Online ‘Dating’ & Correspondence – An All Inclusive Guide to the Pitfalls and Potentials
The Ultimate Goal
Dating apps and sites are just one of many venues and possible forums to meet new people online, yet they have become the dominant form for those seeking romance. By participating in online correspondence, you are engaging an alternate forum for meeting new people beyond just those in your everyday walk of life. By keeping your options and opportunities open to a greater potential of meeting people, you are more likely to find a relationship that suits you.
Aspects Of Online Correspondence
Like most experiences in life, meeting people via the internet is a learning process of trial and error. “Relationshopping,” a term coined for the process of flipping through people to choose from online as if they were products in a catalog, suitably describes the common mentality. The use of a computer or phone with search forms and filters to sort out various characteristics of a person (e.g., height, weight, hair color, eye color, children, smoking and drinking habits, ethnicity, religion, etc.), creates a tunnel vision approach and process similar to that of ordering a silicone doll online. It diverts us from acknowledging our imperfect human selves which has historically been more readily revealed and accepted when discovering people naturally in person.
In order to be successful corresponding online, one must understand and accept that, given the diversity of people in the world and on dating apps, there’s going to be a lot of people out there that you just won’t appreciate and don’t want to connect with. Everyone is different. Discerning who fits with you and who doesn’t will naturally take time as you graze profiles that come up on your queue, delve into what each person shares and has to offer, and formulate a thoughtful message. You must then have the patience to wait for a reply and, if you are lucky to receive one, stay in the process long enough to get to know them to determine if they are a compatible energy and mindset.
Many people get frustrated and give up quickly, blaming others for lack of etiquette, inappropriate behavior, or simply not meeting their expectations. If you let other people’s attitudes dissuade you from continuing to scout for those that are worthwhile, then you have missed the value of these forums. You should not expect success within a few days, weeks, months or even a year. However, the potential is there and there are ways to make your experience more successful. Only with patience, perseverance and awareness, can one learn to navigate the pitfalls of online correspondence, using dating apps to their full advantage, and reap the potential reward of a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
The process of meeting new people is about finding quality, not quantity. Our time and energy are valuable resources. Therefore, it behooves us to focus on investing in individuals of the highest caliber – those who offer us the most for our needs and desires in life. How you define “highest caliber” is subjective, but in general, it involves those characteristics which are of the most value to you. The goal is not to get along with everyone, but rather, to connect with someone special that you appreciate on a deep level. Surprisingly, discernment is frequently an impetuously overlooked part of the process, whereas determining your criteria should be considered with solemn importance.
Be reasonable with your expectations. Carefully consider the qualities you desire in a partner. Avoid investing in a potential correspondence based on superficial characteristics and rather imagine whether they would be someone that you could enjoy spending time. The reality is that some people may have few or even no matches, while others may have many. One way to increase your potential if you are not having luck with matches is to remove superficial or insignificant expectations (hair and eye color, height, ethnicity, etc.). Reducing the amount of necessary qualities you desire allows for a greater potential to meet someone that matches. However, you should never sacrifice those that are important or else you will find yourself discontented. Focus on logical and important ones (similar or appreciated goals, interests, personality, behavior, etc.). By keeping your attention on ‘relationshipping’, not ‘relationshopping’, you can connect with someone who is mutually willing and able to invest the blood, sweat and tears necessary for success.
Biases & The Hot-Cold Empathy Gap
Within the reality which we apply our decisions, we struggle to account and compensate for our visceral emotional urges (e.g., excitement, hunger, sexual arousal, etc.) which are often amassed by the weight of our expectations and fantasies. The difference between the predictable “cold” rational state of the world and life around us versus the actual behaviors of our “hot” aroused state of desire, is known as the “hot-cold empathy gap”. It explains why people don’t always do the sensible things they say they will and instead follow an instinctual pleasure drive.
Applications of the hot-cold empathy gap can be seen in the dating realm when discerning the instinctual characteristics desired in a romantic partner differing from those actually logical in our reality (e.g., men find intelligent women to be more desirable hypothetically, but less desirable when they actually interact with them in a live scenario). In the heat of the moment, emotions can override preconceived logical notions about what someone desires.
