Lonely on Valentine's? Perhaps it's time to try internet dating

It's still often seen as a last resort - we don’t like associating with people whom we consider being in some way faulty or rejected by others

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The Independent Online

It’s my belief that Valentine’s Day should only come around every four years, like the Olympics or the World Cup.

Failing that, we should be allowed a year off – like when Glastonbury takes a break to let the grass regrow.

Every (single) year, Valentine’s Day creeps up and singletons the world over are forced to make a choice. We can hang our heads in shame, buy a ready meal and down a bottle of Pinot Grigio, or we can keep our peckers up and stick it to the (non-existent) man.

After seeing me suffer the ready meal/Pinot combo a couple of years ago, my housemates decided to sign me up to MySingleFriend.com. For those not in the know, MSF is a dating website which invites concerned friends to set up a dating profile for their lonely mates.

Unfortunately for my excitable friends, I’m incredibly suspicious of internet dating, a suspicion which manifests itself in two major worries. Worry number one: what if I go on a date with a murderer? Worry number two: what if I go on a date with a dull nobody? Murderers I could handle. My mum has always told me to wear my ‘running-away-shoes’ on first dates. Dull nobodies were a far greater concern.

There’s still a stigma attached to internet dating, the same stigma that comes with speed-dating and living with your parents when you’re 30. Internet dating is often a last resort and shameful though it is, we don’t like associating with people whom we consider being in some way faulty or rejected by others. Worse still, we dread ending up in the same category as those we’ve rejected.

It was a fear I recognised in myself, so I decided to challenge my own pre-conceptions and promptly bought one month’s membership for My Single Friend.

Giddy on wine and the thought of finding my future husband, my housemates brain-stormed phrases like ‘entertaining’, ‘charming’ and ‘works well in a team’ as they crafted my profile. We soon learned that, in the world of internet dating, the most innocuous sentence can have sexual undertones. ‘Works well as a team’ was swiftly removed.

The single friends are then invited to reply to their friend’s description. Most replies were variants on: ‘Oh, Joe…. I’ll pay you later mate, cheers’ or ‘SERIOUSLY Lucy, I can’t BELIEVE you’ve written me a profile!’, as the friend tried desperately to pretend they hadn’t been in on the game all along.

Choosing a man to message was as simple as browsing a menu, or deciding which dress to buy from ASOS. Better still, I could email more than one within the space of 10 minutes – infinitely more efficient than chatting up a boy in a bar, something I’m wont to spend an entire evening doing! On my first day I messaged about 15 men and went to bed cocky, confident I would wake up to 15 replies.

Regrettably, this was where my love affair with internet dating ended. I did get some replies and there was a definite thrill that came each time I received an email from a potential suitor. But I felt too detached from the men to generate any real passion or desire to meet them. The excitement of an email was nothing compared to the buzz that comes from meeting someone in person. I engaged in a number of email conversations, but nothing more.

I am, nonetheless, pleased I addressed my reservations. When used sensibly internet dating can be an effective tool to meet new people. It provides an environment for busy people to meet and I appreciated the honesty of the members, who were simply looking for companionship.

I’d follow my mother’s advice though, and I compel everyone to invest in a pair of running away shoes. Just in case.