I had dinner this weekend with a friend at Swingers, the cool coffee shop on Lincoln and Broadway. It was late-ish and the crowd was mostly hipsters who were post movie and pre-nightclub.

My buddy is a 30-year-old who’s still searching for a mate. We got to chatting about how to find someone in this giant pool of humanity that is always swirling with something or someone just a bit better. Or so we think.

As we talked about the tragedies and joys of online dating, and the latest apps for the phone that make finding someone for the night or for a lifetime, we compared notes on the difference between Tinder and Grindr.

Tinder is an application that allows people to see pictures of others and they can “Swipe” to approve or disapprove a match based on the slightest of information. It’s for straight men and women to scan through and pick a possible date. If both parties “OK” each other, Tinder will notify them both that a match was made and they can then take the next step in getting to meet each other.

Grindr, on the other hand, is the gay man’s version (Brenda is a version for lesbians) and it operates on the headshot principle as well, but it allows people to communicate directly without the intermediate wall of “do you both like each other.” I suppose that the wall is there for the women to feel safer.

The process of online dating is weird enough. Some people have great success, and others can’t seem to crack the code. I think I understand why some are good at it and others not. I believe it has to do with the marketing of one’s self in pictures and words. Bad pictures equal bad marketing. Bad write-ups are those that sound desperate or controlling.

I have clients who are post divorce and they come in to tell me of their great successes and how popular they are and all the great women they are meeting. I have other clients who, no matter what they do, can’t seem to get a date.

I think online dating is an interesting mirror of our society and I understand the frustration that many people feel with the online dating experience and the desire to blame how hard it is on “the media” or how superficial everyone here is, but is it really all that different from “real life?”

When I walk into a gay bar in West Hollywood, I look around, and I make judgments about who I find attractive and I’m sure that everyone else is doing the same. Out of 200 men in the room, I may find 20 attractive at first glance. They may have the right combination of body type, hairstyle and sparkle in the eyes that gets my attention and the other 180 are just not doing it for me.

When my buddy goes into a nightclub like The Room or V Lounge, he’s doing the same thing, just scanning the crowd for the ones that he thinks he likes. He’s making snap assessments of who is an acceptable date, based solely on how they present themselves before they open their mouth. We all do.

The thing that gets me about this stuff is how we are conditioned by the marketing and ad agencies about what we are “supposed to like” versus what is the reality of life today.

For straight men there’s the photoshopped, super-enhanced, starved within a cheeseburger of their life types that dominate TV and print as the standard to which their wives and girlfriends should be.

Most of the gay men represented on TV are super hot, super fit and super unattainable for a guy like me. So on the one hand they are great to look at, but on the other they’re not anywhere near what I’m going to actually bring home.

When I skip through the photos on an app and make my ratings it’s no different really than when I walk into a bar and decide who I want to meet. The thing that we all need to remember is that everyone else is doing the same thing. We are all making these snap determinations and need to remember that the online dating world is just a giant nightclub and we’re not being rejected any more or any less than we would be in person.

We just lack the ability, when we’re online, to overcome the rejection with a witty comment or an actual face-to-face that so often is the spark that leads to a greater relationship, which we can do in person.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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