Online Dating

Hi, this is an opinionated article about online dating.

My resumé:

Note that some of these relationships did happen at the same time, and when they did, all parties involved & affected knew. Also, I tend to be the group mom or therapist, so I have experience through other peoples’ relationships extensively as well. Does that count?

Two offline & online relationships

  • First was ten years total, two of them online with online friendship history, eight of them married at a young age
  • Second has been two and some years total, almost a year and a half of it offline

One offline relationship

  • Almost five years total, entirely offline

Seven online relationships

  • Three under a year
  • Four over a year

I spent a good chunk of my life socializing heavily online, and still do, so it explains that. (And while being online, I usually am running some type of group or chat; guess I just feel the need to.. keep busy.) I also love to roleplay, and most of these connections made online were based on meeting in roleplaying-type communities.

Out of curiosity, towards the end of writing this article, I decided to ask five people about online dating. The message I sent out was:

Hi, I am doing an online article about online dating. Would you help me by answering these questions? I won’t be pasting full answers or giving names, so no worries about privacy. Feel free to give whatever amount of information you’d like!
How many times have you dated someone online?
Did any of them ever go offline?
Longest online relationship?
Longest offline relationship?
Do you feel that dating online is easier in some ways? How?
How do you feel about trust in online relationships vs offline relationships?

The good:

Availability
When you’re not restricted to a local area, obviously your dating pool is much larger. Across countries and borders, people can date online regardless of where they’re located. Some people who date online feel like they can’t relate or find anyone locally, whether due to social anxieties (and lack of confidence offline), or just due to really not being able to find anyone they have chemistry with (small towns, anyone?).

Getting to know one another
People definitely get to know each other differently online; since there’s no physical presence, personality and conversation is all that carries the relationship and causes couples to open up to each other more, much more quickly, and without as much fear or judgment. Four of the five people I surveyed believed that getting to know each other was about as easy online as it was offline.

Building a relationship
With getting to know each other more quickly, trust comes into play quicker, as well. In my general experience, people in online relationships seem to fall in love faster and more deeply than their offline counterparts. More effort and presence is required in an online relationship to keep both parties content, and thus they spend more time together (even if it’s while multi-tasking online). One out of the five people I surveyed believed that trusting other people online was easier due to the screen protecting them.

The bad:

Physical chemistry
What physical chemistry? If your relationship goes offline after a while, there’s always the risk that despite your other chemistry, there is poor or no physical chemistry. One out of the five people surveyed said that no physical presence made it harder to get to know someone.

Distance
Obviously, you’re not spending time together physically. It’s through a phone, a monitor, or something else. You watch television together, game together, chat together. This type of socializing allows people to focus on other things at the same time, even if the partner doesn’t notice the lack of attention.

No sex!
Included in physical chemistry and distance, but stressing it here since obviously intimacy and romance are very important to relationships. Most online couples have some type of sexual connection regardless, whether it’s through sexting, cybering, roleplaying, video chat, or whatever else.

The neutral:

Breakups are just as hard
Ghosting? Fighting? Cheating? All of that happens in online relationships as well, and depending on the level of trust and intimacy, can hurt just as much if not more than offline equivalents. (It’s all about how serious it is in the end, isn’t it?) It’s also much easier to cut off contact when it’s only online, making it harder to have more kind and proper breakups. Online, people are also more likely to share private information with friends, including actual text logs, pictures, or videos themselves. We know what trolling and harassment are; it can happen with both offline and online relationships, although online will likely be more severe due to the power of being behind a screen. All five people who I surveyed mentioned that breaking up online was just as bad, if not worse, than offline.

The image presented vs. the reality
This goes with not just how the person looks online vs. real life (and this is not talking about catfishing) and they looked different, but also the other fun things that happen when people begin to date or live together. Are you living compatible? Many people, when they make the final move to be with their online partner, may have never met them in person before, and even if they have, they don’t really have a good taste of living with that person yet. A week or two isn’t enough to really know. Which one of you is messier? Who has weird living quirks? Who needs tons of space while perhaps the other wants no space? These are all things you can get a hint of if you date online together enough, although that small selective area behind their webcam was likely cleaned up before being put on camera.

The opinion:

A relationship is a relationship, regardless of medium
It'd be really stupid and hypocritical to say online relationships are a waste of time when I've started two major relationships this way, wouldn't it? For me, as an introvert with social anxiety, it was always easier to make friends online and get to know people. Not all of my online relationships were serious, however, and I do admit in those relationships I took advantage of things online dating had to offer (privacy, keeping things separate from offline, not always being available, etc.). That type of thing comes down to communication and expectations, however, and is a type of discussion that should be had in any relationship.

Published on 08.22.21. Thanks all surveyed for your help!