Mike Garofalo is looking for love. The 48-year-old construction worker from Montreal says he outgrew the club and bar scene about 10 years ago, so he decided to give online dating a shot. “I wanted to try something different, something new,” explains the divorced father of one. “I’m looking for a serious, long-term relationship. But the online scene is not easy. People are not always what they seem to be in their profiles.”
Garofalo says he’s tried several online dating sites over the years, including Match.com, Tinder and Vancouver-based Plenty of Fish. He is not alone. According to the 2016 Statistics Canada census, there are more than 14 million singles in Canada – and a lot of them are turning to technology to meet their romantic match. A Léger Marketing survey has found 36% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 use online dating.
"According to the 2016 Statistics Canada census, there are more than 14 million singles in Canada
and a lot of them are turning to technology to meet their romantic match"
Laura Bilotta is a Toronto-based matchmaker, radio host and author of the new book Single in the City: From Hookups & Heartbreaks To Love & Lifemates: Tales & Tips To Attract Your Perfect Match. Bilotta says the online dating scene has exploded in the last few years and she’s noticed an increase in the number of Italian-Canadians who are wading into the internet dating pool. “There is no longer a stigma attached to online dating like there was 10 or 15 years ago. I’m seeing many Italian-Canadians, despite coming from a very traditional culture, setting up online profiles,” explains the 47-year-old. “Italians are so proud of their culture so you always know right away who’s Italian. They have usernames like Italian Stallion,” she laughs.
Although Bilotta says online dating is no longer seen as taboo, it hasn’t made finding love any easier. “Technology can be overwhelming, and there are so many options out there that people forget that finding a mate is about more than just looking at a picture and swiping left or right,” she says. “It’s also creating this paradox of choice because people feel as though there are so many options, they’re afraid to commit to one person because they think the grass is greener on the other side.”
It’s a conundrum Mike Garofalo is familiar with. “I am seeing three or four different girls right now,” admits Garofalo. “I’m just weighing my options.” Sophia Taglienti is the owner of a Montreal-based production and promotion company. She’s created profiles on several sites, including Plenty of Fish, Tinder and OkCupid. She says online dating is not for the faint of heart. “I’ve deleted a lot of my online profiles because I was getting so many rude and inappropriate messages from men who just wanted to hook up. I had to take a break because it was overwhelming,” explains the 23-year-old.
Bilotta says this is one of the pitfalls of the internet dating world. “This technology has created a hook-up culture where people are just jumping into the sack without creating a real connection,” she explains. “I think a lot of people don’t know how to play the online dating game, and it’s leaving them feeling unfulfilled. Sending a message like ‘You’re hot’ is not a way to make a connection with someone.”
Although Taglienti and Garofalo may not have found what they’re looking for yet, there are many Italian-Canadians who are finding romance via the virtual world.
Adriano* is a Montrealer who met his wife at a speed dating event he learned about online. The 52-year-old had signed up to the Lavalife dating site, but he says he found the whole experience to be very superficial. He needed more than an online profile picture to make a connection. “It’s hard to be attracted to just a picture. Attraction comes from seeing a person’s mannerisms, how they talk, body language,” he says. “I find it a sad reality that the person of your life might be out there but you click past them on a dating site.”
Bilotta agrees that relying solely on a profile picture is quite superficial. She says it’s important to actually read what people write in their profiles. “And people should also invest in creating profiles that are well-thought out and genuine,” says Bilotta. “Relationships are built on having similar interests and ideas. Don’t just look at a picture and say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’. Read their profiles; give them a chance. You’ll be surprised at who you might resonate with. You have to be vulnerable and not hide behind a computer screen.”