Is Online Dating a Must These Days?

Is Online Dating a Must These Days?

Question: Is online dating a must these days to meet the right person? Whatever happened to real life?

Answer: I hate to break it to you, but online dating is real life. It's just another way of striking up a conversation with a stranger at a bar or orchestrating a meet-cute with someone you cross paths with. The only difference is that, temporarily, there's a screen between the two of you. 

The good news? Online dating works. You just need to approach it the same way you would any other chance encounter: openminded, with your best foot forward and a healthy serving of skepticism on the side. 

I met my husband online, so I'm obviously pro. I can also fully related to the cons: You're highly likely to stumble across your ex's profile, it can take 20 back-and-forth messages before a real first meeting is even suggested, and you have no idea if the person you're on date three with is sleeping with five other people. Mostly, you just get sick of hearing yourself tell your life story over and over again, which can quickly feel like the worst marketing job of all time.  

I also know that its cons are far outweighed by its potential. Going online casts your net a hundred times wider than your social circle ever could. Sticking to "real life" restricts the pool to your friend circle, work environment and local hangouts, while online dating serves your entire city up on a silver platter. You can even filter to your heart's content, narrowing by age, height or political preference (though as Aziz Ansari highlights, we're bad at this). The key benefit of meeting people online, in my opinion, is that it places you on a mutually recognized singles playing fieldeven people you could potentially cross paths with offline. IRL.

On our third or fourth date, my now-husband and I figured out that we knew people in common. Not in the random I-know-someone-in-your-graduating-class kind of way. I'm talking childhood pals and friends of best friends. At least three separate instances. It was strange that we hadn't met before and yet I'm glad that we didn't: we both would have assumed that the other was either taken or disinterested (I don't know how to flirt, he's overly gregarious). I honestly can't see us having connected in any other way than we first did: meeting for dinner in Chinatown with only the most basic idea of who the other was. That and the fact that we were both single and looking. 

What's more, we almost didn't meet online, either. I'd developed dating fatigue and was about to deactivate my account right before he first messaged (this was in the OkCupid heyday). Luckily, I'd procrastinated in flipping the switch and saw a message from him, inquiring whether he could take me out when he "got back from Paris." Total clickbait, I know, and yet I was intrigued enough to say sure. Whatever. Why not? Turns out, my laissez-faire attitude toward online dating at that point was a helpful frame of mind the night we first met. I went in ready for anything and expecting nothing. The person I found on the other end came to life in real time, and was someone I wanted to see again. And again. Even today! 

Online dating does't have to be your story, but you should make it at least part of it. Use it like the tool that it is: actively, knowledgeably and effectively. And by all means, try the traditionally more "real" methods as well. I find that aunts, coworkers and local bartenders usually know a person or two who'd be "perfect for you." 

Godspeed, and good luck. 

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