Thursday, July 12, 2007

Online Dating and Blogging Weren't What I Expected

Not so very long ago, I would have been sheepish about admitting to participating in online dating or blogging, but things have changed and both are now integral parts of our culture. Neither experience turned out to be what I expected it to be.

In 2003, recently divorced, over forty and working from home, I decided that online dating was the most practical way for me to meet someone new. If I could find books, shoes and music online, why not a companion?

Writing up my profile and a description of who I was looking for would be easy. I’d just wait and the right candidates would surface. The first profile I posted turned out to be more of a description of my interests than a profile of who I was. I knew a lot about the type of man I didn’t want to meet, but I had no clear idea what I did want. I was sure I wasn’t interested in looking for a long term relationship. I wanted to meet someone for friendship and casual dating.

I posted the first profile and I was contacted by people I had no interest in and who, if they met me would have no interest in me either. Obviously I was doing something terribly wrong. With each email I received, I went back and tweaked my profile to be more specific about my likes and my dislikes. I was forced to reexamine myself and try to describe myself as honestly and accurately as possible. I agonized over this.

The available men over forty that I encountered at the time seemed to have a very difficult time honestly describing themselves. Most didn’t appear to be intentionally deceptive, but they seemed to describe the person they wished they were, not the person they really were. Had I done the same? I tweaked my profile some more. I became ruthless when scanning emails and profiles, but hey, I was looking for someone to start a relationship with so there was no point wasting anyone’s time.

Preparing to go on a date felt like getting ready for the firing squad. I was prepared to be disappointed and my expectations were met. I figured out pretty quickly that I hated the idea of casual dating and that I really was looking for a long term, committed relationship. I tweaked my profile some more.

I went on four first dates before I met Scott. He was a much more experienced online dater than I was and he’d been single for a much longer time. I saved the profiles we’d both posted from that time and I recently reread them both. We’d succeeded in writing something that was true and we found what we wanted.

Starting a Blog and finding those Blogs that I visit regularly was a somewhat similar process.

When I originally started to blog, it was because I’d decided to make a commitment to pursue fiction writing. I looked at the decision within the context of my desire to change my life and to transition away from the day job that pays the bills to find a way to pursue what I’m most passionate about. I thought about all of the people who have made major life changes to pursue their dreams and I wanted to connect with them. I soon realized that as much as I thought the transition was what I needed to explore, that wasn’t it at all.

The idea of blogging about writing was one I dismissed out of hand. I didn’t have anything to say about it. But the more I read and commented on other blogs, the more I understood that blogging about the experience of developing as a writer is what I needed to communicate on my own site. It took a while for me to find the blogs that I check every day. I return to them time and time again because I find meaning that I can relate to because there are people somewhere creating those blogs that I connect with in some way, all the way across cyberspace. Some blogs are written by published authors, some are people still working to get there, some are people who love books, or art and some are people who just have interesting things to say.

Thinking through and expressing my fears, questions and incremental accomplishments means I have to check in with myself regularly and reflect a lot. The wonderful conversational format of the blog allows me to share ideas with a wide variety of other people who are all somewhere on the continuum that I’m on in reading, writing and just life in general.

I regularly ask myself whether I can really afford the time it takes to blog and so far, the answer continues to be yes. It’s an investment, but the experience and the shared community have given me far more than it has cost.

My online dating and my blogging experiences ended up being far different than I what I expected, primarily because I went into them thinking I wanted one thing and I came to understand that what I wanted was something different.

Have you gone through the online dating experience? Do you blog today for the same reasons you did when you started blogging? Has blogging enriched your life?

Note: Our fabulous cyber friend Larramie from Seize a Daisy tagged me with a meme. If you are curious, my answers are in the post below.


The Writers' Group said...

You're starting a new work of fiction, right? Any chance you could write a memoir or thinly disguised novel about online dating? I LOVED this post. I want much more, all the details. The part about Scott thinking your photo was hideous and wanting to meet you anyway is beyond romantic. Any chance at all you could write that book?


Anonymous said...

I think that in a very short time you nailed the tone and feeling--and I suppose, reasoning--behind weblogs.

