Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Mandy Kloppers BA(UNISA); Dip Psych(Open);Dip LC(LC Inst);MCS(Acc)
26th September, 2009
Internet dating is still a fairly recent concept in the grand scheme of things and there doesn't seem to be too much reliable data on the actual success rates. One thing I know is that I have noticed all the same old faces when I have logged back in to my old internet dating account. It seems to me that internet dating is encouraging a population of serial daters and leaving little to report on the relationship-longevity stakes.
Be very careful when deciding to meet people through the internet. On the one hand it is undeniably useful for meeting people you wouldn't normally come into contact with during your normal day-to-day activities.It does open up all sorts of opportunities but not every one is on the same 'playing field'. Many people using internet dating sites have different agendas. Some are truly looking for someone to love, someone to settle down with and want to get off the dating scene as soon as possible. Others are looking for something more casual or an ego boost and will 'string you along' until they are bored or worse still, they end up being commitment phobic or heavens forbid "emotionally unavailable".
Then there's the addiction of internet dating and the inevitable mindset that creeps in. More choice leads to higher expectations. After being on the internet looking to find someone for a fair length of time (from as early as one month) the seemingly never ending choice of partners creates and fosters, in my opinion, a fussier attitude.
Match.com recently conducted a survey and even they admit that approximately 40% of men and 60% of women are fussier today than they were a year ago. I recently read a very interesting book by Barry Schwartz called "The Paradox of Choice" and I enjoyed the following example of how too much choice will make us fussier:
“What contributes to high expectations, above and beyond the quality of past experience, is, I think, the amount of choice and control we now have over most aspects of our lives. When I was away on vacation a few years ago in a tiny seaside town on the Oregon coast, I went into the small local grocery store to buy some ingredients for dinner. When it came to buying wine, they had about a dozen options. What I got wasn’t very good, but I didn’t expect to be able to get something very good, and so I was satisfied with what I got. If instead I’d been shopping in a store that offered hundreds, even thousands – of options, my expectations would have been a good deal higher. Had I ended up choosing a bottle of wine of the same quality as the one that satisfied me in Oregon, I’d have been sorely disappointed.” Pg 186 – Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz.
Therein lies the crux of the matter, too much choice raises expectations, encourages a “tick-box mentality” and discourages people from choosing just one person. Ie. The smallest irritating habit can be blown out of proportion and cause the end of a dating relationship. My concern is that those participating in internet dating will lose touch with reality, see potential partners as another type of ‘consumer product’ and bypass the person they could be happy with in favour of the possibility of a future, perfect cyber option that might not even exist.
There is also the ability to speed up the familiarity process with someone in a much shorter time than used to be possible using more conventional dating methods. This can lead to false assumptions and a false sense of security - thinking you know the person a lot better than you actually do.
Ultimately though, it does seem to be very 'hit and miss' even though there are options to state preferences on everything from financial status to someone's favourite colour. Despite seeing photos, emailing and even talking on the phone - it doesn't replace the face-to-face meeting and if the body language doesn't fit or there's no chemistry the relationship just isn't going to proceed any further. This is the reason why more people nowadays push for a meeting sooner rather than later in an attempt to avoid wasting too much time on the wrong person. You do need to learn to be thick skinned and participate with a sense of humour!
I am not against internet dating per se. What I am worried about is the shift in perceptions that it is creating (ie. fickle behaviour, higher expectations, seeing potential partners as commodities) and how this will affect our relationships with significant others in the long term. Will internet dating encourage commitment-phobic behaviour? Will more of us be chasing this elusive ideal of "The One"? And finally, just how realistic is this idea of "The One" that might only ever exist in our heads?
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