The Beginning of the End?

No, I’m not talking about me and Mr. June, sillies. We’re fine. As I mentioned recently, there’s been a bit of a commotion in the media the past few weeks about online dating and modern relationships-and I think the Manti Te’o story only helped to increase the interest in “online” relationships. I’ve also previously shared my own thoughts on how the dating world has changed, and how it can be pretty hard to keep up, especially if you are a little bit older and have different expectations based on an old set of rules. While I disagreed with the last article’s assertion that online dating has destroyed monogamy, I do feel like this New York Times article might be on to something- traditional “dating culture” may be on a downswing. Where dating used to be a relatively formal process, requiring planning and forethought, not to mention a little courage (particularly for guys), it’s more casual now in almost every regard.

When I started online dating again last year, I did experience a little anxiety about the new standards of dating. Texting, emailing, phone calls; coffee dates, drink dates, lunch dates, weekday dinner dates, weekend dinner dates; having a good profile, sending a good first message, moving from messaging to communicating offline. It can make you crazy! Particularly if you remember the good ‘ole days when if someone liked you, they asked for your number; then they called you, and asked you out on a date. You got approached in bars or at social events. Heck, you even met people through your friends! Current technology, however, has removed a whole generation from this previous set of norms. They no longer know how to approach someone they like in person and ask for a phone number. They probably won’t even make a phone call at all. They’ll try to chat on Facebook or IM or send you a text, since they spend most of their time behind a computer or smartphone screen. And a date? Well, you better like “hanging out” with a big group of people. It’s much less pressure that way, right? UGH. Maybe, but not an ideal way to get to know someone.

Another way the dating culture has changed due to technology is the amount of information we can glean on a potential date prior to even meeting in person. Generally, if you are meeting potential suitors online, you already know their basic stats-job, interests, religious and political views-since these things are in our profiles and used to weed out those who may not share similar values, thus giving the “match” a higher chance of success. These are things we used to talk about on first dates! And, while I suppose you still do discuss these things in person, the discovery of information through Google and Facebook rather than by conversation has become the new norm. But it can also be dangerous-for example, I’d be creeped out if a guy I’d just met referenced things he found out from Googling me. But we all do it. I checked out Mr. June on Facebook, but only after our first date. So maybe the key here is to have a little restraint?

This article also makes the same point as the previous one about options. With so many potential suitors, daters invest a little less in each date and communication until the long-term potential has been determined; this means more casual dates less pre-planning. If someone does ask you out, it may be less of a “date” than an invitation to “come hang out” that may even include a large group of people. Romantic, right? Sort of like pre-dating. But I thought that was what your online profile was for? Maybe that’s just when people meet IRL-in real life.  I’ve written previously about how I preferred to be contacted online and offline. Which reminded me, I never told y’all about how Mr. June and I “met.” Probably because I broke my own rules.

So you know how I said I would not respond to one word emails, or messages without a beginning, middle and end? Well…would you like to guess what Mr. June’s first message to me said?

“Do I know you from somewhere?”

Yeah. Now, based on my rules, I should have deleted this message and not looked back. No evidence he’d read my profile.  No beginning, no middle, no end. Just one.single.question.

But curiosity killed the cat, and since I’d found people I already knew on dating sites before, I clicked through to his profile to see if, in fact, he did know me from somewhere. He also was cute, age appropriate, employed and listed television, movies, photography and cooking as interests. Hmmm. (Miss July raised her virtual eyebrows.) I looked through his pictures, and he didn’t look particularly familiar. I continued to scan his profile…the dating site was giving us a very high match rating. However, what ultimately caught my attention, and compelled me to respond to this one-line message, was his confession of previously being a registered member of a girls nonprofit organization (think: Cookies!) where I’d worked for several years. I was always out meeting people through that job, so maybe, I thought, I had met him before. So I messaged him back and asked if we knew each other through that connection (nope) but after a bit of chatting, he asked if I’d like to go get a drink, I said yes, we exchanged phone numbers, he called me up, and the rest is blog-documented history.

So, yes, traditional dating patterns may be changing. But they’re not totally dead yet.

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