Romance in the Digital Age

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I have always been incredibly sceptical about online dating, and for good reason. Despite the thousands of people who have found happiness through online dating sites, these sites have also gotten a bit of a reputation. Let’s be honest, anyone who’s tried one of these sites encounters at least three creepers for every genuine person you meet on there.

But isn’t dating in real life the same? I don’t know about you, but for me the ratio is a little closer to 10:1. And as we established before, half of the time that 1 will be gay because that’s just the way my dice have rolled apparently. Dating is time consuming. It’s tedious. It’s disheartening and awkward and is generally doomed to either the uncomfortable “sorry but I’m just not interested” or if you make it passed that part then you get the painful break-up.

I make dating in general sound so very defeatist, don’t I? Let’s be realistic though, just like the Hunger Games, the odds are not exactly in our favour.

So for the longest time, I’ve been pretty firmly against the idea of online dating as a whole. I mean, even if I did meet someone I liked, it was likely they’d live somewhere far away and then we’d get stuck in that soul-sucking void that is the long-distance relationship and we all know how often those work out.

Only when my last relationship crashed and burned, I started realising just how much of a minority I am in Utah. Sure, I’m your standard middle class white female. I’m also a feminist, which doesn’t fly too well with a lot of the old-school thought processes that happen around here, and I’m an agnostic. You can imagine why the state full of devout Christians frown upon agnosticism. Then there’s the extreme nerdiness that is Me, so clearly I would need someone equally nerd-tastic.

When you take those three traits – progressive, non-religious, and nerdy – and put them into a Venn diagram of all the men in Utah, that intersection is pretty damn tiny. Then, as I started weeding through them for someone who I got on with and felt any sort of attraction to, it occurred to me that I might need to broaden my search radius a bit.

Originally I had resigned myself to just waiting until I finished school and was able to move away from Utah, where my chances of finding someone I could get along with were a bit higher. Then, while hanging out on the website of the greatest online community of all time, Nerdfighteria, I happened to find a forum dedicated to nerd dating. Expecting nothing to come of it, I posted a short advert about myself and sent messages to a couple guys in my age group.

The first few were as dismally uneventful and unproductive as I anticipated. We turned out to have little in common or personalities that didn’t mesh or different life trajectories, and our brief conversations fizzled into non-existence. A couple where just straight up weirdos, who were obviously just searching for a cyber-sex partner. Then there came two guys who I struck up friendships with, chatting and learning about each other with no pressure and expectations. And from one of those came a very good friend, and the other, well…

He’s the one I like who just so happens to live somewhere very, very far away.

So I’ve been converted slightly when it comes to the prospect of online dating. I am still an overall sceptic. I still believe that there are a lot of dead ends there, and a handful of serious creepsters in there just for good measure – and this time I have experience to back up my claims. It’s still just as tedious and prone to failure as dating the old-fashioned way.

But it has it’s perks too, for sure.

One of the nicest ones for me has been that you don’t always need a personal picture. I’m not what one would consider a classically beautiful girl, and that destroys a lot of opportunities before I even get the chance to scare them off with my personality. Yes, I know, those aren’t the kind of guys I want to be dating anyway, but still… I love the fact that I got the chance to get to know these guys first for their personality, and then physical appearances came in later (or in some cases, not at all). It makes for a stronger connection and circumvents the stereotyping that always comes with a person’s appearance.

Also, no awkward first dates! No sitting across the table from each other searching for a topic and trying not to eat too much so you don’t look like a pig, or worrying over your outfit and makeup and whether your dinner has too much garlic in case there’s a good night kiss. No stress of whether or not there will be intimacy. You can take your conversations as slowly as you like. If you can’t think of a conversation starter then you just take an extra few minutes to answer the email, instead of sitting in an awkward silence. This way, by the time you actually meet, you already know enough about each other and how to sustain conversations with each other that you can avoid the first date lull zone.

It all comes down to what you’re looking for. At this stage in my life, I was really just looking for someone who could be a best friend; someone I could enjoy talking to, who made me happy and made me laugh, who wouldn’t put any pressure on me to move faster. The possibility of there being something more someday just makes it all the more delicious.

So date accordingly. Do what works best for you. But most of all, don’t stress about it. The odds may not be in your favour, but they aren’t a completely lost cause. Hang in there, learn to love yourself, and let it happen. Because most of the time, it comes when you least expect it.

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