Love. It is one of the most complicated, yet most desired virtues—it is what every human heart longs for. Is that not why the most devastating thing a parent could say to his child is “I do not love you”? Or a spouse telling the other “I hate you”? It is also why the love of God is one of the most amazingly precious truths—it is answer to our dominant longing. Without love, life seems meaningless.
Love is usually associated with the marital relationship between a man and woman. Historically, the common way to peruse marriage has been courtship and betrothal. Around the time automobiles were mass-produced dating began to replace courtship. New freedom was given to teenagers—namely, four motorized wheels and a backseat. Before the automobile, spending time with your lover without your family was rare. Nowadays, it is rare to spend time with your lover together with family. Because of this, a wave of unprecedented sexual freedom (that is actually bondage) has swept in that has not been seen since pagan times.
The Internet appeared around a century after the automobile. We (or at least some of us) are currently watching how the Internet is shaping culture. No technology is neutral, and all technologies affect culture for the better and for the worse. We are constantly reminded what benefits modern technology bring; yet we ponder little what it will destroy.
With the dawning of the Internet came immense globalization. Instantly you could chat with someone in Hong Kong for the same price as someone next door. The potential advantages for communication and growth seemed endless.
It was only a matter of time before “personal ads” would move to the Internet. Since it is by nature a more interactive and global medium than newspapers, it was destined to be popular. Perhaps there isn’t anyone compatible with you in your city, but maybe there is in another state or country. Or at least that is how the thinking goes.
When I looked for articles assessing the negatives of online dating, I found very little. In fact, I found only one article, and it was hardly what one could consider negative. Now, I am sure there are articles available somewhere, but the point is that I could not find them easily and that means neither could someone wanting reasons why online dating could be personally and socially dangerous. Therefore, I have decided to make my own small case against the current practice of online dating.
Online dating seems like the perfect solution to humanity’s love problems. A popular idea is that people can’t get along because they don’t have enough in common or do not “match” up. We supposedly know this because couples lose interest in one another, or as many put it, “fall out of love.” The solution, then, make sure you are compatible before you begin dating. Surely that will make the relationship more “lovely.”
So online dating services take a survey of the applicant’s likes and dislikes, what color hair and eyes they have, what kind of music they listen to, etc. ad nausem and then shows them a list of matches.
The Perceived Benefits
From what I can gather, there are three main perceived benefits of online dating.
- You can find the person that you have dreamed about, since you can find out everything about them before you even decide to email them.
- Location is not an issue anymore. You used to be limited to the few people in your city, now you only limited by those with an Internet connection.
- You can get to know someone without the commitment of actually getting together.
Anyone can see how the perceived advantages could be tempting. Who doesn’t want to find Mr. or Mrs. Right? However, I believe there are far more problems with online dating then there are advantages.
- Unparalleled Frankness. When you read all these self-revealed facts about someone you don’t know, you can “hit it right off” because you already know a wealth of information about them. Yet that information also creates a pseudo-intimacy that leads to unhealthy and premature frankness. Add to this the removal of personal intimacy through the medium of text and you have one bold man and woman. They will say things to each other that people in a real relationship could not say for months, if not years. You know what I mean if you have been involved (or know someone) involved in an “Internet-based” relationship.
- Extreme Dishonesty. It is estimated that 1/5 of online daters are married men. You never know who you are really talking to—even what gender or “sexual orientation” they are—until you meet them and see them for who they really are. And by that time, it may be too late.
- Knowing only a façade. Even if a person is being more honest than dishonest, they usually put their best foot forward when talking about themselves. But online you can be an entirely different person. People create multiple online personas. It is the ultimate place of being whoever you want to be.
- Turns love into shopping. It is one thing to shop around for the best price on a car, but it is a whole other thing to shop around for a date by pre-defined answers. “Hmm, let’s see, I’d like a girl with brown hair, blue eyes, 5’9’, 120lbs, smart, and funny.” (Of course, thousands of matches would probably come up, since people seem to find ways of exaggerating these qualities.)
- Let’s men be wimps. Let’s be honest here. It takes “guts” to ask a girl out on a date. Let’s continue to be honest. It takes none to email some girl you’ve never met. If there is an easy way out, most wimps will take it. Consider the middle school way of asking someone out: “Uh, hi my name is Scott and my friend Johnny over there—yeah, the one with buck teeth and pimples—he wanted me to ask you if—hey, come back!” Real men don’t hide behind friends or email.
- Profiles based on what the person thinks of themselves, not what you think of them. Even if a person is being more honest than dishonest, they usually put their best foot forward when talking about themselves. But online you can be an entirely different person. People create multiple online personas. It is the ultimate place of being whoever you want to be.
- Removes support and accountability of family and friends. Good relationships thrive best when nourished with support and accountability from friends and family. Friends an2d family want what is best for you and can often see when something isn’t working out long before you can. It is nearly impossible to have any accountability on the Internet—which is, of course, one reason why people love it.
Based on the above reasons, I cannot in good conscience recommend online dating to anyone. Are there exceptions? Yes! Marvelous exceptions where God has used online dating to bring people together who genuinely love one another. But let us not look for truth in exceptions. Let us look for truth through the normative experience of healthy relationships from the past and at the present.
Update 2/1/07: Scientific American has an article on “The Truth about Online Dating.”