Using the Internet to Pick up Babes and/or Hunks

by Philip Greenspun way in early 1997 and not maintained
Malibu, California.

"The thing to remember about love affairs," says Simone, "is that they are all like having raccoons in your chimney. ... We have raccoons sometimes in our chimney ... And once we tried to smoke them out. We lit a fire, knowing they were there, but we hoped that the smoke would cause them to scurry out the top and never come back. Instead, they caught on fire and came crashing down into our living room, all charred and in flames and running madly around until they dropped dead." Simone swallows some wine. "Love affairs are like that," she says. "They all are like that."

-- Lorrie Moore, in Birds of America
This Web site has been established for more than three years. That's about 1000 days. Let's say an average of 250,000 hits/day. That's 250 million hits. And I've yet to go out on a date with someone whom I met on the Internet. I suppose at this point you will decide that I'm in no position to offer advice to others. However, let me urge you to keep reading because I can at least offer negative examples.

Put a picture of yourself naked on your home page

Though I have a narcissistic photo album, there is really only one picture of myself that I like (at right). It turns out that I'm naked and so is my companion George. For much of 1994, this was the image on my home page. Back in 1994, you pretty much had to have a photo of yourself at top level and this was the only one I liked.

Email did start to trickle in. Some were thoughtful missives from women. It wasn't clear that they were interested in romance but at least they seemed interested in a conversation. Unfortunately, two factors were working against me. First, I was too busy with my existing friends to have deep conversations with strangers. Second, I got my current email address back in 1976 which is also about when I formed my composite image of the average Internet user. In 1976, the Internet was being used by computer programmers. Computer programmers do not tend to be especially attractive people. There weren't a whole lot of women on the Net in 1976 but I don't seem to remember them being any better looking than the guys. I may look like a wreck myself with my sagging flesh and fluorescent tan but after watching 97,000 hours of network television, I feel entitled to a life partner who looks like Christie Brinkley.

For every email message I got from a straight woman, there would be one message from a gay man. Reflecting the exquisite subtlety and sense for nuance that one can only acquire by being born an American male, these were more direct. Still, I was even less enthusiastic about these messages than I had been about those from women.

So I took the photo off my page and replaced it with a series of landscapes that was ever-changing until I ran out of energy and left a flower photo there for good. The email stopped. Nothing. Thousands of women would come to my home page every day and none of them felt the urge to send email anymore. I am beginning to think that having "I am a graduate student..." as the opening line is not such a great strategy.

Dave Siegel

Here is a guy who you'd think would be flooded with chicks. The guy has a domain named after himself, "". You know that's gotta be a great pickup line in a Palo Alto bar. Second, he has his own book, printed on real dead trees, about building "Killer Sites". Third, he describes himself as a "master of all trades and jack of none" and quotes readers of his site: "David, you are great!" This would fit right in with the midwestern researcher who sent male students out into singles bars with "arrogant" scripts and "confident" scripts. It turned out that women surveyed said they found arrogance a turnoff and wanted "confident." Yet when the, er, rubber hit the road, the "arrogant" script outsold the "confident" one by 3:1. Fourth, he announces, on his home page, to the entire Internet female community, that he is a vegetarian feminist concerned with poor people in developing countries. If nothing else, half the women in my town (the People's Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts) should be barking up his tree.

Yet the horrifying truth seems to be otherwise. For in his on-line biography Dave Siegel publicly appeals to the community:

"So if you are a nice Swiss girl looking for a green card, give me a call and we'll work something out. If you know any nice Swiss (or French or German) women, please tell them to come visit my web pages and send me a note. If you introduce me to my future wife, I'll make you the coolest web site you've ever seen, how's that?"
At first I thought "Of course, when you are so picky as to limit yourself to women from a country barely the size of a Texas shopping mall then I guess you should expect to be lonely." Then I read a little further and found that a French or German woman would be considered an acceptable substitute.

Someone really ought to fund Sherry Turkle to do some research at the Media Lab on why the women of the Internet aren't flooding Dave Siegel with email. I'm not sure, but I think maybe the problem is that, as of September 22, 1996 at least, he hadn't quite figured out how to put WIDTH and HEIGHT tags in his IMGs and therefore techno-savvy women are spurning him for having pages that load gratuitously slowly.

