The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix: Or, a Road Map to Choosing Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Online dating is a challenge. As websites bombard you with supposedly viable matches and your inbox fills with messages and winks from men who think you’re “a cutie” or “reeeeeally cool,”  you think: it would be nice if there was a road map to help me weed out the guys I could walk arm in arm with from the ones I may need a restraining order against.

After months of scanning, surveying, replying, blocking, and first-dating, here it is, to your rescue:

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix.

(in the style of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix)

The Online Dating Approval Matrix -- Your Guide to Finding Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Unexpected Ironies of Online Dating

Sure there are some risks (you never know if he’s an axe murder), sure there are some stigmas (don’t only desperate people go on, but I confess, there are many things I find appealing about online dating.

In hiding behind our usernames, online dating grants us a certain amount of anonymity... or so I thought

I can curate my photos, highlight my humor, hide my flaws, and change my story to target my preferred flavor du jour: sugar daddy or kindred spirit, caretaker or one night stand, lover or soulmate. Besides the fact that I get  to handpick potential matches from an already narrowed pool of viable candidates, I broaden my search beyond my favorite haunts, my best friends, and my friends’ friends, all while keeping a certain degree of anonymity. After all, online daters hide behind usernames that in most cases, rarely reference any part of our real names.

I quickly learned, so much for anonymity… and so much for widening my dating horizons.

My profile had only been up for a few hours when an IM popped up in the corner of my screen: “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.”

It was an old friend who once , but who I had since lost touch with. We both agreed the 92% Match prediction was ridiculous — remember that one time we sorta went on a date? — and bid each other good luck. A week later, he was “in a relationship” with a girl he’d met on the site. I thought this boded well for my future in online dating. If he could find someone, surely, I could.

And then my stand partner in All-County orchestra, 3 guys I went to high school with, a former college floormate, a former college teammate, my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, and best of all, a former college TA had all appeared as high-rated matches and subsequently, all either checked in on my profile or messaged me.

In some cases, we recognized each other and lived to laugh about it, but then there’s my poor TA. We had been through more than a class together and one-on-one discussion sessions over coffee were probably more frequent than they should have been. It had been 2 years since I’d last seen him — we’d both had haircuts — and he didn’t realize it was me when he sent his “hey there.” When I replied with an “is this [insert name] here? How’s the dissertation going?” I could see him blush across the wi-fi.

I recently had my first internet-matched date with someone I’ve never previously met (a rare find, it seems, for me). On the screen, he read and looked good, though he used far too many exclamation points for a 30-something male. I had no proof he wasn’t an axe-murder besides his claim to be Canadian, but I was willing to take my chances. I survived, I’m still here and he wants a second date. Great! Now, if only I knew his real name.