PARIS — Desperately wanting to find their soul mates, people who use dating sites often fall victim to pointless conversations, hurt feelings, and even addictive or irrational behaviors. We spoke with four disappointed users, who share their stories.

Julia, 30, stewardess

“After being single for a year and a half, I got tired of not meeting anyone ‘in real life’. I didn’t think much about these sites, but so many of my friends had met their boyfriends on them. … I ended up signing up to “Adopte un mec” (“Adopt a guy”). On this unusual website, the woman selects the man she likes by putting him in her virtual shopping cart. I was thrilled, but I was soon disillusioned. The first men I was in contact with only talked about themselves or wanted it to stay virtual. I really wanted to meet someone in real life. Others had managed to, so why not me? When you look for shoes online, you search the websites right through. Well, here it was the same.

I went on the website at least 15 times per day. It was the first thing I did in the morning and the last in the evening. I had just moved into a new place, and I didn’t have an Internet connection yet, so I kept going out into the parking lot with my smartphone to get a 3G signal. I even went onto the site at work!

But disappointment came quickly. One guy sent me a naked photo of him in his bathroom, one leg on his bathtub, a towel covering his genitals. It came with a message: ‘Send me photos of your body, and then we’ll see if we will waste our time in superficial conversations’!

The last young man I talked to lived in the Alps. One day, I told him I lived in the north of France, and he just stopped writing. Was distance a problem? The thing with these websites is that you never know why the other stops responding, what might have bothered him. The ego takes a blow. All this started depressing me. I couldn’t find anyone in this huge catalog I had right before my eyes. It was even more frustrating than not meeting anyone in real life. The website was eating my brain away. I felt I had to put things back into perspective. I still go on it from time to time, but not in a compulsive way. I’ve been much better since then. I’m still hopeful I’ll meet someone.”

Delphine, 37, legal expert

“I corresponded with a young man on Meetic for a month and a half. We contacted each other every three or four days to set up a date, but we both always had a hitch. We finally agreed to meet up on a Sunday. But the Friday before that, he told me he was deleting his account. The women he met were boring. He didn’t find what he was looking for. He finished by telling me that if I wanted to prove him wrong, I had until that evening! I was puzzled. I responded that I wasn't going to to do self-advertisement to convince him and that he couldn’t know beforehand what our date would be like. He answered sarcastically about the 'boring novel' I had written back. I felt as if I was being insulted by someone I didn’t even know.

The relationships built on these websites aren’t reliable. It’s disturbing. The proximity is instant. Everyone says ‘sweet dreams’ or ‘hey, how was your day?’, but they can simply disappear from one day to the next, out of the blue. You don’t know where you stand with them. The worst thing is that you end up by behaving like that yourself. I’ve also stopped answering on several occasions.”

Laurence, 48, social worker

“I signed up on Meetic a few months after my divorce. I had the feeling that it didn’t work very well, that there was a timing problem. When I was available, the men that I wanted to talk to didn’t answer and when they tried to contact me, I was myself interested in someone else.

It appears we all have too many irons in the fire at the same time and at the end of the day, it’s all very messy. We're all busy behind our computer screens but not at all in tune with one another. As if no dialogue whatsoever was possible.”

Sylvain, 42, salesman

“I spent six months on Meetic Affinity last year, and the memories I have of it are quite bitter. I quickly came across the profile of a woman I liked. We wrote to each other for 15 days before we met. We talked over coffee for a long time. The conversation came naturally, as did our emails. I was charmed, and she seemed more reserved than other women.

We did see each other two more times, but I soon understood between the lines that she wanted to keep on ‘snooping’ around the website, in case she came across someone she liked more than me. She had just signed up and seemed overwhelmed by all the options available. This attitude disheartened me completely. I hadn’t imagined that she could, in some way, hope ‘to find better’. I felt like being a product in a catalog and it was very unsettling.

After this unpleasant experience, I resumed my research, but I became more cynical. I forced myself to write to five women every day, even if that meant not being interested in all of them. It was quite absurd, I know. I would never do that in real life! But I did end up chatting regularly with an interesting woman, who came from southwest France, like me. I was looking forward to meeting her, but the person who walked in to the café did not resemble the person in the Meetic photo. She was much older. That was an unpleasant experience for me. I felt as though I had been tricked. At that time, my subscription to the website was to last another few weeks, but after that I never returned to Meetic. I couldn’t stand making pointless moves anymore.”