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Monday, November 14, 2011

Things I've Noticed About Online Dating #2: The Eyes Have It

She walks in beauty, as the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best in dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.
-Lord Byron

There are whole fields within the sciences dedicated to proving that we are poor observers of our own existence. We have biases which lead us to focus on evidence that fits the narratives we have chosen to believe and ignore that which would force us to confront the shortcomings of our belief systems. It is to the eternal frustration of behavioral scientists, statisticians, and the coolly logical that the plethora of studies that have demonstrated this fact have fallen victim to the very conditions they describe, and are thus ignored.

This may explain how the ridiculous idea that you can tell a lot about a person by their eyes has stayed with us for so long. The eyes are the window to the soul, the mass, anonymous, “they” would have you believe. How often have you heard someone describe another person, typically of the opposite sex, as having “kind eyes”, “crazy eyes”, or what have you.

On the online dating site I have recently signed up with, this truism (a word which might as well mean “something that cannot be proven true) has certainly been taken up by the female population, and with great enthusiasm. I have seen myriad profiles which make reference to the subject’s eyes, whether they are Irish, coy, laughing, shady, Midwestern (?), and a whole host of others. Even those who don’t feel the need to put their eyes out there front and center almost always list them in the section asking “What’s the first thing people notice about you?”

Isn’t this pretty ridiculous on its surface? I imagine all of these people have instinctually liked or trusted someone based on their eyes and later been mistreated or betrayed by that same person. Science tells that a person’s eyes change very little in size or shape from birth to death, and yet I’ll bet there are a lot of people who feel like their exes’ or former friends’ eyes changed right about the time they noticed some character deficiency that had been lying dormant all along.

We humans have this need to feel like we can discover everything we need to know about a person right off the bat. Despite all evidence to the contrary, whether in the form of charming used car salesmen, serial killers or other creeps and weirdos, we maintain the illusion that “he has an honest face” is a valid assessment. Why?

And ladies, not to pick on you, but I think this emphasis on eyes is misplaced. Most guys I know aren’t going to be intrigued by what you tell us about your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, we can be fooled just as easily if not more so, but you’ll need to get us in person. And to do that, you better have something more intriguing than a pair of eyes, smiling, Irish, or otherwise.

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