[Note: G. Beato has an alternative explanation.]

Sell Your Bad Memories Here.  Everett, Massachusetts

Sell Your Bad Memories Here.  Everett, Massachusetts

My friend Ira

Me at the Jewish nose research center.  Vancouver, British Columbia. His name isn't really Ira, though he is Jewish. I'm not sure that I've even met more than one Ira under the age of 50. Anyway, I'm not using his real name because it might cause one of us embarrassment and/or death. His home page, not to put too fine a point on it, sucked. He had a handful of technical papers and a picture of himself. "Ira" wouldn't like to hear me say this, but he is no Christie Brinkley when it comes to the appearance department. Traffic on his page reflected its quality. To a first approximation, he was getting 0% of my traffic. Yet some weeks Ira would get three email messages from women practically throwing themselves at him.

"My roommate and I are looking at your page and we think you'd be the perfect guy for us. If you're down here in Georgia, stop by." It was like a Penthouse Forum letter from 1978 and yet not untypical for Ira's email harvest of babes.

So I went over Ira's page with a fine-toothed comb. Aside from the fact that his page sucks and mine doesn't, the only real difference I could find is that where I have "I am a graduate student" he has "Ira B. Greenwald, MD, PhD". He says he thinks he'd get more email if he removed the PhD part...

My favorite e-mail exchange

A woman read my explanation of why I refunded my MIT students' tuition dollars and noticed that I was giving away my minivan.

She: "Thank you for the great site and good luck in future endeavors. Be cautious in giving away your things as it sounds a bit imbalanced."

Me: "Imbalanced? I earned about $20,000 last week doing software development. So the old minivan (book value of $11,000) represented 3 days' wages. I don't think of myself as especially generous... What would be more balanced would be less work!"

She: "you sound even more interesting than before. Are you married and how old are you?"

Text and pictures copyright 1990-1996 Philip Greenspun. The top photo appears in my Cayman islands travelogue but actually it was taken in Malibu, California.

Reader's Comments

Well, Phil, I just have one thing to say to about this subject, which is: Be careful what you wish for -- you just might get it!

Maybe your friend 'Ira' does get more unsolicited e-mail from women trying to pick him up, but have you ever wondered what kind of person sends an unsolicited e-mail to a member of the opposite sex because they think something on their web site makes them sexy? Lunatics, that's who! And sometimes desparate lunatics at that!

Now of course very nice people send unsolicited e-mail all the time but that's usually because they want to discuss the *content* of the web site, not because they want to have your baby just because you have an MD.

I should point out that I am speaking somewhat from experience. I won't go into the bloody details of all the pathological liars and other losers I had to deal with before I got smart and stopped dating people I met online, but believe me after hanging out on multi-line chat BBSes (yes, I'm old) for about six months and even just meeting people who I've had extensive e-mail correspondences with, I've come to the conclusion that using the Internet to pick up chicks and/or hunks is about as rewarding as trying to meet interesting people by being a prison pen pal.

So, count your blessings and figure that at least half of those who write to Ira saying he sounds like their perfect man are probably men pretending to be wo

-- Marie L. Hughes, February 11, 1998

I understand the frustrations of trying to use the internet as a dateing source but I would like the nay sayers to hear me out.

People are most likely to meet folks who share similar interests on the web. It's free and not as corney as community classes at local schools. I know several people who have met their spouses through the internet. All of them have very solid relationships because they got to know each other very well through good conversation.

There are just as many creeps and wierdos in real life places like bars.(It's just that in real life you can call the cops on them) Besides, perhaps those of us who WOULD find a man with a great web site, and a cool dog, and a fine mind attractive...are too shy to email and be told to bug off.

After all rejection sucks, especially if the guy/gal hasn't even seen you. Maybe the talented web folks who are looking should create a private page for woman(or men)to post to. That way the rejection would be to simply ignore the message and most of us can handle that fairly well.

