Online Dating, Restaurant Menus and… Chicken Curry?

Hmm Chicken Curry Sandiwch and Online Dating
Hmm Chicken Curry Sandiwch and Online Dating

Standing in line to order at Urth Caffé in Santa Monica, CA, I'm trying to decide what I would like for lunch. The menu options sound really good and the size of the crowd indicates it's a popular place. I can see the luscious desserts in the in the display case in front of me and I can smell and see the food orders being carried by the waiters to other patrons. Everything looks fresh and the portions fill the plate (I'm hungry!).

I'm torn between two items on the menu, so I ask  the staff what they recommend. I'm thinking an Urth Sandwich, “All Urth sandwiches are made on rustic bread, served with farm fresh, locally grown mixed greens salad and Urth balsamic vinaigrette.” The Chicken Curry Sandwich sounds good, “Rocky Junior natural chicken breast, raisins, onions, celery, in a curry sauce & mayo on bread,” or I can choose the Albacore Tuna Sandwich “celery, onion tomato, olive oil, vinegar & mayo on bread.” They suggest the Chicken Curry Sandwich.

I sit down at a table and wait for my order to arrive. People are smiling, laughing, talking and enjoying their meals. All my senses are telling me I'm going to have a great meal. It arrives and it looks just like I expected and tastes even better. I'm a happy camper!

I'm not sharing my lunch experience to endorse Urth Caffé, but to demonstrate the correlation with something many of us experience as single people, online dating.

Online dating sites are like a restaurant with an extensive menu. The profile descriptions are extremely important in making a choice on who you want to talk to let alone meet. How many times have you “ordered off the menu” only to be disappointed when you meet in person? Based on their profile description, photos, emails and voice (if you've spoken with them on the phone), you thought they would be different.

Seriously, how many times have you looked at a person's photos, exchange emails, talked on the phone and then met in person (in that order) to feel no attraction?

The obvious challenge with this menu is it's virtual. There's limited sensory information. You can't see them, you can't smell them (so important for females), you can't hear their voice and see the expressions that are connected (phone does not count), you can't taste them (a kiss is full of information), and there's no “wait staff” who has tested this “menu item” to ask questions if you're on the fence about your selection.

It's not only our limited sensory information, it's our subjective thinking that disappoints us. When we are looking at someone online, we are looking at one dimension. As humans, we operate in three dimensions. To compensate, we take the limited information we have and create this person in 3D using our imagination. Our imagination is responsible for “what we thought” they would be like.

You imagined you were ordering an Urth Caffé Chicken Curry Sandwich, but what arrives looks like a sandwich that had been wrapped in cellophane minutes beforehand from a refrigerated display case at 7-Eleven.

Okay, that's a bit extreme (unless you like sandwiches from 7-Eleven), but it proves my point. Online dating is only a menu built on subjective descriptions and your imagination. The sensory information gathered from sight, smell, taste, touch and sound are missing from the virtual world. Without theses senses, there's no possibility of an interaction. These senses are what is responsible for the unpredictable, almost magical, combustible feeling…chemistry.

Chemistry is that mutual attraction you can only feel when you are next to someone. It's when all your senses are saying I found my Chicken Curry Sandwich!

Seriously, how many times have you looked at a person's photos, exchange emails, talked on the phone and then met in person (in that order) to feel no attraction?

There's one more challenge with the online dating menu that I'd like to point out, the profile descriptions can be so specific that we bypass an option that could be really good for us. “I've never really liked tuna. (You've only had it the way your mom prepared it with relish and lots of mayonnaise) so I'm not going to even look at the Albacore Tuna Sandwich on the menu.” If you saw and tasted the Albacore Tuna Sandwich, you might really like it. Meaning if you met this person at your local coffee shop and not online, you'd take a second look because he wouldn't be labeled as “the tuna sandwich your mom made”. Think of all the people online that you didn't even give a second glance based on how they were “categorized”. The online dating experience is not only limited, but limiting.

Our senses are limited and our steps to meeting someone online are restricted to an unnatural order. Think of the order of how we meet someone online: photo, email, phone, in person. It's the inverse in nature. First you meet in person…if you like them, then you talk on the phone, email, text and then you share the baby photos!

Let's face it, online dating is the preferred menu of the 21st century. It fits our crazy 24/7 lifestyles. It's easy. You can scroll through countless profiles online in the convenience of your own home. Meeting someone in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe's or standing in line outside a food truck in Santa Monica takes a little more effort. Sure, there are those few who meet someone online that then hit it off in person…but that is not organic, that's luck. Meeting someone organically goes beyond ingredients, you get to taste the flavor.

Enough with food you say! Are you craving that Chicken Curry Sandwich?

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  1. I wish there were specials or Groupons to choose from on the dating menu! 🙂

    I love this article. My (coupled up) friends always ask me what I'm looking for in a woman. At this point, I've decided that if what we were looking for is always the right answer, then we'd all be coupled up. Now, I'll just tell 'em, "I'm trying new things. In fact, I think I'll have the sampler platter"

  2. Gentleman, I'm a big lover of tapas which is like a sampler platter. It's great to have lots of small plates with samples of different foods. However, getting just a small taste may not give you the full flavor. I love smores, I mean metaphors.

    My recent post Feeling Empty after a Breakup

  3. The online dating I guess is the enabler. Lords knows the technology has someway to go before it can beat that first human interaction. Something to keep the boffins up with late into the night.

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