It’s time to bite the bullet and admit the truth. We have become the microwave society that we keep denying. Our lives are busy, our careers and families demanding, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for us to be still, settle down, and operate the way our parents and grandparents did in love and relationships. When I reflect on the love stories of generations past, I often wonder if we can build those types of long lasting unions in the age of digital dating. Can we really find that kind of love online?
As soon as I become trapped in nostalgia and a desire for simpler times, I remember that my own significant other and I met through social media. I also recall that I have very dear friends who are married and wrapped up in babies and happiness who also found one another, and love, in the virtual world. There are, too, these fun facts from a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences: “More than one third of U.S. marriages begin with online dating, and those couples may be slightly happier than couples who meet through other means.”
Yup. It’s time for us to move forward with the times and give digital dating a real try (and not that “I tried one dating site for a week, got freaked out and quit” try, either). Yes you are magical, but love hasn’t fallen in your lap yet, so it’s time to get out there. And since getting out there can be a challenge in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, online dating is really a perfect remedy. So whether you’re an online dating first-timer or you want to know what really works, here are some tips to break you in.
1. Pay attention to the science: Matchmaking, particularly online matchmaking, is a science—or better yet, it’s math. The algorithms only work if you actually enter significant (and genuine) data. Put a worthwhile amount of time into creating your profile and narrative online. The more specific information you add about who you are and what you like, the better your matches (and hopefully dating interests) will be.
Amy Webb had this to say about online dating site algorithms:
“…I came to understand that the algorithms used by dating sites are ineffective, in large part because they rely on user-generated data. Most of us tend to answer profile questions about ourselves that are either aspirational or, in my case, fast and minimal. Bad data in means bad data out, effectively crippling even the best algorithms.”
I understand that, for many, putting information about themselves online is frightening. But there really isn’t another method available that will yield good results. So, yes, fill out every. single. question.
2. Be authentic: Every horror story I’ve heard about an online dating experience begins with someone on the date being dishonest about who s/he is and what s/he wants. Don’t post that photo of yourself when you were 20 pounds lighter. Why? Because you are looking for someone who finds the amazing, sexy, 20-pounds heavier you absolutely breathtaking, and you want nothing less than that.
List all those quirky hobbies that you’re embarrassed about too. Also, be honest about your expectations, and what you’re looking for. Don’t say you’re completely open to all matches if you know you’ve signed on to Match.com, specifically to link up with Idris Elba. He won’t show up for the date you’ve planned and everyone will be disappointed. The entire point of online dating is to cut to the chase, and you can only do that by keeping it real. Answer all the questions presented with honesty. Play coy on all the fabulous dates you’ll be going on.
3. Be safe: Listen, the FBI doesn’t have a section on its website about online dating scams because it never happens. Although you must be open in some ways about who you are and what you like, be very mindful of the information you put online because, hey, it’s never going anywhere once it’s there.
It’s a good idea to create a separate email account to interact with folks you meet online, and setting boundaries is important. Keep those flirtations (and there should be flirtations) restricted to first names and access through dating sites, or email. Last names, phone access and dates should come later. Let some time pass before meeting in person, and always tap into your intuition, because it is rarely wrong.
There’s tons more to say about online dating, and I’d love to hear your dos, don’ts, bad experiences and successes. Comment below!
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and scribe. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.