My internal drives in these pursuits were indeed complicated. I had been a technologist, so I was immediately fascinated by the messiness of the online dating landscape. It was almost inconceivable to me: No consumer protection, no organization, and no reviews. The whole space was fraught with risk and peril. I wanted to understand it, wanted to solve it. I wanted to offer a new kind of dating advice using technology.
So, Now What?
I had also been married up until somewhat recently (before starting DatePerfect) and I missed having a strong, loving, and consistent connection in my life. I yearned for it but found myself overwhelmed by all the dating sites and, more than that, by all the people. There were too many choices. Beyond the desire for intimacy and connection, I also just had a really strong libido. But I felt especially skeptical of the sites geared toward casual connections, as they felt particularly sketchy.
Now, I’m sure people have sold their homes and leveraged their life savings for worse things. *sigh* In retrospect, this endeavor certainly falls into the “bad idea category.” In the months to come, these what-have-I-done moments would start to creep up on me in financing conversations, where I floated above the reality, watching it unfold. The classic, and sometimes terror-filled, self-funded-entrepreneur's dilemma. Genius and gambler both start with the letter “g.” Fears of becoming the latter are forever present.
Dating Advice from a... Dating Expert?
One of the first indicators that I was in over my head was when that journalists started asking me for quotes on dating advice... as a "dating expert." Seriously! I started DatePerfect because I was bad at dating, not because I was particularly good at it. And I wanted to solve my own problems. As I saw them, my problems were that I was a little lonely and a lot horny.
What was the solution? Well, I've always liked tech. I liked building things. And I was inspired when a lot of people said they liked the idea I has and that it would help them, too. But none of this, in my opinion, spelled “dating expert.”
Who Can You Trust?
There was something else about the industry the felt eerily familiar and I wanted to surface it. It felt predatory? targeting this vulnerable core within all of us that so often yields to irrational decisions. Perhaps the core is a drive to find a partner or partners; the idea of wanting to be needed, wanting to be loved; needing to be desired; a basic desire to have children; the desire to fill an emptiness left by pain, trauma, or loss; or maybe the pure unadulterated pleasure of sex and human closeness. Whatever the drive, all of these have the potential to unsteady our balance and dismantle our rationality.
It seemed to me that many of the sites I looked at focused directly on that soft, human spot, on that primal vulnerability. Of course, most people know that mainstream marketing off Madison Avenue has been using Sex and Love to subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly sell all sorts of products. But as I began to see, those were proxies for something else. The dating industry was untethered and needed no proxy. It was, and is, in and of itself selling the promise of sex, love, and belonging. People will do some crazy stuff to satisfy that sort of unfulfilled longing. I certainly have, and perhaps I was about to do so again.
Click here to read the next installment: Obsession akin to Insanity