Young People Ask . . .
“Should I Try Internet Dating?”
“We E-mailed each other every day. We made plans regarding a place to live and work. I was supposed to take care of the engagement rings. We had not even known each other a month and had not yet met in person.”—Monika, Austria. *
YOU would really like to meet someone—someone you can get to know, someone you might want to marry. But, thus far, none of your efforts to find someone like that have worked out. Attempts by well-meaning friends and family to set you up with someone have done nothing but embarrass you and have left you more discouraged than ever. So you are wondering if maybe you should turn to technology for help.
In this age of the computer, finding a compatible mate may seem to be just a few clicks away. All you have to do, some say, is log on to a Web site, chat room, or bulletin board that has been specially designed for singles. The New York Times reports that in one month in the United States alone, 45 million people visited on-line dating Web sites. One Internet matchmaker claims to have more than nine million people using its service in 240 countries.
The Appeal of On-Line Dating
Are you shy, and do you find it difficult to meet people? Do you fear rejection? Or do you simply feel there is a lack of potential marriage mates in the area where you live? Then computer dating may appeal to you. For one thing, on-line matchmaking services promise you control over your “dates.” Search boxes that display age groups, countries of residence, personality profiles, pictures, and anonymous screen names are provided. Armed with the power of choice, it may seem that dating on-line is more efficient and less stressful than face-to-face encounters.
What is the reality? Does dating in cyberspace really lead to lasting happiness? Well, consider this: During a six-year period, one matchmaking service had 11 million subscribers. Yet, only 1,475 marriages took place among them. Another dating service with over a million members listed only 75 confirmed marriages! What is wrong with this trend?
A True Picture of Each Other?
“On the Internet,” said one newspaper article, “everyone tends to be attractive, honest, and successful.” But how realistic is the information people provide about themselves? Another news article put it this way: “It is taken for granted that everyone lies a little.” An editor of a popular teen magazine did some personal research into this claim. She joined three of the most popular dating Web sites and shortly received a number of responses. These led to dates with several men. The result? Real failures! The men had blatantly lied about themselves. She warned: “Based on my experience, they lie.”
Misrepresenting one’s height or weight may seem like a little thing. ‘Looks are not that important,’ some may argue. True, the Bible itself says that “charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain.” (Proverbs 31:30) But is lying about seemingly little things a good way to begin a relationship? (Luke 16:10) How confident can you be about other things the person might say about more serious issues, such as personal goals? The Bible says: “Speak truthfully with one another.” (Zechariah 8:16) Yes, honesty provides the foundation for a relationship that can grow.
Dating in cyberspace, though, often involves unrealistic fantasies. A report in Newsweek makes this observation: “Users can carefully edit their e-mails and present themselves in the most flattering way. . . . The result is a positive-feedback loop: they seem nice and interested in you, so you’re nice and interested in them.” As a professor at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies on-line relationships observes, a strong attachment may form very readily in such circumstances. Yet, as often noted, this can’t be counted on to lead to a happy marriage. One man wrote about his experiences with on-line dating: “It’s a trap. Your imagination fills in the blanks with exactly what you want.”
Some may believe, however, that the lack of personal contact has distinct advantages. They may feel that on-line dating allows couples to focus on what a prospective partner is like on the inside without being distracted by personal appearance. True, the Bible encourages us to focus on a person’s inner qualities. (1 Peter 3:4) Yet, the problem is that in a computer relationship, you cannot observe gestures, smiles, or countenance. You cannot see how he or she treats others or behaves under pressure. And such things are critical in determining if he or she is someone you can come to trust and love. Read the Bible’s description of love found at 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5. Notice that love is defined by behavior, not words. You must therefore take the time to observe a person to see if his or her actions and words match.
Lacking such vital information, couples often start sharing intimate feelings and thoughts early in the courtship. Throwing caution to the wind, some couples hastily make serious romantic commitments, even though they hardly know each other. An article entitled “On the Internet, Love Really Is Blind” tells of two people 8,000 miles apart who met on-line. Three weeks later they met in person. “She wore heavy eye mascara,” said the man. “I don’t date women who wear mascara.” The relationship quickly ended. The results of another in-person meeting were so disappointing that the man, who had paid for the visit, canceled the return portion of the woman’s airline ticket!
A young woman named Edda recalls her own experience with on-line dating. She says: “The relationship was too good to be true. We were planning on getting married.” But when they saw each other in person, the relationship completely flopped. “He was not what I expected but was critical and a complainer. It was just not going to work.” One week later the relationship broke off, leaving Edda totally disillusioned.
In the fantasy world of computer dating, emotions can become intense prematurely. This can leave you vulnerable to emotional devastation if the relationship does not work out—as is likely. “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid,” warns Proverbs 28:26. Yes, it is unwise to make serious decisions based upon fantasy and emotion. The proverb thus continues: “But he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”
The Dangers of Haste
Rushing into a relationship when you know little about each other is certainly unwise. The English writer Shakespeare is quoted as saying: “Hasty marriage seldom proveth well.” The Bible counsel is more direct: “Everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.”—Proverbs 21:5.
Sadly, many of those engaging in Internet dating have found that to be true. After corresponding with someone for just one month, Monika, quoted at the outset, hoped that she had found the answer to her desire for a partner. Despite making plans for marriage—even arranging to obtain engagement rings—her hurried relationship ended in “great sorrow.”
You can avoid heartache by heeding the Bible’s counsel: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) However, disappointment and hurt feelings are not the only dangers you might face in computer dating. A future article will consider additional problems.
^ par. 3 Some names have been changed.
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When on-line, people often exaggerate or lie about themselves
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After many romantic E-mails, a face-to-face meeting often proves disappointing