Online Dating: Content isn’t Everything
Here’s a little known present-day fact about me: when I was 15, I had an “AOL boyfriend.” (My parents, had they known, would have freaked.) In my high school yearbook, I was voted most likely to have an online wedding.
Back then, it was strange for people to grasp the potential of online networking. It was geeky. (I never minded.)
Fast forward 11 years. I’ve been married for nearly two years. My husband and I met the old-fashioned way. “AOL boyfriends” are not so abnormal. Online relationships are flourishing and people going great lengths to meet their dream dates that they met online.
Online dating communities are very active and people often make their own assessments of an individual based on an online profile followed by a few email exchanges and maybe a phone call or two.
I’ve seen successes and failures with this model. I’ve had a friend from Falls Church, VA meet his “AOL girlfriend” who lived in Seattle — after meeting, they decided they were meant for each other. I believe they’re on their 7th or 8th year of marriage now.
Another friend of mine used an online dating service to find his soulmate. After just a few months, they were engaged. They’ve been married for about four years now and have a beautiful baby.
It seems probable that online networking gives you access to more “fish in the sea,” and there’s no doubt that it truly does.
Still, there are always issues of judgment and content of communications. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if someone is “the one” by relying solely on email or IMs. I’d go as far as saying that it’s almost entirely impossible to tell, and I’m generally a good judge of online character.
I had a high-school and then college friend who I used to enjoy talking to online. His communications were thoughtful, intellectually stimulating, and truly interesting. I felt empowered by chatting with him and I even had a different persona around him; since his IM conversations were always thought-provoking and educational without the shorthand that plagues most other informal communications of our generation, I communicated much “smarter” with him. Of all the people I have conversed with on a regular basis, I believe that his communications were always brimming with good “content.”
We dated for awhile. It didn’t work out.
But, after literally six or seven years of regular doses of “high content” conversations, you’d think it would have worked out well. Admittedly, with there being always something interesting to talk about all the time, we really did hit it off online, just never offline.
That’s one part of the puzzle. There’s more to a relationship than online communication. Even if it’s perfect online, it may not be in real life — and that’s where it ultimately matters.
My husband and I don’t chat very often online. Even when we dated, we chatted online very infrequently. Our online conversations really lacked that intellectual content that was so awe-inspiring by my other friend. (In “real life,” that void was filled.)
But meanwhile, we’re so incredibly happy and I wouldn’t want it any other way, even though my peers (and I) thought that once upon a time, I was destined to meet my soulmate over the Internet.
Years ago, I trialled some online dating services when many were in their infancy to see what kinds of audiences they would attract. Some online conversations turned into lengthy phone conversations, but the relationships ultimately fizzled. This could have been in part due to unrealistic expectations by both me and the other individual. When presented with a resume of the potential match’s credentials, we often lose sight of the individual behind it and hope instead that they fulfill or meet our “basic requirements.” That’s why many companies have lengthy phone interviews followed by in-house interviews before they take upon an ideal applicant. In dating, I think less chance is given to that interview process.
I want to play matchmaker with a very good friend of mine. I feel that my husband’s friend would be a very viable match. Having known her nearly seven years and having known him for nearly three, I think it wouldn’t hurt to try.
My friend, however, somehow stumbled upon his profile on a dating site. He actually initiated; he sent her a message, and she responded, but the communication stopped from then on.
Perhaps the content of her reply was not good enough for him to desire to proceed. Perhaps he was inundated with other responses by the other “fish in the sea” who he contacted at the same time. Having all these women at your fingertips could become very time consuming.
Does that mean there is no future in that relationship? If my husband and I chatted online and I based my relationship on the content of our online communications, we would not be together today.
There are successes with online dating, but those numbers are rarer. With so many “stars in the sky,” people are often trying to reach out to different people all too frequently without having a chance to breathe and take it slowly. They are hopping from prospect to prospect without weighing in heavily on any particular individual. Worse, online dating services that are heavily payment-based are not allowing relationships to develop because of short membership terms. Golden nuggets may be overlooked, or worse, neglected due to the inability to judge the personality behind the text, often times judging too quickly. Communications alone online cannot determine the course of a relationship.
But that doesn’t mean that someone can’t try. This time, however, they should take it to the next step and find out if it’s worth pursuing.