-- Kirsten Dawn Dimmick, May 13, 1998

I've met someone on the 'net, and we've been very successful friends for over a year. I visit her, she visits me, and we meet in Cincinnati, in between. So, what to conclude? Okay, it's anecdotal, but what else COULD it be - the 'net is full of people, some of whom are going to be a lot of fun. Hard as it may be to find them, it's not impossible. Enjoy life, enjoy all that comes your way!


-- Will Simpson, February 17, 1999


I had to post a comment here because that damn soundtrack from "It's a small world. . . " is playing a loop in my head.

Summer, 1995. First saw (actually, just Travels with Samantha) from a friend's home in 's-Hertogenbosch, NL. Thought (like most) it was amazing. Flattened me. And I thought, man, what a lucky schmuck, to be able to take a trip like that, have all these pictures of beautiful women posted with the story, and then still have the audacity to complain about not meeting enough chicks on the internet.

Fall, 1996. First saw Eve Andersson's page while finishing up a CAD project in the lab at Cal Poly. Spent half the night fantasizing (Beautiful blond Caltech geek. . . ) Then realized CAD project must be finished and girlfriend taken to breakfast in 2 hours. Then thought, hey, you know who'd be perfect for Eve? (felt like I knew her on a first-name basis by then) Well, Phillip Greenspun, of course. (felt like I knew you on a first-name basis too, though for markedly different reasons) Philip's a profoundly smart not-too-ugly guy, and Eve seems to be a profoundly smart not-too-ugly (ha) gal. Perfect match.

Now, March 1999, I just read the update to this page, and could not believe my eyes. It really bowled me over. I did not make the stuff above up. This is probably interesting to just about nobody, so I won't blame you if you kill the post. Anyways, I wish you two the best. For purely personal reasons, cause if something goes wrong, I don't *ever* want to have to see a naked photo of Philip on the home page ever again.

-- Martin Ouimet, March 2, 1999

Most beautiful story i have read in years. You could be a great fiction writer too.

I wish and pray that your union remains stable and intact. In this fragile world people are using less brain than ever before. I dont know if the feelings will be affected by the net life..

I can go on and on but let me stop here and repeat my felicitations. Your meeting with her is Karmic and you are made for each other. Please fulfill your obligations of loving her. You both deserve that.

Please keep it up.

-- pk kapila, April 21, 1999

Philip wrote on this page:
>It has been three years since I established my Web site. That's
>about 1000 days. Let's say an average of 250,000 hits/day. That's
>250 million hits. And I've yet to go out on a date with someone whom
>I met on the Internet

If my guess is that you wrote that in 1997, and you did find love by Summer of 1998, is it now safe to say that you can find love online only after you've gotten at least 365 million hits? (adding an extra year and half of 250,000 hits/day to your above total)

Maybe David Siegel will finally find his true Swiss love when he gets enough hits...I wonder if he would have found her 3 years ago if he didn't have an "entry tunnel" on his sites...

-- Matthew Haughey, June 17, 1999


I'm going through a Greenspun phase it seems, my gosh you're everywhere. Despite my great hopes of truth perceived in the words of our most glorious minds, both scientific and spiritual, it is alas that they scream to us to get up off our knees and walk with the righteous dignity of the human and not an animal. It still has alot to do IMHO in the ability to produce, this is status. I suppose it'll take a while to buck nature to provide for everyone so as we don't have to go on fightin' and a feudin'. Sometimes it's nice to spread your feathers just the same.

-- tim sherwood, August 3, 1999

I stumbled upon this web site while looking for info on HTML and had to read to the very end - I got hooked!! I was actually laughing out loud in the office - getting some very odd looks.

Just wanted to add a comment. I met my husband, just over a year ago, on the internet. We chatted for a week or so, then met up in person. We hit it off instantly and the rest, as they say, is history...

-- Dani McE, August 3, 1999

In Search of the "Ira" mystique

(note: This was originally posted Feb '99) Well, by god, I'm going to blantently flaunt my arrogance and see if Phil's comments about 3:1 ratio in favor of arrogance works. Let this be a test case, for the good of all mankind.

Women, please visit my site, named after me (and coincidentally after a famous designer with the same name...), where you can find glamorous photos of said website owner.

I have written no dead trees book, preferring to save the poor things and keep the book all in my head, where it consumes only the energy I must use to live. Even a website takes too much energy!

