Center for Shared Insight, PC

Relationship Questions Answered: Should I Give Online Dating a Try?

September 23, 2016
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Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
women looking at her phone

If you are single and living now, in the 21st Century -- at a time of rapidly evolving technology and instant gratification, you have probably given online dating some consideration. Most of my clients share that they have hesitations around it, yet feel that it’s necessary to try as a way to potentially overcome challenges of meeting aligned partners.

Online dating can be a vital channel to meet high-quality people, yet there is still a stigma of desperation around this approach to dating. Others view online dating as an “unnatural” means to find a partner, that they’re somehow cheating the natural course of relationships. Below, we’ll outline considerations for using technology to meet your mate, and let you decide for yourself.

 

The Pros of Online Dating

Prescreening

One of the greatest benefits of online dating is all the upfront conversation that happens before you even meet. The varied channels in which to communicate -- Q&A, open-ended questions, emails, and more -- are beneficial to understanding another’s communication style, which will be vital to the success of the potential relationship. The quality and frequency of dialogue, and the topics of conversation between you and your online match provide incredible insight into the dynamics you could expect in the relationship.

The information (e.g., photos, interests, and self-description) included (or not included) on their profile - and its congruence to other “googled” material if you should seek it - should also give you an idea of who they are. If you can find them on social media, review the quality of their posts, images, and friends (e.g., if he is friends with several females who look like they could be in the exotic dance industry, have ranting political messages of the contrasting party as you, or photos of him/her involved in activities that don’t align with your’s - pass). Combined with their dating site profile information, it should be fairly obvious early whether you could see yourself fitting into this person’s life.

If you’re feeling nervous about meeting someone you have only “met” online, the internet has made it possible to do some pre-screening and research before meeting in person. The ability to search online for your date’s name, glance into their professional network, and find them on social media should ease any “creepy” feelings you might have about going out with a stranger. Use the internet to your advantage and don’t feel one bit ashamed to do so. In my opinion, this adds a layer of “safety” when meeting someone you don’t actually know (among other boundaries, such as meeting in a public place and not giving out your home address until several dates in and you feel comfortable doing so). The ability to prescreen potential mates and “fact-check” their stories (e.g., Does this person really work where he/she claims?) should ease initial hesitations.  Of course, online screening is just a first step to further assessing how things feel in person, over time.

Time-management

Especially as we become older, it’s more difficult to find the time for all the competing responsibilities and desires in life -- from work obligations, to kids, to hobbies, to time with extended family, to social events -- dating often takes a back-seat. Like the introduction of all technology, online dating simply saves time. The online platform is there when you have 10 minutes to sift through profiles, whether that be at 1am or over your lunch hour. Online dating works for busy professionals who want to narrow down potential mates and spend their first dates wisely.

Matchmaking

Most online sites promote a proprietary “matching technology” to connect you with your most important dating preferences, including interests, drinking/smoking tendencies, desires relevant to children and spirituality, and other key considerations. Compounded with online dating being more time-efficient, matchmaking capabilities can connect you with the kind of mates you want more accurately. Some dating sites take it a step further and cater to specific groups of people. For example, MeetMindful is specific to singles interested in mindful living and yoga; whereas, Jdate is for Jewish Singles. And, like anything, dating is a numbers game, so having an abundance of men or women in your age range who also like to spend their time doing the top three things you enjoy, makes for a greater chance of initial connection.

The Cons of Online Dating

Dating Blindly

Today, it’s far less likely that a mutual friend will become a love interest. Although maybe not completely obsolete, the chances of this happening are slim. Before the advent of online dating, it was not unlikely to have friends approve of a date and “set you up” -- and therefore have pre-screened your potential mate. This shifting dynamic has led to uncertainty when dating online vs. dating someone in a once-or-twice removed social circle.

Learn how your dating past may be holding you back from finding your ideal partner by talking with a psychologist at Center for Shared Insight.

In online dating, you are literally dating a stranger who most likely has no mutual friends (except when using dating sites that match you with mutual social media connections). You know nothing of this person’s history or true motives. The sad truth is, people can post self-descriptions and photos on their profile regardless of whether it is true or current. While most people do so in an attempt to impress rather than deceive, the chance is always there, making online dating is far more of a “shot in the dark”.

Communication Limitations

More than 70% of what is understood between two people is translated through body language. When getting to know someone in the early stages of online dating, all communication is digital, and therefore it's hard to get a sense of the very-important and often-elusive chemistry. When you meet someone naturally in the world, the degree of chemistry is immediately noted. This limitation of online dating is a reason it’s so important to schedule a short first date early in the dialogue and not to divulge your whole life story before actually meeting and feeling you can trust them with that information.

Loss of Mystery and Romance

There is something beautiful and romantic about meeting your future partner through a mutual friend, at a party, or a mutually beloved place. It is a fairytale that you imagined over and over in your head since you were a child. Therefore, the very thought of meeting someone online diverts from the imagined story and seems pretty sterile. While a first date can be just as memorable and romantic, getting to that point just doesn’t feel as serendipitous. Some of us are traditional in this way and online dating may feel too unnatural.

Our Advice

Be Choosy

Online dating provides an almost endless stream of potential mates, and it’s important to be choosy. Don’t become overwhelmed by the sheer number of matches and therefore begin dating to the point of burnout. It’s usually best to get clear on what and who you are looking for, before you start the communicating with people. Sometimes, it can help to work with a therapist, to clarify the traits that will work well for you and those that you want to steer away from.

Prescreen thoroughly, and if something feels off in the early communication with a potential partner, listen to your intuition. Be selective about who you meet offline.

Keep All Avenues Open

Even if you give online dating a try -- or don’t -- keep all avenues open. Continue to spend time in the places you love, doing the things you love to meet like-minded friends or potential partners. Join meet-ups, dive into the hobbies you enjoy, and surround yourself with others who are spending time meeting the goals you also share. All of this is key to enhancing your relationship with yourself and with others, and is also an essential component in preparing for finding the perfect partner.

At Center for Shared Insight, we believe in taking clients’ most burning questions and turning them into learning opportunities for those who become clients and also for those who simply benefit from our online resources.

Do you have a relationship question you’d like answered? Email me to contribute to this section of our blog. If you have hesitations or questions about whether online dating is for you, feel free to schedule a consultation to discuss further.

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