Wendy Grace explores the pitfalls and merits of dating websites
Ten years ago there certainly was more stigma attached to online dating than today. The online dating scene has now transformed from something taboo into a multi-million euro industry. In the last month I have met two married couples who met online, and increasingly this will become more common. Some dating websites claim that 1 in 3 of all their matches end up in marriage.
The reality is whether we are subscribed to a dating website or not, most of us will engage in some form of online dating. Whether it is reviewing someone’s Facebook page before you meet, or allowing Google to give you some background information before your first date.
Like dating in the real world, online dating has its pitfalls and its merits.
There is a danger of fooling ourselves into thinking we might find the ‘perfect’ partner online, because online dating magnifies the boxes we feel we need to tick in order to fall in love. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect anybody. Your goal should not be to find the perfect match (which doesn’t exist) but to explore the possibilities and then take the plunge to actually meeting someone who might have potential.
What makes you happy
So when you are checking those boxes of your likes and dislikes, really evaluate what will actually make you happy. When browsing at profiles try to avoid using online dating like a human supermarket, looking only at the packaging and not thinking about what is inside. If you are looking for a relationship, with real possibilities, you must search with respect and maturity. It means not making snap superficial judgments based on the hair colour you prefer.
Reflect who you are
Remember how you portray yourself will somewhat determine what comes into your inbox. Make it clear on your profile what you are looking for. Your profile should accurately reflect who you are, be honest about your interests and hobbies and lay off using photos from a decade ago. Not being fully honest makes a meet up unrealistic and puts huge pressure on you. You want those who get in touch to like the real you not an online persona.
Don’t put your personal information online, such as where you live or your contact number. I would recommend chatting on Skype before meeting in person.
When you do decide to go on a date, always meet in a public place, and make sure you have a good exit strategy if things are not going well. Always make sure a friend or family member knows where you are meeting. Don’t go for dinner as your first date, otherwise you are trapped until the bill comes. Meet for a casual coffee so you have an easy escape. If things go well, coffee can always lead to dinner later.
Rob (31) tried online dating for the first time this year. At first he was a little sceptical but kept an open mind. “I used a Catholic dating website because meeting someone into their faith was really important to me. I found it difficult because it felt a little like window shopping,” he says.
However, Rob found he was able to get past the superficial nature of online dating. “I actually contacted a few girls who had no pictures up, but their interests and hobbies were similar to mine. I think you can start to get to know somebody by messaging them, but the real test is meeting up. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to that point yet. The hardest thing about online dating is that people are quite guarded about meeting up, so it takes a long time to get from the point of chatting to the point where you might meet,” he says.
Rob’s experience hasn’t been entirely positive but he decided to keep his options open. “I think if your vocation is marriage and you really want to meet someone, you have to be proactive, God will only open doors if you can turn the handle! So I am keeping my online profile but will also focus on ways of meeting people too through hobbies or nights out.”
Eimear (29) started her first online dating profile in the last six months. “I was out with six friends one night and half of them were trying online dating, none of them had anything negative to say about it, so I decided to give it a go. I had been single for a while and was ready to start dating again,” she said.
Writing a profile
Eimear found writing up her own profile tricky. “A lot of girls put up really posey ‘selfies’ which I think just attracts the wrong kind of attention. I put up a picture that was really me, standing smiling soaking wet at a concert. I think your profile has to represent who you really are rather than who you think you should be. You only want people who are genuinely interested in you to contact you,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Eimear was sending messages to people she was interested in and she was getting some interest too. “I would narrow down the search to men who wanted a serious relationship within my age range who were Catholic. After that I looked through all the profiles that fitted that description – whether I found their photo appealing or not. To me it was more important to find someone I was compatible with overall. My profile made it clear that I was into my faith and that I was looking for a committed relationship.”
Eimear quickly started chatting to a few potential guys and has since been on some dates. “Anyone who sent me a generic message like ‘how are you’ I just ignored. It was clear they hadn’t bothered to read my profile. The guys who read about my interests and used that as an ice breaker were the ones I chatted with. Most guys I’ve talked to really respect that I am saving sex for marriage. I only had one nasty message where a guy started attacking my beliefs, but I stood up to him and he apologised, and said I gave him a lot to think about! For the most part I just got to chat to some lovely people.”
Eimear is currently dating someone she met online. “We have been on six dates now and it’s going really well. Unlike meeting someone in a bar, the fact that I practice my faith wasn’t a complete shock because I already chatted about that prior to meeting. Whether it works out with this guy or not, my experience has been really positive and has really given me a huge amount of confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. I would say to people don’t knock it until you have tried it,” she says.
In some ways online dating allows for improvement over modern day dating. When dating online you can make it clear from the start that what you’re looking for and get to find someone with common interests before you first meet up. In other ways online dating can be superficial and create unrealistic expectations, but if you enter into it with an open mind you never know
- Make it clear on your profile what you are
- looking for
- Be honest about your interests and hobbies
- Use a realistic profile photo
- Don’t put your personal information online
- Chat on the phone before meeting in person