There was a time when online dating was strictly taboo. The perception was that it was reserved for those poor desperate souls, like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, who couldn't turn any heads in person. A former supervisor told me she had never seen a single relationship work out that originated through online dating. Those couples that did meet through online dating often went to great lengths to hide the truth behind their relationship.
Yet, this year alone, I have already been to the weddings of two friends who met their spouses through online dating sites, and I have heard of countless other online dating success stories. In its April 25, 2010 edition, The Washington Post cited a recent survey commissioned by Match.com, stating: "More than twice as many couples who married last year met through online dating services than at a club or social event," and, "17 percent of those who married in the past three years met online, making it the third-most-frequent method of introduction."
Apparently, it's not so taboo anymore. In fact, I can think of five good reasons to meet your future spouse through online dating, rather than the stereotypical alternative - at the bar.
1. Online dating gives personality the chance to shine through before physical attraction takes over.
Relationships based predominantly on physical attraction have a high chance of failure. Why? Beauty fades. Sex cannot be the glue that holds a relationship together. As Sonny asked in the movie Grease, "What are you supposed to do with them for the other 23 hours and 45minutes of the day?"
Although you may see a photograph of your potential date before you initiate communication, chances are that when it comes to online dating, looks are only the flame that lights the fire. Once you have experienced initial attraction from a picture, you will likely peruse the other personal information provided in an online dating profile, such as hobbies, values, location, and professional interests. You will probably select the people with whom you communicate based on a much more developed picture than the brief snapshot of a face you get at the bar. Your decision to invest the time and effort it takes to initiate a conversation will not be such a gamble.
2. Online dating provides a wider variety of people from whom to choose.
Let's face it. When you get to a certain age, there just isn't a wide selection of people to choose from anymore. There are only so many people at your workplace, or so many available friends of friends with whom you can be set up on blind dates. Not all of us are fortunate enough to meet our soul mates in high school and somehow dodge the whole dating game.
With online dating, people have a whole world to choose from. They can be selective. They can type their criteria into an online dating search engine and be provided a list of viable candidates. They can browse online dating profiles of people from across the country. They can post their online dating profiles and wait to be selected by people. Thanks to online dating, no longer does "Mr. Right" just have to happen to waltz into the right place at the right time.
3. Online dating eliminates the awkwardness of rejection.
Being rejected at the bar is no fun for anyone involved. Someone has to make up an excuse or say something downright mean to a person's face. The other person has to feel embarrassed for trying - or not get the hint and continue to try, only to be embarrassed later.
Online dating takes that awkwardness away. A person just ignores a "wink." Or discontinues messaging. Or leaves the online dating site. It may sting a little for the person on the other end of the rejection, but the face-to-face factor is conveniently eliminated in online dating. If you get so far as to have a date with a person and then have to face a rejection, things may get a little more awkward, but at least rejection can be dealt with in the privacy of one's own computer room. Besides, if you are into the online dating scene, why fret? You have a whole world of other possibilities out there to explore!
4. Online dating gives you common ground.
When you meet someone in a bar, the only thing you know you have in common is that you are both at the same bar. You are given a limited time frame during which to find a topic of conversation, and general questions about hometowns and majors can only get you so far before one person or the other loses interest.
When you meet someone through online dating, you will probably find something you have in common through an online dating profile before you initiate conversation. Some of my friends have met dates or even future spouses through special-interest dating sites such as catholicmatch.com and farmersonly.com. Although it is not necessary to have a ton in common with a person in order to enjoy a successful relationship, it's helpful to at least start out with a springboard from which other conversations are sure to arise.
5. Online dating provides assurance that the person with whom you are communicating is looking for a relationship.
There is little guarantee that the cute person at the bar is in any way ready for a relationship when you are. If you are looking for a spouse, you want to find a person who is ready to take that next step. At the bar, you are just as likely to find someone who is looking for a one-night stand, a no-strings-attached relationship, or just a night out on the town.
With online dating, you can usually be sure the person on the other end is genuinely interested in a relationship. Why else would he go through all the trouble to post an online dating profile or respond to your message? People who are interested in relationships are going to be much more honest about what they are looking for, and perhaps more forthcoming with personal information, because they want to make sure they have found a good match for the long run. People who are interested in a relationship also seem to be more willing to look past the physical factor into a person's heart, because they realize that is where they will find a long-term companion.
Of course, along with all of these benefits, there are some drawbacks that accompany online dating. You may experience negative reactions to your "how we met" story. You might have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. But there are certainly a lot of upsides to exploring the online dating world. If you are looking for that future spouse and not having any luck out in the "real world," why not test the vast waters of online dating and see where the current takes you?
McCarthy, Erin. "Marriage minded to better online than at bars, survey claims."The Washington Post. April 25, 2010.