December 2, 2014 8:47 PM

In the past year I've been "experimenting" intermittently with online dating. I put funny quotes around it because nothing really has happened, besides me futzing with my profile and wasting a lot of time. I was full-force with OKCupid for a moment, and then not, and then again; they really know how to jab that data-lizard clicky-looky region of your brain. After a while I got sick of it, and moved on to the eminently superficial Tinder. It was somewhat more satisfying in its self-designed dumbness and game factor -- swipe, swipe, swipe, you could do it all day. You begin to believe that it's possible to make effective one-second judgements on people based on a tiny, probably blurry photo -- not in their worthiness or character, but in their potential to be someone you would actually hang out with. And I think it's true, a lot about someone can be understood from the way they dress, stand, where they took the photo, "go crazy", "hang with wild animals", etc. Most folks are painfully without self-awareness of the square-photo/hopeful-text data packet we reduce ourselves to. I found myself judging people not only on their sense of fashion and photographic styling, but on what I percieve to be their awareness of that frame (so much for being superficial...).

Both the Tinder and OKCupid eventually lead to an experiential flatline, an infinitely dark, glossy-eyed ennui. You will get bored with it, and close your account. Most folks remain silent, even if you're matched by the service's parameters. (I'm sure women have totally different stories -- a lot of gender politics being played out here, obviously.) I've tried a straight face; I've contorted myself beyond recognition; lots of words; no words. It's like dressing up in front of a one-way mirror, over and over -- sort of fun, but a bit besides the point in this case. I've concluded most people I'm interested in are too much in conflict with the system, and are too exhausted by it to respond. You could push harder, but it still would produce nothing. The systems are too loosely coupled for any kind of predictability.

I did manage to meet one person through OKCupid. Her name was Choo. She was tall, Chinese, generally amicable, doing undisclosable biotech work, and a musician. She seemed interesting, and while I had no immediate romantic interest, I thought it would be cool to hang out again. Never heard back from her. The online dating mystery didn't deepen, it just grew outward, with equal paper-thin shallowness.

Though it seems contradictory, I still keep my accounts active. I've made my profiles into slapstick messes -- pathetically rendered in Arial and even pixel dimensions -- hoping it will disrupt the viewer for the necessary second to nudge them into making a move. I try not to waste too much time looking, or at least waste it when and where I want to waste it. I don't watch much TV, so I figure I can allocate those useless mumbly-brain-chatter cycles to that.

Over time I've managed to eck out a somewhat compact call-to-action; or, at least however close one can get to such a thing on a dating profile:

OKCupid just might be the world's most popular self-disruptive process piece, a brutalistic human-shaped rorschach-like coffin, airless and without clocks or cardinal directions, within which we're expected to demonstrate our own reanimation. It's extremely uncool to talk about -- that's part of its brutalism -- but it's real, and we're in it and doing it, and I would actually like to talk about it, actually. This system is caustic and normative and false and I can only prove that I'm not what it is by getting the fuck off it. I can't blame you if you're skeptical, or too depleted, or find this preface obnoxious, but a paradox can't prove itself within itself, after all. Actual beginnings are possible, but only out there.

If nothing else, it reminds me to try harder in the physical world, and in places and moments where my efforts matter and produce recognizable results.

-- Jan. 12, 2014: I went on another date, turned it off. It was a surprisingly good-natured time, but has resulted in no further meetings. Presently have no desire to ever turn it on again, no longer interested in martyrdom.