Confession: For the most part in the past, I have been skeptical of online dating. How would it work? How would you find your match? What about ‘Stranger Danger’?! I believed that other than the odd case or so, online dating could not be successful, it could not have substance. While my own opinion has somewhat changed, I still have a few doubts, and I know that online dating is not for me.
Why are there so many doubts surrounding online dating ? Why is it considered less meaningful? Because we assume that it is based solely on looks, as the cartoon above ironically states. And perhaps, sometimes it is. But as “Digital Dating and Virtual Relating: Conceptualizing Computer Mediated Romantic Relationships” points out, it is actually the other way around. Face-t0-face dating (i.e. “traditional” dating) starts with an initial encounter between two people, which is based upon physical attractiveness and location and it is only after time has passed that the two discover mutual likes, dislikes, similarities, and disclose themselves to one another. In online dating, the sequence is backwards, starting with discovery and disclosure and ending with an in-person encounter. The importance of attractiveness is surprisingly minimized, according to the article, though the meetings usually have “highly sexualized outcomes” (Merkle, 189). Some of my friends, for instance, who use online dating to meet people, have had successful, though short and mostly sexual, relationships with people they’ve met online and are happy doing so.
And yet, even with this positive and reassuring research, the film Noah (2013), points out some of the problems of online dating-mainly, trust issues. How do you trust someone you met on the internet? What if the person is lying about some aspect of him or herself? And do you, like Noah’s girlfriend, give your significant other access to your online accounts? The answers depend on each individual person, and part of it lies with the changing dynamics of relationships in general, which even young teenagers (not yet mature for them) are beginning to engage in.
My personal experiences with both traditional and online dating are minimal. Before being with my current (and first) boyfriend, I had an unsuccessful love life. By the age of 19, I had only been on one date with a guy, never had a boyfriend, and had never been kissed. I was fairly depressed, to say the least, and out of despair (and my best friend’s insistence) I created an online dating profile okcupid (now deactivated, so don’t try looking for me).
I exchanged friendly messages with a few guys, but nothing came to fruition here either. I did not really enjoy online dating. It was flattering to receive tons of messages from guys, but to me it didn’t seem genuine. What did these people actually know about me? About my personality? What did I know about them for that matter? Apart from their favorite foods, sports, books, movies, quotes, etc., etc., very little. I wanted to know what kind of people these guys were, which the messages did not reveal. I’m sure meeting in person would have helped (which I never did with any of the guys), but none ever asked and I was still wary about meeting up with people I considered strangers, no matter how many messages we sent to one another. For me, a romantic relationship solely taking place online was out of the question.
During the summer of 2012, when I was 19, I was in Croatia, where I renewed a friendship with Valter (my now-boyfriend), whom I had met the year before. Five or so days after my arrival, we went out (not as a couple) with a few friends. Later that evening, on the beach, Valter sat next to me. He kissed me under the starlit sky. It was quite romantic. We spent three wonderful, awesome weeks together…and then I had to come back home. It was a heartbreaking departure (each one is), and even with the promise that I would be back, we didn’t know what would be in store for us or if we would even last. Every day for 10 months, we messaged each other via Facebook several times a day and video chatted once or twice a week for a few hours. And last May I went back, and we spent another wonderful 4 months together.
My friends and people in general are always astounded that Valter and I have managed to stay together so long despite the distance, and to be faithful to one another too. Some even think it’s not worth it. But my boyfriend and I both find the relationship worth the pain and struggle and fulfilling and we trust each other completely because we are 100% honest with each other. And we understand each other so perfectly that it’s difficult to imagine life without each other.
But the time spent apart was extremely difficult. And it still is. (Of the year and 8 months we’ve been together, we have only spent 5 of those months physically together.) The words and emoticons on the screen are inadequate, they can’t truly express how I feel about my boyfriend and vice versa. Whatever we write, “I love you, I’m happiest with you, I need you,” seems so cold, so apathetic. I know it’s not, but Times New Roman does not express any emotions. And even seeing each other on the screen isn’t enough either. Skype Valter is blurry, slow-moving, and his eyes are just black holes on his face. I kiss the screen in greeting, in love, in farewell, just as he does, but it’s an empty one. It’s just not the same. Skype can’t convey the warmth of his smile, or the bright look in his eyes when he looks at me. I need to feel him next to me, his soft kiss on my lips, and his arms tightly hugging me, and I need to be able to do the same. And so does he.
So for now, we’ll continue with our struggle, and we’ll see each other in May. Unfortunately, we realize that we won’t be able to keep this up forever, yet we hope to find a way to be together physically some day. But for now, it works for us. For others, it may not work, just as online dating did not work for me. In the end, what matters most is that you are happy with your own choice!