Three Unconventional Truths About Online Dating

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The three of us sat around my office cubicle hunched over my phone, like little school girls, cooing over the attractive guy on the screen. “Just try it, Mannie,” one of my work friends encouraged. I looked at the 27 year old second-year resident from a downtown LA hospital on my screen and wondered, perhaps like everyone who first starts online dating, if he was a serial killer.

I was hesitant, skeptical and guarded when it came to online dating three years ago. The common mistrust of meeting someone online combined with the stigma of “settling” for an online platform to find love repelled me from trying it. One day, however, on a slow work day in sunny Southern California, two of my closest work friends brought it up and we took the plunge together. Over the next few months, we looked at matches, went on dates and shared stories, in between patient calls and over lunch breaks. We laughed. We cringed. We gushed over cute gestures. It was an experience.

 

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Our dating experiences ended up being very diverse. Out of the three of us, one of my friends ended up marrying the first person she went on a date with. The other friend found her boyfriend (and soon to be husband, I’m sure) after some casual dating. I ended up deleting the app after using it sporadically while traveling for work. Although it’s difficult to establish “rules” about online dating, there are three truths I’ve found about online dating.

. . .

The first myth I encountered is that online dating is for casual hookups. That actually is not true — online dating is what you make it: I’ve been on first dates where I’ve been asked to come over after a few drinks. I’ve been on first dates where plans of marriage, family and kids have come up. Online or offline, there is a wide spectrum of “seriousness” with dating in general. What your date wants from you is beyond your control. You are in charge, however, of your own behavior, standards and expectations: You decide how you date. You determine how a relationship progresses. You set the boundaries.

The bottom line is: If you’re looking for a husband, you’ll find him. If you’re looking for sex, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for a friend, you’ll find one.

In life or dating, you will always find what you’re looking for.

. . .

Secondly, I learned how to engage with a stranger honestly and organically in a formal setting.The first online date I ever went on was a complete disaster. I remember it clearly: I saw the 27 year old resident (mentioned earlier) over happy hour in downtown LA and we sat across from one another, ironically wearing matching t shirts. Over text, we hit it off perfectly. In person, however, I couldn’t talk to him. I closed up. I answered his questions with one word answers. I practically ran away at the end of the interrogation (uhm, I mean date).

 

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Dating has taught me how to show up, meet a complete stranger and have a pleasant two hour conversation about life. I’ve learned how to be engaging, attentive and present without expecting anything in return. Online dating is more than finding a love interest: It’s about meeting, interacting and connecting with people. It’s having a real conversation with another person. There’s an art to introducing yourself, having someone open up and show you a part of his/her world. Have you ever listened to people talk about what they love? It’s beautiful. Their eyes light up. They come alive. Their beauty shines through.

 

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Dates don’t have to be pressured, orchestrated interactions leading to a perfect relationship. They can be opportunities to connect with another human being in a platonic way. It’s not always “boy meets girl” but possibly human meets human. I’ve met brilliant architects, chefs, physicians, artists and explorers without ever wanting more than their conversations and stories. People are fascinating. We’re all searching for our own Nemo but sometimes, it’s worthwhile to appreciate the brilliance of the other fish in the sea.

. . .

Dating, in general, will help you find your values and tastes. Online dating, in particular, will expedite that process. One common misconception about dating is that as you’re meeting people, you’re learning more about others. In reality, however, dating is more introspective — you will discover, very quickly, what you want and don’t want.

Throughout the years, with the high volume in matches and convenience in setting up dates, I’ve gotten a crash course in my own preferences and tastes. Do I want someone who’s traditional or more conservative? Introverted or extroverted? What am I willing to put up with in relationships? How far will I go to make a relationship work? What are my pet peeves? How do I react when I’m upset? What balances me in a relationship? What do I want?

These questions guide me into being more conscious and aware as I develop into who I am. Online dating, in that respect, ends up being a invaluable tool with understanding what I want out of my relationships. Rather than a guy, I’m swiping right on me, my growth and my future. I’m matching with another stranger who I can learn from. I’m ultimately searching for what’s searching for me, whatever that is at the time.

 

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