Guys, can I share something with you? It’s something I don’t think we, as a society, talk about enough, so I’m going to go first and hope more of you follow. I met my boyfriend online. ::tries not to counteract your awkward “Ohhh! Really?” with overconfidence:: ::tries not to act embarrassed so that you’re more comfortable with it:: Yes, I met my boyfriend online, and the world didn’t end. Not some guy I text when I’m drunk, but a real person I love and share a dog with. Thanks to OkCupid, we do awesome things like go to farmers’ markets and spend holidays with each others’ families and live together.
And we’re not the only ones. According to one study, 10% of Americans have tried online dating. Of that 10%, a whopping 23% have met a spouse or long-term partner. I repeat, almost 25% of people who have tried online dating have married one of their acquaintances. MARRIED. And that number is just going to increase; imagine how high it will climb in the next few years. Whether we like it or not, online dating is a thing now. In fact, it’s more than a thing. It’s getting increasingly complex, tailored and specific.
To be clear, I’m assessing online dating from the perspective of finding a serious relationship. I’ve never online dated just for fun, or just to hook up, or just because I was bored; I made an OkCupid profile in search of a serious boyfriend. If you’re a casual online dater, there’s a chance my insights and evaluations don’t apply to you. They might not even seem like proper assessments. So as you read, remember: I’m talking about the pursuit of the long-term. If you’ve had a different experience or want to share your story, please do so (nicely!) in the comments!
I was skeptical of online dating. Like, mad skeptical. I was worried people wouldn’t like me for me. I was worried about being lied to, being solicited for sex and going out with guys that weren’t as cute in person as they appeared online. And, all of those things happened to me. But I stuck with it, and I met Frank. (Insert smiley Emoji.) Are you nervous about taking the next step? Still feeling burned from a bad experience? Let’s talk about some reasons I think you should get in (or revisit) the digital dating game.
You can find someone who is interested in your interests. Are you outdoorsy? Do you home-brew beer? Have you always wanted to climb Mount Everest? Someone else is, does and has, too. When you’re genuinely interested in someone’s interests, you’ll have plenty of things to talk about on your first date, and the second date, and the third…
It takes the awkwardness out of approaching people. Online dating is great for shy people. You can message people you normally wouldn’t talk to in real life, because the worst they can do is not respond. Things might be awkward when you meet a date in person for the first time, but you should be able to get over it quickly, because you both opted in for it.
There are really, really specific dating websites out there. Please take a moment to read this list; I dare you not to laugh out loud at least four times. As ridiculous as some of these sites are, they prove that online dating helps you hone in on exactly what you’re looking for in a partner. If you’re tall, gluten free or Amish (? how does that even work?), the internet wants to help you find love.
When taken seriously, online dating is a great way to meet someone—but that’s just my opinion. What about other people? I asked friends and coworkers ages 23-34 tell me what they think. Some are online daters, some aren’t. My personal experience skews my opinions of online dating very positive, so I wanted to be inclusive of other opinions as well. DON’T WORRY, GUYS, I CHANGED YOUR NAMES.
“I want to try online dating, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to pay for it, because then it feels like I can’t find a date on my own. But I’m worried the guys on the free sites will be creeps.” –Cassie, 26
“It’s hard to know if a girl is taking it seriously.”
“Everything. It can really get in your head, if you let it. Does she actually want to message with me, or is she just being polite? Is she really looking for something casual, or did she say that because she thinks she’s supposed to? I think girls assume guys don’t take online dating seriously, so they act too cool for it, which is a waste of time. Some of us take it seriously. I do, at least.” –James, 23
“I’m addicted to online dating. I’ll give most any guy a chance. I’m always running into guys like, “Where do I know you from? Oh yeah, OkCupid! You’re the barista!” The more awkward, the better. I find it so entertaining.” –Megan, 31
“I use OkCupid and Tinder, but would never use Match. The girls are way more serious on Match.” –David, 24″
“I go through phases [with online dating]. My account is deactivated right now, because things got busy at work. I don’t think I’ll meet my soulmate online, but it’s better than getting hit on by drunk guys at a bar.” –Rachel, 27
“I’m on Match, but I’m not proud of it. I feel like I failed at getting girls. Are you using my real name in this?” –Mark, 34
So, there you have it. Some mixed opinions from both sexes. In the end, I think online dating is successful if—and this is a pretty big if—you can be honest with yourself about two things: who you are, and what you’re looking for in a partner. Don’t fill out your profile based on what you think someone wants you to say. If your ideal Friday night is to make dinner with friends and play Mario Kart because it’s hard to go out after a long week of work (may or may not be an excerpt from my now-deactivated OkCupid profile), put it out there. Take some time and let people know what you really want. The more honest you are with yourself, the more you’ll be able to sift through potential suitors—and the less time you’ll waste on guys who aren’t right for you.
On the flip side of that, maybe you don’t know exactly what you want yet. It’s hard to define a person by search terms, especially if you haven’t met them in person. Don’t be afraid to go on a date with someone who doesn’t necessarily match your criteria to a T, but still seems interesting. I believe it’s important to date different types of people to find out what you’re really looking for. But if you already know what you want, then great—search on.
So friends, that’s enough from me. If you are in a successful online relationship, mazel! I encourage you not to mumble through the next round of “And how did you guys meet?”. Be proud of your digital love story! If you’re curious about online dating, give it a try, or talk to friends who have some experience. It will put you at ease to talk to someone who’s “been there” before.
Above all else, remember: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are not above it.
Featured image via ShutterStock