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Online dating: It ain’t for everybody

I spent much of my young adult years experiencing the multifaceted complexities of dating. My perspective on dating was different as a young adult in part due to my upbringing as a Christian. I viewed it from a more traditional lens; you meet some through social engagement, go out on dates, get to know each other, and establish a relationship that ultimately leads to marriage. Early into my undergraduate years, dating mostly consisted of meeting guys in social settings including college frat parties, night clubs, school events, during class, the campus diner and occasionally at church events. While this was the norm for many people, I was not limited to the traditional aspects of dating. I was aware of online dating and exposed to it early on in life through movies and through stories told by my mom about her friend’s experiences with online dating. I remember watching and being intrigued by the movie “You’ve Got Mail” as a child and seeing two people meet virtually with the goal to date each other. Although sites like eHarmony and Match had been around since the 90s and were popular for adults seeking to venture out of their comfort zones of dating, I did not think the online dating thing was meant for me. Aside from the perils and horror stories of online dating, I was simply disinterested in paying monthly subscription fees, feared disapproval of online dating from my family and friends, and didn’t want to face disappointment in not having my expectations met. I was also nervous about disregarding the faith-based principles of dating.

My thoughts of doubt in online dating changed when a friend introduced me to the world of dating apps. It was 2012, my junior year in college, and I had just ended a relationship that was going nowhere, when a friend introduced me to the dating app OkCupid. She showed me other dating apps as well including Plenty of Fish (POF), Tagged and Zoosk. I listened with curiosity as she explained the process of creating a profile, selecting the best pictures of yourself and choosing your preferences to ensure better matches. I was still weary of committing myself to online dating, but at that point in my life making connections with guys in person was getting harder. I wanted to give it a chance, and I did. I began investing in creating a polished profile that would allow me to attract men outside of my college bubble. After a few days of trying to find the best words to describe myself and to find the best pictures that would afford me many likes and swipes, I was convinced that I had finally perfected my dating profile. I was ready to tackle the online dating world. Learning to navigate the world of dating through a screen was a lot harder than I thought. It was easy to find attraction in looks, but a lot harder to hold conversations with my matches. I spent many months engaging in conversation inside of the dating apps not once giving in to exchanging numbers with strangers whom I did not anticipate meeting anytime soon. However, I soon found myself mustering up courage to take online dating to the next level, so I began sharing my number with a few matches that I had consistent communication with and who I found interesting. I had finally arranged my first in person meet up with a guy I had been speaking to for over a month. I asked a friend to join me during this encounter. He was a “Catfish”! I was shocked, upset, terrified, confused and honestly amused all in one. I could not believe something like this happened in real life, let alone to me. I was discouraged from meeting any more guys in person from online dating after that incident. Then, I finally met someone who I had felt would be worth the risk. The connection with him was real, we became very good friends and enjoyed getting to know each other. After three months of dating, we committed to a relationship that lasted for three years. He was my first successful online dating relationship.

I had hope that a new successful relationship would develop from online dating like it had for me before, so I threw myself back into the dating pool. From 2017 to the summer of 2019, I became wrapped in a cycle of online dating highs and lows. There were some successes that led to relationships, but many of my experiences with meeting guys who did not take dating seriously. This was the age of “situationships”, and I was apart of quite a few. “Situationships” are defined as short-term and undefined romantic relationships without commitment. There were specific apps catered to this type of dating including the infamous Tinder. I had a Tinder profile during this period of my life. Quality suddenly became obsolete in the online dating world, and the hope of finding true love was becoming more and more fictious than factual. Guys were simply not being upfront about their intentions for the most part. There was the ghosting, the dining, and dashing, the sexual advances on first encounters, and the “oops, I forgot my wallet”. Online dating became unsettling and uncertain and I was getting nowhere.

The next several months going into 2020 were spent reflecting on where I went wrong with my online dating experiences. I was not being intentional. I got caught up in the ideal of manipulating the best match for me with disregard to what was happening right in front of me. I was dating on the surface and without a purpose which led me to settle for people and things that I knew were not right for me. Knowing this, I promised myself that going forward, I would approach online dating differently. I was not going to rush back into online dating immediately. I needed to be sure that I was ready and more mature. I knew it would be a while before I would be able to get out and mingle socially due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I took a different approach by making my intentions clear and upfront. To my surprise, this go round, guys seemed more engaged, interesting, and genuine in their intentions. I ended up meeting a nice guy and we are currently in a relationship that is blossoming daily.

I have gained many lessons from online dating over the years. The first lesson I learned is that most dating platforms are designed to produce successful outcomes when used appropriately. Dating is complex, and it can be more complex virtually; however, when you make your intentions known, you are able to reduce negative outcomes in your experience. The second lesson I learned from online dating is to never set your expectations too high. People lie to impress you or to get what they want, simply put. Dating is designed to allow people to interact and get to know each other, but sometimes one person may have high expectations that will not be met by the other person. Make your intentions known early on to eliminate any unrealistic expectations or potential time wasting. Another lesson I learned is that online dating can be time consuming and tasking. Give yourself breaks! It is ok to take a break for a few weeks or months when you are not finding luck with quality matches and meeting people. I took many breaks to ensure I had time to focus on other areas of my life. Lastly, I learned that a successful relationship is possible through online dating. Online dating is not for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with choosing to date traditionally. However, if you desire to explore online dating as an option, do not be afraid to give it a try. Do not give up, stay positive, and have fun while exploring different apps or sites that work best for your dating needs.

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