Not only have people and various luminaries sent me email saying, "David, you are great!", they also throw in, "David, you also have mega-style! And you are my hero! Form a cult and I'll join!"

As far as causes go, not only am I a vegetarian feminist concerned with poor people in developing countries, I also knit socks for for those poor people, and advise them on investing in emerging internet stocks!

I'm remarkable! Important! I know someone who works in Hollywood! I work hard! But I'm not that great! I never wait in lines! You'll never fully know me! People call me Mr. Cause because I have so many! People can't get enough of me! I have so many MD's I can't legally list them!

But please, you may not want to visit my site, as it could be dangerous. You might fall desperately in love with me.


David Carson

(ok I hope you have a sense of humor)

-- David Carson, August 26, 1999

Report back on "Ira mystique"

<sob story> Ah, David Carson here commenting on my "test" to see if the arrogance 3:1 ratio is indeed the Indiana Jones forbidden secret to score chicks (see above post). Sadly, I report that exactly one, yes, ONE, "chick" has emailed me through the above post. Her summarized comments, "I liked your post! You're funny! I'm not hitting on you!"

From this I, wearied researcher, must come to the inescapable, painful conclusion that arrogance doesn't score the hotties. Perhaps I must fine tune the arrogance, or cleverly mask it. Ah, hell, Ira must have good pheromones, gobs of cash, or the mystical Indiana Jones Babe Decoder Ring. </sob story>

Signing off,

David Carson

-- David Carson, August 26, 1999
Hmmm. Well, I'm looking for a Babe and/or intelligent partner, and I haven't found any through the internet. Maybe this is because I've put pictures of myself online or something... ;)

I've got this little website that surely gets at least 20 hits per day. My ex-girlfriend found out about a girl I took out to the California State Fair via my website. Then she called me up and yelled at me for it. Somehow I get the feeling she thought we'd be getting back together soon or something.

So if I do my own math, I guess I figure about 9 out of 10 females that visit my site don't choose me as a potential mate. Why? Am I really that Ugly? I should hope not.

My only question is, what's up with that other 1 female out of ten? Maybe I don't choose her?

Oh! I get it, maybe it's my avante-garde position on sex which is just a bit unpalatable to the American mind? I guess I just don't know. Rumour has it Taiwan is an interesting place to meet 'chicks.' Maybe I'll try that out next year.

But seriously, I highly suspect that as the years wear on, the internet, web, whatever will become a better and better place for meeting someone, although the long-distance relationship thing would be a big pain.

Final note: Eve and Philip! What an odd yet cool outcome to a bizarre set of stories. I think I wandered across Eve's pi page about 6 years ago. Then Philip's page about 1.5 years ago. And now this? Quality attracts quality, I guess. Best of luck to the two of you! YES!

Philo Vivero
Image: ZoeAndPhiloPortrait-2.jpg

-- Philo Vivero, September 23, 1999

<quote> I may look like a wreck myself with my sagging flesh and fluorescent tan but after watching 97,000 hours of network television, I feel entitled to a life partner who looks like Christie Brinkley. </quote>

I would like to commend you on your realization of this. Many men (read many unattractive men, and we mean FAR more unattractive than you) seem to be of the opinion that every woman in the world should look like Christie Brinkley, just for them, because they deserve this. I believe its because of playboy - playboy takes what they call "the most beautiful women in the world" and airbrushes the crap out of them because they simply aren't beautiful enough for joe blow to jack off over. I prefer hustler, its far more honest.

And I must say that George, and Alex are two of the lovliest creatures ever. I am expecting my samoyed baby in a month. I wonder if he will pick up any men for me. Or even women!

-- beth fleischer, January 3, 2000

Speaking as a netter (since 1993, before I cruised this page I felt like a pseudo-veteran, now I realize I'm just out of short pants) who managed to marry a fellow netter, I think some advice for the male gender (you females don't need any advice, at least, none that I can give you) would be this: Go on IRC and elsewhere and find out how many of your gender behave. Then, do the exact opposite. In addition, it doesn't hurt to plot. My story: On my profile in ICQ, I put down that I had three cats, because I figured I would seem like a nice, harmless guy. My wife-to-be messaged me in random chat because... I said I had three cats and was therefore probably a nice harmless guy.

