I’m no stranger to “meeting people online.” About 10 years ago, I had joined the official message board for the band Thursday. I ended up meeting a few of those people and some became my best friends and actually changed my life. At that time, it was still super weird to talk about meeting people online. So we never told anyone else how we met. If people said, “How do you know ____?” we’d respond with, “Mutual friends.” It was always and still feels embarrassing.
Internet dating, however…that’s another ballpark. This year, on Valentine’s day, I was hanging with my sister, her roommate Matt, and our friend Kelly. We started talking about online dating somehow, and my sister says, “I’ve always wanted to know who I’d be matched up with.” Kelly was an experienced online dater, so we were getting her thoughts. We came to the conclusion that not everyone online is a creeper, weirdo, or socially unacceptable human. We were informed that there are normal, and yes…even good-looking guys on there. We were still all curious and we all decided I would be a guinea pig to find out who I’d get matched up with. My sister couldn’t set up a profile because she’s in a relationship. Kelly already had one. And Matt was like, “Nope.” So, I, after 2 glasses of champagne, I exclaimed, “I’ll totally do it. Y’all have to help me set it up though.”
The site asked me a bunch of questions, which I assume is typical of all the dating sites.
“What religion are you? How important is it? Dogs or Cats? Body Type?”
After answering the basic questions, you also have a slew of other questions that helps their system choose closer matches. I tried answering as many as possible, with help from the group (and more champagne). Most of these questions were particularly immature. They were “would you rather”-style questions that reminded me of an adolescent conversation between girls who were talking about what they want in a guy.
After I answered what felt like a million questions (but was actually like 20), we went through the “possible matches.” The first thing out of Kelly’s mouth was, “Hmmm they matched you with a whole lot of douches.” It was true.
I went through their profiles, and was concerned. If I saw something that turned me off (They hate dogs or said they only like club music), then it would be so easy for me to just move on. This method of dating doesn’t give people a fair chance. It also made me feel bad about myself when I’d see that someone “Liked” my profile but their page said, “uneducated girls are a deal-breaker.” I graduated high school, but I dropped out of college.
So, the problem is: It allows people to stay stagnant in their preferences and prevents people from changing their dating habits.
My assumption is that most people who set up a profile online either LOVE casual dating or they have trouble finding dates for whatever reason. Instead of working on the reasons, they’re allowed to filter through hundreds of people and pick someone out like something on a menu. And if there’s even one thing that person doesn’t like, instead of someone saying, “This person is worth looking past these things” they’re allowed to just block you, or ignore you. Instead of examining our dating life and becoming better people, we sort of just stick to our old ways.
“Ugh, he’s a Conservative. Nope.”
“He has a goatee? Is this for real?”
“He has the douchiest taste in music I’ve ever seen.”
I’ve said before that preferences are okay, as long as they aren’t things we worship. Online, we don’t have a chance to examine these things. Another problem with online dating, is it only encourages discontentment and idolatry. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog, knows I’m all for embracing the path God has you on and that both singleness and marriage are equally glorifying. Once I signed up, though, I noticed that everyone who liked my profile was satisfying a desire to be loved and admired (which is hard to get when you’re single). It’s like posting a selfie on Instagram, and relying on the Likes you get. It provides a false sense of love. It’s false because it’s very temporary for the other party. It’s also false because it’s an empty compliment. It’s the equivalent to a stranger smiling at you in line at Starbucks, but it sparks an emotion that’s as deep as someone giving us a very gratifying compliment in person. This method of judging people based on 3-7 photos, is more physically demeaning than checking me out at a bar. If I look better or worse in a photo, you can ignore me or you can message me/ask me out under false pretenses (that I’m not as attractive as you thought). The attraction starts with a photograph that’s controlled by lighting and angles. It’s so weird.
When I get “hit on” in person, it’s normally at bars when I’m with other girls. It usually starts with the basic questions, “Are you from here? How long have you lived here?” and leads to the statements that are used to let me know that he’s flirting with me: “Do you have a boyfriend? No?! That’s crazy.” Then, he asks for my phone number. This, to me, is better. There aren’t any questions, and even if it’s awkward/miserable, it’s still normal. He may or may not have found out I’m a Christian just yet, but he will eventually. I may or may not have found out he is obsessed with Baseball (a sport I loathe), but I will eventually. But I didn’t have to just give him the brush off. We didn’t need to exchange postcards with our traits. No one had to close us off based on one meaningless fact about ourselves. And, we were given the chance to say, “Hmm well he may have a child, but he’s a great father…” When we were going through my matches, I saw statements like, “If you are overweight, don’t message me. I take care of my body and only want someone who takes care of theirs.” and “Having perfect teeth is a huge plus for me.” I can’t make this stuff up. While those preferences aren’t bad – they probably won’t ever realize that searching for this perfect image they have in their head is going to be impossible. They’ll just continue to only message the ones who fit their preferences. Meanwhile, in the real world, new people are going to church, people are at bars, people are studying at coffee shops…regularly. We have chances, but we are sort of refusing to work on our social skills. If dating has become somewhat shallow, non-existent, or just slim for you….try to actually change that. Maybe you are a crazy introvert. It’s not fair to someone who isn’t attracted to intense introverts to be fooled into thinking you’re an extrovert because you were able to “be yourself” online, behind a computer. Instead, examine why that’s an issue. Why is it hard to start a conversation with a stranger? Do you fear rejection? Would being with other friends make it easier? Get a wingman! And your acceptance in Christ is more important than your rejection from man (or woman). I respect the guys who don’t put all this stake in rejection and will just come up to you. Or, the introverts that travel in packs and come up to me and my girls. If that makes it easier for them, so be it. Or, if your problem is that you’re crazy shallow…good luck with that. You’re going to be super gross one day when you’re old, and you’re not getting younger. Just a heads up.
Meeting someone in person is more organic. It feels like it’s the way it’s supposed to be. Filtering through people online feels like shopping, which is unfair. We aren’t objects. And posting our desires, needs, and preferences for everyone to see, says, “I’m not willing to adjust things. Take it or leave it.”