Problems With Online Dating

by Robert Vaux

Online dating has rapidly become the go-to method for finding a mate. It has a number of built-in advantages over traditional forms of dating, including safety, convenience and in some cases a guided process to help you get to know the other person more comfortably. Despite that, online dating isn't perfect, and a number of problems periodically trouble those who sign up for a dating service. While they shouldn't discourage you from trying online dating, it pays to prepare for them before you begin.

Online Isn't Real Life

Online dating usually starts with a series of email exchanges, as you and your prospective partner chat back and forth in a controlled environment. Talking to someone online, however, isn't the same as talking to someone in real life. You may meet somebody with whom you completely click via email, only to find things awkward and uncomfortable when you finally meet for a date.

Fire and Forget

Online dating usually provides a huge number of options: hundreds or even thousands of members of the opposite sex, all of whom meet your basic requirements and all of whom live within a short distance of you. This embarrassment of riches can backfire, however, because many people tend to give up on a prospective match too quickly. With so many options available, you may be tempted to move on if the first email exchange doesn't work. Some people, however, take time to open up--even online--and when you toss them aside, you may be giving up on a great potential match.

Lies, Lies, Lies

People can lie on the Internet with ease: false names, false pictures and false personas created with just a few taps on the keypad. When speaking to online matches, you have no idea if you're seeing a real person or a cunningly crafted fa├žade. Online dishonesty needn't be so dramatic, either; online daters have a way of shaving a few pounds off their listed weight or a few years off their listed age in order to attract more people. It pays to approach online dating profiles with a certain amount of skepticism; if your potential mate sounds too good to be true, he probably is.

No Support Network

Because most early contact takes place online, your friends and family don't have a chance to meet any potential online mates in the initial stages. That can be a blessing in some ways, but it also serves as a handicap. You may be so enamored with the initial flush of romance that you can't see any existing problems with your mate, something those close to you may be able to perceive more objectively.

Emailing a Black Hole

Initial contact with online dating can be extremely painful. You labor for hours to compose the perfect introductory email: expressing interest without appearing desperate, displaying wit without sounding like you're full of yourself. Then you send it off...and it vanishes. The other person chose not to reply, flushing all that heartfelt effort right down the drain. Multiply that by dozens of matches and the frustration factor can get quite high. Some dating services, such as eHarmony, use step-by-step contact procedures to eliminate the problem. Others require perseverance in the early stages that you don't need with more-traditional kinds of dating.