have a successful internet dating conquest? Like, properly successful? (As in, it didn’t fizzle out after a few dates or even emails.)

      I agree with you, it’s possible to come across as something you’re not on the net. In my case though, I’m a pretty good writer, so my profile always attracted positive attention.

      Actually, when I was signed up to Guardian dating, quite a few women messaged me saying “Your profile is hilarious and you’re amazing! Please be my boyfriend! ” Unfortunately they were soon to realise one of my fatal flaws. I’m a cheapskate. If you want to become a proper member of Guardian dating, it costs £32 a MONTH (I see life in cinema tickets, that’s about 5 tickets!). And if you’re not a proper member, you can’t reply to messages, or send them! I just can’t see the sense in spending that much money to get constantly rejected by a stream of women. It’s like paying to have somebody torture you.

      But…really…I must wonder…would I ever want to go out with a girl who’s silly enough to spend £32 a month on a dating site anyway?

  5. I can relate. I consciously try to project my ‘online persona’ as something significantly more positive that I can sometimes be in real life. My facebook friends don’t see my bad days, that’s for sure! And at times I find myself seeing people that I knew well at one point in my life, with online personas that match absolutely nothing t their real personalities.Tis the shift in technoloy, and finding that happy medium, I think, is where it’s at 🙂

  6. Don’t we project our real-life persona as something significantly more positive, too? (At least when it comes to dating.) It’s not just on the internet. (Although Internet Jamie is quite an eloquent writer. Real-life Jamie mumbles her words and uses “like.”) How often are we (okay, maybe just women) lying to ourselves as we get ready for a date? I spend hours getting ready, switching outfits, and finally settling on the one I started with right before I’ve to leave. On a day-to-day basis, I get up, wash my face, throw on the same jeans I have been wearing all week, brush my teeth, make my hair elegantly disheveled, and I run out the door.

    But this is dating! We are trying to impress one another, so emphasis the *positive* things about ourselves, like “I have a unicorn.” We don’t tell our date that we haven’t shaved in over a month. That’d be a deal-breaker and we would be forever alone.

    But after all the dating and courting shenanigans, is when we can finally introduce our REAL self. And if the other person accepts our flaws, our grit, or the fact that I haven’t shaved in over a month, then great. Then you know it’s real. Or something?

    But I think people we meet in real life can just as easily come across as something differently. (They just cannot.. lie about their… outer appearance. But I wear eye contacts so I am fooling everyone to thinking I can see really well. And the fact that I color my hair.) But so often than not we are experiencing the whole “love is blind” theory. We build up expectations about how this person is, we (not just them) emphasis on how funny they are or how adorable they are when they pronounce the word ginger. Once we see their flaws, their grit, or the fact that they don’t shave in over a month–is when we decide to accept them or not. This is usually when people fall out of love. They cannot accept them any longer.

    Does this make any sense? I feel like I am went way off topic.
    (Sorry for all the parentheses, too.)

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