Dating In The Modern Age

Dating In The Modern Age
Courtesy Photo Eleven percent of American adults have used an online dating site or a mobile dating app, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Courtesy Photo
Eleven percent of American adults have used an online dating site or a mobile dating app, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

I’ve been dating my girlfriend Lisa since September. When I tell people we met online, there isn’t too much of a reaction. There was a time, though, when telling someone you met your significant other online meant one of two things; they didn’t exist, or you were dating an old man in masquerade. Things have changed significantly.

Lisa and I met on OKCupid, one of thousands of matchup websites claiming to hold the secret to your eternal happiness. eHarmony, Match, PlentyOfFish, ChristianSingles, J-Date; there’s no shortage of options these days to find your “perfect” match. Recently they announced a dating app for marijuana users (in legal states, of course) to meet each other. No matter who you are, no matter what you want, the internet has given you a way to find it.

When I was a teen, it was kind of a common practice to have an ‘Internet girlfriend,’ and I want to make it clear that what is happening now is not that at all. My internet girlfriends, of which I had a couple while growing up (I was awkward, and still am, anywhere but through text) were people I had never met, but had spoken to online, and later on the phone. One of them lied to me about the way she looked. That’s the difference between an internet girlfriend and online dating. In one, you may never meet the person in question and they may never exist in the first place. With online dating, the whole point is that you are looking for someone in real life.

I signed up for OKCupid in solidarity with my friend Danny K, as he was kind of done with the dating life and wanted to find that ‘Forever After’ that they spoke so highly of in Disney movies. It didn’t take him long to find that, and he and his OKC match Annie married a couple of years ago. For me, it would be a bit more of a wait. To start, you answer a personality profile. The typical “About Me” questions apply here; what do you do, who you are, favorite things, pets, looking for…and so on and so forth.

The design is so someone can come in and get a decent idea for who you are as a person based on the things they say. I wouldn’t like a girl whose hobbies include kicking babies and sacrificing puppies to Baphomet, so it’s nice to know those things going in. It’s a filter, and it works. OKC professes to have an algorithm that is able to match you up by percentages (X percent Friend, Y percent enemy) which they figure out by having you answer an enormous number of yes or no questions. The validity of this is in doubt, but it gives you a decent idea about how you may get along with someone, if you are the type that has to agree on every facet of life. Usually 60 percent and up were considered a match. Lisa and I were at an 85 percent. A high for me.

We started talking, and it was a lot like dating, but without the in-person factor. By the time I finally met her, we felt fairly comfortable together. There was a baseline of chemistry that we had already built up over the few months we had been talking. She came up to Fayetteville in September and stayed for a week, and though we had some issues, they felt like the kind of issues that couples have, not the nit-picky things that happen when you begin dating someone. In November, it was my turn, and I made the five hour drive to Dallas and visited her. This is where the challenge started.

Because we’re long distance, we do all the dumb things that couples do, but we do them online or over the phone. It makes it harder to deal with the more difficult moments, but I assume those are hard to deal with for any couple. When we want to do dinner and a movie, we eat while we sync up a movie over the phone. I’ve stayed on the phone with her to hear her reaction to “Firefly” episodes. Thankfully, Texas is closer than say, Michigan, and driving up here for a weekend is not outside the realm of possibility. Because of that, we are able to spend our first Valentine’s Day together, something I haven’t done with a significant other since high school. Even though it’s goofy, it’s still kind of nice.

That’s kind of the point. If you’re going to sign up for something like this, if you’re going to put yourself out there, you have to do it wholly. You have to share every aspect of yourself that would normally be learned over a handful of dinners just so the other person can decide if they even want totalk to you. The way a lot of guys act on the internet, even your opening line has to have more in it than just ‘hello,’ because so many guys that just say ‘hi’ follow that up with a request for boobs. When you finally meet the person you’ve been searching for, after sifting through a plethora of not-so-great contenders, you’ve got to put in the work.

That’s kind of standard in any relationship, really, but I think it applies especially to relationships with an online foundation. I, for one, share a lot more in my writing than I am ever able to do out loud. There’s a vulnerability to meeting someone, and sharing your first encounter in your mind, with your written words. I don’t know what it is, really, but it’s almost like a lack of filter. A lack of fear of being judged. You’re both here, you’ve both dealt with the same hurdles in finding someone. Now you’ve found each other. The work is worth it.

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