June 30, 2014

Online Dating

So did you see the news regarding Facebook's social science experiment? I read about the story today, but I had heard about this research a couple week's ago. In fact, I remember when Facebook changed the way news feeds populated my page (in 2012). I was frustrated to find that my preference feed defaulted from "Recent Events" to "Top Stories." I never set my page to top stories -- I want to see my friends recent posts and not see top stories that are ranked by the number of "likes!" Agh! I was relieved when finally they fixed that issue (knowing now that it was done on purpose and not a bug in their software!!)

As a new social scientist, I am interested in experiments on social media. I can see why Facebook would want to know this information -- they had really good research questions -- I just don't agree with their method of collecting the data, their covert method, that is. No, I am held to a very high standard when it comes to human subject research. I had to get certified to administer surveys and interview people. The test took about 2.5 hours to complete and I learned all about transparency and the rules regarding working with human subjects. Facebook, IMHO, broke the scientific rules for this research. And, while they did no harm (rule #1), they didn't self-identify or ask for participants. Yep, that was the big rule breaker -- they did this research without letting their users opt-in or out of the study. A big no-no in social science research, so BOO to Facebook for being a big giant and research bully!


OK, so to the topic of this post. In keeping with the social science research theme (and no this doesn't have to do with my current proposal), I conducted a little experiment last week. I wanted to learn about online dating preferences, what men are looking for in women and vice versa. It wasn't that I was trolling for men, please know that, it was more a curiosity that built up until the point where I had to check things out. Let me explain...

The Process

As you may or may not know, I am in the process of finalizing my divorce. I have blogged about this ad nauseum so I won't go into the boring details -- just a brief recap only. My 30th wedding anniversary will be September 8, 2014. My husband and I lived in the same house for 27 years, and I have lived on my own or with my parents for almost three years now. We will be divorced in September. He moved on a long time ago, and started dating other women while we were still living together. He has had a girlfriend for at least a year, perhaps longer. I have remained singly-devoted to the Lord throughout this process, and for all intents and purposes, I have chosen this lifestyle for the rest of my life. I didn't plan on being divorced, and when it happened, I never thought I would want to remarry. God, however, has placed that desire in my heart, and so here I am, almost legally single, and thinking about how I would go about meeting such a person (aka, dating, etc.)

When I was at Regent in early June, several of my colleagues shared their stories with me. I was surprised to learn that so many had met their husbands online. Not news, really, it happens, I know. My cousin, for one, met his lovely wife through Christianmingle.com. They are blissfully happy, and they bear testimony to using online dating websites.

My brother is single and seriously looking for a girlfriend. He is not overtly Christian (he says he believes, but he believes other stuff too) so he is not looking for a religious girlfriend. He has used match.com and has gone out on a number of dates.

My good friend from UOPX has also used a number of websites, but has not met anyone at this point in time through those avenues. She shared a number of horror stories with me, and her testimony was enough to scare me away from online dating forever.

You might be wondering what prompted me to want to research online dating and dating preferences? Well, between this background information and my mother's insistent suggestion that I consider signing up for one of these sites, I decided I would find out this information on my own. So I did.

Oh, yes, I should mention this point too. My brother told me that all the women he profiled on match.com were looking for men who were tall (he is only 5'8"). He had specific preferences in mind for the ladies he was profiling (I shall not go there at this point) as well. So there...

My Method

I asked permission from the Lord if I could check these sites out. I knew already that this is not how I would meet the person the Lord has in mind for me (if there is one). I didn't think that this forum would be a good fit for me, and it turned out that I was correct. EW!

I signed up with eharmony.com first, but because I am honest, I was disqualified immediately. I answered "no" to the question "are you single?" Ha! Truth be told, I am not single yet.

I then looked at christianmingle.com and their signup was not as black/white, so I was able to go through the profiling process and I got to spend 1 day online before I was rejected (LOL!) by their customer care team (for not being single!)

It is hard to be unethical, you know. I felt guilty the whole time I was on this website. I had no intention of contacting anyone, and I knew that once I had read some profiles, etc., I would delete my profile. LOL! Christianmingle.com did it for me -- PTL!

The Research Question

R1. What characteristics are Christian men, aged 45-55, looking for in a Christian woman?

To find out this answer, I filled out my profile, took the personality quiz, the color quiz (all very interesting), and looked at my "matches."

