I could count the number of adults I know that don’t have any social media accounts on one hand. In fact, I know of quite a few children, babies, and even animals with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts. Every day, it seems that more of our lives are being lived online. There are a lot of really great things about the internet. It lets us connect with our families or long lost friends, sell products and services with very little overhead, and schedule events around our busy lives. It even allows us to connect with potential partners, whom we may have never come into contact with otherwise.
For a lot of people, this means that they have been able to find a spouse, start a family, and live a happy life with someone they met online. In fact, “39 percent of heterosexual couples reported meeting their partners online” in 2017, and the percent of such couples in the LGBTQ+ community is estimated to be even higher, as stated by the Stanford News. Stanford highlights the positives of online dating as having access to a wider pool of dating prospects, especially for those who have not had a lot of luck being set up with partners by their friends and family. For those who have struggled to find partners in the traditional way, online dating can be a major factor in their search.
But for some, it has opened the door for nightmarish relationships, scams, and lies to enter their lives. After all, how can we really know someone when they are able to hide all the ugly parts of themselves behind a carefully manufactured persona? According to Eharmony.com, “53% of people lie on their online dating profile” about a range of things including age, appearance, and income. Over half!
Although many of these people may just be fibbing a bit on their height or age, some of them are really up to no good. Through the use of online profiles, thousands of scammers and thieves have been able to pull on the heartstrings of unsuspecting victims for personal gain. According to Norton, a well-known internet security company, 1 of every 10 online dating profiles are fake. Scammers used these fake profiles to steal over a hundred million dollars through “romance scams” in 2018.
So how can we sift through the weeds to find the flowers hiding in the madness?
Norton suggests you be careful that you “Don’t give out your financial information, top off a cash reload card, or send gifts or money to someone you haven’t met face to face” as a golden rule for online dating. The article also suggests taking things slowly, asking lots of questions, and being leery of anyone who won’t video chat or meet in person.
Taking Things Offline
Once you’ve sorted through the sea of faces and found someone you’re truly interested in, there is the issue of taking the romance off-screen. For some, this can be really intimidating, especially if they weren’t 100% honest in their profile. (Que Brad Paisley’s “Online”.) This is why Psychology Today advises you “be ready for disappointment” and “don’t drag it out” among other things.
Basically, rip the band-aid off. Don’t spend tons of time online getting to know the manufactured details of the other person. If you go out together relatively soon, you can determine whether there’s really a spark or if it’s all too good to be true. Meeting in person clears the air of any fibs in the appearance and age departments, which is necessary if the relationship is truly going anywhere. It’s also important to keep in mind that some of the expectations you’ve developed could be unrealistic, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your partner.
The Huffington Post stresses the importance of the first date when transitioning to an offline relationship. According to the article, the first date should be “light and pleasant”- don’t dive in too deep, but keep your eye out for any red flags that may not have been apparent online. As you get to know each other, it’s important to communicate what you’re thinking and feeling, and if something bothers you, speak up.
Of course, it’s always important to take safety measures when meeting with someone you don’t know very well. A few tips to keep in mind are to meet in a public place, transport yourself to and from the date, and make sure to let someone know where you’re going and when they can expect to hear from you.
Making Things Work
Eventually, if your relationship has taken off you may be spending a lot of time together face to face. So, now that you’re in a serious relationship, how do you balance your face time and your screen time?
If your relationship moves forward to become more serious, opinions on social media and internet usage may change. This can cause stress on a relationship, and as Psychology Today points out, “a higher level of Facebook usage was associated with negative relationship outcomes” in a 2013 study. Social media platforms such as Facebook, although not specifically geared towards dating, can cause jealousy between couples.
The New York Times highlights the necessity of having “screen-free time together” and making sure that your partner is okay with what you’re posting before you do, especially in regards to your relationship. Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to how much is too much, so it’s important to have discussions with your partner if something arises that makes you feel uncomfortable. Whether you want less screen time, or just need them to dial back on the off-guard pictures of you, your partner isn’t a mind reader- letting them know is the only way to solve the issue.
Unless there is a high level of trust between a couple, they are likely to compare themselves to others that their partner may see on social media, and struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Having in-your-face images of people living dream lives and looking like they stepped out of a magazine is enough to make anyone feel a bit uneasy. Trust between you and your partner is essential to having a happy relationship, despite the temptations of the online world.
From there on out, your relationship is just like anyone else’s- at least, when it comes to figuring out how to make it work. In any relationship, there are a lot of hurdles and changes to overcome. The good news? If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already survived a huge one. Taking your relationship offline is the first step- now keep walking!