A few years ago, online dating was something that was looked down on, something that ‘nice’ women and men didn’t do. Fortunately, this outlook has shifted dramatically, with it being common place to turn to the internet to find the love of your life.In fact, a 2017 study suggested that in the United States, 39% of heterosexual couples met online. This is a massive increase from 2009, where it was just 22%. [source: Stanford News].
However, even with all of the apps, the swiping left and right, algorithms that link people up with matched interests and beliefs, online dating can still be a minefield. How do you go about saying hi – or bye? How do you know when to meet up? What happens if you don’t fancy them in person or there is no spark?
Algorithms are, on the whole, great. They look at the information we provide when we sign up to the app or website, take note of some of the preferences that we put down, look at our location and link us to people who are in the same sort of area, have similar interests, perhaps the same age. It saves us a lot of time and sifting through people who live hundreds of miles away and are carnivores when we are vegan, men with kids when we are looking for child-free or men that just sound downright boring.
However – algorithms are not human, nor can they read your mind. They can make intelligent guesses, sure, but they still make mistakes or can be too cautious or not cautious enough. Take ownership; if you like the look of someone, like them or swipe them or, if you are feeling brave, message them. They might not necessarily be someone you end up talking to, but it gives the app and algorithm a better picture of what you want and shows you them.
Protect yourself both physically and emotionally. Don’t jump in by imagining love, marriage and babies after a week of messaging – allow yourself time to get to know the person and remember that anyone can say or be anything online – whether they are that person in real life is a whole different matter. You also need to take steps to protect yourself from harm. Don’t give out personal information, and when you do finally arrange to meet someone, make sure a friend or a family member knows exactly where you are, who you are with and what time you will be back. If things do begin to go a step further – if you are happy for that to happen -remember to practise safe sex. While there are options available to prevent unwanted pregnancies, such as the morning-after pill, these will not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
Online dating can be fearful and frustrating, but it can also be lots of fun. Relax, enjoy it and you never know – the man or woman of your dreams might be the next person you swipe on!