A Q&A with Sean Thomas
1) What made you turn to online dating?
The main reason I tried online dating, is because my editor at men's health magazine, where I was a freelancer, asked me to try it! I'm not sure I would have, if not for that. Because when this happened - three years ago, there was definitely a 'stigma' attached to the process - it was something only desperate people would try. And by definition few people want to admit they are desperate. These days the stigma is fast disappearing, if it still exists at all. Millions of people are doing it. One reason the stigma has nearly gone is that young people - teenagers, even - see nothing weird about making friends and meeting partners on the net. They've grown up with it - it's natural.
2) You classed yourself as "a tiny bit desperate." Had you had problems with relationships in the past?
Ok, so I was a tiny bit desperate, but only as much as anyone single and over thirty is really really keen to get hitched. I'm not sure I've had severe problems with actual relationships before - I've just had severe problems committing within those relationships. In this I am probably like many men - and women too. The book is partly about that - problems with committing, and how you surmount them.
3) You're incredibly honest in recounting your story - some might say too honest. Were you not worried about what people who know you might think?
No. Though when you read the book that may seem surprising! I've always written about myself - I'm used to it now. I'm slightly worried what the cleaning lady might think.
4) Where you in any way surprised by how the internet dating experiment overtook your life.
As I say I didn't think much of the concept beforehand. But when I tried it I found that I liked it - not just for the way you can meet millions of people - but the way you can meet people you wouldn't normally encounter. People from all backgrounds, races, classes, professions. In a normal social life you tend to mix in certain circles, go to certain places, bars, clubs, whatever. There you meet people who go to those kinds of places. On the net you meet... Everyone.
5) Did you learn much about yourself in the writing of the book and the experience of online dating?
I learned that I had to be honest with myself - and any partner. After all a long term partner has to love me for who I really am - not some persona I might like to present, online - or in a singles bar for that matter. Writing the book also taught me about my wants and needs, and about what women might like and dislike in me. And it showed me, maybe, where I had made mistakes in the past. Paradoxically, it also taught me not to regret too much. And that there's always hope. A great lesson to learn.
6) Ultimately do you think the internet has changed the way people relate to one another? In a good or bad way?
I think the internet is an enormous revolution in the way human beings interact - at least as important as the telephone, and possibly as important as writing. You just have to look at the experiences of my transsexual friend Joe, in the book - he's now able to meet partners who want someone like him, through the net. Before the net, that would have been impossible. But it's not just unusual people who benefit from the net, it opens up the world, it opens up the chance of love, to people who are shy, or very choosy, or in a hurry, or stuck in a tiny village, or isolated in some other way. In other words, the net is the best route to love and happiness for most of us - at some point in our lives.