Dating as a Shopping Experience: How Online Dating Can Make It Hard to Build Relationships
I’ve been lucky to be married to the same partner since before internet dating was a thing, so I've never built a dating profile, or been stood up for a coffee date.
I do know some things about internet dating, though. My job as a professional tarot reader over the past quarter-century has given me an interesting perspective.
In a world where it has always been easy to feel isolated, the ability to meet new people is definitely a good thing, although I'm not sure most people actually enjoy online dating, After all, maintaining a dating profile can feel like a second, arduous job. Nonetheless, the internet dating success stories out there are enough to to keep single people winking and swiping, and sprucing their profiles.
I believe internet dating is basically a good tool to help people meet each other. Ideally, it weeds out people who are obviously incompatible, and lets you see how well a person communicates in written language. On a spiritual level, it tells the Universe you’re serious about meeting someone.
As online dating has become the norm, rather than something to giggle about behind closed doors, I have to admit I have seen some disturbing shifts in our overall culture of dating and relationships.
We are all used to the convenience of online shopping, and the ease of returning an item that arrives less than perfect, or different than desired. When we purchase something, we don’t want to make do with it if it is not exactly right, and perfect in every way.
With online dating, we choose from a catalog of people. What if swiping right and left on dating profiles plays into our desire to purchase the perfect item, rather than to meet an interesting person? Can we ever be happy with the person we’ve chosen, if we’ve been trained to view them as a product, or a commodity, rather than an actual human being? What if there is a better model available on the next screen?
If, when we meet for the first time, the person we’ve chosen is a little shorter, fatter or poorer than their profile reflected, our shopper genes may kick in to say “This is not the relationship I ordered”, and we easily move back to the catalog to start again.
Worse, when we start to think about eligible people as commodity, and dating as shopping, we may mistake the common irritations in any relationship for deal breakers.
That profile matching avoids anyone who does not share our interests or possess our favorite characteristics may cause us to miss that inspirational moment when we fall in love with exactly the person we thought we never would. Sometimes, chance makes room for magic when it comes to love. I’m not sure the precision of internet dating always leaves room for that chance.
Most couples who meet online spend a good deal of time in conversation, sometimes even falling in love, before they actually ever meet in person. This can offer a false sense of intimacy and compatibility that can make building a normal, healthy relationship a bit tricky.
The very nature of the dating profile assures that our first introduction to our potential partner will be somewhat tainted by dishonesty. It’s not that everyone lies on their profile. It’s that everyone paints a very limited picture of themselves.
That limited picture, and the phone marathons that lead up to that initial meeting, may cause us to fall in love with a profile, rather than a person.
Overall, internet dating may be the single best way to be proactive about finding love. Still, it’s important that in our desire to shortcut the traditional introduction process, we don’t change the human courtship ritual to the point that we no longer know how to have meaningful relationships.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember the difference between ordering a product and meeting a partner.