Mr Right is not online

With her friends all paired up, internet dating seemed the perfect way to find love. But Pippa Wright soon learned ticking all the boxes is the worst possible way to choose a partner

I started internet dating a few years ago. I found that I rarely met single men in my day-to-day life. I work in book publishing, which is made up of about 80 per cent women, and most of my friends are married so my social life consists of going out to dinner with other couples. Internet dating seemed like a good idea; there's a huge cross- section of people out there and I had at least three friends who have married men they found on the internet, which was all quite encouraging.

I was absolutely petrified going on my first date. To be fair, it wasn't under the best circumstances. I was doing it because I thought I ought to get over somebody. Unfortunately the person I met was obviously in the exact same boat and I think neither of us was up for it. He'd just got divorced and I ended up counselling him and by the end of the date I was telling him that he wasn't really ready to meet someone new and that he should probably stay in for a while. He mainly talked about how much he missed his daughter. It was far more tragic than romantic. He was really nice but he was obviously there just because someone had told him to get back on the horse. I discovered that a lot of people throw themselves into it before they're ready.

I didn't give up, though, and looked for more dates. It takes up a lot of time and it can be quite soul-destroying so I tended to do it in bursts. I'd go on about 15 dates over the space of three months and then I'd take some time out and not do it for a while.

When you start, you think it's going to be such fun putting yourself out there, but every single person I know who has done internet dating has had the same experience: out of all the people you contact, not one of them will get back to you. Instead you will get invited out by 65-year-olds from Lincoln with whom you have nothing in common. You get a bit disheartened after you realise it's not quite what you were expecting. Although it seems like a massive pool to choose from, when it gets down to what kind of person you want to meet and who wants to meet you, there's never actually a vast amount of choice. Or at least there wasn't for me. Soon after starting, I was thinking that maybe I was being too picky, maybe the 65-year-old from Lincoln was the one I should be going for. It does have a way of making you doubt yourself.

The problem, I soon discovered, is that there's something inherently peculiar about picking the characteristics of the person you want to date, because in real life the people you end up with almost never tick all those boxes. With internet dating, you're encouraged to be very specific about what you want, but that means you're ignoring tons of people who might actually be perfect for you. Once, I met a random man in a bar who proceeded to chat me up. I thought he seemed familiar but I couldn't quite place him. It then dawned on me that he had rejected me on the dating site about two weeks previously. So on the internet he wasn't interested in me, but in real life, he was flirting with me. It's because the internet is actually a very strange way to decide what you think about a person.

Then there's all the dishonesty. Lots of people lie about their age, which is annoying but I suppose you can understand. But bizarrely, lots of men lie about their height as well, which makes no sense because as soon as you meet them they've been busted. It makes you wonder what else they're lying about. Using a very old photograph is another common thing, so when you meet them they look nothing like their picture. From my experience, if a man is wearing a hat in all his pictures, it usually means he's bald. It's not that I have a problem with how someone looks, but it suggests that they might.

I've got plenty of horror stories. I met somebody who, after exchanging a few emails, texted me just before we met up to say, "By the way, I'm only looking for casual sex so if you're not up for that let's not bother meeting", which was nice from a complete stranger. We never did meet up. Another man looked me in the eye on our first date and told me that he didn't really like internet dating because he found that he was much, much better looking than the women he encountered. Charming. I met up with a guy in a café in Primrose Hill (at his suggestion – I live in south London), and he went on and on about how much he hated social injustice and that being in a place like that made him want to take out a gun and shoot everyone. I guzzled my coffee and left as quickly as I could.

It wasn't all bad. I did have a couple of second dates and I've met plenty of nice people, but there was never anyone I had chemistry with. I can't honestly say that in all those years I met anyone who made my heart beat faster. I've given up now and instead ask my friends to set me up with their friends. That has been a much better experience because there's human involvement in pairing you off together as opposed to it being done by technology, which is flawed. In my new book, Unsuitable Men, the heroine has been with who she thought was the perfect man but he turned out to be all wrong. She realises what she thought was perfect actually isn't, so she starts to date people who are completely off-the-wall to see if she can learn something from that instead. Someone who may seem all wrong for you may actually be right. But the flaw in internet dating is that it doesn't allow you that.

I wouldn't tell someone never to try it, but I would warn people to approach it with caution. Treat it as a bit of fun and keep your expectations very low. Going on dates and sitting with strangers with whom you have absolutely nothing in common will make you realise how misleading the internet is in making you think you might have something in common with someone. Now I prefer to suss people out in person. It becomes a lot less strange to just speak to a complete stranger in a café or strike up a conversation with whoever in a bar after you've been on a date with someone who thought the Jews made too much of a fuss over the Holocaust.

Interview by Gillian Orr. Pippa Wright's novel, 'Unsuitable Men', is published by Pan Macmillan, £6.99

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent