In the interest of not being a downer during the holidays, I’m taking a short break from my series on divorce (never fear, I’ll resume in the dark days of January…). Instead, I’m going to tell you a little story about looking for love.
Back in my single days, I had always taken pride in ‘putting myself out there.’ I circulated at singles events, I used free and un-free online dating services, I chatted up cute guys at house parties, even threw in a little arm-touching at auspicious moments. I fancied myself a bit old-fashioned though, in that I rarely asked anyone out directly. I figured that it was my job to be friendly and interested in his attention, and it was his job to take a hint. If he wanted more, the official ask-out fell on his shoulders, if not, well…his loss. (Or so we comfort ourselves)
After all, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Rules, and the whole of the 1950s agreed with me—how wrong could I be?
Then, one innocuous day, I was talking with a friend’s husband about dating. (Not about dating each other, mind you…)
“So,” I began, “back in your single days, what was your lady-finding strategy?” He went a bit blank.
“Er, if I liked someone, then I tried to ask her out. If I didn’t like anyone…then I didn’t think about relationships? Is that a strategy?”
I was a bit dumb-founded. No, that is not a strategy! Did he really mean that he never went out of his way to look around? That in the absence of eye-catching material, he forgot that he would want a relationship if he met a compelling lady? Secretly, I was hoping that my friend’s husband suffered from some rare and troubling love-life-apathy condition. But, what if I was actually the weird one for trying? What if I was doing all this work to be “out there,” to be just subtle enough, just sexy enough, all for a bunch of lame dudes who were in romantic la-la land[i] and wouldn’t even appreciate my nuance? Blurg.
I was pondering this dating strategy recently, and I did some digging. Unfortunately (boo, hiss!), I WAS the weird one, by a landslide. The Pew Internet and American Life Project, an excellent, nationally representative, survey of American internet users, has published some hair-raising reports about today’s singles.
(While a sample of internet uses might seem an odd way to slice up the dating pool, it’s actually quite relevant, and I’ll tell you why. What you are reading right now is called a blog, and it is online. You, my friend, are an internet user! Congrats. You may not know this, but you are statistically really unlikely to date someone who has no online access at work or at home and who has barely seen the InterWeb. Just think…do you even know anyone like that under age 65? Right…they don’t know you either. Rest assured (or troubled) that a study of internet users is far more applicable to you than a study of all American singles.)
Back to the science. Pew’s 2006 Romance in America report estimates that there were 62.5 million single (internet-using) people in America. Of these single folks:
- 55% said they had NO active interest in seeking a romantic partner
- Only 16% of singles were frisky enough to describe themselves as actively looking for a partner
- 49% of these “active” folks had been on no more than 1 date in the last 3 months, and only 37% had used online dating sites
I had no idea that such minimal effort, and so few actual dates, were floating around out in Singledom. What does it all mean? On Friday, I’ll walk you through my analysis of my old dating strategy in light of this worrisome new intelligence.
Until then, join the discussion! Do you find it surprising that so few singles look for a relationship? Do you (or did you) make an effort when you’re single? Leave a comment and let us know!