Online Dating, Pros and Cons
Today, as never before in history, there are communications systems in place that are so rapid and efficient that they have virtually erased distance and time lag. Paradoxically, at the very same time that distant parts of the world have been brought closer together, young people complain about difficulties in meeting members of the opposite sex. As a result, many have turned to internet websites as a way to find someone to date and marry. What are the pros and cons of internet dating?
Why is it difficult to find someone to date?
There are a variety of answers to this question. For one, the fact that people easily relocate from one geographical area to another has made it difficult to get to know people because their time in one place is often limited. Secondly, many college students do not remain in one school until they graduate but move from one university to another before they decide what career they want to follow. This makes the formation of lasting relationships much more difficult. Third, even in the work place, there is great mobility. Rather than working for one institution for many years, people constantly look elsewhere for better salaries and opportunities for advancement. Often, this means relocating to other parts of the country or world.
Online dating services have become a way for people to meet and date one another. In some cases, this is a way for people to meet and marry their significant other. For many others, online dating is a study in frustration and disillusionment. What are the sources of these frustrations?
There are websites that proclaim that they have "scientific methods" of matching people. Studies have shown that the methods used by these websites do not yield the hoped for results. The fact is that lists of personal and physical characteristics have little or nothing to do with the real person. Human beings are much too complex to be reduced down to lists. What is the old saying, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?" This is why so many people complain that after selecting someone to date from an online service, the actual person turns out to be nothing like what they expected or hoped for.
The entire experience of perusing long lists of profiles is extremely tiring and frustrating. The process usually begins with people emailing one another. More than a few people I have met in my therapy practice complain that the person with whom they are emailing promptly and abruptly stopped contacting them. Also, there are those who seem to want to engage in emailing and promise to make a time to meet but always put it off to another time. Once people do agree to meet, there is the very real issue of ensuring personal safety when meeting someone who is a perfect stranger. That is why the usual first step after emailing is meeting in a neutral place for coffee and conversation. Many have complained to me that there is too much coffee and too few possibilities for viable relationships.
Many people have told me that, despite the widespread use of online dating services, they cannot help but ask themselves, "What is wrong with me that I need the internet to find a date or what is wrong with these other people that they are using these services?" Despite all the modern day obstacles to finding an intimate partner, people feel like failures for not having done so.
It should go without saying that this way of meeting people is artificial and forced. Human beings come to know one another through the neighborhood in which they live, places they work or houses of worship they attend. Others meet through community activities and causes with which they are involved. Coming together in these types of settings allows for visual contact, conversation and gradually getting to know one another. Online dating provides for none of this. Even if two people are emailing through the service, they remain anonymous until they meet in person and, when they do, there is a likelihood that they will not feel a connection.
So, what are people to do?
Despite its many frustrations, online dating is one resource that can, and does, work for some. However, in doing so, it's important to keep in mind that the profiles really say little about who this person is. There is no way to really learn about the person other than actually having the meeting. Then, too, it's necessary to keep in mind that this potential date is not tainted just because he or she is using an online venue for dating. Remember, today, many people find themselves in the same dilemma.
In the end, I still think it's better and more helpful to meet people through friends, mutual activities and local neighborhoods.
What about the bar scene?
While going to a bar after work seems like a good idea to many people as a way to meet others, friends, family and former patients have complained to me that the bar scene is too often a place where people are looking for nothing more than sex. Then, too, good judgment is impaired by alcohol intake because of the way it impacts perception, mood and thinking.
Finally, be patient in your search for a significant other. As my mother often said, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Meeting the right person doesn't happen in a day and that is why time and patience are needed.
Your comments, questions and experiences are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD