A lot of my posts recently seem to be written after I’ve just read something in the newspaper that catches my attention, so here’s another one for you. Whilst on the train travelling to work recently I came across an article under the heading: ‘End of the chat-up line as dating game heads online’.
A recent study by eHarmony suggests that online dating is taking over as more than half of people are expected to meet their partner over the internet within the next twenty years. If that’s not enough, this figure is expected to rise to about seven in ten by 2040. Speaking of my country alone, couples in the south-east and east of England are most likely to have met each other online; and the fastest growth in online dating is expected to be among singletons in London.
I have a male friend who’s quite disheartened by this news (particularly seeing as he lives in London). When we were younger it was usually a case of going out to a bar on a Saturday night if you wanted to try and meet someone new; and he doesn’t much like the fact that the dating game has now moved online. In his words, he believes it’s ‘artificial’. Here’s a lovely guy, a real gentleman with an excellent sense of humour and a very kind personality, who any girl would be extremely lucky to have. But I just can’t help feeling as if he’s limiting his chances of meeting someone who’s perfect for him by having this attitude.
Sure, there are some dating websites that are unscrupulous in their methods to get your business. The industry is predicted to contribute more than £256 million to consumer spending in the next fifteen years, an increase of eighty-one percent, and they’re obviously going to want to get their hands on a slice of this. For example, a BBC documentary in August exposed how millions of photographs and personal details are taken from social media sites without the owners’ consent and reused to set up fake profiles in a bid to get you to part with a subscription fee.
And of course, there are some website users who aren’t all that scrupulous either. I’m sure you’ve all heard about plenty of scams over recent years. In January a woman from California lost more than $500,000 after she apparently met a ‘nice man’ online, when he asked her for money for his daughter’s tuition fees and as a loan for his business. In the same month, someone from the UK was left £2,500 out of pocket when her online suitor claimed to have been with the US Army for nineteen years and needed help paying an administration free to secure his pension.
I’m not blind and can’t say that the world of online dating doesn’t have its negative or weird sides. One of my female friends has plenty of stories from her adventures and some are pretty shocking! I remember her telling me about this ‘perfect’ guy she met on a particular site and she jumped at the chance to meet up with him at a hotel; that was until she met him in the bar and found out that his wife was waiting for them in a room upstairs, ready for a threesome. I’m sure many would be very happy with that turn of events but it wasn’t exactly what she was expecting.
But surely it can’t all be bad (not that some would consider the threesome bad, but you get what I mean)? Seventy percent of people meet their future spouse on eHarmony within a year of signing up, and according to Statistic Brain they’ll end up marrying in around eighteen months. I know of a couple of success stories myself: one friend met his girlfriend within two weeks of subscribing to a website and they’ve got a house and a dog together, while another’s first lunch date with her boyfriend ended up lasting four hours because they liked each other’s company so much.
Maybe my lack of experience on the online dating game means that it might not be something I should be commenting on, but as an outsider I can certainly see the benefits of the method. I actually met one of my oldest friends over the internet. We started talking in a CompuServe chatroom when I was thirteen-years-old and as soon as we discovered a shared love of adventure games, we couldn’t get rid of each other. Over past the years we’ve taken several trips to Scotland together; I was there when he married his lovely wife; and although I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like (he’s an RAF engineer so his job means he’s regularly away), he’s someone I consider special.
If I can meet a very good friend in this way, why should it be difficult to meet someone you’re interested in romantically online? The internet has made the world a much smaller place nowadays which means there’s a greater opportunity to meet more people, and from all different walks of life – and even different countries. There are specialised websites enabling you to find a date who has a shared interest so you can be sure you’ve for something to talk about. While Mullet Passions, Singles With Food Allergies and Clown Dating may sound weird to some, it can be extremely liberating meeting someone who completely understands your weirdness from the start.
I think the friend I mentioned initially above may be looking back at the dating game from his youth through rose-tinted glasses. While it might be true that he recalls Saturday nights spent in bars with fondness, for many of us it’ll just bring back awkward feelings of insecurity and rejection! It can be a lot of pressure: not only do you have to work up the courage to actually approach the object of your desire, you then have to hope they’re not already attached and have at least one thing in common with you. And that’s all while stressing over what you look like and whether you’re going to make a good first impression.
Some of that worry is removed when you’re chatting to a potential date over the internet. You already know they’re looking for a romantic involvement; you can read their profile beforehand and get a feeling of what interests you share; and it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at your laptop in your PJs and if your hair is a mess. Most importantly, if you’re not fretting about all these factors, you’re able to freely concentrate on what your crush is saying and your personality will shine through in your responses. And as I’ve written previously, what makes a person attractive isn’t what’s on the outside but how they react to the world and the people around them.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that online dating should completely replace approaching people in ‘real life’. Some things you just can’t plan for and you have to take the opportunity when it arises. Life is too short and if you believe you have a connection with someone, romantic or otherwise – whether you’ve met them in a bar, in a supermarket, through a friend, online, anywhere – then go for it. Don’t hold back. Yes, it can be scary and yes, there’s always the risk of rejection; but it’s all about seizing the chance and seeing where it takes you. The love of your life or your next best friend may be waiting for you just around the corner (physical or digital).
As for my friend with the rose-tinted glasses, here’s a message for him if he’s reading: you know what you’ve got to do. Start living life, start taking chances, start believing in yourself. You’re a wonderful person and there’s a lovely girl out there somewhere who will realise that as much as I do.