The other day a friend told me she was cautiously considering jumping back into the online dating world. “The other times I’ve tried it, I’ve faced a lot of rejection,” she said. “It’s really hard to try again.”
I’ve heard similar things from other women I know: tales of being talked to then ghosted, pursued by someone much older, or ignored by men who seem like good matches. I’m sure men experience their own set of online dating woes, although surveys show the majority of those who use dating apps are female (around 60 percent).
Online dating has changed a lot since the early 2000s when Neil Clark Warren launched eHarmony, one of the first major online dating sites. I remember meeting a couple who was one of the first to meet and marry through the site. They seemed like a novelty. But since then, I’ve known more than a dozen wonderful couples who met online. Now dating apps are popular — same concept, faster delivery system. As of 2021, there are 30.4 million online dating users in the U.S. and that number is expected to rise.
Personally, I have always been a bit suspicious of online dating. I suppose I wanted to meet and marry someone the “old-fashioned way,” which I did in 2009. But our world has changed, and it can be increasingly difficult to meet a likeminded individual in an organic setting. In addition, I’ve recently heard a handful of encouraging stories about couples who met online. Just a few days ago, a friend from years back shared her story of meeting her fiancé through an online dating site a day before she was going to delete her profile.
How to date online
If you’re thinking of trying out online dating or giving it another chance, here are a few things to consider.
Do your research. Not all dating apps are created equal. Choose one that focuses on connecting people with shared interests instead of objectifying them (I’m looking at you, “swipe right”). If you’re looking for a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, use an app that will facilitate that goal. Consider using a faith-based app that will connect you with a larger pool of fellow believers.
Do it for the right reasons. When I felt stuck in my singleness, I was tempted to jump online simply to make something happen. I recognized a pull to depend on myself instead of God, and I didn’t have a peace about moving forward. Surveys reveal a high percentage of young adults who use online dating apps do it for validation or attention. This, too, is a poor reason to jump online. Online dating should be approached prayerfully and with discernment.
I have found meditation on Psalm 139:23-24 to be a helpful practice when making decisions: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Learn from others. With so many people online, you can dig up a lot of horror stories. But talk to friends who have found success with online dating. (Lisa Anderson offers a great list of dos and don’ts for both men and women in this useful article.) One thing I have heard consistently from enduring matches is that the couple exited the online format as quickly as possible. They met for coffee or dinner to confirm there was a real-life connection. Anderson writes:
“The more common ground you have on paper, the more likely you’ll meet in person. That, in my opinion, is your goal. Staying online and not moving into face-to-face conversation will not help you in building a relationship that leads to marriage.”
Exercise caution. If you get a weird vibe from someone, go with your gut. I once met up for lunch with a guy from an online dating site. Over the course of a few days, it became clear that he’d told me many lies about who he was: his career, travel plans and even friends. I’m thankful this was revealed so quickly, and I didn’t continue getting to know someone who was misrepresenting himself. Never put yourself in an unsafe situation when meeting in person. Always meet in a public place and bring a friend if you feel unsure.
Find your identity in Christ (not online success). One of the biggest downsides to online dating my friends have reported is the reality of facing rejection. When you put yourself out there by writing a description of who you are and posting a photo, it can be disheartening to receive little to no response (or the wrong kind of response). Going in, you must decide that you will not allow the response you receive to define you.
You are a beloved child of God — a God who already clearly sees your whole life, including your romantic future. Another person’s response to your profile doesn’t change that one bit. Also, treat your online contacts with respect and kindness befitting of the creations of God they are.
Giving online dating a chance
I’ve come a long way in my thinking on online dating. It is a tool that I have seen God use to bring people together. Online dating remains the top way couples meet. According to a 2019 study by The Knot, 22 percent of engaged couples on their site met online. In fact, activity on dating apps surged in 2020 in the height of the pandemic and has stayed strong.
Digital dating certainly isn’t perfect — and it’s not for everyone. But if you’re ready to give online dating a chance (or another chance), proceed mindfully with prayer and support. You never know what God might do.
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All Rights Reserved.