Photo by Emily Long
In the era of natural and organic everything, why does it seem impossible to meet people that way anymore? I have joined the league of women who can no longer date from their pool of classmates or colleagues and have come to realize Channing Tatum is probably not going to turn up at my local watering hole anytime soon. Though I am the first of my friends to point out how important it is to put yourself out there, the toll that online dating can take on your ego and self esteem can be exhausting! After several on and off waves with online dating sites, I have learned that there should be a few emotional guidelines to help keep us sane during the process:
It’s Not a Rom-Com, It’s the Internet. Just like Mindy Kaling’s character on The Mindy Project, I find myself viewing my own life through the lens of all the chick flicks I have ever watched. However, it is important to remember the dose of reality that comes with online dating. Sure, he might sound amazing via a string of emails and heart-fluttering text messages, but before you change your ring tone to “Put a Ring On It,” give yourself some time to actually see where the real life stuff falls into place. Online profiles can be well written, have a nice array of likeable photos and a cute tagline, but there’s still the in-person compatibility factor to consider before calling the single game quits. I notice some people view online dating as the solution to all their problems and a sure fix to their itch for marriage and babies. Then two months into the profile activation, the online dating excitement is deflated and the “I’m Still Single” pity party ensues. Having a healthy dose of expectations coming into the process helps to not feel so bummed out when Mister Right (or Ms. Right, it is 2013 after all) doesn’t magically appear before your computer screen immediately.
They’re Judging You Too. After a morning of scrolling through interesting profiles and liking or unliking various matches, online dating can start to feel a lot like online shopping. Ladies, this pick and choose from a menu attitude can go both ways, so be nice. When someone takes the time to write you a sincere (not creepy, not sleazy) email about how great your profile sounds, have the decency to write back at least a simple “Thank you.” Your online dating karma will thank you too.
Cast Your Net Wide. Confession: I recently went on a date with a man significantly older than me. He was intelligent, polite and had the handsome features of Dennis Quaid (no, not a young Dennis Quaid, present day Dennis Quaid). We both liked watching the Food Network. That was all we had in common, the end. However, I intentionally set my profile to be a little more open than I normally would. They say if you want something different, you have to start doing something differently, right? Though I quickly reset my age limits on my profile search afterwards, I felt satisfied knowing I was actively trying to get to know different types of people. I always feel like dating is a lot like job interviews. The more you go on, the better you get at it. I know that I’m also one of a few people in my circle that actually enjoys job interviews, but still, the experience is worthwhile and teaches you so much about yourself and what you actually want (or in my case, don’t want).
Stop Winking and Just Go Out Already. So you’ve exchanged a couple messages at this point and used all the e-flirting tools available to you. You’re both clearly interested, so unless distance is physically stopping you from having a quick after work drink, why not just go for it already? A friend recently made a great point that sometimes it’s better to just jump in and see what happens. Sometimes weeks and weeks of messaging can build up an anticipation that may get shot down after meeting in person. What if the chemistry isn’t so great after all? Sometimes that first date is way more nerve wracking after all the built up online communication that makes them sound like an oh-so-ideal partner, but why not just grab coffee and find out already?
Be a Safe and Savvy Dater. I’d be remiss to point out however that it is still important to be smart about dating online. Don’t hand out information that can make you easy to Google and stalk. Do choose a public place when meeting for a date and do tell a friend where you’re going (a little back up is always nice and hey, you can debrief together afterwards). Don’t ignore your gut if something doesn’t feel right and do not feel bad if you need to leave an uncomfortable situation. There are tons of amazing and very normal people out there, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry (or the subject of a future Lifetime movie…gulp).
Take Breaks When You Need Them. This rule doesn’t just apply to Zumba! Putting your self out there, going on dates and getting to know people can be emotionally exhausting. Don’t beat yourself up over a bad date or a disappointing match. Those success stories in the commercials never explain how long it took for those couples to find one another and how many bad matches they had to click through before finally getting that life changing wink! Sometimes it’s good to take a breather, deactivate the profile for a little while, and just recharge on all the goodness happening out in the non-electronic world.
At the end of the day, don’t forget this: you are a freaking catch. There is no shame in getting online and increasing your chances of other people finding out what a catch you are. So hang on to those positive vibes, try not to take the online dating scene as seriously as The Hunger Games, and hey- have a little fun while you’re at it.