13 lessons in life that online dating taught me
What started out as a social experiment turned into wonderful life lessons for me.
Part of being all wired up these days is that now we can look for love online, in a rather similar fashion to picking out steak for tonight’s dinner.
Love it or hate it, online dating might be here to stay – at least for a little while. Bringing with it, its own truckload of relationship issues.
Curious to see what the fuss was about and after strong encouragement from friends, I signed up to a couple of websites and apps and went on plenty of dates. I didn’t fall in love with anyone – which didn’t surprise me – but I did learn a lot about romance and myself. Here’s what I discovered:
Get that self-respect
You will meet loads of people whom you have no clue about. So you’ve got to be clear with your boundaries and be firm when someone crosses them.
I’ve ended dates early because a guy was overstepping physical boundaries or starting asking lewd questions.
In the past, I might have been sat there cringing throughout the date and secretly texting my girlfriends to come save me. But nowadays, I have no qualms asserting myself and being firm when I need to be.
You start valuing your time
Dates are – let’s face it – time-consuming. So when you are going on many per week and spend a lot of them sitting there thinking, “Hmm I rather be at home staring at my paint dry than hear him talk”, you start to treasure your time a lot more.
You start taking your time more seriously and you start bailing early as well.
I remember going on one with a really condescending guy who ended every other sentence with “What?? how can you not know that????”. And yes, I cut that date short. You start to realise your time is really valuable and that the time you are wasting here could be time spent doing something else.
Small Talk is now a piece of cake
Well, maybe not exactly that easy, but close.
Now, I’ve never really hated small talk. Yes, I do find it somewhat pretentious at times – depending on who I am engaging in small talk with. But it has never made me feel awkward or anything.
Going on plenty of dates with strangers allowed me to practice my conversational skills, and to practice showing a genuine interest and open-ness in what the person is telling you.
Being light-hearted about love and relationships
You will meet all sorts of people who are on these sites for all sorts of motivations. And yes, some of them are in relationships or may even be married.
You will meet the nasty, the weird, the boring, the awkward. And…you’ll also meet people whom you share amazing chemistry and conversations with, BUT who never call you back or ask you out again. You can spend tons of hours analyzing and overthinking their actions, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.
First off, you might have enjoyed the date, and he might not have. That’s fine. We have different definitions of chemistry. And there could be tons of reasons you have no idea about – he’s married, he’s just looking for a person to have a dinner date with, he’s just got out of a relationship etc etc.
Instead of analyzing what I might have said/done wrong during the 30 minute coffee date, it’s best to move on and form connections with people who genuinely wanted to know me.
Adding to the point above, you might have met someone whom you really felt something with, but after a couple of dates the person tells you they aren’t feeling it (if they are honest) or they just ghost you.
Rejection is never easy to take and it’s always easier to blame ourselves. But we really have no idea what is going on with this person or their lives. I just chalked it up to wrong person wrong time and moved on.
Trusting your instincts
Going on online dates can be pretty scary. I mean, you are literally meeting up with someone you haven’t got a clue about, no matter how detailed their profiles are. As someone who counts a lot on observing people and their body language, this bit about online dating always bothers me. But it provides a great opportunity to hone your gut instincts.
I’ve been on quite a few dates where the people just gave me really weird vibes off the bat. Trust your inner voice. After multiple dates with different people, I can always easily spot when someone is up to no good or is hiding his inner shadiness. And what’s great is – this has transferred to other areas in life.
I once met a guy who, while nice – and was probably the only one I genuinely clicked with – creeped me out by having photos of me in his phone before we first met (he was snooping around my FB page and worst, saved those photos) and edited them in photo apps. Something about the way he spoke about our meeting made it seem like he already saw us as a couple. Just, NO.
Needless to say, he started bombarding me with random texts throughout the day after our first meeting and arranging multiple dates. Any sort of spark I felt just disappeared somewhere in those random emoticons he was sending me.
If things are too good to be true, they probably are
Like the above, trust your instincts. If someone is doing too much too soon and attempting to fast forward the “relationship” when you barely even know each other, that should set off alarm bells. Also, this is a pretty obvious one – but good looks really don’t mean a damn thing.
