My husband and I dated online.
We didn’t meet online. He didn’t ask me out online. We didn’t belong to any official dating websites. But we used the Internet as a way to get to know each other better. As soon as I thought my husband was a dating prospect I rushed back home to Facebook to thoroughly look him up. Then the many long messages and emails started. We cherish those messages like love letters. After all, they were love letters.
And yet, I don’t include that online portion in our “how we met” story because I really don’t want it to sound like we “actually” dated online. After all, despite our generation’s chronic Internet use, there is a stigma against online dating. We seem to think that it is a weak replacement for falling in love— that there’s no romance or intimacy or authenticity. We worry that it takes away the “magic.” We worry that real connections don’t happen and sparks don’t fly.
But oftentimes, the sad truth is that the magic isn’t happening anyway. The sparks aren’t flying anymore. And that’s exactly why so many people date online.
You see, many, if not most people who turn online for dating prospects are doing so precisely because they want real romance and true love. It is not because they are modern, distracted, out of touch, self-absorbed millennials. They turn to online dating precisely because they are “old-fashioned”— because they are idealists. They are seeking what people used to seek in classrooms and churches and bars— but nowadays they can’t find anybody in those places.
And it’s not because they aren’t attracted to anybody or because nobody is attracted to them. It’s because nobody seems to want what they want, or at least, nobody is expressing those same intentions. People don’t want to date anymore. So those who do want to date have to be deliberate and look at a larger, prefiltered field. They have to look beyond their school or their town. They have to be unconventional even if unconventional is stigmatized.
The person who turns to online dating as a way to really search for somebody is actually showing immense vulnerability and authenticity and a serious desire for real intimacy— the very things we fear the Internet will steal. He or she is admitting that they need somebody and they are willing to do what it takes to find that somebody in a world where nobody seems to want it anymore. And oftentimes, when they do this, when they put themselves out there and make their motives clear, they find exactly what they’re looking for. They find what they probably never would have found if they had waited on the magic to just “happen.” There will be time for the magic. There will be time for romance and sparks but they won’t happen unless you find somebody whose actually interested in them anyway.
So if you’re single and you’re looking and you’re frustrated but you just can’t bring yourself to set up that account because you feel like it’s a sign of failure or something to be ashamed of— do it anyway. It doesn’t mean you’re failing— it just means that the world has changed. Besides, just like my husband and I were, you’re probably already online dating in your own way. You’re probably already using the Internet to help you find that somebody, or to make it easier for that somebody to find you— so use it more efficiently. People may tease you about it now, but they won’t tease you when you’ve found what they couldn’t find next door. They won’t tease you when you don’t have time to login to anything anymore because you’re too busy spending time with the one you love.