The Realities of Online Dating

I'm not an expert at dating, but I play one on the internet. When I say dating, I don’t mean the other person is your boyfriend/girlfriend. You’ve been out with this person a couple of times and enjoy their company, and maybe one day they’ll be your significant other. In this article, the names in this guide have been changed to protect the almost Prince Charmings, the ghosters, and the not-so-innocent.

Dating can be a tricky thing, especially once you’re out of college and in the real world. People can be too busy with work to date while others don’t get out much or frequent places where they would meet someone. Some are just too shy or scared to make that first move in person. Enter online dating. Online dating has been around since 1965 when Harvard students created the world’s first computer dating service, Operation Match. In 2013, it was estimated that there are over 2,500 online dating services with 1,000 new ones opening each year. They cater to anything: religion, ethnicity, hobbies, sexual orientation, age groups. Whatever your preferences may be, there’s probably a dating site for you. Around forty million Americans use an online dating service. I am one of those forty million. I joined the ranks after my ex-boyfriend, Adam, broke up with me. We lived in two different states, and it just wasn’t going to work out. My job keeps me busy, and when I go out, I usually prefer the company of my friends to trying to meet someone new. So here I am. I’ve been on this journey for many months and here’s what I’ve learned:

You learn a lot about yourself and what you want in a significant other. We all have a checklist of things we want in a mate, from education to religion to shared interests. The more dates you go on and the more time that passes, the more that checklist changes. It gets shorter, more refined; items get rearranged. Things that were once deal breakers are now negotiable, and things that were once negotiable are now deal breakers. These vary from person to person. My checklist has had many revisions over the months. It once contained numerous deal breakers, but now only has two though a couple of the negotiables need some heavy negotiating. The good and decent men that I met helped shape this checklist and taught me about myself. Ray showed me that it’s important to have a steady job and not live with your parents. Timothy taught me that I need some personal space in the first weeks of dating (and hopefully he learned that being a stage five clinger isn’t always the best route to go when starting to date someone). Ben showed me that chemistry is incredibly important and without it, nothing happens. Finally, Travis showed me the importance of communication.

Communication is essential – in life, in any relationship, in dating. It starts in the profile with communicating what you’re looking for in a match and being honest about yourself. From there, it progresses to the messages – through the site, text, other social media – and finally to that first meeting. It’s important to be open about what you want and how interested you are in the other person if you’re interested at all. We all struggle with communication, and it’s something on which I’m always working. When two people are on the same page, things are a lot easier.

This brings me to the topic of ghosting. Ghosting is when you or the other person stops all forms of communication without a reason. It can happen before or after the first meeting or after you’ve been dating for a couple of weeks. The reason is never known, but from what I gather, there are two main ones: lost interest or another person. If you’ve been ghosted, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it doesn’t feel good to know that someone has no desire to talk to you anymore, but in this technological world, it’s quick and easy for anyone to end things – you just stop responding to texts and phone calls and messages. No consequences. No confrontation. However, we’re adults and should you lose interest in someone; it’s common courtesy to let them know. Just hope that the clinger doesn’t post passive aggressive pictures on Facebook about how relationships should work. Move on with your life.

Finally, it is highly unlikely that you will meet your Prince Charming within the first three months. Yes, there are those fairy tale love stories, but you’re not one of them. He’s Just Not That Into You taught us that we are usually the rule, not the exception. That’s not to say that you’ll never meet The One and have your happily ever after. I’m a dreamer, and huge optimist and I was raised on Disney and fairy tales, but I have learned not to expect my Prince Charming to manifest in every guy I meet. I know he’ll come along eventually; he’s probably lost somewhere and won’t ask for directions. The odds of meeting your future spouse online are pretty good, though. About one-third of married couples met online, and that number is expected to grow over the years. That being said, don’t automatically assume that you have a future with every great guy you see online. It’s best not to imagine how you’ll celebrate six months or six years together. While you can remain optimistic and hopeful that things will work out, it is important to stay realistic;  you may end up hurt. Derek and Matthew taught me that.

These lessons are not meant to deter anyone from online dating. It can be fun and exciting to meet new people, and, as I said before, it’s been a great learning experience. All of this makes for fun stories around the dinner table! For now, I’m just waiting for my Prince Charming to finally ask for directions and find his way to me.



Photo credit: Tammy McGary

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