I once met someone who literally looked like a walking Adonis. Drove a nice car, had a nice physique, good job. Basically whatever seemed good on paper. He also spoke really well and was a great conversationalist. But something about the way he talked just felt off to me.
Barely 20 minutes into our conversation, he was going on rants about his sexual conquests, brothels, ladies’ parts’ and the like. Yikes.
There are some really weird people out there
When you date online, you open yourself to a wider pool of people that you normally would never mingle with. This is especially so if you are in larger, more cosmopolitan cities.
While it can be fun meeting with people who have jobs that are super interesting, it can also mean opening yourself up to people who have fetishes, have vastly different relationship values and those who aren’t fazed about sending photos of their privates. Yes.
Nothing much surprises me anymore, and these people usually earn a block from me. As long as you are aware of your boundaries, assert them and remember not to entertain people who make you uncomfortable, you’d be fine.
Dating is expensive, so spend your dollars wisely
I live in an expensive city. Eating out is expensive, alcohol is dead expensive. Even if you are just going on one date per week, 4 dates in a month, it can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. So, it makes it all the more important that you are spending your money wisely.
I’m fine paying my share, but that also means I’m not gonna be wasting my coins on expensive dinners with people I barely know. I prefer coffee dates because of this. It’s low-investment – not just in terms of finances, but in terms of time – especially with someone I barely know.
I found it easier to bail on a bad date when I’m having something quick like coffee or ice cream. It’s more difficult to do so when you are stuck waiting for your 3 course dinner and dessert to arrive. Also I find dinner dates to be too overly formal, and adds an atmosphere of seriousness for an arrangement with someone you barely know. Save that for later when you guys are much closer.
Hone your observation skills
Whenever I went on a date, I was really observing the other party for relationship potential. And you can actually tell quite a bit about the person from how they interact with you.
I tended to observe table manners (though people do impression manage a lot on dates). Also – is the person a good listener? Does he/she show care towards you? Or did he polish off the plate of fried chicken himself even though you told him thrice that you loved it? (True story)
Also, insights into a person’s communication patterns. If he/she interrupts, talks over you, not ask any questions, ignore whatever you just said, these are classic signs of a poor communicator/listener. You’ll be surprised how much of a person’s personality you can glean from a relatively short time together.
People can be very different online
Some people are just extremely good texters. And I can see why. Texting is not spontaneous and you can plan what you say and edit it multiple times over before sending it.
Unfortunately, these great conversations via text sometimes don’t transfer over into real life. Some of the best texters can absolutely suck in real-life conversations, which involve spontaneity, quick-thinking and banter.
I was also wary of people who were too comfy texting and never wanted to meet up. This was why I preferred to arrange the first meet up early on – after a couple of texts have been exchanged.
I once chatted to a dude for months and he never once bothered to ask me out. He had all the time in the world to type pages of texts in WhatsApp, though. I mean he probably spent at least 30 mins typing all these stuff out. Conversations which could be done in under 5 minutes in person. But he preferred hiding behind a screen. Waste of time.
The problem of too much “choice”
The problem with online dating is that it can be hard to commit to someone or find someone willing to commit. After all, another available person is just a swipe or like away. This can lead to all sorts of interesting and even downright shady behaviour.
People telling you it’s serious but seeing 10 others on the side or worse: people in serious relationships yet still active on the app.
It also creates a false sense of security and desirability. Oh, didn’t work out with this dude? It’s fine, I’ll be back on the app at 9pm swiping and flirting with 5 others.
I personally think this leads to some people being less invested in their dates and the people they meet. And it makes them less likely to commit seriously to anyone because they constantly feel like there’s a probability that someone better is waiting for them on the app.
It’s time consuming
Things move fast in the online world. If you aren’t going to reply to someone’s conversation (and I’m the sort that doesn’t do so til days later), the person would have already forgotten you and moved on. I mean, they have like 423 other matches to talk to.
The online dating world moves very fast and if you aren’t prepared to spend your time and energy matching with people and chatting to them, then just don’t get involved with it.
This is also why I found the whole thing to be incredibly exhausting and deleted all my profiles. I’ll stick to offline dating!
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With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice.