During the conversation Zan Perrion and I had for The Master Plan one of the most fascinating themes we discussed was how we as a modern culture are becoming more and more disconnected from each other.
One’s first thought when considering that idea is, “Hey, wait a minute. Everyone’s got an Internet connection and a cell phone these days. If anything, we’re more connected.”
But that’s precisely the issue. With the ability to get online for “typing and Skyping” on the fly, and the advent of text messaging we can communicate easier than ever. Granted.
But do we really connect?
Zan and I were in 100% agreement that we do not. Despite all the technology allowing us to communicate, people are actually gathering less often in real life. In the framework of our “wired” lifestyle we actually tend to meet fewer people in real life than we used to, and less often.
And perhaps most alarmingly, it would appear we like it that way.
One key example we covered was how people are actually dating online instead of online dating.
What am I talking about here?
Simply put, I’m hearing more and more from men and women who are dating someone they’ve never even met. Seriously.
The process often proceeds as follows. First, two people from completely different metro areas begin a simple conversation online. It can begin innocuously enough, with someone appearing on some odd nationwide search run by someone else and getting a quick email to say hello. That email is answered and before long both parties are behaving as if they’ve found their “soulmate”.
Now granted, some sites openly encourage long-distance communication, especially niche sites that as yet have too few members to promote interesting choices at the local level. Inexplicably, even eHarm-me…er, eHarmony…yet persists also at driving the “soulmate fantasy” to the national level with newbie members.
Almost invariably, what happens is that two people who have never met each other end up emotionally attached. They may even feel like they’re “in love”.
Well, of course, they’re absolutely, positively only “in love” with a fantasy until that all-important first meeting happens. That much is self-evident.
But lately I’ve come to a very sobering realization. (Or is it that I’ve always realized this, but am only now getting over my subconscious urge to mentally suppress it so as to salvage some semblance of emotional well-being?):
A lot of these people have no interest in actually meeting each other.
That’s right. I said it. There are people out there–and more than you think–who are living vicariously through their online dating experience.
This can happen for several reasons.
First, someone may believe that they’re not nearly as sexually attractive as they once were. So they post old pics from when they were at their “peak”, fudge on their age in their profile, and proceed to enjoy the “attention”…all the while daring not to ever come out from behind their online facade.
This factor is particularly pandemic among women, by the way.
Or, someone may genuinely wish to meet someone terrific online, but is way, way too socially anxious to actually meet in person. They can’t bring themselves to do it.
If you are one who is actually partaking of this sort of self-indulgence, think long and hard about whether or not you are actually benefiting yourself or if you’re simply allowing yourself to become more disconnected from your reality.
Is leading someone else on really all that fulfilling, or is it actually having the opposite effect on your self-esteem as you thought it might? Some of us, I suspect, are actually embracing the disconnect from actual human beings in favor of the hope that we will somehow become more comfortable with expecting less from ourselves physically, emotionally and socially. Consider that one for a second.
And what if you find yourself on the other side of the equation…apparently enamored with someone who is resisting the opportunity to actually meet you–as in real, live and in-person?
If that’s the case, first of all resist any unrealistic tendency to hold on to the “fantasy”, lest cognitive dissonance take over. In other words, you may want so badly for the person on the other end of that online profile to be who you hope they’ll be that you’ll overlook any evidence to the contrary.
You’ll tolerate resistance to move to the phone, even after a month of e-mailing. You’ll “overlook” the hours upon hours of phone conversations that have resulted in subject changes every time you broach the subject of meeting for coffee. If you’re like at least one woman who e-mailed us, you’ll even brush off someone being “too busy” to meet even after you’ve stepped off of an airplane in the city where that person lives!
If any of what I just described rings a bell, here it is: you are getting played.
What you are doing is not online dating. It’s dating online.
Now, granted, a lot of online dating training focuses on simply getting responses to first e-mails. While I think that’s a great start, you’ve got to remember that the entire goal of online dating should be to actually meet someone.
But for all the reasons we’ve discussed in this post, now more than every one simply has got to be increasingly vigilant in today’s “disconnected” culture against missing the point.
Heck, I’ve even had a handful of guys argue with me against the basic premise of picking up the phone and calling a woman when you get her number rather than texting her–this despite empirical evidence from the likes of Kya, who I recently interviewed on the subject.
Guys…if you get a telephone number from a woman you’ve been e-mailing back and forth with online, and you chose to text her instead of calling her you have not moved forward at all. You are still just typing at her. Consider how you may be actually contributing to the “disconnected” cultural mindset by doing this. You really are just “dating online” until the two of you actually meet.
And ladies, you have my full support for expecting that a man actually will call you when you give him your number.
So above all, remember this. Online dating is all about real-life connection. It’s all about actually meeting someone great. Apart from that, you’re just playing games.
P.S. Guys, if you want to get a major jump on getting online dating right, here’s the best place to start:
P.P.S. Ladies, if you want to actually meet a great man online sooner than later, Emily’s got it going on for you too: