Today, in 2014, it's almost less common to find people who have never tried online dating than it is to find people who have. While I don't think finding love on the Internet has the negative connotation it used to, there are still plenty of skeptics -- and to those skeptics I say: just try it! I was once in your shoes! I once scoffed at the idea of creating a profile and messaging a stranger and meeting and then having to explain how we met.
But one night in college, a friend who was happily dating a girl she met online convinced me to give it a try. Her argument? It was going to be much harder to meet other lesbians once I moved home after graduation than it was on a college campus. And even on that college campus, finding suitable people to date wasn't always a breeze.
So I made a profile, and let me tell you, online dating has been quite the adventure for me. And regardless of your sexual orientation, it really has long list of benefits. Here are some of my favorites:
1) It forces you to leave your comfort zone. Putting yourself out there, creating a profile with a picture of your face and sending a message to a random stranger is actually quite nerve-wracking. I mean, talk about making a first impression! What kind of picture to choose? What to say about myself in my bio? How to start a message in a way that's neither boring nor over-the-top? These questions will run through your mind, but it takes courage to go for it anyway. You get comfortable with being uncomfortable when you realize that everyone else out there is just as vulnerable as you are.
2) You meet different kinds of people than you would in your everyday life. I've dated a handful of people I met online, and let me tell you, I'm not sure our paths would have ever crossed in real life. First, because we didn't live in the same immediate area, but secondly, because they hung out in different types of places and with different types of people than I did. It might not have worked out with all of them in the end, but I can honestly say that the people I met online were some of the most interesting and memorable people. I learned a lot from them and I am so glad our lives intersected, even if only for a few weeks or a few months at a time.
3) Practice makes perfect. With online dating, you don't have to wait to meet someone to ask on a date or wait for someone to ask you -- in "real life" that could take months. Online, you can get more dates in a shorter period of time. You know how people say that every job interview you go on, whether it leads to a job or not, is at least "interview experience?" And you know how you get more comfortable going on job interviews every time you do it because they all ask (mostly) similar questions and are structured (basically) the same? That's exactly what first dates are like. Sure, when you go on a date with a new person for the first time, you're still going to feel those nerves and butterflies, but with each date you go on, you learn more about what works for you and what doesn't. For example: Know what kind of drink is appropriate to order in that setting, never again suggest a place that's so quiet every silence feels excruciating, and when all other conversation fails, tell them about that time you accidentally ate an entire "special" brownie in high school and proceeded to throw up. (Or maybe... don't mention that).
4) It's far from being passive. Some people say, "good things come to those who wait." I say, "good things come to those who put themselves out there and try hard." Sure, the man/woman of your dreams isn't going to appear out of thin air just because you messaged 100 people on OkCupid (in one night), but I believe that when you take initiative to do something you want to do, good things will happen. They might not be the exact thing you set out to obtain (for example, you might meet someone online who turns out to be a really good friend or who points you in the direction of a new career path instead of being your lifelong love), but they will add to your life regardless. It's all about deciding what you want in your life and going for it.
5) You learn a lot about yourself and other people. Like, what do you do when someone sends you two paragraphs on how beautiful you are and how you have the same taste in movies, but it's so over the top that you're thoroughly creeped out? What about when you've been messaging someone and all of a sudden, they just stop answering -- as if you are not even a human being on the other end of cyberspace, as if you are just a username not even worthy of a "I met someone but it was really nice talking to you" message? Awkward situations provide some important lessons about human nature.
Even if you don't wind up meeting your next girlfriend/boyfriend/soul mate/best friend through online dating, it is certainly a memorable experience that can positively contribute to your growth as a person.
So, happy dating!