I set some parameters so that I wouldn't have to wade through hundreds of potential profiles. I chose a 100 mile radius from Phoenix. I think I ended up with 25 total.

My preferences for the man of my dreams (LOL!):
  1. Height: 6' 0
  2. Frame: average
  3. Religious preference: evangelical, non-denominational
  4. Attends church weekly: yes
  5. Drinks: never to occassionally
  6. Smokes: no
  7. Ethnicity: caucasian
  8. Education: some college

I think that was it. I wanted to be general as much as possible.

Once the pictures came up, I realized that the matching algorithm was not as accurate as it should because I got a lot of men who were over 60 and of another ethnicity than mine (not that I care that much, it was just a test).

Findings

I read the profiles on all of these men and this is what I found out:

Christian men on dating sites say that they want a wife (yes, that is good to know) and not a girlfriend. They say that they want this woman to be: (1) a Christian (of varying levels of commitment); (2) fun; (3) athletic; (4) not self-centered (no head games). This sounds pretty OK considering that there are variations on what it means to be a Christian and all.

If you read deeper in their profile, these are the things that I noticed that are more subtle:
  1. Age - they prefer women who are 10-15 years younger then themselves
  2. Features - they want women who are physically fit, slender with a washboard physic (that says they lift weights)
  3. Most important characteristic - they want to have fun, a good time, good laughs, and someone to do things with (activities like working out)
  4. Least desired characteristics - Godliness, holiness, purity, spiritual maturity
  5. Words they don't say but mean - I want a woman who will devote herself to my well-being, to making me happy, to looking after my needs
  6. Length of time these men used the site - anywhere from 1-4 years*
* this might not be accurate because these men could have walked away from their profile or found someone through another avenue

Yes, I know you what are thinking -- small sample population, skewed perspective. I agree -- the results are not conclusive and they are definitely viewed through my lens (fractured and broken).

The Real Reason Behind This Research

Here is the kicker in all of this research. The real reason why I went looking for this information was to understand what it is like for men and women, Christian men and women, to date (after being married once) in this digital age. Consider my perspective for a moment...

I met my husband at church. I was 19 and he was 23. We married two years later.

For me, if I were to go out on a date, it would be the first time I went out with someone other than my husband or family/friend in over 32 years. Scary thought right there. This doesn't even touch on the fact that dating is expensive (got that story from my brother who is spending $100 a pop to take these ladies out for the evening). I am a cheapskate, I guess. I look at "dating" and I simply run and hide my head. I am so not willing to blow good money on dates! UGH!

I think the thing that shocked me (well not really because I get that being spiritual is not a key characteristic for many people who say they are "Christian") was that so many of these men wanted a wife who "called herself a Christian," but didn't actually walk as a Christian. And, I have to add a caveat to this statement -- I did read a couple profiles where the man said he wanted the woman to walk the walk (good for him!)

I actually read one profile where the guy, a good looking guy by the way, said that he didn't want to have any long conversations with a girl because talking wasn't his thing. Yeah, I thought, so how long have you been hanging around looking for "Miss Right?" Perhaps you should reconsider the "no talking deeply" rule to see if you get more matches! LOL!

Results and Discussion

I guess my overall take on this approach, online dating and such, is that it does work for some people. Like I said, I know several very happy couples who met their "match" using one of these websites. For me, I totally agree with the Lord's view on my dating (to wait), and on online dating,  specifically (no).  It is not for me. My personality doesn't lend itself well to this forum.

As an INTJ personality, most people look at me and assume that I am super serious all the time. Then they consider my education and profession (doctoral student and professor). Oh!! Smacks of fun, don't you think? And, truthfully, my hobbies don't help change that perception (playing cello, going to art museums, and learning foreign language).  Most people, therefore, only see me as this 'egg head' girl with thick glasses! (LOL!)

What they don't know about me is that I happen to like a lot of things, I just don't always do them. For example:
  • I love to fish. I don't eat the little buggers, but I love to catch them. 
  • I love baseball games, especially minor league games.
  • I love hockey!
  • I love football, college is best, but I actually do watch pro games during the season.
  • I love tractor pulls and county fairs.
If I had to choose a vacation destination, I would be torn between the mountains and the beach. I love them both equally. My idea of fun -- is spending time with people I like. I like to hang out, which can be watching movies on TV or at a theater or building things (I do love home projects like painting, wallpapering, crafty stuff, and any time I can use a hammer or drill!) or shopping at Home Depot or just doing nothing at all.

