Sex and Our City: A Degree of Separation
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Sex and Our City: A Degree of Separation

What’s better than sex? Maybe writing about sex. Sex and Our City is a special week-long series that looks for questions and answers about love and sex in our city.
Photo by Sontra.
This is an age of convenience. With a single click, we can find the great apartment, the great shoes to fill the closet in our great apartment, and the great job to pay for it all. It follows, then, that online a single should also be able to find that great man or woman to click with.

Now would be the best time to try. The search for that someone right (or right now) online has become much more fun with the sheer number of people trying. According to Harlequin, more than one in four people have been in a relationship that started online and about two in five people are on the net searching for loving. (Some fast math: the numbers seem to suggest then that almost 60% of people who have profiles online find a relationship. Really?) And while the ease of online dating should pull people in—set up a profile, track down some desirables, and make contact—people still seem to begrudge giving it a try. (People will try a hundred and one different ways to drop a pound, but an online profile is crazy desperate.)
How could people give up an opportunity to meet new people? Maybe it’s because how we meet people reflects on us as much as who we meet. For some reason, when asked how they met, couples drop their voices to a conspiratorial whisper when the answer is “online.” Do we feel online dating is like a white flag to conventional dating, a “go direct-to-DVD” when others are holding out for shiny movie premieres in New York? When we’re told fairytales as children of princes and princesses finding true love (later regurgitated for adults as romantic comedies) and our reality is one far starker, it can be difficult to open up to something new, especially if it could mean more failure. If our past suggests otherwise, when single offline, what guarantees success online?
Albert Einstein said that insanity was trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For some, dating online might be trying a different thing and expecting the same results over and over again. Skim through some of the profiles and it’s easy to see why people get scared: The awkward nicknames. The terrible opening lines. The grainy pictures of people that couldn’t be the best foot forward… Could it? Torontoist spoke to two people with years of online dating experience. Jason, a 29-year-old graduate student from abroad looking for friends (and more), and Annie, a 26-year-old engineer who went online looking for love.
Jason immediately enjoyed the amount of control he had: “I had the ability to screen for what I was looking for, especially if it was only physically.” For busy people, online dating can then be like Tivo for their love life, and the specificity in searches is one part of what makes online dating inviting. In the mood for something spicier? Choose someone you might be too afraid to approach in real life. Want something fast? Online, there are many, many people who are openly honest about what they want without any strings attached. People who haven’t tried it might not understand the excitement of instant gratification from searching online, Jason adds.
Love is a numbers game and having more suitors means a greater chance of meeting someone. Annie says, “The good thing about online dating is that even if it doesn’t work out with one person, you know there are hundreds more out there. But that’s also a bad thing because I never put too much effort into getting to know anyone, just for that reason.”
The internet also provides the chance to connect with someone that you would not meet in any other way is redeeming enough. It can be a bridge that gives you the one degree of separation that might otherwise be impossible: you don’t know each other’s friends, you’d never pass by each other’s work, and nothing in your routines overlaps in a tangible manner. Your lives are on parallel tracks, except you both happen to be on the same dating website.
As always, the problem with online dating has less to do with the internet itself than how users can abuse it. It’s easier to tweak the truth online and it’s amazing in our brave new world of Facebook how many people have verbal diarrhea without actually revealing anything relevant about who they are as people. Furthermore, the ability to instantly disconnect from someone makes interactions extremely frustrating: the lack of accountability online allows the number of Lost Causes to rack up. Annie adds: “I never know when they’re going to just suddenly disappear for good, and I keep thinking there’s someone more compatible out there.”
Success online is as difficult as offline: while Jason met a boyfriend online, he met his current one offline, and Annie is single. Each one also cautions that they have plenty of horror stories—nothing is more disappointing than realizing that someone is only good on pixels and bad in life—but don’t rule out going back for more online dating. That’s the thing: even when you’re through with online dating, every once in a while you’ll hear a gonzo success stories—like the woman who swore off dating but gave one last guy a chance and ended up finding her One—and it makes logging on so alluring, no matter how insane it might be.
Photo by Jaime Woo.