By understanding and overcoming your personal biases, you can better direct your emotional intentions to achieve the desired result in reality. One way to understand your own biases is to simply to be transparent and ask others who can easily identify your bias and hold you accountable (eg., family and friends) as most are not capable of responsibly doing so on their own. Another method is to put yourself in the “hot” state, and to reflect, in that moment, on what you’re really drawn to in a person and why. Yet another tactic is to remove yourself from undesirable situations (thereby removing the temptation), although this does not actually address the bias, but avoids it. When you identify your own biases, you can conscientiously be aware of and avoid the decisions that you make in your “hot” state.
The Profile Construct
The content of your profile, what others see and respond to on a dating app, is ultimately how others will initially perceive and judge you. Many people inadvertently miss the mark and deter their target audience. However, with a little guidance, a profile can go from terrible to terrific in representing ones best intentions and interests.
In theory, based on the laws of attraction, the more you divulge in a profile, the more likely you should attract what you appreciate, or more existentially, what you need. However, most people don’t typically write much about themselves in their profiles. Whether it’s due to theinability to write, reflect on one’s self, or blatant laziness, the evolution of the self-written bio of most “dating” apps has taken a step backwards and has become limited in character count to the equivalent of a small paragraph. This homogenized downsizing limits freedom of expression – a sad state for those who truly wish to reflect on themselves. The argument is that people who write too much will lose the attention and interest of potential suitors. The truth is, those who do not express themselves will only likely deter those who don’t read or have the patience or deep interest to genuinely want to get to know someone for who they share. All hail attention deficit.
Should we really be limiting our expression? How long will people accept vague introductions with minimal information from strangers who forego the opportunity to express themselves? How does this practice fair when two eventually discover they were fooling each other as their true nature begins to seep out a week, month or year later? What then, when they must face the inefficiency of wasted time and energy?
An online profile should be honest and true to one’s ability. It should wreak of one’s self expression. It should allow the freedom to advertise that which makes us who we are. Rather the shorter they become, profiles feed into the mentality of limited attention spans thereby neglecting depth and personality. By limiting or foregoing what we share, we are forced to base important decisions, like a future mate, on a handful of photos, often barely passable, resulting in superficial judgment and weak connections at best based on looks. The prophecy of Idiocracy has never seemed more inevitable.
This is what most dating apps have come to cater to as the majority of people have little to no interest or ability to write about themselves or care to read about the person they potentially want to spend the rest of their lives with. Given the amount of frustration, complaints, shame, and scorn associated with this new swipe society, perhaps this is a step in the wrong direction? For a few extra bytes of memory, is it not worth letting the people express themselves? After all, they could always curtail the length of their profile if they desired.
Shortcomings aside, even with a severely limited character count, there are ways to defy this ‘de-evolution’ and sufficiently slip some personality into your profile to make your originality shine.
- The energy you put into your profile will likely be the energy you attract.
- It’s all about the attitude.
- Genuinely express your personality and interests.
- You can make your profile and dating experience whatever you want it to be, but whatever you do, make it authentic and (e.g., if you are monogamous, then be monogamous; if you are looking for a hookup, then say it loud and proud). After all, people will quickly see through any exaggerations and hypocrisy. By clearly advertising what you desire, you should be more likely to get it and stay out of harms way.
- An activity oriented profile gives you a platform to easily start a conversation.
- Starting a dialogue is the goal.
- Providing bits about your personality, activities and interests is often the key to connecting in conversation with someone, greatly enhancing the likelihood of breaking of the ice, and motivate dialogue around shared interests, that may eventually lead to meeting up with someone you might appreciate.
- List the activities you enjoy and partake in, as well as any that you might be interested in trying, in the future. Others who relate to these interests, will typically respond.
- Be Innovative.
- An unimaginative and generic profile is a death sentence in a world of being picked out.
- What makes you stand out? What makes you so special? What are you deeply passionate about? What special talents or gifts do you possess?
- Consider the following lines bullets of a firing squad (don’t use them): “I love to laugh” (Who doesn’t?) “I value my friends and family” (This is a common virtue.) “My child is my priority” (Should anyone expect anything less?)
- Do not to get lost in disclaimers (sharing what you don’t want and don’t like).
- Although we all possess opinions and there is nothing inherently wrong with that, by focusing on dislikes, you will appear as more jaded and unapproachable than perhaps you actually are. Save your disgruntled portfolio for a later date when you might need to divulge such preferences.
Photos, although potentially more superficial than a bio, are no less important. In fact, they are likely to make the first and most significant impression. Photos can offer much information to someone of potential interest, so you might want to take them seriously and make them count. In general, keep your photos clear, classy, and correlated to your life and activities.
- The best photos (all of them in fact) should include you – not a landscape, meme, vehicle, a meal, or pets and children alone.
- All photos should be as current as possible (no older than 6 months).
- Save the nostalgic memories for another time and place
- Photos should be clear, unfiltered, not obscured (e.g., by a cell phone, alcoholic beverage, etc.), and show your face (e.g., no sunglasses, hats, hair in face, etc.).
- Snap chat filters are great if you are a teenager, but if you are an adult looking for a serious relationship, save them to get silly with your kids.
- Include at least one full body shot.
- People want to know what you look like from your head down to your toes (especially those with a foot fetish) so it’s best to not misrepresent yourself or let them wonder or you might receive a wince or look of pain when all is revealed in person.
- Other photos can be used to exhibit interests such as you partaking in activities you enjoy regularly.
- Photos should incorporate your style.
- You may wish to use one to share your immediate family – the ones they can expect to meet when they visit you (e.g., children, pets).
- For creative types, one photo can be sacrificed to share a personal artistic expression, but it would be even more conducive to share a picture of you involved in making the art.
- Another picture can be dedicated to exhibit you at your occupation.
- Your main profile picture should show your face clearly.
- Pictures of you with multiple people should be avoided, especially for a main profile picture.
- Don’t give people the opportunity to try to guess which one is you in your photo. What if they are attracted the look of the other person in your profile pictures better? You might not be so happy when you receive a message like, “Is your friend available?”
The Correspondence Process
Rarely does anything comes easy. Finding out who somebody is comes with a price and a process – we must communicate and spend time with them. Even if somebody declares in their profile, “I am this. I am that,” can you really trust it? Given the short allowance in which to describe yourself in a profile there is no way divulge everything. Alas, we must interact, after all, is this not the point?
The goal in the initial stage of correspondence should be to determine mutual safety, respect, and comfort with someone. Once this is determined, then you can genuinely proceed to get to know each other.
Initially, textual conversations are the most common form of communication with someone online to determine basic levels of compatibility by sharing aspects of personality, interests, and goals (e.g., emotions, intellect, occupation, finances, ethics, politics, religion, sports, hobbies, etc.). The gist is to determine whether a comfortable exchange is possible. This exchange could very well come in one sitting, but if it takes weeks to determine, you might want to consider that an unenthusiastic exchange is a poor match.
If texting correspondence goes well, one should push to graduate to a real-time vocal conversation. Staying in the comfortable confines of a textual exchange does not impart important aspects of one’s demeanorthat a real time vocal conversation can. Tonality, inflection and cadence through talk further enhances someone’s character and is the next step in connecting. A successful voice conversation should lead to making plans to meet in person. This is where the truest discovery of someone is most easily realized – through face-to-face interaction.
If at any point there is discomfort or disinterest consider moving on. Sometimes multiple phone conversations may be necessary before leading up to meeting and everyone differs in how much they need to communicate to feel comfortable to reach the next step, but in general, you should feel naturally good about interacting with someone and wish to progress in a timely fashion. Remember to remain vigilant as to whether there is comfort and draw towards each other’s interests and mentality along each step of the way.
A New Social Etiquette
BENCHING – You know enough not to commit to someone, but string them along on the sidelines anyway.
SLOW-FADE – Ending a relationship by gradually reducing chat and response times.
GHOSTING – Abruptly ceasing to contact someone instead of telling them directly.
KITTENFISHING – Borderline dishonest portrayal in your online dating profile.
FIREDOORING – When someone contacts you, but doesn’t respond to your chat.
BREADCRUMBING – Sending playful but noncommittal text messages, without exerting much effort.
Most men are often curt in their messaging introduction with nothing more than a simple “hello”, “hi there” and “how are you?”. Whereas, most women consider the most desirable aspects of a first message to be humor, evidence that you read and respect the profile they worked so hard on providing, and giving them something to respond to (simply a question) that gets them to talk more about the things they are interested in. By honing in on expectations and aligning them with your personality, you can successfully navigate the tragic potential for premature rejection
Getting to the Sex & Sexism
Gender differences in etiquette and interests abound and in many cases are important to at least be aware of.
Many men make the mistake of trying to work their libido into the conversation as soon as possible to determine sexual potential. Sadly, this is premature given safety and comfort have often yet to be established and until then, all penis should remain sheathed and out of sight unless otherwise requested. On the other hand, there are women, where once a minimal sense of safety and comfort are established, are quick to divulge their sexual energies and come on hard and strong.
The reality is that the underlying motive of sex and intimacy during the discovery process doesn’t allow genuine access to who someone actually is, only a sexual sliver, which is rarely enough to hold true value. Except for a quick (and risky) sexual excursion, these behaviors are not conducive to lasting relationships.
Although you can find people who defy and exceed this mentality on a dating site, it is difficult. The problem is that the very nature of the information given and agenda assumed in a dating venue is that of an intimate proposal. Oddly, people often ignore the fact that the people you interact with online are complete strangers. To indulge your fantasies over a few photos, an extremely basic bio, and a few texts without checking references is impetuous at best.
Expectations, Fantasies and Delusions
Imposing intimate expectations can cloud the perception and skew judgment barring the process of getting to know someone. Expectations, if not met, can inadvertently creates a sense of impatience and frustration and result in a jaded mentality that further imposes more standards and expectations that will ultimately sabotage your hope and motivation in the process.
To genuinely get to know someone, it helps let go of personal agendas and openly listen to and experience someone for who they are and how they represent. You will likely find better success in genuinely getting to know someone in order to discern them better.
You never know what someone may have to offer. That’s why it is important to keep your expectations simple and to not allow them to cloud your perception. Simple expectations include appreciated demeanor and shared interests. Even the simple expectation of holding hands can create a sense of urgency, fantasy, and ultimate letdown. With time and patience, clear expression and communication, you will be more inclined to find and connect with someone you appreciate.
The goal in online correspondence on dating apps is ultimately to meet someone you think you will like in person. It is important to meet up sooner than later unless you only want a online text pal.
- Put your phone away.
- Do not use your phone in front of your date unless it is an emergency.
- Don’t say the situation is awkward or that it is embarrassing to have met online.
- In the US, about 33% of marriages begin online. Compared to marriages that are the result of face-to-face meetings, people in marriages as a result of online dating report higher rates of relationship satisfaction.
- Try to relax, be yourself, and have fun.
- Committing to a short activity in person in public (e.g, drink or meal at a restaurant or cafe, etc.) is one of the safest things to do.
- This allows you a quick “out” if in the short time you are with someone that you feel uncomfortable or disinterested. It’s mostly a matter of comfort level and whether the activity is conducive for conversation and mutual interests.
- Be courteous, kind, and respectful
When It Doesn’t Work
You may meet many people that you are not compatible with. You may not be on the same path and have different views, interests or ideals. Don’t take offense or blame them. People are different. It’s called diversity and it is natural and okay. Instead of taking it personally, show respect and consideration. Imagine how you might wish to be treated. Agree to disagree.
If you come across someone’s profile you don’t appreciate, be cordial, and move on to the other fish in the sea. Be straight forward, but be kind and gentle. Let them know that you appreciate the time they gave you for consideration, thank them, and wish them well. An explanation is considerate, but be careful, as some, especially those who are sensitive or easily triggered, will take it personally unless you keep it soft and constructive. If you must, try buffering the raw truth with a few compliments first and only offer it if they ask otherwise you might be opening up a can of disgruntled worms.