Cat Pritchard 18 Oct And why wouldn't I I live in this beautiful city where I get to go for morning walks on the mountain, surf in Muizenberg when the Cape Doctor isn't making house calls or just relax in some postcard- perfect spot and read.
You have it all. You just have to open your eyes and heart to it. So why am I here? That's the part where you get 20 to 2 words to "sell" yourself, or at least the SABS-approved version you want to put forward.
It really is an exercise in sales, where miscalculating your value or the market's interest could cost you in receding hairlines and awkward dates. In my case my avatar was "surfyogi", the adventurous free spirit who is "already in love with life but open to new possibilities". Or so says her headline. Well travelled and adventurous, surfyogi is a thirtysomething girl who knows what she wants — "I like a passionate, adventurous man who has a great sense of humour" — but keeps herself open to new possibilities — "I am not sure I have an ideal man.
The men in my life keep on surprising and challenging me, and I like to keep it that way. And in return I hope you do the same for me. It's hard choosing just one angle for your entire life story. The book cover is a bit easier. The best profile photographs always cover the basics — sexy, sporty and slightly mysterious.
Surfing photos show physical ability and put you in a bikini, in Europe or at least Durban this also shows you travel. In hindsight, surfyogi might have thrown in a few more "sensitive" photos, pictures of her playing games with cute children or engaging with animals and nature, all firm favourites on the online dating circuit.
Of course, creating the persona and making a checklist of the ideal man was the fun part. What happened next was more difficult: It's akin to someone posting excerpts of your diary on Facebook only to hope you at least get some "likes". The South African online dating industry is much smaller than its international counterparts.
Cost is not really the key issue here. Most sites operate on a "freemium" basis, making it free for members to sign up and browse profiles until they want to contact and message someone, in which case a paid subscription comes into play. This varies between R80 and R a month depending on how many months you commit to. According to Statistic Brain, research provider to publications such as the New York Times and Forbes, a whopping million of the million single people in the US have tried online dating.
Matthew Pitt, operations director at WhiteLabelDating. Pitt puts our low numbers down to access, not interest or cost. South Africa has over 1 dating sites So you might be surprised to learn that there are more than 1 straight and gay sites operating in South Africa with names like elitesadating. Suddenly the chances of a jilted lover, ex-boss or old school friend seeing your profile become almost as good as meeting someone you might one day want to introduce to your Facebook friends.
This prospect can be daunting. That's why, when those first messages started rolling in for surfyogi, 12 in the first 24 hours to be exact, I had a sudden attack of the vulnerabilities. I didn't bargain for the attention or "hey baby" talk that came with it. It all made me feel like raw meat dangled in front of hungry prey.
So I did what any hunted animal would do. I hid where no one could find me — offline. I realise this was not a great option for someone who was actively searching for an online dating experience. But I was also somehow not yet convinced that I wanted to be inundated with people like Pete either. In the absence of a Jewish mother or an aunty network, this digital matchmaker works a charm, weighing your wants against their needs to drill down your compatibility to a percentage.
This is combined with weighting factors for each key parameter. You don't have to pick up the slack for someone else. He's your Pete, eager to flatter with his angel talk.
He obviously doesn't mind dating a stocky, chain-smoking agnostic with children on benefits. Using pictures to draw attention to you In her first week, surfyogi continued to swim through the spam in search of her winning sperm. She quickly learned that there is more science to cracking this system than people think. You learn to read the signs and pick up clues. It all hinges on the photos and the narrative.
This is one space where pictures speak a thousand words, most of which go unsaid. Smart profiles use the photo opportunity to show they have fun-loving friends so not a loser ; that they love the great outdoors cue man carrying a heavy stand-up paddle board into water and anything that allows you to pick up a heavy item or show your gym biceps is also a winner.
If one picture can do all three and show your sensitive side, you are either all of these things or a psych major. It's also good to show you have friends of the opposite sex, but don't do a bad photo crop on an ex-lover. We girls can tell. And don't think you can lie about your real height or age either.
We can size you up next to any common landmark we know the size of a standard doorway and know how to add on a few kilograms, wrinkles and years to your World Cup celebratory photos.
In turn, you better watch out for what we are hiding under a kaftan of euphemisms and Photoshop tools. Recent statistics coming out of the US seem to support this, adding "income" to their list of exaggerations for men and "physical build" for women. Maybe they switched those numbers around at the last minute for fear of American men coming across as too shallow. If you do believe the stats then the good news for any men pursuing the American dream or girl is that you will suddenly have twice as many pursuers as women when you turn Not sure that's a preference so much as a default setting.
No doubt they will end up hooking up with the 1. This is according to the rules of natural selection, which will beat an algorithm any day. Some people think online dating is a numbers game.
Back in , when the South African market was just starting to push through social and technological barriers, the industry would have been the size of an Aryan gene pool. Back in , online dating was still seen as taboo by many and the choice of sites available was limited to a handful of large generic sites. Since then, our partners have introduced a wide range of niche dating sites in South Africa, targeting people by age, location and interest, making it easier for our members to find like-minded people," says Pitt.
Specific online dating sites Niche sites get to the heart of the issue even in their URL: No further explanation needed. Ayear-old Cape Town-based creative type, "ar1" played the numbers game and won the love lottery. After nine months of chatting to almost people that turned into 30 dates, she finally came across a profile picture so bad that she thought the tall man behind it must have an exceptional sense of humour.
Turns out he did and two years later "ar1" and "Cape31" are engaged with a good story to tell at their high school reunion. The punch line is that they attended the same high school and music school, and he knew both her brothers yet they had never met.
But speak to any online dater and they will probably tell you that there are fewer Cape31s out there than Petes. And that's usually what people want to know about — the freaks, the weirdos and the oddballs. I have to remind myself that, to someone else's social circle, I could be Pete. I probably wear the wrong clothes, and don't say the right things.
Surf-yogi could have become a catch phrase for all kinds of weird. The actual stalkers do get filtered out, although not to the extent that they do in the US, where social security numbers and probably the National Security Agency provide greater barriers to entry than a loveLife condom. As it happens, Surfyogi's love story followed no line of scientific reasoning or online logic. She responded to one email, and in the next conversation met TeacherPlant after seven days on the site.
They chatted on the site for 10 days. The conversation flowed and flowed and eventually burst its banks. She wrote her usual stream of unconsciousness.
He kept his mails short and succinct. She made him talk. He made her laugh. She asked whether his profile picture was taken before or after the 28 gang in Polsmoor rejected him. He apologised for misspelling "throw" as "through". That was probably the clincher. They organised a date, somewhere public with clearly defined exit points.
They both secretly hoped for chemistry and feared reality. As Cupid would have it, there was no chemistry, even though they talked for hours. They walked away with slumped shoulders, sad to have lost that special connection. They stayed in touch. He popped round for coffee the next week. With the pressure off, something shifted. Their eyes met and they both looked away. There was chemistry, the kind that would see them through the next 10 months and counting. Surfyogi's first and only date turned out to be her last.
Their story still raises a few eyebrows and questions with old, established couples but, no doubt, if you tell any five-year-old when they come of dating age they will probably look at you with wonder and ask: