A popular topic of conversation with my office-mate is my varied experiences with online dating. I consider myself to be a well-versed “cyberdater”, and yet I think the whole idea is still a bit foreign — and more than a little creepy — to many people. Most people would describe me as “rational”, “practical”, and “conscientious”, yet when they learn of my history of meeting people via the Internet, my credibility automatically takes a nosedive.
I don’t think that scrolling through online dating profiles is connected to anything else in my life in any way, but I know I’ve definitely gotten more than my share of sighs and “Not another Internet guy!” Trust me. I’ve tried to quit. Over the years I’ve asked myself many times why I even bother. But the truth is (and I don’t think I’m alone in this), I continued to browse because I always felt as though I might be missing something — The One, for example.
I’ve done the online dating thing off and on for several years. I know others who have tried it and have gotten very successful results, but the whole idea still gets a bad rap. Some of it is justified — there are plenty of oddballs on those sites. I would advise anyone who is new to online dating to be wary and don’t get too friendly too quickly. Anyone who’s met people online has at least one disastrous dating story. (I have at least three.) But, really, it’s not that much different to being set up on a blind date. Meeting someone online is actually a bit better than going on a blind date — usually with online dates, you communicate with the person for a certain length of time. With many blind dates, they’re just that — walking into a situation totally blind.
Dating, no matter how you choose to do it, can be very frustrating. Last summer I had some success with weaning myself off of the online dating sites. I was set up with guys more than I had been in the past, but had the same results. I started feeling a bit hopeless, and angry, too. How can people be so dishonest about what they’re looking for?
The online dating sites have become a sort of safety net for me. I still believe in it. I’ve tried every form of dating there is — setups, random meetings, etc. but I always go back to looking online. It’s just been the most effective way for me to meet someone. My longest relationship to date was with a guy I met online. I learned that an acquaintance of mine was single thanks to browsing through a dating site. I emailed him and he was thrilled to hear from me. We went out that weekend and saw each other for a few weeks afterward. I already knew him, so it wasn’t uncomfortable and I knew I wouldn’t have another dating horror story to add to my collection. I never would’ve known he was available had I not been scrolling through profiles.
My point is, in many ways it’s just easier to get to know someone online. Of course, once you do meet the person, you have to be attracted to them. I don’t advise chatting online for weeks or months only to meet in person and have no connection whatsoever. Once you make that initial contact, I recommend meeting as soon as possible to see if there really is a spark, and see how things develop from that point on. If you are usually shy or reserved when meeting new people, give online dating a try. This way, you’ll have talking points when you do meet in person so you won’t have to face the usual first date awkwardness.
I have another good reason for sticking with meeting people online. I usually come across people who live near me whom I never would’ve thought of dating. Either it never would have occurred to me to get to know them, or our paths would have no reason to cross. I’ll give you another example. I met this guy online and we’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks. He’s quite a few years older than me, but we went to the same high school so we know many of the same people. We literally live five minutes from each other. You would think that with living in such a small area, we would have met somewhere along the way, right? Had we not met online, we would’ve both gone on with our lives, completely unaware of each other. It’s been nice to have a bit of a shared history, which I think makes us a little more comfortable with each other.
I can honestly say that in all my experiences with online dating, I’ve never had a truly scary experience. Disasters? Sure. Dating memories that make me shudder to this day? You bet. But on the flip side, I can say the same for guys I met in person or through a set-up. For those thinking of meeting someone online, the best advice I can give is to be smart about it. Treat it as you would a blind date. Don’t give your personal information right away. Meet in a public place for at least the first few dates. Google them if that makes you feel better. But don’t think of posting an online profile as a desperate move or something to treat as a “last resort” if you’re unlucky in love. Plenty of couples met in cyberspace and are now happily married. You may be next!