Online dating. What do those words conjure for you? For many it connotes ideas of desperation, loserdom and loneliness. Ask anyone what type of people frequent online dating sites and seven times out of ten they’ll say that only those who can’t get dates in real life even bother with it.
The elderly certainly, and the unattractive, they’ll say. The antisocial and the violent, too. And let’s not forget the kinky, the nerdy, the boring, and the psychos. Obviously these are the people who would choose to surf their way into social interactions rather then engineer them the natural way.
Of course there are several points that are off about that point-of-view, isn’t there? Let’s take a look at them and see if that perspective isn’t prejudiced for no reason.
It Isn’t 1999 Anymore
Really, it isn’t. Match.com launched in 1995 and at the time there were about 40 million people in the world using the Internet. That’s less than the number of Xbox 360 owners around the world. Back then the Internet definitely did only appeal to a certain subsection of society.
In 2000 the number of Internet users was about 360 million. More than the population of the United States even if you count illegal immigrants. The Internet was a lot more popular.
Today the number of Internet users is about 2 billion. Yeah, that’s billion with a b. Two billion is a messload of people. That’s just about the population of North America, Europe (including Russia), and Africa.
There are over 250 million registered users of online dating websites today. And that’s only counting the six top dogs. Let’s just say there would have to be a significant cluster of dedicated psychos and losers online to get to those numbers.
The Internet Is Now a Necessity
When I was a kid, it used to be that the Internet was this quirky, novel thing you’d peruse every now and then. Sometimes for entertainment when nothing good was on T.V., sometimes for information if you really couldn’t find anything at the library, and sometimes for a bit-o-chatroom socializing. It took forever for anything to load and you would never really do anything too important online. On your computer, sure, but not online.
Now every electronic device from your phone to your fridge can be connected to the Internet. Television is suffering from the diminished number of viewers. You’ll often hear people say that if they can’t stream something online, on Netflix say, that they probably won’t watch it. Ask Blockbuster.
Businesses can barely function without the Internet, much less operate globally. Email has basically killed snail mail (when’s the last time your friend wrote you a casual letter?).
Let’s just say that the Internet is part of our culture in the Western world and is inextricable from our society’s proper functioning. Why then should dating be excluded from the Web’s influence?
Internet vs. Real Life Hook-ups
The biggest crock of bull concerning online dating is that it isn’t natural or normal. Somehow the idea is that meeting someone in real life is better and more conducive to a successful relationship. Really? Really? Ok, so let’s talk about this.
There are generally two methods for determining is a relationship is successful. The first is whether or not the couple gets married and stays married until death. The second is if the couple is happy (either short-term or long-term).
So marriage. If you take a look at history (at least in Western civilizations), marriage was a business transaction. A father’s daughter was considered a commodity and an arrangement would take place between two families for mutual economic benefit – for the men at least. This notion of marrying for happiness is a recent occurrence, folks. Love and passion were an anomaly not easily pursued. (We haven’t even touched the fact of a 41% divorce rate in the U.S.)
As for happiness, there is no real way to measure that. All opinions on the matter are subjective to whatever mental framework you’re working with. Assuredly you aren’t following the course of a couple’s relationship over the course of their entire lives in order to come to a conclusion. Rather you’re going from heresy, popular culture, and random moments with these happy people. However we all know that happiness, like all emotions, is transitory and either is or isn’t in the moment. If a couple was happy for 80% of their relationship but miserable for the last 20% was it a successful one?
There is much and more to say about this subject and my conclusion can differ from yours greatly. But one thing is for sure certain: that there is no way to objectively say that online dating is any better or worse than meeting someone in person. Whether trying pick-up lines in a bar, taking cooking classes to meet people, going on blind dates setup by friends or family, chatting up someone at a party, or meeting them through a careful online screening process the answer is always the same.
It isn’t about the medium on which you meet, it’s about seeing the best in someone and anticipating seeing that in them for as long as you’re together. Online or offline be damned. And if the ultimate goal is to enjoy yourself, and online dating satisfies on that level, then I would say that it’s worth the time and effort. Fun is fun, and that’s the whole point.