By Kamakshi Dadhwal
Dating websites have been around since Match.com first started in 1995 and since then, finding love online has become more and more common. The initial stigma attached to online dating has somehow vanished in transition to the 21st century. Many people now claim that meeting “matches” online is a good way to find someone compatible and start dating, according to a study by Pew Research Center. So what are users looking for in someone they would want to date? We should embrace the flaws that make us human instead of showing off our ‘perfect bodies’, ‘perfect job’, ‘perfect habits’ and perfect ability to lie.
A few days ago, a friend of mine went on a date with someone he had been talking to on Tinder. Before the date, he had been very excited because he thought the girl was smart, funny and attractive in the pictures on her profile. After the date, he called me to tell me that he felt “shallow” for finding his date unattractive because she didn’t look as striking as her pictures. She was still smart and funny, but he felt cheated about her looks because her body looked so “proportionate” in the pictures when in reality, it wasn’t. I told him he was, indeed, shallow but that is what usually happens when you go looking for honesty online: you get cheated.
The conversation inspired me to Google “dating websites for honest people” and it led me to an article about a website called Settle For Love. Started in 2014, Settle For Love is an online dating site that explicitly encourages people to be honest about themselves in their profiles, and list their cons as well as pros. The unique approach of the website’s creators, David Wheeler (no relation to the UT professor) and Jacob Thompson, is that honesty shouldn’t have to wait to enter a relationship until after it goes offline. Honesty should be at the foundation of true love, and that is what Settle For Love is trying to provide for its users. The philosophy of this website is so simple and accurate, but it seems to be missing from most other dating sites altogether.
Dating sites give users plenty of opportunities to highlight their positives, boast about their physical attractiveness- or underplay their lack thereof- and basically maintain an illusion of perfection. Users play into the charade in hope of meeting a special someone, losing sight of the fact that they accented only their strengths in their profiles to get there. The simultaneous need of users to put the quantity of matches over their quality significantly increases the chances that their “special someone” also highlighted only their good qualities to get more matches. Consequently, the whole point of dating sites to help you find the “right” match goes down the drain only to pave the way for more mediocre or shallow matches; the kind you can’t be your imperfect self with.
As of 2016, there are more than 2500 dating websites in the U.S. alone, according to Forbes.com. How is it that only a few of these websites seem to put honesty on the forefront? As far as relationships go, we seem to value and expect honesty when deciding to share our lives and ourselves with someone. Moreover, the use of dating websites in the college age group of 18-24 has tripled since 2013, according to the same study conducted by Pew Research Center. It is obvious that a lot more people are looking for a relationship online– whether casual or serious. It’s sad that it doesn’t seem to be equally obvious that for those who are looking for real relationships, even the ones that start virtually, honesty ought to be the most important place to start. Dating sites should be more cognizant of their users’ needs because different people are looking for different things online. These websites should provide a layout that encourages people to embrace the imperfections that come with being human instead of promoting a dating culture that springs from just swiping people left or right based on their first impressions.