I tried online dating for a long time.
It was my "little secret" in its early days of 2010.
I justified online dating in my head by saying, "If you're fishing and you fish with a bigger net, you're likely to catch more fish, right?"
What was sorely needed at that time was someone to respond with, "Yeah, but if the quality of those fish suffers with a larger net, then it's probably best to use a small one."
I remember sneaking on OkCupid late at night in my room — out of the sight of roommates and friends — browsing potential lady friends, messaging a few and hoping to hear back.
The biggest problem was the fact I hardly ever heard back.
This was difficult for me to deal with.
I've never been a particularly suave dude, and the only way I've usually dated women is by getting to know them.
I think I've had maybe five one-night-stands in my 26 years, which by some accounts is an astoundingly low number.
Of course, at 21, I had no idea that most of these women were receiving hoards of messages from guys much, much more aggressive.
Years later, I heard some horror stories that made me realize men online are just as bad as men in person, if not worse.
They are simply protected by the facade of the computer screen, and they have an actual physical distance from their — for lack of a better word — prey.
Once I had lived in OkCupid land for some time, I started to land a few dates here and there.
The problem was, though, I often felt lied to when I actually met these women in person.
They often were much more different-looking than their online photos had led me to believe.
As I'm a pretty honest person, I felt this was sneaky and sh*tty.
To this day, I have never been on a second date with a woman from OkCupid.
I will say, though, that getting those first few dates became slightly addictive.
I soon had accounts on PlentyOfFish and eHarmony.
I was going on one or two new dates a week, but I still barely liked and connected with these women.
I never cared enough to go on a second date.
I was meeting women the old-fashioned way, too.
I was dating them for a few weeks or months at a time in between these online obsessions.
Those dates also usually ended up in one of us getting bored, tired or just plain annoyed with the other.
Then, along came Tinder.
Talk about genius.
Take the stigma attached to online dating and virtually erase it because hey, now you don't have to even go on a computer to potentially date someone you've never met.
At first, I remember Tinder being similar to OkCupid in terms of its "clientele."
But within a few months, the app had exploded.
At schools like Florida State, the swipes were virtually endless.
Tinder added a whole new element of excitement and fun to "the chase."
This is where solely online platforms fell short.
I found myself going on multiple dates a week, hooking up with women and even starting to like some of them.
But of course, like all the rest of my virtually induced endeavors, these pseudo-relationships always fell short.
Despite how easily addicted we can become to instant gratification apps and the prospect of increasing the size of our fishing nets, I guess the stark reality is this: You can't force love.
This is exactly how you can't force friendship.
You can't force talent.
You can't force a business to grow, if people don't organically like the product.
In this case, the business is relationships, and the product is love.
After four years of online dating, I finally closed all my accounts when I asked my current girlfriend — whom I met in person — to go steady.
(Yes, I used the words "go steady" when I asked her; call me old-fashioned.)
This was four months ago.
Is it any surprise that none of those online relationships ever worked out? No.
They also didn't ruin my life.
In fact, if I hadn't had all that extra practice talking, wooing and dating, who knows?
Maybe I wouldn't have been able to impress my current lady early on.
Maybe I would have failed horribly.
Maybe, if I hadn't used online dating, I would have turned to online dating.
Either way, it seems like the practice helped me build skills that eventually did lead to an in-person meeting and a fulfilling, fun and lasting relationship.
So, thanks OkCupid and Tinder.
Thanks for the numerous dress rehearsals, the fun times, the trials, the errors, the hookups, the letdowns and everything in between.
Thanks for setting me up to meet someone the old-fashioned way, and thanks for giving me the tools to succeed.