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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

Column: Too young to date (online)

Choose a word to describe yourself. Now, how accurately does that word actually define you?

I only ask this because I know we’re all lying bitches – we even lie to ourselves from time to time.

Especially on dating websites, a tool that a growing number of college students use to find potential matches. Nationwide, the billion-dollar online dating industry continues to blossom even as the economy dwindles. According to an online dating survey by onlineschools.org, 40 million Americans use the web to not only surf, but to dive into the online dating pool by registering with one of the many sites that cater to various ethnic groups, gender and sexual identities, age ranges and social classes.

When answering question after question and filling in box after box on their dating site of choice, hopeful singles are essentially doing two things: being honest in the descriptions of their ideal partner, but lying about the intricacies of their own personality or appearance. The survey mentioned above reveals American men tend to lie most about their age, height and income, while women tend to misinform suitors of their weight, physical build and age. In the interest of self-promotion, we may exaggerate personality traits a bit here or sneak in tiny fibs about our body a bit there.

Inspired by this conundrum, New York artist, composer and performer R. Luke DuBois began a research project he called “A More Perfect Union” – a project he described as his own “single census” that shows how people in different parts of the country describe themselves when looking for love.

In his essay about the project, DuBois uses information he collected from visiting over 19 million different user profiles: “I joined 21 dating sites to make my own census of the U.S. in 2010. These are my findings: a road atlas of the states, with the names of cities, towns, and neighborhoods replaced with the words people use to describe themselves and those they want to be with.”

For example, no one in Wyoming describes themselves as “naughty,” while women in Colorado have no problem throwing the word around. Men in West Virginia are more likely to say they’re “kinky” than dudes in Oklahoma. Want a rich guy? Head to Houston, Texas.

Looking at Dubois’s altered map of California, the word “adult” appears where Davis should, meaning Davisites who are single and online describe themselves as, and seek people who are, more “adult.” I guess they’ve had enough of the ever-present population of silly college students, so they turn to looking for more mature suitors online. But even some of those silly college students can benefit from online dating.

An increasingly popular free dating site among the younger demographic is OkCupid. The site primarily functions as a series of quizzes, but users can also communicate with each other via blogs, forums and “winks” (like a Facebook poke, only sexier).

Plenty of my friends have profiles and it’s pretty hip – definitely gay friendly. One friend is an online dating success story, currently dating someone he met on the site. He says, “OkCupid is great because it lets you narrow down your preferences. That’s not saying I’m picky, but you’re here to find your perfect person in the first place. Why not filter?”

Finding a match is as simple as answering questions. Then Cupid does the rest.

“It’s really easy,” said another friend. “I’d be on the bus, bored, and would pass the time just answering questions on my phone.” The more you answer, the more accurate your matches.

But both my friends are gay males. And while the filtering options available on these dating sites work really well for helping them meet other fish in a much smaller dating pool, the straight fish have it easy. They walk out their front doors and are immediately swimming in their own pool. I see much less of a need for OkCupid in their lives.

After all, the average age of online daters in the U.S. is 48. You honeybees still have plenty of time to find dates without a laptop. Enjoy your youth and the season of love – go outside to find a date. Though it may be more difficult to lie about yourself, actually meeting someone can be more revealing. If you’re still single in say, 20 years, then eHarmony it up.

In fact, I think it’s pretty difficult not to find someone on a college campus. You can join a club or an IM sports team – mutual interests are perfect conversation starters. Or start a study group and invite the cutie you have your eye on. Hell, go to a party and mingle. College is bursting with opportunity, and who knows? Maybe you’re just a game of beer pong away from meeting your soul mate.

MARIO LUGO met the love of his life at a fraternity rush event – it was the first time he drank sangria and the only time he’s been swept off his feet. Send e-mails to mlugo@ucdavis.edu.


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