In the ever-wired and frenetic world in which we live, online dating seems like an utterly practical solution to meeting a romantic interest, no? Register on one of 15 top dating sites, key in a credit card number, and then create a profile. In 15 or 30 minutes’ time, you’ve initiated the dance. Practical it may be, but I believe few of us end up dancing. Let alone meeting, talking or sharing a meal.
Cleary, we have anecdotal ‘evidence’ that shows us cyber-dating yields positive results. Take the testimonials of blissful couples who appear in E-Harmony commercials. Boy corresponds with girl. Boy actually meets girl. And six months later, voila! Boy and girl end up cohabiting or engaged to be married. We all know friends or co-workers who’ve meet their mates online. And now, Match.com features the personal dating stories of the brave men and women who appear in the Dr. Phil-Match TV ads – you know, where America’s favorite psychologist says in that father-knows-best voice of his: “It’s okay – it’s okay to look.”
The problem is that many of us pursue internet dating simply to browse. We click from profile to profile. We slap dash together emails that not only contain typos but scary personal revelations. I believe that at best virtual dating scenes are cheap entertainment. Pour yourself a glass a wine, put on a little smooth jazz and, then, let your fingers do the talking. It’s reality TV. You’re the producer, director and star. And the budget is next to nil.
I suspect that these placeless venues house an army of cyber-daters – singles who post and respond to online profiles merely for the virtual satisfaction. And, I fear online dating sites are repositories for singles (and married folks who date) incapable of genuine friendship, let alone true intimacy.
We put far too much faith in the almighty Internet. Too much trust in our computers and sophisticated software. Clearly, the Internet harbors ferocious power and the ability to put the world of ideas, causes, images and goods at our feet. The singles Web sites that collect and collate everything from one’s vital statistics to hobbies to recently read books are powerful databases. So, if you’ve been to the front lines, you know that by simply providing a laundry list of attributes and personal values, writing a clever headline and submitting a flattering photo, the Internet god has the power to shine its light on one, if not several, compatible mates. It all happens within minutes, if not seconds. What a miracle!
If cyber communities tend to appeal to fragile singles who, indeed, are in search of virtual rather that real-world satisfaction, why do the sturdy among us pay homage to the Internet and expect it to bring us a satisfying relationship? Has our penchant for and dependence on information technology made us a people incapable of pursuing – sustaining – a relationship in the real world?
Maybe the answer is that more singles than not prefer instant and transitory gratification to genuine and long-term intimacy. Real relationships are hard, and building intimacy takes time and courage.
Maybe part of the answer is that most of us want easy, not hard; we want dessert, and we want it all the time. Real partners tend to one another’s needs, and take the sweet with the sour. In a real relationship, one has the capability to love with courage and kindness that less-than-perfect man or woman. So, maybe the answer is that many of us want a companion who is a shadow self rather than an individual with unique interests, insights and desires.
I’m just a woman trying to live an authentic life in the physical world. If it is genuine companionship and intimacy we seek, we have got to turn off our computers, Ipods, cell phones and create community in three dimensional spaces. Because, I believe, if we show up in the flesh with honesty and grace in tow, then over time, we will have a better shot at love.
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