There’s one piece of advice I’ll stand by here and that’s to ‘meet early, meet soon’.
If you meet the object of your desire within seven days – even if you have messaged 24/7 in the meantime – you’re limiting the potential for elevating them onto an unrealistic pedestal.
And that cuts both ways.
Being a disappointment to someone is surely one of my greatest fears, but neither do I care to waste hours, days, weeks or months of my life maintaining a false intimacy with someone who’s ultimately unsuitable.
I’ve learned this many times through hard-won experience. “You can do all the box-ticking, messaging and phoning you like, but real-world chemistry can very easily make it all irrelevant,” says Guardian columnist Stella Grey. (Stella Grey ‘From Oddballs To Indiana Jones: My Online Search For Love’ The Guardian Mid-Life Ex-Wife 2 April 2016)
Like me, you might be wondering whether meeting someone online is realistic for you. After a couple of years going on and off actively looking for a mate online, I still waver in my interest. But, as it was explained rather charmingly by Harmony May in Elephant Journal, “Online dating seems to be the new way to go. Lives are busy and it eliminates the need to go out and be social in the real world playing a guessing game of who you are compatible with. You’re able to find people that you’re attracted to that have similar interests … before you even invest too much time… It can be a beautiful thing, if you do it right. But see… [there is the] possibility that expectations [will] develop before we even [meet].” (Harmony May ‘My Adventure in Online Dating’ Elephant Journal 3 December 2015)
Some people already think that meeting people online is the new normal for relationships.
Statistically, although most singles have used a dating app, they don’t necessarily meet long-term partners this way. And this opens up a Pandora’s box of issues and concerns. I wonder how the current generation of teenagers will manage relationships in a world where sex is fast becoming a commodity, porn distorts reality and damages the sex drive and performance of young men, and where knowing how to attract a mate online is a more important life skill than being a decent person.
It might well be a world, according to Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why) without joy, without the deep fulfilment associated with … genuine, meaningful connection with our nearest and dearest. I truly hope not.
At my end of the age spectrum, Stella Grey says “online dating at 50 was much harder than I thought it would be. I was prepared for hard, but I wasn’t prepared for going down a rabbit hole to another land, or its perpetual magic realism.” (The Guardian, 2016)
There’s no denying that this simple change in the way we might meet people has big ramifications.
One example: a female friend of mine was asked on a dating site, “Are you fatter than you look in your photos?” This sort of impolite and direct question would not usually be asked in person. Granted, physical proximity would render it pointless, however, the glib rudeness, the sheer boldness or discourtesy is discomfortingly close to nasty hate speech or threats that people feel entitled to express to strangers because of their own relative anonymity.
There’s also the unspoken expectation that, often before you have even developed a sense of the other person, you’ll exchange nudie pics.
But It’s Not All Doom and Gloom
Meeting people online might sap your strength or make you wish you’d never been born. But, equally, it might fill your soul with happy juice and propel you into places you’ve never been before. There’s fun to be had, excitement to be hunted and pleasure and connection to be found in the most unlikely of places.
“We have become products of the online dating generation, which makes actual dating more difficult. We expect to know as much as possible about someone up front before we agree to spend time together, even if it is just over coffee…We approach dates with caution and scepticism. We shut down if there isn’t that instant spark of chemistry, instead of trying to get to know someone past the awkwardness of a first date.”
Kelly Seal offers good advice there for anyone in this confronting, confusing, disappointing, heart-breaking and funny world: “So on your next date, take your time. Engage. Try to be fully present. Put away your phone. Talk. Ask questions. Listen. Then see how online dating works for you.” (Kelly Seal ‘Do You Want To Give Up Online Dating?’ www.datingsitesreviews.com August 2015)