I only wish there were a better word invented instead of "blogging"


Patti said...

i love this story of how you met scott. i remember when online dating was for the oddest of our society, and now look at what it has grown to.

i started blogging as a joke with my son who had just left for college. then it morphed into keeping contact with him and my nephews. from there it changed into a place where i could flex my silliness. i always loved a comment from someone who laughed.

during the process i discovered my life was very different from most...that the stories i told seemed a bit unbelievable to most, but they were the truth, so the blog evolved into telling about the weirdness that was/is my life.

after a few years i started writing full time. husband and i even closed a successful business so that i might have the time to devote to writing (talking about base jumping!). and then i came to blogger to connect with other writers and those thinking about writing and those successful at writing...and also to share my life.

like everything else in my life my blogging has evolved. i love it and it IS valuable to me on so many levels.

i also love the new friends i have made. seriously...i love you guys.

Shauna Roberts said...

I started blogging because I kept hearing that editors nowadays want even brand-new fiction writers to have a Web presence in the form of a Web site and a blog.

Although I enjoy reading personal information on my friends' blogs, I wanted my own blog to deal strictly with writing in one way or another—grammar essays, book discussions, interviews, announcements of publications (too few so far!), etc. ( I did make an exception when I was tagged for the eight-things meme.)

The blogs I return to regularly also deal in some way with writing. Becoming a successful fiction writer is my highest priority right now, and I want to expand my universe of writer friends beyond the people I know in New Orleans.

Larramie said...

When the phrase, Seize a Daisy, popped into my head last July, everything simply fell into place. The blogs I read were interesting but not quite diverse enough and not always good news. And so I created a blog that would hopefully spark the imagination and put a smile on someones' face, if only for a few minutes. And, of course, the bottom line is that now my readers/visitors/friends are the ones who keep me smiling.

As for the Lisa/Scott love story...I always KNEW it was special and about two people who found each other by taking a leap of faith!

Lisa said...

Amy, I think there have been quite a few books written with the online dating aspect included already. My experience was so limited that I wouldn't really have a great basis, but Scott could write a book. He enjoyed online dating, just to meet people and to date and did it for at least six years. He described periods of time to me where he scheduled so many that he referred to it as Combat Dating.

There is a great podcast available on Writers Revealed (I have a link on my site) that's an interview Felicia C. Sullivan did with the author of I Love You, Let's Meet, a nonfiction book about online dating and I listened to it last night. It was fascinating.

Susan, every time I type the words blog or blogging, I think exactly the same thing. It sounds like some kind of disgusting biological function, like throwing up!

Patti, you're right about how the perception of online dating has changed and if you see my note to Amy and you can listen to that podcast, they address that aspect. In the early days I think it was thought of as a haven for perverts! Now it's the haven for perverts and everybody else.

I haven't been online as long as you have, but I think blogging has been similar for the two of us. I have been utterly amazed at how attached I feel to some of my cyber friends, even though we've never met or spoken. I miss people when they aren't around, am happy when good things happen and worry about them when they seem a little fragile.

Shauna, I'm really glad you brought up the importance/emphasis on web presence for writers. That is definitely a factor for many people and it's interesting to see how each writer (and you're one of the published ones already) structures her site and uses the forum. I'm vaguely conscious of the fact that one day I'll be looking for an agent and that anything/everything I put out here will be available for anyone to see so, but I haven't yet thought about it much in terms of how/if it would impact me in the future if I were to be published. I definitely enjoy the focus you have on your blog and I you're on my daily rounds.

Larramie, I may have told you this before, but Seize a Daisy ties right into your meme revelation about being a fairy godmother. Seize a Daisy is the place I know I can always go to find something uplifting and in that respect, I think of you as a fairy godmother.

I am so glad I met Scott for more reasons than I could ever list and I have to say that if it weren't for online dating, our paths would never have crossed.

reality said...

You know I am not quite available. Today at least.

Great post and i loved how you connected on line dating to blogging. And you are one of the many whom i have had enjoyed meeting in the cyber world.

Lisa said...

Reality, I hope you have finished your travel for now and you're back at revising again. I am definitely glad to have made your acquaintance here in the cyber world too.

online dating said...

I think the choice really depends on the person. One part of me feels like I have to be the one to fish through emails and look at profiles and go on a online dating that I choose because no one knows me better than I do. But another part of me would prefer an expert to match me up with someone and possibly eliminate those people I will not connect with. Maybe someday I will try both to see which works better.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf