A few days ago, I stumbled across a website with a seemingly altruistic idea: A place where online daters can go on to warn others about the jerks and liars they’ve encountered through dating sites.
It’s worth pointing out that this is not the first start-up of its kind. There have been numerous attempts to launch these helpful dating “review” sites, including Opinity, TrueDater, DontDateHimGirl.com, and Cheaterville (the last one is not online dating specific but uses the same busting-up-the-bad-guys idea). So far, none of these services have registered any real success or have already been taken down. In fact, DontDateHimGirl.com only grew to prominence after two lawsuits revealed that the service was perpetuating false claims and destroying innocent reputations — first, a girl posted false rape charges about a male friend as a “prank,” and second, a straight, disease-free lawyer discovered he’d been tagged as gay and spreading herpes.
The logistical and legal issues involved in running these services has proven to be a substantial undertaking. It’s hard to attract a sufficient volume of reviews for consumer use, and avoid the pranksters and vengeful exes looking to unfairly crucifying people in a public forum.
It’s nice that the newest round of ReviewMyDate folks are concerned about singles, but from a practical perspective, the idea is still all kinds of misguided.
Let’s examine what’s most likely going to go wrong (Again):
1) Evaluations in the arena of romance are usually about as subjective as it gets. While having a stranger tell you about themselves may be pretty unreliable, having *another* total stranger tell you about that person isn’t much better. There’s a high likelihood that posters will write just because they got burned by a date, and either embellish or straight up concoct stories to get revenge.
2) Even if a date did go badly, there are usually two sides to every story.
More than a few times I’ve heard two people describe the same date, with their versions of the “horror” as he/she saw it. The transgressions often start with something petty in nature, and then escalate as the tale gets told — She was late, he was obnoxious, nobody had a good time, the weekend was ruined, I think I’ll tell everyone he’s impotent, etc etc. The problem is, we rarely take into account the things we might have done wrong, or how we may have precipitated an obnoxious incident.
The Internet is already full of people complaining about others (take, for example, this post!), and maybe instead of encouraging more anonymous judgment in the mix, we should just… Get over it. He lied about his height by 4″? She lied about her age by 5 years. Her picture was from college? He has an ex-wife and 3 kids conveniently left out of the conversation. Such is life online.
3) The issues of real concern should be reported to (and acquired from) a better source than anonymous 3rd party reviews.
Let’s talk the big three dating downers: Someone is married, a felon, or is carrying an antibiotic-can’t-fix-it-type STD. Ok, any STD, really.
While for the time being we’re on our own for #3, people can usually find if someone is married or a wanted felon through public records. Background checks aren’t perfect, but they’re probably more reliable than a commercial site with forum-style accusations. By the same token, anyone who encounters a date who is definably criminal shouldn’t put their story up on a random website — they should inform the hosting service and/or the authorities.
If the date just went wrong in a personal but not prosecutable way, and a dater really wants to warn the world about Mr. Creepy-Jerkfaced-BadMan anyway, perhaps they should buy a billboard in the town of origin. Or, create a website with the perpetrators name and information. Either will probably get more views than a pay-for-access start-up site.
4) I have to just put it out there — Sometimes when things do go horribly wrong, there is an explanation. The guy who ran out in the middle of the date maybe had explosive tummy troubles, and was too embarrassed to call again. The woman who stood you up might have just lost a family member, or heck, found out she was pregnant at that morning’s gyno visit. Sure, these are few and far between, but don’t we have some ideal about letting a bunch of guilty go free rather than publicly humiliating one innocent?
All and all, this whole industry is reaching a critically annoying mass.
Online services already add numerous obstacles to the romantic process: Before even hearing another person’s voice, people must build some eye-catching, interesting-but-not-too-out-there profile and answer oddly personal and/or oddly irrelevant questions in a public forum. Then, they get to compete with/wade through hundreds of questionably accurate profiles to find that interesting but non-psychotic prospect who might be okay in person. Then, they get to write an emails, hope the person answers, bat around some small talk and try to gently transition to another round of “Find the Baggage.” All the while wondering, of course, what the heck to do with “winks.”
If people do find a potential prospect online, it still leaves phone calls, coffee-versus-dinner concerns, potential no-shows and for the lucky ones, finally that “Wow, this was so much less awkward online” first date.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
With sites proposing to help “share” and “warn” people about all the evil online villains, daters get to worry that if a first date goes poorly, there’s a misunderstanding, or perhaps they simply weren’t feeling it and don’t want to meet someone again, it might lead to retaliation and permanent online blacklisting.
Thanks, but I’d rather buy a puppy and die a spinster. I’m going to go hug my boyfriend now.