I also am pretty lazy, so I love to sit at home or on a front porch (Oh, some day, I want a front porch!) and just enjoy "sitting awhile." I also like cooking and baking (especially baking). I like BBQing. 

But -- with all that said -- once you factor in school work and teaching -- my life appears to be pretty boring. I do like fun. In fact, I love to laugh and I love to have a good time. I just also like to have quiet time, and I like to engage in very deep, thoughtful, and intelligent conversations, especially about the Bible, God, theology, etc. So while this college professor appears to be scholarly and very serious -- she is pretty complex and diverse in her interests. I believe that every relationship has to have a healthy mix, you know, a good mix of seriousness and fun, otherwise what you have left is a SUPERFICIAL relationship, predicated on outward experiences only.

What really matters to me?

I am all about God-honoring behavior, and living out the Word in every day situations. I am not perfect, by no means, and I don't expect any man I date to be perfect -- but I do expect him to seek the Lord in every area of his life. I expect it, and I would hope that any man who calls himself a born again Christian would understand that no woman will complete that part of him that can only be completed by the Lord Jesus Christ! I am not going to fill up any hole in a man's heart. I am not going to be his self-worth or his identity because those are things that I am not equipped or designed to do. No, those things and everything else that deals with our spiritual state, welfare, and maturity rightly belong to the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, if God does decide to bring me a man, then I would hope that he will be his own person. I want someone who knows himself well (like I do -- the good, the bad and the ugly).  I want someone who is over himself -- doesn't think he is special or great in his own right -- but who is only good because of God's goodness. Yep, head games shouldn't even factor into things.  Personal physical attraction is still a factor because you have to "like" the person you are dating, but it is not the most important thing in the long run.

To me, reputation, Godly image, humility, and grace -- these are the things that matter most because they demonstrate a changed life forged by a deep relationship with Jesus. Then trust, loyalty, and commitment follow which are the out workings of that changed relationship. Lastly, attitude is important to me because a willingness to recognize failure as part of life, and to understand that success comes through hard work and diligence, demonstrate a measure of faithfulness to ones goals, to other people, and most importantly, to God.

What about success, education, power?

A successful man is someone who knows himself well and who lives a right and upstanding life. I have always believed that a man can empty garbage cans with God-honoring integrity just as much as a man can sit behind a Fortune 500 office desk. Integrity knows no financial or educational boundaries -- it is born within a person and it is demonstrated -- through his commitment and honor to God, to his family and to others.

Conclusion

I think when it comes right down to it, the only person I will meet, should there be someone out there, is someone the Lord brings to me. I didn't even mention the creepiness I felt viewing people online, reading their profiles, and their "wish lists" for the perfect wife (yuck!) No, I pray the Lord brings to me whomever He chooses because that way I have the assurance to know that I can be myself and that I don't have to pretend to be anything other than the person God has created me to be.

Besides, what man would want me, considering how much I talk (and blog), the nature of all the things I say and do, and the depth of my writing and interests. I intimidate most men and some women -- I have been told that I exude confidence and strength. In my view then, the only person who could handle living with me would be a pretty special guy -- a guy who was particularly selected and who was chosen by the Lord Himself (:o).

So ends the online dating experience. Interesting results, and a not-so-enjoyable, process collecting and analyzing the data. Enough said...

Dear Lord,

Thank you for letting me learn about online dating through this mini-experiment. I did learn a lot from the process, mostly that online dating is not for everyone. I thank you for your word to me, and for your will in my life. I trust you completely, and I believe that if you decide to bring someone into my life, you will orchestrate the details of that meeting (time, place, and manner). I know that while I may be out of practice (dating), one this is for certain, and that is that I know how to have a relationship with people, in general. I know how to be a friend, and I know what it means to be a wife. I pray that you will cover me completely as I pursue my doctoral studies, begin teaching this fall, and continue to learn more about your expressed will for my life. I look to your hand of blessing, and for your provision over every area of my life. You are my God, and in You I look up and wait. Thank you, Lord for all you do for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen. So be it, thy will be done! Selah!

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