I recently posted on a thread about online dating, and it started a firestorm. Not against me, because what I said was pretty tame. But the melee of comments about the horrors of online dating went on for days afterward.
It was quite telling.
As someone who dipped her toes into dating for a second season and was terrified of what was out there, I can totally relate. Times have changed. A lot of people are out there looking for something other than a lifelong mate — selfish men and women who want nothing more than to play with people’s emotions and take what they can get. It can be discouraging to those of us who are there for the right reasons.
But there are also a lot of really wonderful people. I mean, you’re out there, aren’t you?
And while I sat back and watched the barrage of comments about horrible online dating experiences, I couldn’t help but think: Horrible dating experiences exist whether you date online or not. The truth is, there are serious advantages to meeting someone online, someone you would’ve never met in public and, coincidentally, had an opportunity to share personal information to connect again.
Advantage 1: Research
Social media allows us intimate looks into the lives of people we barely know. For every person I was interested in who I spoke with online, I searched them up on social media. This isn’t stalking. This is being a smart dater. People are fully aware of what they share online. Even if we weren’t “friends” on social media outlets, I could often tell a great deal about them through their comments and pictures: their demeanor, their beliefs, and if they were an encourager or discourager, if they were close with their family, if they participated in things that would make me uncomfortable, and so much more. Using this advantage before you encourage someone to pursue you allows you to stop something from moving forward that you know won’t work.
Advantage 2: Clickability
Let me just say this now: I never ONCE met someone in real life who changed my initial opinion of them through online chatting. Not once. All dating sites have chat features that allow you to have entire conversations without ever sharing your personal information. This is your chance to see if you will click conversationally. If the conversation is weird, uncomfortable or filled with awkward moments, it will be the same way when you meet in person. It just will. Though I tried to talk myself into meeting some people for coffee even when these conversations didn’t go well, I soon learned that a true connection will be apparent in the chat room. This advantage allows you to avoid the face-to-face awkwardness for both of your sakes.
Advantage 3: Get the First Date Done Before You Meet
When I met my soon-to-be-husband online, an ice storm had just come through town that knocked out my power for three days. There was no way I was going on a date without a hot shower. So we spent about a week chatting back and forth about how we grew up, what our online dating experience had been up to that point, and other get-to-know-you questions that first dates inevitably bring. The good news? When we actually did meet a week later, it was so comfortable, it felt like I’d known him for years. Use the pre-meet to your advantage, and ask some of the deep questions you might save for a first date so you can really get to know them before you decide to connect in person.
Online dating gives us the opportunity to be our own matchmakers by looking at a larger range of potential candidates and strategically choosing the ones that might be a good fit. If you discover someone who isn’t (which is quite frequent when you have hundreds of people literally at your fingertips), it’s much kinder to bow out early before feelings are hurt. We are not only responsible for protecting our hearts, but also those whom we come in contact with. If we are wise and use these advantages carefully, we can avoid the exhaustion that comes from long-term online dating.