It’s Time to Change the Way You Think About Online Dating

Your meet-cute won’t be any less romantic by meeting online if you’re happy at the end!
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Kara Eschbach
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Your meet-cute won’t be any less romantic by meeting online if you’re happy at the end!


© Greg Finck Photography

This one goes out to all the online-dating haters. You know who you are. I get your reluctance to join the digital masses, the desire to meet your future spouse the old-fashioned way. I have friends whose meet-cute stories include such Hollywood-esque tales as: the best friend who finally realized he was in love with her the whole time; the one friend-of-friends who she just happened to never meet until the right moment; the couple who met on a tour bus while vacationing with their parents. Compared to all those romantic stories, going online feels like a letdown. I get it.

The thing is, if you’re reading this, you are probably like me and feeling pretty single. And if you’re reading this I’m guessing that the meeting-people-in-life thing isn’t going particularly hot either. But as an online- and offline-dating veteran, I suggest you give online dating a shot. If you can’t quite get yourself over the mental hurdle and onto match.com, give me a chance to change the way you think about online dating.

01. Think of it as online meeting, not online dating.

This is actually pretty key. It should be online meeting, followed by offline dating. (In fact, to reenforce this point, I’m going to say “online meeting” through the rest of this article.)

If you’re going to get married to someone, presumably that relationship will be conducted in real life. Only in person do you see the subtleties of how someone acts in different situations and if there’s real-person chemistry. Going online simply makes it easier to meet people you’re interested in dating. I really enjoy the blog Wait but Why, and I think the author Tim sums this up nicely: “The first step in ending up with the right person is meeting the right person.” Going online simply makes it a whole helluva lot easier to do that.

02. Going online is a more intentional dating process--and that’s a good thing.

Going online, or online meeting, is a not a mark of desperation. Yes, we’re empowered, thriving single women–who are interested in meeting someone to spend their life with. Admitting that makes you a human being, that is all.

If anything, meeting someone online can be refreshingly intentional (most of the time). Online meeting is a little like an opt-in e-mail list–you have to confirm that you want to be there, you don’t just find yourself having stumbled across messaging someone on a dating site. Being on an online meeting site means that others there are also available and interested in dating. Further, the context of your interaction is less ambiguous–you are on an online dating site, you’re presumably messaging someone because you think there could be romantic chemistry. That’s why we’re here. Dispense with the awkwardness, this is how we get it done!

A word of advice: if you’re concerned about “players” and men who aren’t serious about dating being on these sites, do some research ahead of time. Some services have reputations for being more serious (eHarmony, faith-based sites) and others less (OKCupid, Tinder). Choose accordingly.

03. Online meeting is not more superficial than real life.

One of the top complaints I hear from online naysayers is that the format is inherently objectifying. On the surface, that can seem true. We scroll through pages of results, making quick judgements on people based on a photo and how good they are at reflecting themselves in writing. How superficial!

But is it really much different than in-person meeting? When you go to a friend’s party you probably look around the room, to see if there’s someone you want to talk with. Do you really need to go up to each and every man at the party to fully determine whether or not you are attracted to them? Of course not. The human brain is a pretty powerful thing, and ladies, I’m going to pat ourselves on our collective back here a bit, we’re pretty awesome at synthesizing multiple pieces of information to form complex conclusions very quickly. That’s a good thing—it helps us make decisions quickly when we don’t know all the information. Including whether or not there’s a chance you’d be attracted to someone.

That’s basically the way I view online meeting. If someone seems interesting, I click on their profile. If there’s something that makes me think we might get along, I send them a message. It doesn’t have to be any more stressful than that. My hunch is that going through online profiles feels more icky because you’re being faced more concretely with what your brain normally does subconsciously. So don’t worry about it!

Are you worried that a profile and some photos won’t do you justice? First of all, take a deep breath, and remember that it's just like making a good first impression in real life, nothing more than that. Do what you can to make your profile as reflective of you as in real life, and get your friends to help you highlight the things they think make you awesome. Then throw away untrue ideas about men, like “well, they’re only into tall blondes.” (Take it from me, a short, athletically-built brunette–they aren’t.) And have a little faith that good guys are out there, who know that there is much more to discover behind that photo and profile.

04. Going online lets you filter for what's really important to you. 

In our offline life, we are constrained by many things in our search to meet Mr. Right. Who we interact with and how we interact with them is dependent on where we live, who we work with, where we grew up, where we went to school, the commute we take, the after-work activities we engage in, the place we worship, etc. The mix of circumstances and choices you make about your life and what you like to do influence the kind of people you encounter, and are likely attracted to. There are natural, built-in filters to our lives and social circles; that’s just reality.

The nice thing is that online meeting doesn't mean that you'll be swimming in a sea with way too many options. Just as in real life, different sites attract different kinds of people, and then we have to set some filters on the kind of people we want to interact with. It makes the selection process feasible, and more importantly, increases the chance that you’ll find someone you connect with because you can filter on something more meaningful than, say, "at the same place as I am."

Sure, it’s possible to miss out on good guys because your filters are too narrow. That problem can be easily fixed by looking a little outside your ideal preferences (when not a deal-breaker of course). Instead, take heart in that you have correctly identified the other 80% that you have zero interest in. Score one for technology.

05. Chemistry is a little bit of a mystery—but that’s not online dating’s fault.

I’ve gone on dates with people who I thought I’d have a ton of chemistry with, but didn’t, and ended up totally hitting it off with others who I didn’t really think I would. I’ve had mediocre first meetings that ended up with a great date, and vice versa. And those are people I met “the normal way!” So yes, sometimes online meeting means it’s a little harder to judge what the ultimate in-person chemistry will be. That doesn’t mean that the online-meeting process is flawed. It simply means that sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. That's the point of going on the date in the first place. You won’t know if you never try!

06. Think of going online simply as part of a balanced “dating diet.”

Just because you decided to join an online dating site doesn’t mean that you can only meet people online now. Dating sites are simply one additional place that you could happen to meet someone who’s a great fit for you.

In fact, you may just find that meeting people during the course of life is easier and social events less pressure-filled. You go to a happy hour and don’t meet anyone new? No bigs, you can spend some time online later. And you might even find yourself enjoying those casual outings more, just for their own sake.

Have I convinced you? If not, that’s okay, you don’t have to jump on the online meeting train just to shut up nagging friends and family. But if you’re thinking about it, put a toe in the water–your meet-cute won’t be any less romantic by meeting online if you’re happy at the end!