I had an interesting conversation with a friend over the past week (one of those ongoing email conversations that lasts several days…I love those) about online dating. I’ve been chewing on this topic for a long, long time, so I was surprised–and glad–when this friend brought it up, seemingly out of the blue. Sometimes I internalize things so much I can’t talk about them anymore. It’s good to be forced to bring certain thoughts out into the open, to give them some air as it were.
I have a knee-jerk reaction against online dating. Everything in me recoils at the very idea.
I have some (at least semi-) rational reasons for this:
- I hate feeding that 21st-century need to interpose a screen between myself and every new situation. We hunt for jobs online, we collect and keep friends online, we shop online,mustwe begin our romantic encounters there, too?
- I think it also feeds the 21st-century insistence on immediacy. I want romance in my life and want it now. I’ll do an internet search and voila! It’s something we all do. Need an answer to a question? Want to know the weather? Buy a raincoat? Find a job? Discover a new hobby? Search for it online. It’s not all bad, I grant you, but there should be limits. In desperation I once punched into Google: ‘What should I do with my life.’ I’m not sure what was worse: the fact that I asked the question, or the plethora of answers it turned up (none of them relevant). The point is, we can’t use the internet for everything. We just can’t.
- I rarely like people in person whom I met first online–especially if I like them online. No internet profile can tell you, “This person uses a peculiar laundry detergent and smells funny,” “He has bad breath,” or “He has this maddening habit of cracking his knuckles.” It doesn’t matter how well the guy writes, if the actual chemistry ain’t there, it ain’t there…and there’s no way to know that until you meet him. Which can only happen after you’ve been in touch and established some sort of emotional connection, however slight. Had you met said guy in person, you could’ve said off the bat, “Eh, not for me.” It just seems like a healthier way to go about it. Now I grant you, the emotional connection factor doesn’t seem to be as big a deal for guys, but it is a big deal for us ladies. Regardless of the level of physical attraction, a girlwill be somewhat dejected when the conversations suddenly come to an end: when she’s no longer being pursued. It’s a fact of our nature.
- I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea of creating my own profile. In particular, that awful “about me” section. It’s so one-dimensional. Let me tell you what I know about myself, so you and my self-image can decide if we’d actually get along.
I also have some admittedly not-so-rational reasons for my dislike:
- What could be less romantic than meeting the love of your life via internet search? I’m not a sentimentalist by any means, but that goes so directly contrary to every good Jane Austen/L.M. Montgomery/Louisa Mae Alcott novel I was raised on, I just can’t stomach it.
- Only people who can’t make friends in real-life situations date online. (Disclaimer: I know this to be patently untrue. Many very outgoing, fun, delightful people in my acquaintance happen to have profiles on online dating sites. But my gut reaction remains the same, and I have a hard time shaking it.)
- I revolt against the intentionality of the dating website. This, I grant you, is a personal problem and one I’m trying to overcome. Still, I think (especially for girls) there’s a very big difference between being open to new relationships in a general way, and being so open you create a profile for yourself and pay a monthly subscription to be pursued by like-minded men.
Those are some of my thoughts, in a rough and not-at-all-organized way, on online dating. I could post for days on this and related topics, and in fact I probably will.
Here’s what I’m not saying about online dating:
- I do not see any necessarily moral problems with online dating, though of course there can be (as with all things).
- I do not think online dating sites should be abolished, or that all people should get off said sites. Date away! More power to you! But I do think that those who date online have to be extra vigilant…and the ladies need to take special care to guard their hearts and emotions. “Do not stir up or awaken love until it please.” Knowing myself as I do, I know that online dating would be very bad for me emotionally, so I steer clear. Other women have more level heads than I, and don’t mind taking the pragmatic approach. (My lovely sister is a great example of this—and she even keeps a blog about her online dating experiences, where she talks about the need to be practical and balanced in your approach. You should check it out…)
That said, what are your thoughts, oh readers? I’ve heard so many arguments for online dating, my head spins with them. I’m not really looking to be persuaded one way or the other, so please: no arguments, at least not here. We can duke it out in person. Here, I would like to hear your personal experience with the issue, whether you’ve dated online or opted not to, if you’re willing to share.