For many singles, Valentine’s Day is that incessant reminder of happy couples with red hearts and beautiful bouquets that only adds to their feelings of aloneness. Armed with an arsenal of Internet sites that promise a lifetime of happiness, they join in droves. But, do those services really work?
Of all the cultural changes that were taking place at the turn of the 21st century, the introduction of Internet dating has to be at the top of the list. With a stoke of a key, an individual searching for true love can have at their disposal more potential ex’s than at any other time in history. What an amazing time we live in.
Technology leading the way in the pursuit of love is actually not a new concept. Rather, it is nearly as old as civilization itself. The creation of mail service allowed people to court each other from different towns within the same area. The invention of the locomotive allowed people from farther distances to court each other. That invention fundamentally, and single-handedly, changed the genetic makeup of the world’s population forever by allowing people from great distances opportunities to form relationships.
The eventual invention of the telephone and air travel only increased the mixing of the world population not only within countries, but between continents as well. All of those inventions were the cutting edge technologies of their day for bringing people together to date and fall in love. It is fitting then, that at the dawn of this century, mankind has created, yet again, another means by which to meet and fall in: the Internet.
Yes, the Internet is here to stay and along with it Internet dating as well. Yes, Internet dating is as legitimate of a way to find true love as any of the other means in our cache of resources. However, the Internet turns the progression to coupling bliss on its head.
Traditionally, people have met face to face, typically by chance, before embarking on an exchange of information and courtship. Surprisingly, the most common place for potential partners to meet has been at the work place. The advent of Internet dating is challenging that contender and moving it from the workplace to the privacy of our homes, or more accurately our computers.
Internet dating was once considered by some psychotherapists as a defense against intimacy used only by those who were afraid to reveal themselves in an authentic way or for those who were looking for fast anonymous sex. This may have been true at the very beginning; however, that is not the case today.
Today, the majority of people who turn to Internet dating are seeking out meaningful relationships. The Internet is a wonderful tool. In our busy society, professionals often have a difficult time finding the time to meet people. Internet dating services allow individuals to seek out potential dates while maximizing their efforts by having access to hundreds of potentials at their fingertips. These services also allow individuals to define parameters for potential mates that help to narrow down the search to people that might interest them.
However, Internet dating is far from perfect. People can distort, exaggerate or outright lie about themselves. Most of it is harmless and is based in feelings of insecurity and a desire to be accepted. The most common mistruths presented by men on the Internet are adding an inch to their height, shaving a couple of years off their age or adding a few dollars to their income.
Women tend to shave off a few pounds with an occasional year or two. A simple way to uncover a mistruth about age is to ask candidly, “What year did you graduate high school?” Most people know that answer right off the tip of their tongue. Any extended hesitation begins to feel like a calculation is being made. A person who is basically honest but feeling insecure with his or her age will often take that opportunity to confess the mistruth. If this is the case, deal with it in an understanding manner. After all, this is a person who can actually admit when they are wrong. Not such a bad find.
Presenting a mistruth in your profile is certainly not recommended. Your potential date will eventually find out the truth and may feel deceived by you if you allowed it to continue. That is not a good idea if you want to build trust a new relationship.
If you do encounter one of those mistruths, it does not have to be cause for ending the relationship. Instead, turn it into an opportunity to discuss what honesty and trust in a relationship mean to each of you. Now, if you uncover a lie that is more than a small shave here or there, then it may be time to blow the whistle and drop the flag on that relationship. There is no need to stay with someone you don’t trust when there are so many potential people out there you could trust.
The real trick to dating on the Internet is to keep your email communications short and sweet. Keep your emails limited to four or five sentences. The entire point of email communication is to move the conversation to telephone communication. When you have made phone contact, you want to move it along to a face to face meeting.
All of this technological progress in the arena of dating is great, but it doesn’t, and never will, replace good old fashioned, interpersonal one-on-one time for getting to know another person. So yes, Internet dating services really do work by giving you the opportunity to meet more people than you ever could without them. However, like a good pair of running shoes, they can get you to the finish line faster but you still have to run the race yourself.
Dr. James Walton, Clinical Member
California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists