Online dating is still a question I get asked about a lot. Is it a good thing? Is it honouring God? How do you do it well? No doubt we’re asking those questions, or being asked those questions from friends and family. So it’s worth knowing: It’s an Online Introduction; The Type of Website Matters; Avoid Relationship Consumerism; Move Off Line; and Face Reality.
(The following extract is taken from page 196-199 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
I was first asked this question by an old friend. I say ‘old’ because he was not only a friend from my past, but he was also a fair bit older than me, and looking for love. Some of you reading this have been single for a while.
If there’s no-one eligible to date in church, at work or in your social network, and you don’t fancy uprooting your life to check out another area, then how do you meet someone?
Not many things are exempt from God’s ability to use for his purposes
Why not embrace this modern tool for finding love and join an online dating website? It’s not wrong, is it? No!
Not many things are exempt from God’s ability to use for his purposes, and this includes meeting someone online. The real question is: how can online dating be done in a way that honours God?
However, before you log on, we would start by saying that online dating is not really dating as such. You need to realise that it is more about providing an introduction.
You can’t really develop an intimate relationship with a computer screen! It needs to move to face-to-face encounters for it to have the chance of developing into something significant. So ‘online dating’ is a first step to meeting someone, not an alternative to dating.
The Type of Website Matters
As you probably know, there is a wide range of dating websites. Some exist to bring people together who only want one-night stands. Some just ask surface-level questions and never delve deeper into you as a person.
Then there are some that ask dozens of questions that delve into your spiritual life, personality, and future hopes, and try to connect you with a suitable partner who shares your vision for life. Some websites do this really well, so we suggest you opt for ones that take seriously your commitment to search for someone who shares your passion for a God-centred life.
Avoid Relationship Consumerism
It’s obvious that you want to narrow down your search, and this will include making choices based on someone’s appearance and good answers. The problem is that online people-surfing can make it easier for us to forget that no-one is perfect.
Keep reminding yourself that a website only shows you people’s best bits. The reality might not always be the same as the profile on screen. If you treat it as another way of being introduced to someone, then you’ll be more likely to put in the work needed to really get to know them.
It’s time to keep a healthy perspective
If you notice that online dating is creating a little bubble that bursts easily when the person you’re interested in doesn’t get back to you, or you discover that they are sharing intimate emails with lots of people they’ve met online, then it’s time to keep a healthy perspective on what online dating is: a way to meet someone.
It isn’t a shortcut to lasting intimacy with someone you’ve not yet met. (Read Online Dating: Transforming Or Just Tweaking?)
Move Off Line
If we feel nervous around people, online contact can feel more comfortable than meeting in person. It’s always easier to meet someone face-to-face when you know you already have a rapport with them.
God made us for real interaction
Messaging, emailing, and texting are a good start, but it’s important that you meet and get to know the whole person. Keeping your relationship online can create a perfect breeding ground for fantasy to develop, where you fall in love with the person you think they are, rather than who they really are.
No advancement in human technology will reduce relationships to emailing and texting. We will always want more because God made us for real interaction – we need it!
So online dating must move to face-to-face dating, otherwise we are just setting ourselves up for failure. (Read What Should We Do On A First Date?)
One of the great benefits of the internet is that it brings us into contact with more people in a week than our medieval ancestors would have met in a lifetime. But it does open us up to the very real possibility of finding someone great who lives 200 miles away.
Obviously you won’t know if they can be part of your life for a while, and long-distance relationships can grow into the kind of relationship that you would move city for, but it is a question that must be addressed at some point.
It’s worth deciding before you sign up what you feel you will be able to cope with.
This will by no means answer every question you have about online dating (May I suggest you read Online Dating: Top Tips for Success, it’s the shortest, most practical and best book on online dating I’ve read). But it will get us thinking about how to do it well, and take away some fear surrounding it.
Imagine if we could support people, or get support in this area, instead of keeping it an ‘online secret’. We need to start having open conversations about this, and help each other to do it well.
Is there still a stigma in your church about online dating? Comments welcomed below.