We've been married over a year now. Plotting works.



-- Brian Wilson, January 5, 2000

Poor graduate students are not the only ones to have difficulty attracting mates. From David Buss's _The Evolution of Desire_:

"The importance of resources to attraction is not limited to Western cultures. Among the Siriono of eastern Bolivia, one man who was a particularly unsuccessful hunter and had lost several wives to men who were better hunters suffered a loss of status within the group. The anthropologist A. R. Holmberg began hunting with this man, gave him game that others were told he had killed, and taught him the art of killing game with a shotgun. Eventually, as a result of the man's increased hunting prowess, he 'was enjoying the highest status, had acquired several new sex partners, and was insulting others, instead of being insulted by them.'" (pg. 101)

-- Christopher Rasch, January 31, 2000

Life is funny sometimes, no?

After getting on Siegel's case in part because of his silly "entry tunnel" idea, you find that Eve gets her own domain name and effectively uses the same technique. See it here

-- Witold Chrabaszcz, February 12, 2000

All I have to say is wow. I've been perfectly happy in my non-Internet dating world for a long time, but I've often daydreamed about meeting an attractive person on the Internet for 5 years now. Maintaining "real" websites (and arguably niftier than yours, Greenspun... sometimes I think you live in the 1996 era Internet! hee... but I digress) it's not like I have the time or desire to venture into Geocities or ICQ chat sessions. So how does one meet a like-minded yet attractive female on the Internet? I say it's a one in a million shot-in-the-dark and Greenspun hit the jackpot. Personally I want Eve for myself and I'm much more attractive than Philip is, so I've going to bookmark her page and watch for the breakup. Er... um... I mean, best wishes to you guys!

-- Benjamin Lunsford, February 22, 2000
A (according to Eve Andersson) 1995 Business Week article about personal webpages on the net begins by discussing Eve's webpage, then transitions right into talking about Philip Greenspun's. Of all the millions of home pages to pick from... Amazing coincidence, fate, or after-the-fact doctoring? Lord only knows...

-- David Eison, February 29, 2000
I also ran across Eve's page a few years back when I took her on-line pi trivia quiz as a high school student and got the highest score among all my friends (thanks to Petr Beckmann and Martin Gardner). Eve's comprehensive, no, exhaustive pi fandom won her a link from my old web page; I am truly only an apprentice pi enthusiast in comparison.

I agree that this has been an impressive year or so for bumping into Phil Greenspun on-line in every single conceivable connection (friends I haven't heard from in several months call me up: "Hey, you should move back to the East Coast so you can try to work for Phil Greenspun!"), so here's only the most recent instance. Phil, Eve, you folks are cool.

-- Seth Schoen, July 20, 2000

In case all the other comments saying the same thing haven't sunk in yet; you're beautiful, and that photo of you nekkid with your dog proves you know it. Take a look around you and tell me you haven't already found love. You don't deserve a wife who looks like so-and-so-supermodel, you want a wife who makes you feel like you think a guy married to so-and-so-supermodel feels. 'True' love and a wonderful marriage take a metric f*load of work, but it's the toughest job you'll ever love. Ok, that sounds silly.. just remember your mate is your best friend, don't waste your time on any other approach. Best Friend. I mean it.

-- tigger tenango, December 21, 2000
duh.. i didn't read closely enough.. looks like you figured it out. :)

-- tigger tenango, December 21, 2000
I think that internet dating whether we like it or not will continue to be an ever greater part of the courtship process. I would not be surprised if one day our brains are hooked up to a server 24 hours a day. So singles should probably build a skill set to succeed with people online. This article may help with that Besides having a skill set I think one should approach online dating with a healthy dose of skepticism and objectivity. People are likely putting up the best pictures of themselves and one may be disappointed once a real life meeting takes place. I like the way the new web is working (I think they call it web 2.0 or 3.0 or something). Social bookmarking and ratings are helping those on the internet get the gems from the trash. Maybe the rating system will be more applied to singles as well. I think the process of meeting people online will get more efficient in the future but the quality of the people will remain the same.

-- Niffims Cat, May 3, 2007
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