Thursday, February 04, 2016

Adventures in Online Dating: Good artists copy, great artists steal?

After a short period of wallowing, I have jumped back into the world of online dating.  I have a number of single friends who do it but hate it, but I actually kind of love it.  It's certainly flattering.  I get a lot of messages - most women on those sites do, way more than men generally get.  And while the majority of them are from men I'm not going to go out with, a decent number are from guys who have some potential.  So I've decided that my approach will be to play the numbers game - if a guy asks me to meet him for a drink and he seems smart, funny, nice, attractive enough and age appropriate, I'll say yes.

And really, why not?  My attitude is, most of them will only be first dates, but maybe a few will lead to second dates, and who knows?  I keep my expectations low.  At worst, I'll spend an hour having a drink and chatting with a nice enough guy who I never have to see again, and at best, I'll meet someone really cool.  There's really no downside.

The result is that my dance card is filling up to the point that I'm having to schedule dates two and three weeks out.  It's fun.

And I won't lie - my ego enjoys the feeling of being complimented and pursued.

Plus, even the ones I don't go out with provide some entertainment.  There are messages from those I call the Young Guns - guys who are a solid 15 years (or more) younger than my target market, but whose brashness and enthusiasm I find sort of charming.  Who knew that 25 year old guys would be interested in a 45-year-old divorced mother of two?  I even got a message from a guy who is 19.  If I had been remotely interested in going out with him, we couldn't have gone to a bar.

Then there's the international crew.  I have been written to by men from Israel, Canada, England, Ireland, France, and a couple of other places.  And that's not counting the ones scattered around the United States, even though I have no interest in dating someone outside of Denver (even the suburbs would feel like a long-distance relationship to me).

Another category I haven't come up with a name for, but it's characterized by guys whose profile pictures include them shirtless, or a bathroom mirror selfie, or posing in front of their car or motorcycle (or even a picture of just the car).  Dude, I don't need to see your nipples before I meet you.  And I'm not impressed that you drive a Beamer.  Move along.

But tonight I hit upon something that really blew me away.

One of the things about how my brain works is that I have crazy recall for certain things that I read and hear - conversations, dialogue, movie quotes, text message exchanges, that sort of thing.  My brother Sam has similar abilities - he and I can hear something that reminds us of a line, and one of us will say it, and the other one will immediately get it while everyone else is wondering what the hell we're blathering on about.  What sometimes triggers it for me is distinctive or unique uses of language - a way of expressing something that strikes me as interesting, a particularly descriptive or powerful statement, a statement that seems incongruous or inconsistent with what I know about the speaker.

Anyway.  Tonight I was dicking around on my computer while the kids were playing, and I got an email that someone was interested, so I went online and checked his profile out.  And when I read it, I  immediately had a sense of deja vu - there were two sentences in there that I knew I had seen before.  So I looked back at another guy's profile that I had read about a week and a half ago, and he had used the exact same sentences.  Verbatim.  Word for word.  (And it's a distinctive couple of sentences - absolutely no way was it just a coincidence.)

That made me curious.  So I took the sentences and googled them.  My head exploded when the search resulted in at least 40 hits, all linking to dating profiles on a number of different sites, all by men using the exact same language.

I dug a little more, and that led me to an article advising men on how to write a compelling online dating profile.  The article included a number of sample profiles and talked about what was good or bad about them and what kind of message and attitude they conveyed.  And one of the sample profiles, which was at least 4 paragraphs long, was one that I had read in the last day or so - the guy had literally cut-and-pasted the entire thing into his profile, without changing a word.  There were other samples in the article that I hadn't seen duplicated in their entirety in any one guy's profile, but which had certain elements or phrases that I recognized from different profiles I had read.  I checked back at the profile of a guy I had actually gone out with once, and it was an amalgamation of different sentences and paragraphs taken from the different samples in the article.  There was not a single thing in his profile that was original.

I find the whole thing fascinating, almost like a peek into the male psyche.  I get that many people are not natural writers, and that it's hard to write about yourself.  I get doing some research on some of the dos and don'ts.  But that level of rank plagiarism seems crazy to me, if for no other reason than it's so easily exposed.

In any event, I'm not sure what to do with this discovery, but it's very amusing nonetheless.

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