By Ryan Pfeffer
It seems everything these days is in danger of being rendered useless by the internet. The mighty blue Blockbuster fell to Netflix. Bookstores were chewed up and spit out by Amazon. And now the U.S. Postal Service's only job is to make sure Chris Christie never runs out of Oreos.
It makes sense that dating would be next on the list. Talking to actual people makes mailing letters look like fun. Yet the world of online dating is still, at best, weird.
But is it really that bad? Surely every online encounter doesn't end with Chris Hansen and a camera crew. Is it possible to find love online? Or, at the very least, a Valentine's Day date?
I tried to find out.
I had never engaged in any online dating before, so I asked around. Three names kept coming up: OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, and Tinder. So I chose those three for my experiment.
But as I was about to make my profile, another question kept popping into my head: What kind of person succeeds in the world of online dating? Is it different from actual dating? Can you get away with more? Or less? Essentially, what do girls look for in a virtual partner?
To help figure this out, I made two profiles for each site. Each profile would represent two completely opposite sides of the spectrum. The good guy versus the bad boy.
Meet the good guy:
Pictured above (left to right) are Ferguson and Waffles. Shortly after this picture was taken, Ferguson tried to kill me.
This is Rian (notice the sensitive spelling of the name Ryan).
Rian is a good person - maybe too good a person. He's the kind of guy who would gladly help you move. Then after you're done moving, he'd give you a hug. Then he'd bring you homemade muffins every day for the next three weeks because "a home is not a home without warm muffins."
Rian loves poetry, baking, the ocean, and Joni Mitchell. He doesn't curse, and he will always ask to hold your baby. He is the human equivalent of a Labrador retriever, and he is here for one reason and one reason only: love.
This is bad boy Ryan (hereafter referred to as Douche Bag Ryan).
Oh, I hate him already.
Douche Bag Ryan is, well, a douchebag. And if you didn't already know that simply by looking at a picture of him, you might be a douchebag too.
Douche Bag Ryan is here to bone and only to bone. He likes going to the gym, hates turn signals, and has a tentative grasp on the English language.
He is the type of person who would make a Google Plus account just so he can continue to call people gay in YouTube comments.
So now the match is set. Good versus Evil. Sweet sensitivity versus brute sex drive. Kittens versus the gym.
Round one: Plenty of Fish.
Plenty of Fish
Plenty of Fish (AKA PoF) doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't. There are no cheesy quotes about finding the love of your life or starting meaningful relationships. There are ads on the top of the page to "meet RICH sugar mommys [sic]" and find Russian girls. It's not specified whether these Russian girls are attractive or at all pleasant, only that they are Russian.
PoF is stripped of the illusion that it exists for anything but sweaty, anonymous backseat Toyota sex.
And it's also where Douche Bag Ryan found his soulmate.
Can you feel the instant chemistry? Fuck you, Shakespeare. This is true romance.
Douche Bag Ryan has her on the ropes.
Down goes Frazier! (And humanity).
But all cynicism aside, that was beautiful. Did you see the way they connected? I wish everyone a relationship like that. They were two horny puzzle pieces, snapping together before our very eyes in an explosion of internet love.
Unfortunately, that was it for Douche Bag Ryan. Out of seven conversations, that was his only yes.
Rian didn't fare too well either. PoF just wasn't romantic enough for the guy. I think people assumed he was a serial killer when he didn't ask for boob pics in the first few lines.
Out of four conversations, this was Rian's only yes. After round one, we're tied.
Round two: OKCupid.
OKCupid lived up to its name, and romance and love reigned supreme. If PoF was Douche Bag Ryan's hometown, OKCupid gave Rian the home-field advantage.
It seemed girl after girl fell for Rian's over-the-top charm. They might not have all bought it, but they wanted so badly to believe that a man this sweet and innocent existed on the internet. For them, this weird little specimen who bakes pies and loves kittens represented hope.
Out of 12 conversations, Rian got four Valentine's Day date yeses and two maybes. It was a heroic performance. It was Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics vaulting with a bum ankle. It was Michael Jordan playing game five with a hurricane of a flu. It was the Dolphins' physical trainer holding his breath through a five-minute Richie Incognito inner groin massage.
And if Rian's OKCupid performance was all those things, Douche Bag Ryan's was more like Bill Buckner missing an easy grounder to win the World Series.
Douche Bag Ryan gets all his sex education from PornHub.
You're talking to an idiot, that's what's wrong.
The results were about as surprising as Snoop Dogg's drug test. Douche Bag Ryan went zero for seven.
With Rian in the lead, it all comes down to the third and final round.
It's Tinder time.
Tinder is what it must feel like to be a powerful Hollywood casting agent, tearing your way through an infinite stack of headshots. No, no, yes, no, yes, too fat, too skinny, crazy eyes, no, no, yes...
If you've never used it, you basically see a picture of a person in your general geographic area and swipe right to "like" them and left to "nope" them (a format other sites, including OKCupid, have since adopted). If you swipe right on someone who also swiped right on you, Tinder will tell you and urge you to send that person a message. And if you put your phone in the microwave for 45 seconds and go outside, you might just meet an actual person.
Though, the whole swiping process does make you feel really powerful - until you realize it's 9 p.m. on a Saturday and you're in bed cyber-judging people who probably have no interest in seeing you naked anyway.
For Rian and Douche Bag Ryan, it was a toss-up. Tinder's emphasis on physical looks might play to Douche Bag Ryan's whole "I just wanna bone" mindset. But the sheer number of young people using Tinder (500 million swipes and 5 million matches a day) might mean there are some kitten-loving baking aficionados out there who would give Rian a shot.
And there were.
Cheesing his way into the hearts of a couple of young ladies, Rian went 2-for-13. Not a bad showing. There were many who didn't respond to the poor guy, and I must have swiped right on a hundred girls before finding someone willing to give the kitten lover a chance.
Douche Bag Ryan, however, went out not with a bang but with a not getting banged. That magnificent idiot went 0-for-13. And that's a good thing.
All in all, Douche Bag Ryan went 1-for-27, and Rian went 7-for-29, with two maybes.
If Rian existed, I think he'd be in for a pretty good Valentine's Day. If Douche Bag Ryan existed, I think he'd spend Valentine's Day like he spends every other day: masturbating.
Even though I share little in common with Rian and Douche Bag Ryan, I still found myself rooting for them, because everyone deserves love - not just on Valentine's Day but every day. And when one of those girls would say yes, I'd smile. I'd question her sanity, but I'd do it with a smile.
To the girls who I lured into Valentine's dates with false promises of freshly baked pies and swollen biceps, I'm sorry. Truly, I am. I lied to you, and that is wrong.
And to the girls who got really mad at me when I told them they were talking to a fake profile, I'd like to kindly remind you that you're on the internet. These things happen.
And if you're still mad, take comfort in the fact that I, the real Ryan, don't have a Valentine's Day date either. But you won't find me online. No, I'm going to try to go outside and actually talk to you people. It's not going to be pretty.
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This post originally appeared on online with Broward Palm Beach New Times.