I am 31 and I’m single, so of course I’ve tried the internet dating thing.
I’ve done the agonising over profile pictures and the rewriting your profile sixteen times… and that horrifying-exciting moment, when you receive your first few ‘waves’ or ‘smiles’ and you’ve actually got to review them. I’ve had the awkward get-to-know-you conversations, and the disappointment when he never gets back to you. I’ve had the sick feeling when you realise you’ve just agreed to a date and you’re actually going to have to go! And the ‘should we meet up again or not’ mental back-and-forth, which begins before you’ve even finished the first date. And the questioning of whether it was all worth it…
In fact, my year’s worth of eHarmony subscription runs out tomorrow, and I’m also just coming up to the end of a second proper stint on Christian Connection (the first stint was probably a couple of years ago), so it feels like a good time to stop and reflect.
Rewind to when internet dating first became a thing, and I remember thinking that to use internet dating sites was a bit embarrassing, and that joining up meant a lack of trust in God. It seemed so obvious at the time: a girl/guy who trusts God waits patiently for him to provide the right man/woman, and so to go online is to say, ‘God, you’re not working fast enough,’ or ‘I don’t trust your vision for my life.’
I now think I was being silly!
Even Abraham, who had received promises from God that his family would be like the sand on the seashore, sent a servant on a long journey to find a wife for his son Isaac. His action was in response to God’s faithfulness, not despite it (Genesis 24).
So over the last decade, I’ve realised the obvious: there’s nothing wrong with being proactive in life. In fact, being proactive is often the braver, more faith-filled thing to do. That’s how we find university courses, jobs, houses, churches, friends, a new fridge-freezer! Why should meeting someone be any different?
A proverb is just a proverb — it only tells a general truth, so there are always a whole load of exceptions — but this one feels relevant here!
“The slacker craves, yet has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied. ” (Proverbs 13:4)
It seems that when we are lacking something, it is a Biblical question to ask: ‘Is it because I haven’t done anything about it?’ Sometimes the answer will be, ‘Why yes, that probably is part of the problem! Perhaps I should do something.’
I love the word they originally used in English translations of the proverb: ‘sluggard’! But ‘slacker’ probably makes more sense in the 21st Century.
Despite my mind shift on all things internet dating, so far it has proved to be terrible value for money! 😄 In all the time I’ve had subscriptions to dating sites, I’ve been on one Skype date and two normal dates. In all three cases, I don’t think there was a massive amount of enthusiasm on either side! I was the one to end things in two cases, and one guy ended it with me: I don’t think anyone was gutted. I mostly felt relief that I wouldn’t have to actually begin a relationship! Internet dating definitely makes me thankful for the simplicity of the single life.
In terms of emotional freak-outs per £ spent, well that’s much higher! 😄 I find the whole experience pretty excruciating. So much so, that I had to make myself invisible a number of times, just to recover. In fact, the first few free trials etc. I had, I felt so sick that I had to trash the whole idea. But now, I can proudly say that I have actually contacted people, had conversations, and even met a couple of people. I feel like I need a ‘bravery in persistence’ award! At the very least, I can say that I tried.
I’ve also learned some stuff. So, for example, I’ve now got a much clearer idea of what kind of person I’d fit well with. That inexplicable combination that feels like attraction, plus a dash of common sense. It’s a bit of a list!!
I think I’d need to meet:
A joyful/reflectful kind of Christian, for whom the gospel shapes their life at a deep level, but who isn’t unnecessarily intense; someone who feels the same age as me (rather than necessarily actually the same age), someone not too different from me at a cultural level… A big splash of silliness and a touch of creativity (or an appreciation of creativity), a lover of the ridiculous and spontaneous adventures, intelligent with a thoughtful/nuanced perspective on stuff, compassionate… etc.
I’ve also decided that 1 hour by train maximum is sensible distance for me — getting to know someone via internet dating is already an ordeal, so long-distance really isn’t going to help!
So yep, quite a list!
And it feels sometimes that I shouldn’t need all of the things on the list. That maybe I’m too picky. But I’ve also realised that for me at least, these things are the difference between deep connection or not. And so they do actually matter.
The problem, of course, is that such a man probably doesn’t exist! 😄 Or if he does, he’s likely already been snapped up, or he lives in London (where all the young Christians are) or in the wilds of Scotland (where he hasn’t met loads of lovely girls already).
I’ve also learned that I’m very easily creeped out. Like, really easily! One creepy selfie amongst a number of very normal photos completely freaks me out. Conversely, a well-composed, colourful, well-lit, smiley photo draws me right in. So really, I’m as much drawn to someone’s ability to choose a good photo, as I am to what their face actually looks like!
I really do think that having to rely on photos is one of the biggest (and necessary) downfalls of internet dating. In the majority of cases, I’m not sure a photo provides you with a good sense of a person at all. But despite that intellectual knowledge, I simply can’t get over being creeped out — there’s this loud part of my brain that shouts, ‘Danger! Danger! Creepy man alert! Run. Run away, now!’
Internet dating has also reinforced the fact that I’m totally grossed out by muscles! Seriously guys, bodies are not meant to be that shape! Superhero films have a lot to answer for. 😂 And a gym selfie genuinely makes me want to run for the hills.
I’ve also discovered that although I don’t have one particular ‘type’, I am still a sucker for ginger hair, smiley eyes and chunky knitwear.
So it seems I am a bit shallow…
… and that’s genuinely an uncomfortable realisation. I really don’t like that! Surely, I should be able to see past that kind of thing. Doesn’t that make me a bad person? Or a prejudiced person? Or just a big self-defeating?
But when I’m not being so hard on myself, I remember that responding to how someone looks is part of what it means to be human, at least at some level. And internet dating really does unhelpfully force the issue. It is much less of a factor when there’s the opportunity to make a friend before ‘dating’ crosses anyone’s mind! By that point, generally their face is just them… someone you trust and care about, rather than a creepy selfie on a website. In fact, that creepy selfie will probably be a reason for some healthy banter.
“Seriously, what were you thinking posting that!? You look like an axe murderer.”
I’ve also learned that my desire for a relationship fluctuates massively. I’d say 5% of the time I am completely freaked out by the idea; 60% of the time it all feels completely irrelevant and I can’t work out why I’d want a relationship; 30% of the time it feels like it would be nice at some point, but I don’t feel in any hurry; and 5% of the time I feel really sad and rather despairing that there’s currently no prospect of marriage and kids. Which has meant that my perspective on using dating sites has also fluctuated massively! Sometimes it’s felt like a ridiculous waste of money, other times it’s felt like a great idea, and at other times its ineffectiveness has made me feel really sad.
And that’s OK.
For a long time, I felt like I should have one ‘right’ perspective on not being a relationship: that I needed to be 100% consistent. But that was me being silly again! Of course it’s OK to feel differently about it at different times. That’s normal.
So in summary, I’ve learned some stuff, I’m proud of being brave, and I’m a touch embarrassed that looks (or at least someone’s photos) can completely change my perspective on them. But I’m trying not too be too hard on myself. And let’s be honest, meeting someone in real life, and getting to know their character before you worry about anything else, remains the best, most natural way to meet someone.
In terms of the future, internet dating has been bit of a roller coaster, but a roller coaster I’m glad to have been on. I don’t think that I’ll be renewing my subscriptions, at least not for a good while. But we shall see.
How have you guys found the internet dating experience?