I’ve noticed that people tend to have a minor panic attack when they entertain the idea of a online dating.
It’s as though “online” is code for “Dating someone who lives far away and is actually living a double life while I am over here clueless”. Fears of cheating, dishonesty, and vulnerability begin to creep into the picture. Insecurities, worries, and doubts begin filling the imagination; paranoia that you’re being played like an episode of Katfish.
Online relationships. Are they worth it? Do they work? Or are you just setting yourself up for heart-break? With the rise of social media and technology-driven interactions, I get a lot of questions concerning the topic of online dating relationships.
Additionally, there is a trend in the Christian dating culture that says trying to find love online is somehow not “waiting on God”, but often, this philosophy comes with a double-standard. The very same people that would encourage you to pursue a job opportunity by surfing the net, or looking into colleges by way of the internet, might forbid you from using the online world as a means to finding love.
Statistics show that almost 1/3 of couples getting married in this generation have met their significant other by way of the internet. There is no denying that our world has changed drastically over the past decade, and we are now immersed in a culture that is rooted in the internet and social media. One couple I recently read about even exchanged their vows via the web. Though I’m not advocating for extreme uses of the internet and social media such as the aforementioned, I am saying that times have changed- and it’s okay for Christians to keep up!
Just as God used the cultural components of ancient biblical days to guide people to finding love (dowries, arranged marriages, and the like), He uses our cultural context to work out his will in our lives today. So let go of your apprehension about “not waiting on God” if that’s your hang up. But as you enter the world of online dating, here are a few things you must always bring with you:
1. Bring honesty: When it comes to online dating, there is an element of risk because of the ease and draw of re-creating one’s self. Behind the screen of a computer, you can be anyone you want to be. From your physical attributes to your description of yourself-you can custom design who you are. If you’re going to use the internet as a way to meet others and put yourself out there- do yourself the favor of being honest. Masking your true self may snag you a date, but ultimately, with someone who shows interest in the self you’ve created, not in who you actually are. Relationships founded in facade are never worth keeping, because they are rooted in exaggeration and ultimately in deceit. If you’re going to enter the world of online dating- always leave your genuineness and honesty fully intact.
2. Bring wisdom: The second most important thing to honesty, is the idea of wisdom. When it comes to online dating, always be a skeptic. Remember that things are not as they seem to be- but rather, as they actually are. Don’t believe the claims of others to be tall, dark and handsome, a follower of Christ, or a gentleman and a scholar- until you see those things actually played out in their life. Whether in real life or online, always remember that talk is cheap. A person’s actions can always be better trusted than their words. So go ahead and get to know someone online, but don’t take things too seriously until you come face to face with the reality of who they actually are. Which brings us to the final point:
3. Bring it into real life: Online is a great place to start a relationship, but it’s NOT a great place to maintain a relationship. If you’ve been getting to know someone for months at a time but haven’t met or interacted face to face- then there is a good chance that something is not as it should be. At some point, a real relationship needs to mature within the context of real life- where physical appearance is clear, emotional temperament can’t be hidden, and habits and personality come to life. If you are in an online relationship with someone who makes excuses for bringing it into real life, than you are not in a real relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I think online relationships need to be kept online until you’ve gotten to know someone and assessed their level of health to the best of your ability. But there is a time and a place to bring the relationship to the real world for nourishment, maturity, and growth. With that in mind, always use caution and discernment by meeting in public places or in groups of friends for the first series of face-to-face interactions.
As with anything in life, it’s not necessarily what we do- but HOW we do it that is a measure of our intimacy and relationship with God. We are called to glorify him in all things- including how we act and interact with the world around us (1 Corinthians 10:31). Online dating can be done in a God-honoring way if it’s wrapped with wisdom, honesty, and discernment- and then brought into the context of real life. Remember those truths…and happy dating.
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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!