The Appeal of Online Dating and Suggestions for Success

loveAfter an unexpected end to a two-year relationship last September, I was confident in my ability to move on fairly quickly, yet felt out of touch with the mid-twenties dating world.  Things had changed since the days of college flings and meaningless encounters.  I finally felt like an adult and was trying to figure out this “adult” way of dating.  Between working full time and living alone, where on earth was I supposed to meet Mr. Right unless it involved a few drinks followed by a half forgotten conversation?  So I hopped on the online dating train that apparently has 29 million passengers in America alone.  A team of 3 researchers, Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs, found that 40% of Americans have an online dating profile, so why not?   Online dating, 10-15 years ago, was considered more taboo but is now skyrocketing exponentially in use.  With an increase in technology features and an emphasis on social media, more of us are turning to online dating in hopes of finding love.

Why the growing popularity of online dating?

Minimal Fear of Rejection

Given your workload, personality, and social life, it could potentially take weeks or months to score a date via face-to-face interaction.  Think about it; you’re out in public and you walk by someone and think, “Wow, they’re attractive,” so you shoot them a glance and continue on with your day.  Chances are, unless you’ve obtained some form of courage via confidence or liquid, you won’t initiate a conversation due to a fear of being rejected.  How humiliating to hear, “I’m sorry but I have a girlfriend,” or when you ask for her number, she responds “Why don’t I take yours?”  The chances of rejection are often too high to place confidence in vulnerability.  Online dating provides enough options in a small amount of time, and a computer screen between us to alleviate the fear of rejection.

Anonymity

Regardless of the pictures we post or the profile we create, online dating provides a shield of anonymity.  This gives us the ability at our fingertips to be a slightly better version of ourselves; revealing our most appealing side.  When I created a profile, I chose my best pictures and included only my most engaging interests.  Interests like: hiking, vacations, wine tasting, cooking.  All of these things are true interests of mine but I also knew they would be more successful toward attracting the opposite sex than some of my real interests.  If I had included more, I probably would have mentioned that I love being lazy, cuddling, and watching The Bachelor.  We have the power over our self-disclosure and the amount of truth behind it.  Not only does online dating give us time to think about what we’ll say but also provides the opportunity to be a well-edited/carefully crafted version of ourselves.  This is why many resort to online dating, because of the control it provides.  Just remember if you’re trying to find “the one,” honesty is the best policy.

Efficiency

I realized that as I put my best self forward in this new format for dating , I had higher standards online than I did offline. I had my hopes on something serious; therefore skipped by anyone who I knew there would never be a future with.   On dating sites you learn so much about someone in the first few minutes of reading.  “What are you looking for? How old are you? Do you have kids? Do you drink? Do you want to get married?”  Can you imagine walking up to someone you find attractive and immediately asking these questions? People choose online dating because it’s efficient! Websites have developed what many call a “relationship algorithm”, which are questions that match you up with others who share your same beliefs, interests, and personality traits.  Though sometimes criticized for their overall validity, these questions may reveal make it or break it characteristics about someone, thus helping you to realize that maybe its not worth going on a first date when you already hold such strongly opposed beliefs.  You can decide within a few moments whether or not to pursue someone or move on, without any encounter.

Tips for Online Dating

So you’re at the point where you’ve decided to give online dating a shot.  Although it has not yet provided me with my happily-ever-after, I’ve experienced enough to know that great things can come from it.  I’ve also learned to proceed with caution, and approach it casually and lightly.  You must realize that you are going to most likely have to go on many dates if you are truly looking for someone you’ll be compatible with.  Also, be very honest on your profile in specifying what you are seeking from the site.  Brace yourself; although you may be looking for “the one,” many are looking for “the one for now.”  If you start looking at every single date as a potential husband or serious relationship, I assure you, you will be disappointed.

It’s vital for your emotional well being to realize that even if you’ve been on a few dates, this person is probably talking to multiple people in addition to you.  Until the person has shown obvious signs of exclusivity or you’ve had that conversation, it’s safe to assume they’re continuing to find the next best thing.  That’s why it is important to get to know multiple people.  Online dating tends to speed up the dating process, but don’t let it.  The more you rush the relationship, the more likely you will get hurt in the process.

The best thing you can do is to take it slow.  Get to know the person via texting and talking on the phone.  However, there should not be a long drawn out period where you are only communicating via technology.  Constant online messaging and texting can lead into disclosing too much information too soon.  You may think someone sounds perfect through the 500 texts you’ve exchanged and then meet them and realize they aren’t your type at all.  Now you’ve exchanged information, pictures, and told a stranger your whole life story.  Set up a date within a reasonable time of getting to know them and if the person continues to reschedule, let it be a red flag to continue your search.

Lastly and most importantly, be honest.  I realized through trial and error that posting my most seductive and prettiest pictures did not get me any closer to the end goal.  Your profile should reflect who you are as closely as possible if you are determined to find your match.  Eventually when you meet, the other person will see the real you, so don’t be afraid to post a picture of you being silly if that’s a true depiction of your personality.  Also, be truthful in the information you post; I still have yet to include that my guilty pleasure is The Bachelor, but I can say that there is not one interest posted that doesn’t actually interest me.  Being honest will attract the compatible people that you want to attract if you are trying to pursue something serious.

Although online dating is not for everyone because of its difference in nature than regular dating, it has become more and more successful over the years.  Its efficiency allows us to keep up with dating in the fast paced world we live in while still maintaining our normal day to day routines.  If you can enter the world of online dating with patience and caution then you may eventually be successful.  Even if you don’t find your soul mate via online dating, you will at least get to know a variety of personalities and figure out the traits you are attracted to versus those that turn you away, giving you a better understanding of who or what you are seeking.

About the Author

Alexandra McKellar-Kirchoff Alexandra graduated in 2012 from UCSB with her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Applied Psychology.  She has always enjoyed studying psychology, specifically human interaction.  She is currently implementing her leadership experience through her retail management position, while at the same time, interning for Psychalive.  Her passions include writing and singing, and she aspires to get her Master’s in Sociology.  For now, she is staying busy and constantly planning for her future.

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