In case you’ve read my last article, you’ll know that I love technology and the many ways it improves our lives. Technology has come a long way in terms of how it’s helped society. From improving productivity of multiple companies to helping people live longer, technology has helped us in so many ways. Online dating, though it has quite a few flaws, is one way in which technology helps people connect with each other.
When I was growing up, the internet was still a relatively new thing for me and others around me. It was still a time where books were more reliable than what you found on the internet. Meeting people on the street and striking up conversation with them was still acceptable and, for the most part, expected. However, the way in which people met changed drastically. People started to meet online rather than IRL.
In the early 21st century, just as the internet was becoming more present in my life and me and my classmates were starting to rely on it for virtually everything, this new concept was suddenly there. Meeting people online, first in chat rooms (anyone remember those?), then on websites specifically created for the lonely hearts in search of their better half.
Along with it, as with all things, came the skeptics. Online dating, they told us, was dangerous. How could you be sure you really knew the person you were talking to? What if they were dangerous? What if they wanted to hurt you? Every TV show and soap opera I can remember from that time had at least one episode dedicated to a poor, naive woman whose heart was broken by online dating. Well, heartbroken or downright murdered in a horrific way.
Online dating was a dangerous, unreliable thing people did because they were ingenuous. It was the cesspool of the crazy, the perverts, and the desperate. It wasn’t something that “Normal People” did. Normal people found their partners in the real world, where it was safe and you could actually see the person you were talking to. If you tried online dating, there was something wrong with you – and also, probably, you were going to die.
When I ventured into online dating, I went through the same thing.
As years went by, though, I noticed that our conception of online dating was changing. Apps were becoming more popular and specific. It became easier to meet someone for sex, or someone who wanted a commitment. People of all genders and orientations had a place to go flirt and they were, if not safe, at least welcomed. It was a thriving industry and the image of those who used it became less that of the weirdo and more of someone who was searching for True Love. It was tacky, but at least it was positive.
However, I was still reluctant to give it a try. Online dating could never work, I thought. All of those messages of heartbreak and death I heard in my youth ought to be right and, thinking about it, did I meet someone who found a life-partner online? No, I don’t think so.
Yet, at the same time, I realized that, as I approached my 30s, my options were running out. People warned me of this in the past: as you grow older, it’ll become harder and harder to meet people. I was skeptical, though. What, harder than it already was? Nah! That’s not possible! It’ll just continue to be just as bad. Boy, was I wrong!
As someone who goes out of her way to avoid socializing often, my circle of friends is very limited and, once I immigrated to another country, it only got smaller. Meeting friends of friends wasn’t going to happen for me. I also stopped hoping for a Meet Cute because, let’s face it, this isn’t a Rom-Com. The chances that your soul mate will fall into your arms in the middle of the street are highly unlikely – and even if they did, I’m pretty sure I’d awkwardly walk away, not knowing what to say.
My choices were limited and I grew tired of being alone until, finally, I told myself to stop being scared and give online dating a try. Perhaps, if I met someone through my computer, I might stand a chance. And if it doesn’t work out, I can just block them and keep looking. I set up my profile on a dating site and hoped for the best.
A month later, I deleted it. The experience wasn’t particularly traumatic, but it was still much more work than I thought it would be. I had to dodge creeps on a daily basis, got several couples contact me for threesomes, got some extremely boring people messaging me, and then, my personal favorite, a guy who asked me if I liked sex and money, either mistaking me for a prostitute, or perhaps trying to offer me a job as one. I made good use of that block button. The few people I actually talked to went nowhere.
The one thing they don’t tell you when you start online dating is that, just like every other activity, it takes dedication. You need to spend time cultivating your relationships and check on your messages constantly. It might take place in the virtual world but it is still socializing and it’s very much real – except that you can delete your conversation and pretend it never happened. I wasn’t ready for that. If it was going to take me the same amount of work, I might as well try real life a while longer.
Be it in a bar or on your computer screen, dating is virtually the same. You will meet people who creep you out, and you’ll meet people who are just not a good fit for you. The internet is great, but it won’t do miracles for your love life. A lot of work that has to be done is on your end and, if you’re afraid of social interactions and meeting new people, having the option of deleting people is a comfort, but you still have to work through your own fears and soldier through.
It took me about a year before I gave it another try, this time with all of this in mind. I went through a few dating apps, all basically the same, with one or two distinctive features. If you ask me which one is best for introverts, I offer this advice to you. Find whichever app overwhelms you the least. Find one that doesn’t feel dreadful to you, that makes you want to check on messages every day. Something that, at the very least, feels fun. Personally, after trial and error, I found an app that was… far from perfect, but okay enough to get me interested. And last night, I went on my first date.
Was this a positive experience? Yes, I believe it was. I mean, I didn’t end up in a bathtub somewhere, with my liver on the floor, so I’d mark that as a success. And it was probably the least nerve-wracking date I had in a while. But I cannot say that a part of me doesn’t wish I could be a normal person, meeting people the “normal way”. But at some point, you’re going to have to decide to do what is best for you, and that means facing your own prejudices and misconceptions.
Normal is, more often than not, overrated. I’d like to be normal, but I’ll settle for being happy.
Do you have any good/bad experiences with online dating? What apps work best for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin