Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's on the line.

My parents are four years apart in age.  They were married when my mom was 17 and my dad was 21.  They met while my mom was working at a drive in restaurant my dad's parents owned.  My dad stole a milkshake.  And so a romance began that has lasted them 27 years.

Fast forward out of the 80s and you'll find dating has changed a little.  While relationships aren't necessarily moving any slower these days, the way that they start is quite different.  In general, people keep to themselves--heads down, noses stuck to cell phones.  I'm just as guilty of both of these things as anyone out there.  The nice man at the grocery store tries to make small talk?  I give non-committal yet friendly responses and move on quickly.  

So what's the logical next step for dating?  That's right.  Go online.

In 1998 we were all charmed by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail.  Who doesn't love to come home after a long and stressful day in reality only to find a message from someone "I like you.  I care about you.  I want to help you."  There's something bewitching about that.  Something about getting attention from people who don't even know you that boosts the ego enough to just make your day all the better.  Your self worth is validated, even if the person validating it doesn't know you from Adam.  And, after seeing Ryan come off so good with the charming yet surprisingly down-to-earth Hanks, who wouldn't want to take the that leap of faith and end up with a lifetime of perpetual bliss with a guy like him??

According to a couple of online sources (and's most recent television commercial), one in five new, committed relationships start online.  Why is this?  

The perks: 

  • It's a meet market. (Pun intended!)  Right before your eyes you can see pages and pages of available men all looking for available women.  You can filter them by height, body type, age and working and past marital status.  Now you can flirt with, wink at and talk to men without even having to go through the displeasure of actually having to bump into them and wonder about their statistics.
  • You can choose to either ignore or accept some one's attention without having to actually worry that you'll come face to face with them if you decide you're just not interested.
  • Like Facebook, it gives you a little glance into the person's life as they see themselves.
  • You can choose to make yourself as attractive or unattractive as you want.
  • You get to take them with you right on your own personal phone--it travels wherever you go. Whoever said you never know where you're going to meet someone was on to something!
The down side:

  • Other people can also make themselves as attractive or un (though why an un I couldn't guess!) as they want and you have no way to prove or disprove them.
  • You've never actually met the person you're talking to. For all you know the guy who's chatting you up is nothing like how he's portraying himself to be.
  • When chatting online, there becomes a distinctive social line that's blurred.  In the last two days I have been approached for phone sex and an attempt was made by a 48 year old man (the same age as my father, by the way...)  to chat me up saying he'd like to get to know me a little bit better. 
  • You can spend hours talking to someone only to meet them for the first time and find that you have absolutely no chemistry with them.
  • Most of the people I've met in my own age group are just looking for a hook up.
  • You're put face to face with other's poor grammar choices.

So, here's what I'm faced with right now: Is online dating an effective way to meet someone?  I've known several people who have met their spouses online.  For many, it seems like a great alternative to traditional dating.  But how much can you really know about someone from speaking to them online?  What am I sacrificing from not just meeting people around me the traditional way? At what point does shameless flirting online desensitize you to being charming and flirtatious in real life?

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