Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Information Overload

Hopeful 7 Hopeless 2

Well, I survived my first day on Plenty of Fish. In some ways it was a lot more arduous than I thought and in other ways much easier. I thought I would take some time to digest the experience before writing about here.

So my friend Étienne prepared me well in some ways for what I was getting into. However, he didn't tell me anything useful about the Profile Creation part. He just had a word of advice: "Don't try too hard." Well, I think in his book I probably did! I spent pretty much the entire morning making my blog entry here and then creating my profile. The first page of information is brief and is just basic account information: what do you want your password to be? what is your e-mail address? etc. That was fine. On to the second page, I noticed a little red asterisk that says "required field". So I figured I had a glitch on my page because I didn't see any of those asterisks anywhere. I thought, "How could everything be optional?" That's when I realized: Nothing was optional! Everything was obligatory. Oh darn.

Filling out the form was thus more or less problematic. Sadly, they didn't leave the "prefer not to say" option in most boxes. Some of the boxes had rather inflexible answers too, especially when it came to "what you're looking for". Well what if I'm looking to date and hopefully a relationship and best case scenario a long term relationship? They wouldn’t take three answers, only one, so I picked "a relationship" because I figured it was the best one. It might weed out the people who weren't all that serious about dating. I had no problem filling out other boxes like Pet: cat. Entering my postal code was another matter. I am slightly paranoid about the information that I post on the Internet. So I finally decided that to feel a bit safer, I would enter my old postal code. I also chose to create the profile under my pseudonym. I have decided that I will tell any keepers my real name later. (This is the same policy I have in this blog for my friends: I am using alternate names to protect their privacy).

Then after all these little nit-picky details about yourself, you have to write a self-description. I would like to think I know myself pretty well, but it’s still not the easiest task to describe oneself. It is tricky to be brief, yet representative and not come off like a creep or a snob or something. I detest bragging about myself, so the idea of "selling myself" as my friend Natalie put it, was uncomfortable. This is where I took the most time (possibly too much time according to Étienne). But yes, Étienne, I did have to think about it. It did have to be somewhat strategic. I strove, however, to make it honest and give people a good idea of what I'm like and what makes me me. Then I checked what I came up with by asking Mom. When she came out will all the same points to describe me, I thought I did all right.

To anyone reading me, to give you a good idea of how I appear to others on the Plenty of Fish world or simply to let you know me a bit better (after all, I am supposed to be opening up in this blog!), I'm going to include my self-description from my profile: I am an undergraduate student in languages. Being a student is an important part of who I am because I love to learn. I am most interested in history, culture and languages. I was named after Beethoven’s F
ür Elise and grew up with an appreciation for classical music, though my taste now includes a variety of styles. I play the piano and violin and enjoy singing. I have a creative personality which comes through most when I write. I have retained some of my childhood imagination and ability to see magic in the world. In relationships, I am loyal, respectful, supportive, thoughtful and a good listener. Although in my profile it says I am Catholic, I am open to meeting people from different religious backgrounds. 

I had one last stop before the big Create my Profile button. First date. First date? What on earth do they mean by this? "Optional". OH YAY! Something I don't actually have to fill in! Wait, they say I get a better response if I fill this out. Damn. So what would I like to do on a first date? The answer came quite quickly: coffee. It’s safe. It’s low-pressure. It’s casual. I do coffee. Well, tea rather, but I don't think it's cool yet to "go for tea" with the amount of coffee addicts in this world. That's the other great thing about going for coffee. They can get their coffee or their mocha or whatever it is they drink and I can have my tea (or hot chocolate if I'm having a craving). People don't judge you too much on what you drink and they can't judge you on etiquette because there is no cutlery or chewing involved!

I clicked on the Create my Profile button. It wouldn't let me continue. "You forgot to indicate"... your height. Not fair. It was such a big help to be online and chatting with Natalie through this process. I have no idea why they require me to tell them that I'm short. I've been teased my entire life about being short. Here I had to put it in writing. I grumbled. It stopped me a second time for something else I'd forgotten to fill out. So this time, I checked that all the fields were filled out before I submitted it again. Natalie said, "Take a deep breath!"

Then I wrote, "Mais ce n'est pas fini!" This was never-ending! They wanted a photo. I balked. I said, "No way." I mean, what on earth was the point of describing yourself, saying what your hair colour and eye colour are if they are going to tell you "You must upload a picture"! In fact, they are very specific about this photo: it has to be one of you (unlike my facebook picture 99% of the time), one that shows a full view of your face (no profile shots or such). Then they encourage you to "add up to 8 photos". I don't even want to upload one! That's when you read that it isn't actually obligatory. However, under the guise of being helpful, they explain the same breath that you are really very unlikely to get anyone on your profile or contacting you if you do NOT upload a photo. I nearly gave up. This was pushing beyond my comfort zone for sure. The rest of the profile process may have been somewhat uncomfortable, but I was a good sport about it. This was a sticking point. If I stopped, though, my entire project would stop. I wasn't ready to give that up. I figured that with the pseudonym and the wrong postal code, I should be safe enough to post an actual picture. So I took a deep breath and I submitted it.

