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love at first click?
trial, error and internet dating
by margot carmichael lester
pop culture

Online dating's pretty damn popular in our wired world. It's convenient and there's a large "draft pool" of available talent. But the virtuosity throws a kink in the scouting process.

In the corporeal world, we encounter our prospect face to face, making a decision to pursue or not on appearance and biochemistry. If we like what we see and feel, we approach, make an offer and see what happens. It's a pretty simple evaluation process.

In the VIRTUAL world, however, we meet backwards. And that's where the trouble starts. Developing a virtual crush is easier than developing a crack addiction. Before you know it, you can find yourself falling in love at first click with an e-penpal.

It happens because online you establish compatibility early. He seems funny enough. She's intellectually stimulating. We can assess those "important intangibles" without being blinded by beauty or poor personal hygiene.

It’s dangerously easy to begin imagining this person as our ideal -- because on all the "important stuff" we seem to match up perfectly. Expectations become unbelievably high -- how could this person NOT knock us on our asses when we finally meet? It's a sure thing there'll be all kinds of sparky fuego happening.

And then we DO meet. And, and, NOTHING.

We don't know what IT is, but whatever IT is, IT's not there. There's not even a spark or a whisper of a chance. It's clear this person's not the one -- despite our earlier convictions.

Sometimes there just isn't a physical spark -- maybe because s/he doesn't look at all like the picture in the ad. Other times, the dream date is done in by small yet odious personal habits -- that bandanna around his leg à la Lover Boy or her propensity for chewing with her mouth open. It's enough to turn us off no matter how much we’d initially been turned on.

It's really tricky because despite what we're told all our lives, apparently, what really counts isn't brains or humor or even looks. No, it's some crazy intangible, indefinable amalgam of stimuli that "they" call chemistry -- that je ne sais quois that separates love and other lies.

No matter how perfect someone is physically, spiritually, emotionally or intellectually, if the chemistry isn't just right it goes nowhere -- FAST.
Getting the mix right is as random and confusing as being in a lab with beakers full of chemicals and mixing stuff up and hoping you don't blow the place to kingdom fucking come.

We've all heard the stories of innocent lab experiments gone awry. Some of us have DATED them.

Still, try to take heart. Even great scientists like EINSTEIN goofed. SOMEtimes no matter how carefully we mix and measure, something goes awry and we end up with a toxic cocktail. But other times, and these are the ones we live for -- EUREKA! -- we create just the delicious little concoction we were shooting for.


Margot’s a content strategist and freelance journalist. She consults with and/or writes for businesses large and small, and new and traditional media. She’s also the author of four books, including Be a Better Writer: Power Tools for Young Writers -- co-written with her husband, Steve Peha -- won the 2007 Independent Publishers Association gold medal for teen/young-adult nonfiction. She is currently working on two additional titles in the Better Writer Series, one for college students and another for corporate employees. A Southern belle and sex symbol for the intelligentsia, she was born, raised and still lives in Orange County, N.C.

more about margot carmichael lester


another friday night in hollywood
under the stars. way under.
by margot carmichael lester
topic: pop culture
published: 6.17.03


matt morin
4.21.03 @ 10:56a

Margot, you should read my column about Match.com and my column about HurryDate. I talk about the "it" factor of chemistry in there, too.

jael mchenry
4.21.03 @ 11:02a

"Sparky fuego." Awesome.

And I can say from experience that you're dead-on with this. Language is a serious aphrodisiac. Also key: you can edit your words to death in Email, so some people are at their best in writing. In person, not so much.

margot lester
4.21.03 @ 11:31a

i'm telling you, it's a tricky business, this online dating. but more people are doing it every day, so.....

personally, i've only met one person online who actually lived up ot the hype and possessed the necessary chemistry.

p.s. sparky fuego is my signature phrase! it's kind of the updated version of court and spark, and i don't mean joni mitchell's great record!

russ carr
4.21.03 @ 1:35p

Oh, been there, done that. Carried on o'er much a decade ago, long before AIM and Yahoo Messenger.

And you're totally smack dead on regarding the speed issue. Broadband smiting. It's dangerous.

margot lester
4.21.03 @ 1:36p

"broadband smiting". i love that!

robert melos
4.21.03 @ 9:37p

I once had customers who told me they met on-line. After looking at the two of them, I decided I'd only meet the right guy by not dating anyone I met on-line.

matt morin
4.21.03 @ 9:48p

I know a half dozen couples who met online and two of those couples are married. It can work, you just have to approach it differently like Margot points out.

robert melos
4.22.03 @ 12:10a

Margot makes a good point here with the fact there is a chemistry that just doesn't transcend the net. Even if you get a photo of the person, that doesn't always assist in the final *snap* or *zing*. I think I'd rather rely on face to face meetings instead of those living hell moments brought to me by date.com or whatever.com.

steven goldman
4.22.03 @ 4:28p

My experience has been that the best dates/relationships that have come from online have had a SHORT email courtship (just enough to banter back and forth a little, get an idea of the person's tastes/sense of humor, see a photo, then just meet up for a damn drink. If you spend too much time emailing, you're giving your imagination too much time to invent. If you mix those initial words/images/impressions with a great time having drinks/dinner/etc., then you'll be less let down if there's no spark and wonderfully surprised when there is. (My last solid first date revolved around baking 600 cookies for a theater benefit, BTW.)

margot lester
4.22.03 @ 4:52p

that's why i have the three-email rule, my man. some of my best friends in LA are guys i met online but, alas, with whom i had no fuego. i think online dating's most efficacious purpose is meeting new people and getting to know a new town.

douglas jones
4.24.03 @ 4:24p

This is a waste of time and effort. I'm a touchy-feely kind of guy. In fact I dedicated my book [#1] to all the people who arrived on this earth as touchers and givers.

mike julianelle
4.25.03 @ 10:52a

Just keep your touchy-feelies away from me, Sarge.

robert melos
4.26.03 @ 1:57a

Well Margot, thanks to you and Matt and even Mike Julianelle, I've ventured forth into the web of internet dating. As a gay man I've already discovered most of the replies to my ad were from married guys looking to cheat on their wives. (Note. Men are pigs.) Also I'm wondering is it polite to asnwer a reply to my ad by telling the perspective Romeo he doesn't stand a chance in Hell with me, or probably with anyone else if his reply has an offer to split the cost of a hotel room in it?

Sorry, I was thinking of advice columns for a moment. And I'll take touchy feely, if I know they've washed their hands first.


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