Tips to Help You Date With Intention In the Digital Age

You shouldn't have to play Nancy Drew, Digital Dating Detective.
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You shouldn't have to play Nancy Drew, Digital Dating Detective.
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Art Credit: Nima Salami

You haven’t heard from him all day. The usual morning text isn't waiting for you when you wake up. Throughout the day, you constantly check to see if he’s texted—you even resort to checking his Twitter feed, wondering what he could possibly be doing all day that doesn’t involve a single text or phone call. You’ve essentially become Nancy Drew, Digital Dating Detective.

Finally he texts you that evening with a line so short and late it must have been an afterthought: “What’s up?”

For most of us dating today, it’s likely that this thoroughly dissatisfying dating scenario is all too familiar. Many women view the digital world as a scourge on all those who desire intentional dating and eventual marriage. But texting and tweeting don’t have to ruin our relationships. I’m here to tell you that you can, in fact, curate a real relationship and an authentic intimacy amid the mire of digital distractions.

I know, because I'm living proof that we can rise above. The conversational “rituals” in my prior relationships included an endless barrage of texts and Facebook messages. But, a few months ago, I began a real, live dating relationship with a man I met on Twitter, the last place I’d ever imagine finding romantic chemistry! The communication began with flirtatious tweets, transitioned into lengthy email writing and long phone conversations, and finally led up to an in-person date and has continued on like that well after the first date spark.

Despite the many social media interactions that comprise many of our everyday encounters with men, you can cultivate an intentional approach to dating in the digital age. Here are four tips to keeping up a good old-fashioned courtship online.

01. KEEP IT MARRIAGE-MINDED.

What distinguishes intentional dating from casual dating is that intentional dating keepsthe end goal of the relationship in mind: marriage. This is completely different from hooking up or landing a brief boyfriend, and your approach should likewise adjust.

With this end goal in mind, approach communication with a mutual openness to discussing the future. Social media in courtship is a means to an end, facilitating communication over a different medium. Whether you are composing a tweet or swiping right on Tinder, courtship isn’t an arena for playing games of the heart. Remain thoughtful with others over texts, tweets, and chats of all varieties, and ask questions that actually lead to a further understanding of who the person is. It can be easy to slip into aimless flirtation, which can of course be fun, but it’s important to balance it with conversation that suggests you want to discover more about the person thanjust what he had for lunch that day.

02. KEEP IT INTENTIONAL.

The hallmark of a courtship is intentional communication. How many of us make time for great conversations anymore? The art of conversation is a ritual vital to intentional dating, one that I hadn’t experienced for a while until my recent serendipitous encounter online. Prior to meeting my Twitter beau, my dating life was woefully lacking in concrete, intentional interactions. It wasn’t until I met a man who was actively seeking commitment and looking toward marriage that I began to see the difference.

My Twitter encounter sparked a long-distance courtship between two East Coast cities. Although our face time is limited, we find creative ways to spend time together from afar, which can be quite fun. Try scheduling time to talk on the phone or on Skype. Skype dates can be uniquely enjoyable ways to explore new levels of communication with your date. I’ve shared a glass of wine, a classical music performance, works of poetry, and excerpts from his favorite Bond novels—all through the screen! Writing thoughtful emails once a week can also offer an opportunity to reflect and the time to respond thoughtfully.

Dating long-distance inevitably leads to a more profound sense of intentionality in your interactions, but even if you’re not grappling with long-distance dating, you should still strive to maintain a measure of intentionality in your relationship. When planning a date, schedule it at least two days in advance, and of course, keep your phones hidden while you’re on it. Even now, when I meet my date in person, our phones remain hidden as we focus our attention on each other—fully face-to-face, as Thomas Merton writes, “beyond the level of words, beyond speech, beyond concept”—beyond Twitter.

 03KEEP IT REAL.

In most of my previous relationships, I often “edited” myself. The tendency to enhance the good and downplay the negative can be magnified with social media. Rather than attempting to convey the most idealized version of ourselves, we ought to cultivate a healthy distance between the progression of our relationship and its presence on social media. My rule is this: Social media should serve to supplement your relationship, not to supplant it. The photos, articles, and intimacies that you share should serve merely as accessories to the shared, in-person intimacy, not as the main source.

First off, be sure to keep your expectations reasonable when first getting to know one another. Avoid the tendency to idealize your date based upon his social media presence. If you’re looking to decide whether someone can become your spouse, a healthy dose of reality bolstered by a community who knows the both of you is key to attaining a full picture of the other person as they really are. One way to do this is to introduce your new guy to your friends early and often!

04. KEEP YOUR BOUNDARIES.

Setting boundaries up front is crucial to a successful courtship. We don’t have to lower the guillotine on all forms of online interactions as we pursue marriage-minded relationships with men, but we can and should cultivate temperance in our Internet life.

Take the time to gradually reveal your true self. It can be tempting to approach your digital communications with a too-much-too-soon approach, but be sure to avoid over-sharing in your texts, tweets, photos, and Facebook statuses. It’s important not to allow astream of conversation to consume every moment of your day. It can be invasive to have a running conversation with someone at work, at home, or out with your friends. Even though the person is not physically present, the chat messages and texts keep you from being fully present to those you arephysically with. Send short text messages in the morning or throughout the day, but avoid the temptation to share endless streams of emotional disclosure with your man. Save the deeper revelations for the times when you are physically present to one another, that way you can be sure this vulnerable moment will be well received and handled with the attention it deserves. This kind of restraint will prevent nonstop texting and messaging from outpacing your actual level of emotional intimacy.

Following these rules can help establish the habit of intentional communication as you embark on a journey into the world of digital courtship. There is no reason why our Twitter, Facebook, or smartphones should prevent us from moving slowly, intentionally, and with reverence toward knowing the other.