This cupcake may or may not be delicious. But you have to taste it to find out.
zigazou76 / Foter.com / CC BY

The Real Secret to Success in Online Dating

stop shushing me, statue, this is important. keriluamox / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

stop shushing me, statue, this is important.
keriluamox / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

I’m sure you know someone who has met their significant other on an online dating site. It’s more and more common, yet many people give up on trying to find someone online after only a few weeks of attempting to contact and meet people. Why do they fail where others succeed? The answer is actually pretty obvious: they gave up. The people who eventually met the right person did not. But why do some people get so frustrated so quickly with the online dating scene while others are successful?

The hardest thing about online dating for most people who want a relationship is mitigating their expectations. You have to be realistic about what you can tell about someone through the internet and open to actually meeting a wide variety of people in person. The real secret to online dating? Stop “dating,” and just start “meeting people.”

This might seem counter-intuitive. If you want to meet a significant other, aren’t you going to have to date them? Well, sure. But let’s put the world of dating into perspective for a moment. Say you wanted to find a new significant other before the advent of the internet. How did people ever do this? Well, they had to go out and meet people. If you’d exhausted your current social circles of people that you think you might have a chance at a relationship with, finding a significant other was likely to be dependent on forming new social circles and contacts.

Most instances of strangers being asked out on, say, public transit, are met with rejection. You have a much better chance with someone you’ve just met (even on the bus!) if you don’t just assume that they’re going to want to go out without having a conversation, or that you’ll even want to go out with them after having spoken for a bit. If you strike up a conversation and hit it off, then sure, you should ask for their number and see them again later — but at this point assuming that this person is going to be the love of your life would still seem silly to most people. (Of course you’d have even a better chance with them if you had a mutual friend who could vouch for you as a human beings, but this is not a luxury you have when you meet people through the internet, and it will –and should! — take longer to win the trust of people who don’t know you from an axe murderer.)

No matter how much you spoke online first -- it's still a blind date. Big Al / Foter.com / CC BY

No matter how much you spoke online first — it’s still a blind date.
Big Al / Foter.com / CC BY

Your interactions over the internet are not as significant as interactions in person, and this makes the whole process of dating online even trickier than hitting on people on the bus. There are key social and behavioral cues that are missing when you converse with someone online that you will miss entirely if you never talk to them in person. The longer you talk to someone online, the more you will have a false picture in your head about what they are like in the real world. This can go both ways in the sense that someone might come across like a total idiot on the internet, but is a completely sensible person in real life, or they may be very articulate and have very attractive pictures online but in person are a total clown. It’s this latter case that often gets people in trouble and causes them to give up on meeting people via online dating too soon. The way to avoid this? Don’t build up every person you talk to as the man or woman of your dreams before you even meet them. And don’t write off the people who seem less attractive online without meeting them, either!

The worlds' population is still growing! Go meet some of those people! Waldir / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

The worlds’ population is still growing! Go meet some of those people!
Waldir / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

You have to stop seeing online dating as a way to get dates right off the bat, and simply view the internet as an extension of the rest of the universe. It’s just another way to be introduced to people that you might never run into otherwise. Don’t act as though internet dating has so changed the way that social interactions work that you can go from zero to in a relationship overnight. Use the internet dating world as a new and useful tool to do that going out and meeting people thing! You can now do some of the work from your own home instead of joining clubs or hanging out in bars in order to try to make friends and form new social circles. The internet is great for filtering for people with similar interests to yours. But realize that it will still take some time and effort to really get to know new people.

The internet will let you meet whole the drama club. And you didn't even have to join. dancenatalyadance / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

The internet will let you meet whole the drama club. And you didn’t even have to join.
dancenatalyadance / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Meet people in person early on in your online interactions with them, and don’t entitle your meeting with them a “date.” This is helpful for not allowing yourself or them to become prematurely attached and then let down when they or you are not exactly what was pictured. No one is going to be exactly what you expect. Putting undue pressure on a first in-person meeting is only a recipe for disaster. Get to know the person, not the online personality. Making a new friend should always be on the table — maybe they can vouch for you in the future with their other friends and vice versa! Maybe you don’t think you need new friends, but if your current friends aren’t helping you meet new people in person that you want to date, you should probably consider replacing them.

Again, I know that sometimes what we say on this blog sounds like what we want is for you to misrepresent yourself and what you’re looking for, and this is not the case. If you want to be in a relationship, you should absolutely have that out there as something you are looking for on your dating profile. What we are telling you to do is to broaden your search beyond only romantic partners. We know from experience that it’s often the dates that you set up that you think are the most promising that are ultimately let-downs or people you’ll never hear from again. However, it’s also often the people that you decide to meet up with because you had nothing else to do that weekend that end up being really awesome and stick around in your life.

This cupcake may or may not be delicious. But you have to taste it to find out. zigazou76 / Foter.com / CC BY

This cupcake may or may not be delicious. But you have to taste it to find out.
zigazou76 / Foter.com / CC BY

The difference here is expectations. If you become emotionally invested in one particular meeting or person before you’ve even met them, and they turn out to not be “the one,” it’s easy to become discouraged and give up on online dating. However, you can just as easily be pleasantly surprised by an interaction with someone that you may not have had if you had narrowed your options based on your idea of what you want in a partner, assuming that you could tell the difference online. (Pro tip: you usually can’t.)

So allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised, and don’t become attached to the idea of a person before you’ve met them. Allow new people to grow on you as you would with someone you didn’t happen to meet over the internet. Stop dating, and just start meeting people.