Life Lessons from Online Dating

After thinking way too much about the reasons that I’ve been single my entire life, I decided to finally take a dip into the world of romance.

In the spirit of the twenty-first century, I joined an online dating site.

I was hesitant at first. In my mind, online dating definitely had a stigma attached to it. But ultimately, I decided that becoming a member of a dating site would be the most effective way to meet interesting and like-minded people.

These past couple of months, I’ve actually had a great time doing so. Yet surprisingly, my biggest takeaways have been the following lessons my experience has taught me.

1. Online identities usually don’t hold up to real life personalities.

Conversing with someone whom you first meet online can be tricky. Though I try to match the way that I type with the way that I talk, it’s inevitable that the other person will associate me with a certain voice until he actually meets me — that’s what I end up doing to him, as well.

That leaves a lot of potential for misinterpretations to occur. The vibe that someone gives off through what he types can be vastly different from the impression he leaves in a face-to-face interaction. While it’s nice to take the time to break the ice, this disparity is the reason that I prefer setting up a date relatively soon (but never immediately) after connecting online.

2. Rejection isn’t that big of a deal.

Back in the days, the fear of being rejected upon telling someone you liked him/her was what added to the excitement of the whole courtship process.

If you want to connect with someone using an online dating platform, however, then it’s important to make a good impression quickly: You look at a profile. You like or you pass. You connect or you don’t. All of which can happen within the span of 5 seconds.

If you don’t connect, no hard feelings! There are a huge number of other potential matches waiting for you. The fast pace of interactions between online daters combined with the sheer volume of profiles makes some form of rejection expected and any fear of it greatly reduced.

3. If you need an ego boost, online dating is a viable option.

Given the fast pace of online dating interactions, there’s a need to put your best foot forward. I had a lot of fun creating a profile of what was essentially a superhero version of me. In turn, there’s something oddly satisfying about having other people ‘like’ what they see.

4. It’s important to set expectations. It’s equally important to verbalize them.

This should go without saying, but when finally meeting up with someone that you’ve met online, it’s crucial to be on the same page when it comes to the expectations that you have in mind for a relationship.

What exactly are you looking for? Something serious, or are you just testing the waters like I was? By the end of your date, do you want to go on another one, or are you thinking: I don’t want to pursue things any further?

At first, I thought that those questions seemed a little unnecessary. During my online dating experience, however, I have both led guys on and have been led on because the answers to those questions weren’t clear.

No matter how many signals you give off, you’ve got to be upfront with how you’re feeling and what you expect. This will spare you a lot of emotional energy.

5. Online dating may be more impersonal, but that doesn’t make you any less accountable for what you say or do and how that affects others.  

If you’ve taken part in online dating, have you ever been ghosted?

I have, and believe me – it’s no fun.

Ghosting is a modern-day phenomenon in which a person you’ve been dating suddenly disappears. The most haunting part lies in the complete lack of explanation behind the disappearance.

Why ghosting happens in the first place will vary from one ‘ghoster’ to the next. Some speculate that a big cause relates to the impersonal nature of online dating interactions. Even after you meet up with a person, that person may still see you as an expendable profile that s/he can “pass”, “swipe left”, etc. at the drop of a hat.

Pro tip: Whether you’ve been dating someone that you met online for three weeks or three months, remember that you’re dealing with a real, feeling person now. Be considerate, which often means just being upfront (see number 4).

In the end, I think that online dating, done right, is a lot of fun and well worth a go.

I always saw romantic relationships as a serious deal. And I still think that they are, but now I realize that the connotation doesn’t have to be as severe and scary as I thought it did.

The dates that I’ve been on have left me feeling pretty light and happy, allowing me to expand the way that I see romance. While I’m all about self-validation, it’s also really nice to feel wanted and to know when you like someone who likes you back.

With the start of school looming, I’ve deactivated my online dating account for the time being. I’ll be back soon, though.

Photo feature: Marcie Casas

Jocelyn Lim