Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Small Rant Against Internet Dating

Yes, it's an old theme, but I feel an anti-internet dating rant coming on. When people email me with questions born of internet dating, I begin to doubt my auntly omniscience. Men who seem like lions or heroes over the internet show up on real dates looking like mice or extras on Star Trek. Women who put up glamour shots on their profiles show up looking ten years older. No wonder almost everybody drags their feet over meeting up. Being leonine or forever twenty-two in fantasyland starts to seem better than being just you in a cafe.

My absolute, ironclad rule about internet dating is that if you meet someone you find attractive on a dating website, you should meet them as soon as possible. And if you really aren't able to relocate 500 miles away for love, stop claiming on dating websites that you can. If you live in Brighton, Massachusetts, stop looking at photos of men in California.

The usual rules for meeting strangers apply. Google his/her name and read up on him/her on the internet. Arrange to meet for afternoon coffee in a public place. Tell a friend where you are going. Carry a mobile phone, cab fare and enough money to cover the bill. (If you are a woman, there is always the chance that he will dine and dash. This happened to a friend of mine on a dinner date; it turned out the man was notorious.) Be kind and polite for the entire 1.5 hours of date. Never bring him/her home or go back to his/her place or to his/her friend's place.

Meanwhile, I loathe loathe loathe internet dating because almost nobody will take my "meet up ASAP" advice and the birthrate of awkward half-friendship, half-fantasy relationship monsters will continue to rise, preventing Singles everywhere from becoming Seraphic.

This is where a newish reader will say "But, Seraphic, what about you?" and I will state the following:

A) I met my husband through my blog, not through a dating site
B) I was friends with one of his friends, whose brilliant idea our marriage first was
C) we corresponded through our respective comboxes and by occasional emails, not by instant message
D) his emails were so few and far between, I never got my hopes up
E) before my Scotland holiday I sent him the most recent, least glamorous (but still descriptive) photo I could find: my own dear current self smoking a cigar. This was to discourage any hopes that I might be a peerless beauty, and in actual fact, my real-life personal appearance was, he claims, a nice surprise. Wearing a skirt proved to be a good move.


leonine said...

Hmm. Was there a reason you used my moniker there, Seraphic? ;)

(For the record, I should state that my one attempt at internet dating was totally unsatisfying and therefore extremely brief.)

Bernadette said...

However, in favor of internet dating, there is this: a few weeks ago I attended the wedding of my cousin, who met her now-husband through an internet dating site. And last Friday my sister got engaged to a wonderful young man whom she also met through an internet dating site. In the spirit of full disclosure, my sister insisted on meeting her guy in person as soon as possible after they connected online, and my cousin did the same, plus investigating him through the mutual friends they turned out to have.

Seraphic said...

There you go. They met up ASAP, plus had mutual friends. Which makes me wonder if God might have brought them together through the mutual friends anyway, but let that go.

Seraphic said...

Leonine, I just needed the adjective!

Jennifer said...

Oh, internet dating. Giant NO to that. Yes, I do know a few people who've met via internet dating sites, and who have ended up getting married to the person they met, but I know far, far more people who went through squillions of dates of first dates that never progressed to a second or third date, let alone anything serious. And most of my friends who have used online dating services have funny stories about weirdos they've met, but most do not have sweet stories about meeting lovely people.

I tried it off and on from the late 90's (when I moved to Boston and knew NO ONE in that city) until 2004. Up until 2004, my experiences were the same as most of my friends: disappointing, awkward, weird, and/or painful. In 2004, I met someone who self-described as a nice Catholic guy. By this time, I'd done more dating via internet sites than the sort generated offline, and my sense of 'normal' was unfortunately skewed by this. The 'nice Catholic guy' wanted to get engaged (his idea), and then panicked and stomped my heart to bloody bits, and it took me all of 5 years to even contemplate dating ever again.

A friend and I were discussing this last week. He had not done it, and refused to even try it. I said I wished that I never had, because there was nothing about it that had made the expenditure of time, energy, and fees worth the trouble. I had to acknowledge that, in fact, my best relationships were those that evolved organically with men who were already in my offline social circle. And that those few that had been the longest lived and happiest had been with men with whom I had been friends for awhile (sometimes years) and with whom there was so much context between us that something more than friendship eventually developed.

Seraphic said...

I'm sorry that happened to you, Jennifer. It's really a bit of a lottery, isn't it?

Another Jennifer said...

Jennifer, your experience is exactly why I've moved away from Internet Dating.

I did it because I knew I should put myself out there as much as possible, but in the end, I've decided that I'd much rather meet the person first, decide if I'm interested and let things happen naturally. I don't have the time or energy to get all excited about someone online only to meet up with him and find out there is no chemistry.

I'm with Auntie Seraphic. IF anyone meets someone online, meet up ASAP. That is in my rule book for myself.

Jennifer said...

Other Jennifer - it took me a few dates, but I learned fairly quickly that 'meet as soon as possible' was the only way to go. Also, coffee or a drink is preferable to dinner - you can always have dinner if the coffee/drinks are going swimmingly, but if it's a horrible date, you can get out quickly if it's coffee or drinks.

I, too, was operating under the 'you need to put yourself out there' advice, mostly from more-extroverted-than-me friends. Since I'm no further ahead, marriage-wise, than I would have been had I just left things to chance and natural (offline) development, I wish I'd saved myself the trouble and not done it at all. But it's all water under the dating bridge at this point. :)

Seraphic - it was awful, yes. But c'est la vie. And if nothing else, it taught me, definitively I think, that there 'nice' is not good enough. It's too vague, and in any event, I should be on the look out for 'kind' and 'good' and 'dependable' instead. It was a late lesson, but invaluable. :)

CatholicGal said...

If I can say something for the pro-side. I tried secular online dating and no thanks. then i tried a catholic one. i told myself only for one month, then forgot to unsubscribe, and thank God for my poor memory which allowed me to meet my Future Husband. I was only on for two months. I chatted with a few guys on IM, then on phone, and those two ended when there was no connection over the phone for various reason. FH and I are engaged and live 5 hours apart, for now. We met as soon as we could, and I do appreciate that he said he wanted to meet up realatively right away. I think chats/IMs are ok in the beginning, and phone calls, then meeting. However, I got sick when we were first supposed to meet and he had to come 3 weeks later. And make quite a trip. So while I agree with your advice about meeting soon, checking the person out, etc. God brought us together and we are right for one another. Of course, we are not spring chickens so knew what we wanted/didn't and were serious people about it from the beginning.
I guess I just want to say, that it can work, as long as one takes into consideration the fact that you need to have some self control and if there is not a real connection after a few talks, don't fall into the half-relationship lets IM for a year zone.

fifi said...

Isn't there something kind of important about the Here and Now that God has put us in? I think it's too easy to get into a mindset of trolling the fantasy catalog of and drooling over all the "potential" in it, instead of getting off your duff and going to the spaghetti dinner down the street, or inviting your elderly neighbor lady over for something homemade. My personal concern with online dating is that I think it encourages us to be divorced from Reality. Reality is God-given, even when it's a wasteland devoid of young adult fellowship. If you can't wait in that Reality and trust that God will send you someone in His own good time, maybe God is calling you to move someplace with better Christian fellowship. Online dating will just postpone that discernment, much like an unrequited crush closes you off from other options long after you should be moving on.

Lisa said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog and I LOVE it!
I have always hated online dating and many of my friends found their spouses in this way so it was a little awkward when I said so.

Even when you meet ASAP the bit of time between profile/photo and reality is long enough for your brain to fill in the blanks. At least mine does. And then I'm usually disappointed.

I love what you're doing here!
Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts.