Sound familiar anyone?
I recall times in my dating life where I put too much into what I saw on the computer screen, whether on YUConnects or in a word document sent to me by a friend. I can also remember later points in my dating career wherein I would read a profile, without any real depth, making a brief phone call or two, and going out on a date. In fact, that was how I ended up meeting ASoG.
It seems like the process of trying to make the dating/shidduchim system very rigid and ordered, requiring certain things to be done in terms of the profile, massive investigation, etc make people more focused on the itty bitty details and not on the whole picture of who the person is and how he/she might fit into one's life.
We were recently working with a single friend, acting as her research people for a guy attending YU. After speaking with a friend of his and a Rosh Yeshiva who made some calls on our behalf, we had a good report. The guy has a great family, is very dedicated to his learning, serious about life and has healthy goals for what he wants to accomplish. The "problem" was that he came from a more yeshivish background and ultimately ended up at YU. She couldn't understand why someone would want to do that, given the "greater" opportunities he had had for Torah study when he attended a different yeshiva.
In an effort to spend too much time focusing on specifics in the profile, wondering why this was and why that was - and these were not real red flags of any sort - she almost turned down a great guy simply because he had matured and become his own person hashkafically. The YU Rosh Yeshiva who I spoke to was familiar with both people, said the match was certainly "ballpark" and worthy of at least a first date. I mentioned the concerns our friend had, and he replied that it's best to learn more about those details on a date and not through continued investigation. If, in fact something didn't quite check out after speaking to the person, THEN he said we should do further research.
I think that is a very healthy approach to the whole process. The problem that has arisen, mostly for men, but increasingly for women as well, is that no one seems to have a realistic standard in mind when accepting what's on paper as a potential worthwhile suggestion. Yes, guys are certainly guilty of maintaining lists of girls and their profiles (though I never had such a plethora of suggestions to deal with in the first place), but it's the "traditional" shadchanim who started and encourage this sort of unbecoming behavior. As the system has worsened, the profiles have become less truthful, more standardized, and frankly unreliable at times. This, of course, perpetuates the problem, rather than making things easier.
Do I personally believe in profiles? Yes. I think people should still use them, but only as a barometer for a general sense of who the person is and if he/she passes the threshold for what they are looking for.
An interesting point that the CNN article mentioned was that people often don't even know exactly what they want in a spouse. This is certainly true for beginning daters, because the more you go out and get exposure with different sorts of people and personalities, you begin to learn what does and doesn't work for you - and that includes physical appearances. I know that my own view of what I was looking for changed over the course of my dating career. From recent shadchan related experiences, it seems like there are a number of people out there who have had their needs/wants dictated to them by rabbeim/friends/teachers/family/mentors - and that's horribly wrong. It's one thing to say you need someone who has good middos and is caring, which I think everyone can agree on - but getting specific in suggesting/requiring a particular lifestyle (IE kollel) or certain criteria beyond the general need for religious observance and regular Torah study is rather unhelpful.
This sort of thing only prevents young, impressionable finds from discovering themselves and forging their own identities. Relying too much on profiles can exacerbate this problem, preventing free thinking and replacing that with a cookie cutter image that fails to live up to reasonable, realistic life.
How much substance do you put into profiles? Does dating work better by paying close attention to what's written on the page, or by investing more in the actual experience of meeting the person?