Scrolling through profile after profile on dating sites had a weird effect on me. Instead of seeing a person on the screen, I began to see a list of conditions, and a percentage. She’s too skinny. She has kids. She’s a terrible writer. Wading through the entire list of “matches” in my area on OKCupid, the free dating site, and coming back with no desirable results left me feeling as empty as a random hook-up would. If we’re really 90% compatible, why can’t I find something to message her about?

My foot’s been in the online dating pool for the better part of six years. I’ve waited for the water to warm up so I could fully dive in, but it hasn’t. So I'm leaving it behind.

My foot's been in the online dating pool for the better part of six years. I've waited for the water to warm up so I could fully dive in, but it hasn't. So, I’m leaving it behind. Whether it was Yahoo Personals, Myspace, OKCupid, Match, or even Facebook, I always had the same shitty luck: women with low self-esteem or commitment issues. Sometimes both.

In a way, online dating hindered my offline dating skills; I was always five minutes late at realizing a girl was flirting with me. Because of this, I missed countless opportunities. Waiting in line at a busy Subway one fall I started talking with a cute elementary education major. It was busy and we’d chatted at least ten minutes before getting to the sandwich bar. She was ahead of me in line and cashed out while I was still deciding on veggies. While I was paying, she stood by the door, waiting for me. I turned to her, smiled, and told her to have a nice day. Once I got in my truck, I realized what had just happened.

I work full-time first shift, go to school part-time at nights, and I write in the moments between. I don’t have a lot of time to put into meeting women. Online dating seemed perfect when I first set up a profile on Yahoo Personals. But, because I wasn’t a paying member, my chances of meeting someone went down dramatically. Why is her ex in every picture? I could only send pre-written missives like “Hey, you caught my eye!” Unless I ponied up for a subscription, exchanging real messages wasn’t happening. Each site has its own selection of people you’d never imagine seeing there. If she’s so hot, why does she need the Internet to find a date? The one girl I met there was just acting as bait, and passed me off to her friend as soon as she could.

At first, I figured that given how many quality free dating sites had emerged in the past few years, I didn’t need to pay for one. But after an ugly OKCupid experience, I changed my mind. She strung me along for a few months last summer, leading me to believe that she was looking for something long term, only to leave me at the altar (not our wedding, thankfully—she was my date for my best friend’s). After that, I decided the best way to find someone serious was by joining a paid site. I wasn’t looking for my soul mate, so I avoided eHarmony in favor of Match.com.

A friend of mine who had signed up with Match was having great luck. I’d spent more money on bad dates than I would for a three-month subscription. I gladly gave up my debit card number, wrote a profile, uploaded a few pictures, and started messaging. A week went by and the dozen girls I pinged hadn’t responded. Panicked, I IM’d my friend who was having all the luck. Before I even got a response, I realized why it’d been working out so well: She’s a cute publicist living in California, not a writer/student living in Michigan—the odds were in her favor.

Match is all about upselling; you can pay extra to have someone write your profile, or for better placement in search results. The site preys upon the insecurities of the single.

In a fit of anxiousness, I forked over $15 to see if any of my emails had been read. I’m not sure what made me feel worse: paying for that, or discovering that my messages had been read, but not responded to. Match is all about upselling; you can pay extra to have someone write your profile, or for better placement in search results. The site preys upon the insecurities of the single. The non-responses continued for the remainder of my subscription: over 100 messages sent with two responses, nothing turning into dates. Finding something to grab a hold of and craft into an email from those generic paragraphs was a chore in and of itself, especially when I wasn’t gaining any traction. By the end, I was messaging women just for the hell of it. The most she can do is ignore me. No dice. Once my subscription expired, I went back to OKCupid and my carefully curated profile.

I met a girl who had joined in my absence. We messaged a bit before arranging a date. The morning of the date, she texted me saying she had to cancel because she’d met someone the night before. I thanked her for being honest. A few weeks later, she texted me. Things must not have worked out. When we met, I could see why.

Online her pictures were cute and smiley. Her profile? Geeky and pleasant. Sitting in front of me she was everything but. “I don’t date much outside of OKCupid.” She then went on to tell me she had lots of first dates, but not seconds. “I don’t know why. I mean, I’m awesome.” No, she was not. She looked terrible, old and with ragged clothing. She spoke poorly, and brought her cellphone out twice before the drinks arrived.

For the first time ever, I cut a date short. I didn’t need to subject myself to this anymore.

Knowing "everything" about a girl via her profile made me trust her less than if I'd known nothing about her and we’d randomly met on the street. With online dating, I was always battling a sense of doubt, in both the profiles I browsed and in myself. Anyone can manicure their profile to present the exact image they want, but no amount of matched compatibility questions can equal the excitement of someone catching your eye at the grocery store or on campus the first time.

After I told him I’d deleted my accounts, my dad asked how I planned to meet someone. I told him the same way people did before the Internet, by getting out more. Online dating made me lazy. Once I deleted my profiles, that crutch was gone. Since then, I’ve been been more proactive. My years spent online dating taught me how to deal with rejection, but not how to react to attraction. That I’m still working on.

By Timothy J. Seppala (@timseppala)