Judith Bardwick, Ph.D.
Full Disclosure: A long term associate and I both found our princes online so our view can rightly be called biased toward the positive.
It is no accident that the dating social networks are huge and growing, enrolling many millions of single people who have only one thing in common: they want to find that special other person who will become their partner. They are seeking to fill the void that is created when you are not the most special person in someone else’s life and they in yours.
While many single people are leading lives rich in experiences and relationships, and despite the fact that a deeply intertwined relationship always involves compromising your life style with another’s, the fact is there is no substitute for that singular person with whom you form an intimate relationship of love and inter-dependence.
Compared with just a few decades ago, we have become overworked, time short rolling stones. The growth of the dating networks reflects both the increasing isolation of many people and the increasing irrelevance of institutions which were historically the route by which people met and enlarged their circle of friends and acquaintances. A generation or two ago people who went to college expected to meet their future spouse while they were in school and the schools held mixers, opportunities for students to meet.
People often increased their social networks by linking with demographically appropriate others at work, or through the neighborhood networks of people or bars or athletic games or special interest clubs or coffee houses or…As the population was relatively stable compared with today, places to meet developed in particular locations and it became very acceptable to strike up conversations with strangers.
But, generally speaking, meeting in these ways without prior introductions to potentially compatible people was time consuming and only infrequently rewarding. In that sense, the social networks are no different.
Many people perhaps the majority are initially reluctant to join a dating network probably because the idea that they are incapable of handling this aspect of their lives is embarrassing. But the stigma is disappearing as the dating networks offer the potential of meeting thousands of people, from the immediate access of your computer or smart phone …with almost all of them as motivated to find that certain someone as you are. And increasing the probability of finding that person is the growing number of specialized networks for religious Christians, athletes, and seniors, for example.
But the digital networks also multiply the hazards and the work of finding partners. If only because of the huge numbers of people involved, the potential contacts the networks offer involve a range of attitudes and psychological states including eager, anxious, lukewarm but hopeful, interested, and desperate.
Those who are fairly new to the time consuming task of reading profiles and constructing engaging emails or phone conversations are usually unwilling to compromise on what they regard as their core criteria for a match. Others, more experienced and wearied by the work of attracting others often become more willing to compromise, accepting the value of a bird in hand and half full as far better than half empty. Those who are most anxious and desperate are frequently in a great hurry to secure commitment and others, who are equally desperate but frightened of commitment push people away.
In general, people who have never married while the majority of their age group have are unlikely candidates for long term relationships. For whatever reasons, they are basically more comfortable being alone, without the impediments to freedom that commitment and responsibility normally involve. And some strike an unsatisfying middle ground in which they want to simply add the missing desirable partner who is essentially an accessory to fill the gap in an almost complete and satisfying life.
There have been many criticisms of the networks which have to do with the basic anonymity online which allows people to falsify the information they give to the network as they try to increase their desirability. Everyone has had the experience of meeting people on line who posted ancient photos, or “happened” to exaggerate their achievements, and there are those special few who are crooks and con artists.
In other words, on line or in person, this is dating. Dating, by definition, involves putting your very best foot forward. When people date they wear their most attractive clothes, they make sure their breath is sweet, their hair is perfect and so are their manners, they may prepare amusing anecdotes and facial expressions of interest when they are really bored…
Ultimately the task of seeking involves screening large numbers of people, trying to winnow out those who obviously don’t fit from those who could and meeting those who just might be right. As this is a time consuming project that usually requires lots of work and patience, keep the initial contacts brief and simple. Just remember dating always takes lots of work and requires patience simply because there are just many more frogs than princes or princesses.
As frustrating as the process often is because the rate of return is usually low, still, for most people, there’s no alternative when you’ve used up all your contacts and those of friends and family. So jump in while keeping your sense of humor and some skepticism. It’s a numbers game: if you connect with enough people, you are more likely to find your special person even when they’re the needle in the haystack. Stay positive: remember, there is someone out there who is looking for you.