Recently I was asked to take part in a documentary about online dating. Not that I am an expert in the field of online dating, but the shows researcher had read some of my previous blogs and had decided that I was experienced enough within the realm of dysfunctional relationships to be a prime candidate to be sat wild eyed and confused in front of a television camera, and that once there, I was a sure bet to then let my mouth runaway with me.
When I had the initial telephone interview with the production company I must admit I was little dubious because I thought 'you want to make a documentary about online dating and you don't even know how to Skype?' But then when I really thought about it, nobody's online presence is a true depiction of their physical self anyway, so I guess the production company didn't give a damn what I looked like, as long as I gave good (talking) head.
The researcher on the other end of the telephone line said 'So Daniel, tell me all you know about online dating?' Which sent me into this weird head space of believing that I was actually an expert on all things that go on between a strangers finger and keyboard. 'But I thought you were going to ask me a series of questions and I just had to give you funny answers?' 'No, we really need you to talk about your experience of online dating and how it has affected your relationships, both physically and emotionally'.
I have no great recollection of what I said within the next hour long conversation, except to say that I made about 50% up, 40% was about friends and the secrets they have told me never to share with any other living soul, and the other 10% was discussing those 'Uniform Only' websites in which people pretend they are firemen, nurses and policeman but who actually work part time in a fancy dress shop or have access to the onesie department in Primark.
My actual experience of online dating is limited but I'd imagine it's very useful if you've been barred from every pub or nightclub in the land. I also think it's very handy if you're a prostitute, a pensioner or a pervert, and if you happen to be all three then bingo, you've hit the jackpot without ever having to remove your underwear; but as far as I'm concerned, my experience of online dating has only ever moved from the living room to the bedroom if I've picked up my laptop and taken it to bed with me.
Online dating is like a takeaway menu for the chronically obese ( and I don't mean to offend with that statement because there is most probably an online dating site for the 'chronically obese'). What I mean is that the choice and possibilities are endless. You could have Asian on a Monday, 'Suited & Booted' on a Tuesday, Naughty Nurses on a Wednesday and 'Big and Buxom' by Thursday. The Internet offers too much choice and therefore takes away the comfort of the reliable. At least if you go down to your local pub you know by the time you've had 10 pints of Guinness and a pack of 'Nobbys Nuts' you'll be able to go home and get naked with the same person you do every weekend when you're wide eyed and legless. Online dating takes away that very special moment of having someone spill their kebab down your bra on the drunken bus ride home. It also takes away that extra special walk of shame on a Sunday morning when your eyeliners smudged and you've got holes in your tights.
I have looked at online sites before but that was mostly if I was doing background checks on people I wanted to date or was preparing to blackmail. The thing is, no one tells the truth online. If they say they are 40, you can bet they are 53. If they are say they are a 'company director' it's a sure sign they are unemployed and if they say they are a 6ft 3" model called Brenda? I'll bet my life they are a 5ft 11" builder called Brian. You should never believe anything you read in an online profile. Inches are added where there are only centimetres, hair is added where there is only toupee tape and £ signs are added where there are only pennies.
Where precautions need to be taken in 'real life' dating, caution needs to be exercised when you're trying to get your rocks off online.
Every single one of us is guilty of exercising extreme vanity when choosing our profile picture on Facebook so imagine the amount of posing, plucking and airbrushing that is used if you're trying to find your next person to mate with, marry, murder or mutilate online? The Internet is a dangerous place, and not only for kids who lack parental control and who should really be sat upstairs doing their homework.
I have no advice when it comes to dating online. I don't even do my grocery shopping online because I like to personally squeeze my plums and manhandle my grapefruits before I put anything in my basket and take it to the checkout. I'm all about checking 'sell by' and 'use before' dates and with online dating and online grocery shopping, you can never be too sure that what looks ripe and appetising online, isn't actually over ripe and vomit inducing once laid out bare in front of you on your kitchen table.
I think it's safe to say that there is a huge divide between gay and straight online dating sites too. If you give a gay man a phone or a laptop he's going to try and have / find sex on it or with it. If you give a straight woman Internet access she's going to try and buy shoes with it and if you give a straight man anything he can put in his hand and download images on then he's going to try and watch porn on it.
The only real advice I can give is this, what looks gorgeous and Grecian online could turn out to be grotesque and Godzilla like in the flesh. What seems exotic and expensive online is probably cheap and nasty when it turns up at your door at 3.30am, and what promises to take you 'on the ride of your life' in it's online profile, is probably on his way over to you on a number 53 bus.
Remember, unless it's standing stark naked in front of you, it's probably coming up behind you, and if you found it on the Internet, you never know what you may be getting or where the hell it's going.Online shopping is fine but if you insist on online dating, always remember to keep your receipts and remember the return policy, If it doesn't look like a thing like it's profile picture, you mustn't let it in.