I got put through to the next step. Yes, next step. It was not over yet. It was a 73 question questionnaire, their Personality Relationship Chemistry Predictor test. I groaned. Natalie said, "That sounds very scientific!" She has such a great sense of humour; it really cheered me up. I was painstakingly answering these questions with answers like "disagree, somewhat disagree, somewhat agree and agree" (which is so specific, by the way) and all of a sudden there was a small window popping up in my face. It was a chat request. I hadn't even officially completed my profile yet and I was getting a chat request. The little window wants to you say Yes or No. That was a question I wasn't answering! I just ignored it. So I muddled through everything from, "Do you get angry easily?" to "Would your ideal vacation be on a tropical island?" (usefulness?). Finally, I was done.

It took me a few minutes to orient myself on the site. In fact, I did that the rest of the day too. I found where my profile was and made sure everything was right. They give pretty much name, rank and serial number at the top. That is, username, non-smoker, undisclosed body type (YAY! one I didn't have to fill out!), 23 year old Catholic, Caucasian Libra with brown hair, completed some university & etc. The "Caucasian Libra" still makes me laugh. What a strange combination: ethnicity with astrological sign. Anyhow, then there's your picture or pictures. Afterwards it's all the other small questions, like whether or not you own a car, have kids, etc. Then your self-description and ideal first date appear at the bottom.

By this time, though, I noticed I already had 5 new messages. I had scarce been on there 2 minutes and I was already being bombarded with messages and chat requests! I was on serious information overload; I felt rather overwhelmed, a feeling that persisted most of the day. I read the first message, from the creator of Plenty of Fish. He gave a couple of "helpful hints". Meanwhile, these people seem to have it down to a science. He claimed that on average, it's the 7th date that is "your match". It's incredible how they try to bring mathematic precision to almost all aspects of the site. So the first legitimate message said, "Pick me" and enclosed a picture. This was not particularly impressive. The next one, however, was creepy: "Hello, How are you Today? I believe your the most beautiful girl in the world .You looks like my dream girl to me what else should i say to ask you out on our first date? I really like you so much and i am interested in you and i would love to date you. would you like to go for dinner drinks and play pool. Thanks......" I began to understand that though Plenty of Fish supposedly blocks the copy-paste function to avoid this kind of thing, people manage to send out generic messages to any profile they like anyways. How could I possibly be the most interesting girl, his "dream girl" when he has only read my profile? Next was "Hey, hru?" Learn to spell! Okay, so I'm not that harsh. I like that it was non-invasive. Yet it doesn't help me be super interested in writing back. So you have to check out their profile and see if you might possibly have something in common and write them back or not. Fifth message was more personal. It could have been generic, because, though he claimed to have seen my profile, he didn't comment on anything specific. He introduced himself, though, explaining that he was new to Montreal and exactly what he was looking for. That was an improvement.

I received three more messages before I decided to take a break and go have lunch. When I came back, I read what Plenty of Fish had to say about my personality. I was not particularly impressed. The messages continued pouring in all day. If you keep that tab open on your internet and you go on and sift through profiles, yours is more readily seen by others. It was too much at once for me, so I decided simply to observe for the day. I wanted to figure out how the system works and settle in before doing anything. By the end of the day, I had 30 messages. You really get all kinds: one-liners, sarcastic remarks/jokes, generic messages, overenthusiastic messages, ambiguous messages, slightly creepy messages, one-night stand requests (that is the polite way of putting it; I found the box to tick to block those messages), etc. You have to be prepared for anything. I was more or less prepared, but I adapted well. I was also intrigued at the amount of French messages I got, given that it is an English service. I did make my profile bilingual to be francophone-friendly and was amazed at how many I got back in French! 

The experience left me a bit flustered. I am not used to receiving attention from guys. A few of these messages were rather sincere and sweet. Apparently I did something right when I wrote my profile, because some people really responded to it. They were interested in my playing a musical instrument or they liked my openness... It was kind of flattering. I can see how this site could become vastly addictive. I am going to have to be careful not to get hooked (no pun intended). I have only dipped my toe in today. I feel like the actual terrifying part is yet to come! I have to sift through those messages and decide which ones to answer today.

Wish me luck!

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