Like pretty much everyone, I was not a beauty at age 12. I know now that this is totally normal, but at the time, I was surrounded by classmates with boyfriends and girlfriends, and there was no way I could ever be like any them unless I landed an internet flame who'd never know what I looked like.
So I joined a Harry Potter chatroom with my best friends and started "dating" a user named SkyDude022, who claimed to be a 12-year-old boy from Alberta, Canada.
We had fewer than three "conversations" before he went dark and stopped coming to the chatroom, but I was convinced I'd met my soulmate and lamented losing precious screen time with him.
Fast forward thirteen years and I hate everything about internet chat. I refuse to engage in Facebook chat. I loathe G-chat, which I'm convinced is going to get me fired someday because I can't stop using it and don't know how to tell people nicely that they're distracting me, and even though I love my iPhone, I'm not a big texter (I only really text my mom, sad face). People don't believe me when I make statements like these, but it's my tragic reality. In my eyes, there's no substitute for in-person contact, and that's why online dating just isn't going to work for me.
Two months ago, I joined HowAboutWe, a dating site for doing activities with other singles, on a whim. I was angry about being blown off for the umpteenth time by a guy who'd disappointed me many times before, so I thought creating an account on a dating site, which is supposed to attract guys looking for more than just hook-ups (or so we're led to believe), would restore some of my faith in people. I'll admit that it did, but that doesn't mean the online dating concept works for all.
I've been out for drinks with a few people who've reached out to me, and if anything, I've made some awesome friends out of it, but at the end of the day, the whole thing feels a bit too forced and unorganic. Call me unrealistic, but I still love the feeling of unexpectedly meeting someone on a night out with friends, not because I like running off with attractive, equally whimsical men and telling my pals about it later (usually on G-chat when I should be working. Hi, Boss and copy team!), but because it happened by accident and wasn't in any way planned. I lead a pretty busy life, and I'd like to maintain a shred of mystery by making room for these sorts of random encounters and meetings.
Another thing I dislike about online dating is that so many men take selfies. I know this is a growing "movement" and what not, but I don't like it, and every time I look at a man's profile and see he's joined the dark side by posting bathroom mirror selfies, I want to laugh and roll my eyes. And you know what? They're not doing anything wrong by uploading selfies, they just want to find someone who appreciates their looks. I don't want to be part of any site that makes people feel like they have to do this, though, as selfies, more than anything else, come across as unnatural and even creepy to me.
This is what I want to do everytime I see a male selfie on HowAboutWe:
Though it can be amusing to email back and forth with online dating users about whatever, I still feel like 12-year-old me when I do this, and I have no desire to return to any of my pre-teen tendencies. Back then, I lacked the confidence to enjoy face time with boys I liked. Now I need that to understand whether it could work out between us.
As a kid, I talked to lots of my classmates online but rarely in person, so when our paths crossed IRL, I had nothing to say and it was uncomfortable. Just because you can chat online doesn't mean you'll have chemistry in person. I have enough awkward moments in my life as it is, so I don't need to make more for myself by meeting up with someone with whom I'll have nothing to talk about.
To those of you who have found happiness and success through online dating, I applaud you, but it's not for me, at least right now. I still have hope that I'll trip on the sidewalk someday and be caught by Ryan Gosling, who has two Boston Terriers and an ice cream cone in his other arm. Hey, it could happen.
Share your thoughts on internet romance with me on Twitter: @LauraDonovanUA