This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time.
A number of people have advised me to consider internet dating. Sincerely, I’ve been reluctant for a long time. While I am still reluctant, I have decided that I am going to finally create a profile – although it’s worth bearing in mind that I have promised this before! A friend and I were chatting about it over the course of the week, and these were some of the issues raised: (Please note, this is specifically about Christian dating sites.)
First the pros:
I personally know of at least three couples who have met and eventually married through internet dating. So in a sense, it could be considered to “work”.
– It’s a great way to come across lots of people, possibly from all over the world.
One of the issues about church life is that in a small church it can be hard to come across any potential marital partners, for the simple reason that there aren’t any. Could it truly be considered a solution to then start attending a bigger church, that might be less true to Bible standards, just for the sake of possibly finding someone? I don’t think so. Internet dating could be considered an answer to that.
-Cutting to the chase!
One of the issues about finding someone “in the real world” is that with any new person you meet, you don’t really know whether they are single to start off with; even if they are single you don’t know whether they are ready to settle down or get married or whether they have other priorities. Finding out can sometimes become a huge tactical operation, where you have to listen carefully and make inferences from what is said, or what is not said. You cannot simply come right out and ask, of course, because that would indicate to said person that you might be interested which is not something that you want to do until you are sure 1) that you really are interested and 2) that they might also be interested, and which might be interpreted as being too forward (especially if you’re a woman)… Complex!
With internet dating, there is none of that kerfuffle. Barring scams or dishonesty, you can safely assume that everyone you meet is single and interested in a relationship right at that moment. You don’t need to jump through hoops or worry about making false assumptions. That said, there are scams and some people, even on supposedly Christian sites, will just lie outright and pretend to be single for instance where they are actually married.
Now the cons
I would really want to know someone before embarking on a relationship with him. On one hand, yes it’s great to know that the person you’re checking out is single and generally interested in a relationship. However, I’m uncomfortable with the way the romantic question is so prominent right from the outset; I’m uncomfortable with the idea of having to evaluate a total stranger for marital potential. Something I believe in very strongly is the idea of knowing someone for at least two years before you start to consider them romantically. This is because it is well known that it takes two years to be able to really get to know someone.
All my cons are related to this question of knowing someone before you consider him romantically: I think it is quite a big issue!
I have mentioned before the possibility of scams. I do not really spend much time thinking about these. I think that you need to apply strong safeguards of common sense and self-control, and be very much on your guard. The same goes with dishonesty: before letting yourself get too close to anyone, you have to perform “due diligence”, to make sure that they really are who they claim to be.
Further issues related to the idea of knowing someone:
Has this ever happened to you before? That you will enter a new environment and someone might immediately catch your eye? And yet a few weeks or months later, you realise that you are no longer even noticing them, and you are instead noticing someone else? I fear that with internet dating I might not have the chance to modify that first impression, but might just get deeper and deeper into friendship with the first guy, without giving myself a chance to even notice the second guy, where “in the real world” it might be that second guy that I would overwhelmingly choose over that first guy, if I met them both.
With internet dating, and dating generally, aside from lying outright about being married or not having any kids, it is also easier for people to pretend to be more positive or more gracious or otherwise to have a better character or a more rounded personality than they actually have. One advantage of getting to know people “in the real world” is that you get a chance to observe the little things, see how they react when annoyed or how they silently clench their cheek muscles when you as a woman dare to disagree with them (yes this has happened to me!) or how they refuse to help with the clearing up. Often, it will be those little things that give clues to their real characters, which you would have to live with if you did marry them. Online, everyone can be perfect and always give the right answer, or quote Bible verses, or type out “Hallelujah”s or “Amen”s all the time.
Yes, but you would eventually get to meet them! Yes, if you did decide to get to know them further then obviously you would physically meet up to discuss in the hope of getting to know one another better (although I did hear of one ridiculous scenario where the first time that a couple actually met up was on their wedding day). However, that is not the same as meeting someone in a romantically neutral setting like church. Once again when meeting up with internet dating there is the awareness that you are being evaluated and there is obviously the incentive to perform at your best, to be your most fakely charming, wonderful, graceful, eloquent, romantically alluring self. In a way, everyone is also on their best behaviour in church. However, that is not a one-off. Because you see people so often at church week in week out, and you see them interacting with other people, not just yourself, almost invariably the real character will be revealed bit by bit – especially if you leave it for two years.
With internet dating I’m also worried that I might put myself under pressure to accept someone that I might not really consider “in the real world”. I’m worried that I might eventually just say “Oh, whatever!” I think that with internet dating many of the men I would meet would be very similar to the men I already know, that I have already quietly assessed and decided against. However, outside internet dating my default position regarding any of these men would be “no” and for each man I would look for reasons why I should consider him. However, with all the effort of internet dating and the silent expectations of any man I did meet up with and the less silent expectations of any of my friends and family whom I might have told, I am worried that my default position regarding any particular man might become a yes, and I might instead find myself looking for reasons why I should not marry him. In the absence of any compelling reasons I am so worried that I might just say “Oh stuff it” and go ahead and marry him, although I would NEVER do this “in the real world”. So I am worried that with the romantic expectations built into internet dating I might put myself under pressure to just go ahead and accept someone whom I would never accept outside internet dating.
Something else that makes me uncomfortable about internet dating is the thought of people organising it as a money-making business. To me, it just somehow feels wrong. There is a particular Christian site which seems to try to use and exploit Christian concepts to sell its services. “Find your “Good News” story here!” “Find your “Eternal partner”!”. (Actually, this is Biblically incorrect – for Christians, marriage starts and ends here on earth. Matthew 22v30)
Another site asks “Are you ready for love, outside of the Lord?” – What?!!!
Seriously, the fact that supposed Christians would manipulate Christian concepts in this way to sell any money-making service makes me feel so icky that it makes me want to throw up. In fact, the concepts that they crudely use/throw around are such broad Christian concepts with no real subtlety or real sophistication in the application – “the Lord”…”Good News”…”Eternity” – that I am sure that in many cases the owners of these sites are not Christians at all, but merely maintain Christian sites as part of their dating website “portfolios”, possibly along with sites that promote extra-marital adultery or sugar-daddy hookups.
On the plus side, I was thinking that internet dating could be useful if it was not dating as such, but if there was a way of using it to meet lots of people and then finding a way to integrate them into my life to get to know them without any romantic overtones. (The idea of silent or unspoken expectations or questions makes me feel so uncomfortable.) Then after you have gotten to know them, then you could perhaps evaluate who you would actually like to consider romantically/maritally.
So on balance these are my thoughts. I believe that the internet is a phenomenal tool that we have in our days to meet people. However, I wish that the emphasis was more on gaining friends although that could also be considered somewhat “dodgy”. I think that it would be great if churches in a city could group up together to offer some means of regular joint service together, like on a weekly basis, where you could really, really get to know people before considering them as potential marital partners.
1 Samuel 16v7:
…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Photo of woman at computer from Pixabay