Patterns and Stereotypes

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Once you’ve been checking out online dating profiles for awhile, a scary trend emerges: you think you start seeing patterns. Maybe most of the people who tend to like a certain book also tend to like a certain movie, or have certain political beliefs. Maybe most of the people with wild-colored hair and glasses also tend to like a certain graphic novel. Even more strangely, sometimes those people even sound a little bit alike.

The first time it happens, you double check to make sure you’re not seeing a literal copy-and-paste profile, but nope, they’re just very similar. And at that point, you’re in danger of heading down a slippery slope: stereotypes.

In online dating, the one danger is that you could start to think of people in terms of numbers, “types,” profiles, typos - anything but an actual person with unique characteristics. Because the truth is, even if two people share all the same interests, there’s no guarantee that they have remotely the same personality. How many of us have run into someone we should be fast friends with based on interests, but absolutely can’t stand? Now imagine that everyone is judging you based on your hobby-doppelganger.

Now, there’s a difference between characteristics that aren’t healthy for you and stereotyping someone. For example, imagine Kate isn’t having any luck with relationships. She analyzes her former flames and decides that the problem is that the majority were alternative-type men with tattoos. Next time, she decides, she’ll avoid men with tattoos.

In reality, the body ink was not the problem or the true common link; the lack of commitment and sheer arrogance was. And the next man Kate dates, the suave businessman who golfs and sneers at everyone, is no different.

In stereotyping, we’re looking at a set of outer characteristics and deciding we already know everything we need to; it doesn’t usually have anything to do with the actual personality. If you receive random, anonymous hateful messages, they’re probably from someone who’s been doing some stereotyping themselves, with toxic results.

The obvious problem with stereotyping is that it can cause you to skim rather than read properly. You could become jaded and feel like you’ve “seen it all,” and maybe it’ll make the profile searching faster - but who knows what you might be missing out on? When you sit down to peruse profiles, even if it’s your 1000th, remember: you’re not trying to rush through your homework. You’re searching to find and meet a human being who seems fun, interesting and maybe even compatible.