Being single in a city of two and half million people can be exciting, boring, fulfilling and completely exhausting. The options may seem endless or you may find yourself seeing the same people at every hip yet run-down hangout. While I’ve had my share of experiences, from two-week romances to regrettable workplace flings, something I always ignored was online dating. After listening to another one of my whiney date rants, my friends suggested I give it a whirl. 

I swore I would never. I thought it was reserved for cat-obsessed bachelorettes who own all six seasons of Sex and the City, or forty-something men who spend hours creeping on their suggested companions. I also prefer meeting people the traditional way (tipsy at a bar, obviously). But the more ladies in my life who confessed they had tried it, the more I needed to throw away the pathetic reputation and give it chance.

My first delve into the digital dating world was eHarmony. Was it the commercials of attractive yet normal looking couples seeming so happy that sold me? Out of sheer curiosity, I answered questions such as “who is the most influential person in your life” and listed my ideal mates’ qualities (apparently I value a partner who emotionally generous and can’t stand someone self-centered).  I posted an acceptable photo of myself and was done. What followed shortly was a flood of emails, nestled between press releases and yoga promotions, with subject headings such as, ‘Meagan, Brendan could be the one you’ve been waiting for.’

I’d follow the link to my dream man to find photographs of them petting golden retrievers, holding babies, and posing with their bros in front of lit-up Vegas hotels. Not to mention, they all had more hair on their goatees than their heads, lived in Mississauga, and shared a faith in Jesus Christ. I pondered why the folks over at eHarmony thought I would hit it off with these guys. Was it because we had both traveled to other countries or enjoyed cooking? Out of the seventy-plus matches not one struck my fancy, and I quickly abandoned the one-month membership I dished out 60 bucks for. 

A friend of mine recently joined OK Cupid and was telling me about the dates she had lined up. The guys were not freaks, rather they were young and single like us and bartenders/musicians/graphic designers. Not far from the dudes I meet in real life, except they use a site like Facebook for dating or casual sex (if that’s your thing). For round two of my online experiment, I created a much simpler profile and started creeping the database. The first three were: a friend of mine, a Parkdale barista I recognized, and a guy whom a friend briefly dated. When I got past the hilarity of this, I found a few potentials: a teacher who loved Fleet Foxes and riding his bike, and a cute film-maker with glasses who seemed interesting. I proceeded to the terrifying next step: the not-so-blind date to see if our witty texts translated into actual chemistry. 

For the first meet-up, teacher suggested a drink in Kensington Market. My hairdresser advised against meeting in places where I might run into people I know. This hadn’t occurred to me until I neared the dive bar we had agreed on and my eyes nervously scanned the patio for familiar faces. Luckily, the only one was teacher, and I awkwardly said hello and dashed inside to order a whiskey. The best thing about having no expectations on blind dates is I could have cared less that I had just come from a hot yoga class and my hair was still wet from sweat. Under an hour later, after the typical ‘where are you from’ small talk, a shared interest in music but absolutely no sparks, neither of us made apologies for having to leave. 

For my next dating risk, the nerdy filmmaker suggested we explore the west end neighbourhood that I also lived in, and if for nothing else then the convenience factor, I agreed. Terribly hungover from the night before, I met him at a coffee shop and within seconds after an awkward hug introduction, he said he was starving and asked where I was taking him. Over brunch, he told me of his love for hip hop karaoke and his millionaire friend in Chicago while I picked away at my niscoise salad and hoped it would be over soon. After the meal, he asked where I was taking him next. Not realizing I had signed up for an afternoon tour, I apologized for not having much time before work and said goodbye after walking a few blocks. 

On my walk home I felt discouraged and disappointed. I wasn’t convinced my next boyfriend could be picked out of an online library of men, even if we did share a love for brunch, hipster bars and bike rides. I refused to suffer through another painful forced encounter, wondering if there would be sparks. Out of boredom one night, I was cruising the site and noticed a message from someone, ignored it, then upon the third time looking at his profile realized it was the guy I went home with the previous weekend. After a hilarious conversation asking if he remembered me, we both agreed to see each other again. There goes my idea that OK Cupid wouldn’t get me lucky.

What I have learned from my online experiment is that it’s not as creepy and desperate as I thought, rather another way to meet guys you’d normally see out anyway. My hairdresser put it best: “When you meet someone online you see if you like each other FIRST, then see if there are sparks. Out in the real world, you may have chemistry at first then realize you don’t get along with them.” As for me, I think I still prefer the old fashioned way.

-Meagan Albrechtson