The Social Stigma of Online Dating

“Willing to lie about how we met.” – random POF user

Online dating sites have been around for well over a decade, and it seems like new ones are showing up every day. There are sites for all different types of interests, from sexual orientation to religious beliefs to hobbies, and they all have apps to make them as accessible as possible. Meeting people is easier than ever, and yet there are still a large number of people who look at meeting someone online as something that should be lied about. Here are some common misconceptions about online dating, and some reasons why we should all try to move past them and accept this new world of dating for what it is.

“People who use dating sites are desperate.” This is probably the most common misconception about online dating. Yes, of course there are people using these sites who are desperate, but you will find that any place there are single people who don’t want to be single. It’s as common at a bar, a party, or a wedding as it is online. That doesn’t mean all the people who online date are desperate, or even most of them. Most of the people who gravitate towards online dating are just trying to meet someone outside of their current social circles. They aren’t there because regular dating has left them feeling hopeless or in despair; they are just casting a wider net.

“Everyone is lying.” Of course some people are lying, but again, this is hardly exclusive to online dating. Once upon a time men bought expensive watches to look richer, and women compressed their innards in vise-like corsets, all to attract a better mate. Lying has been a part of dating since Adam told Eve she didn’t look fat in that fig leaf. It is also important to remember that not all lying is deliberate. The human brain has an incredible capacity for self delusion. It is entirely possible that that guy still thinks he looks like that 10 year old picture from Mexico, or that that woman really thinks her skin is as perfect as that snapchat filter makes it look.

“Your dad and I didn’t need an app to meet, why do you?” The judgement passed down from older generations is one of the most difficult hurdles we face when it comes to online dating. The world was different when our parents and grandparents met. For example, when you needed money you went to the bank, stood in line, and talked to other people in line while you waited. You got dressed, got out of the house, and met new people. We don’t have to do that anymore. If we want to sit on the floor of our apartments and do our banking while eating popcorn troughlike out of the hood of our worn backwards hoodies, we can. No one talks in person anymore, and even if we do somehow wind up standing in the same lineups, we are all on our phones. We may as well be using those phones to meet each other.

“Only weirdos go online.” Let’s face it, we live in an unusual time. To my knowledge there has never been a time in human history where we have been so completely accepting of everything. If you want to go by the name Sweet Kiss Boo-Boo and wear a pink tutu to the grocery store no one will stop you, how you self-identify is up to you. If being around people makes you nervous and you never want to leave your home again that’s allowed, you have a social anxiety disorder and will be accomodated. If you just can’t stop getting off to anything and everything, from a firm behind to an underripe banana, thast’s ok, you have a sex addiction and qualify for disability leave. We are told we have to accept everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, and when we encounter people we have to accept but don’t agree with we call them weird. The  woman who wears a fully purple outfit every day of the week because she believes it makes her one of the royals, the guy talking to himself on the bus because he has a multiple personality disorder and needs to keep all the voices happy, and the kid who can’t stop sucking on his vaporizer because he has a nicotine addiction. They are all there, we see them in person and gloss over it every day, but where they really thrive is on the internet. It is anonymous, provides a community for anything you desire, and is readily available everywhere. So yes, of course it draws them to it. But you know what? It draws all the rest of us to. We are all weirdos to someone, and we are all online trying to find our matching weirdness.

“Online relationships are doomed to fail.” In my opinion this is probably the most ridiculous misconception out there. According to the latest Statistics Canada research the divorces rate in Canada is 38%, and 42% of those divorces occurred between 10 and 24 years of marriage. The most common age for divorce is in the mid 40’s. Based on the length of these marriages and the ages of the people involved very few of them could have met each other online; online dating has only been easily accessible for most users for a dozen or so years. I’m not saying that people that meet online are or aren’t more likely to stay together; there have been countless studies done proving both sides of that argument. What I’m saying is most relationships are doomed to fail. We live in a time where everything and everyone is considered disposable. Don’t like your sandwich? Throw it out and get a new one. Tired of your car? Trade it in for a younger model. Sick of your spouse? I’m sure you can see where this is going. Instead of doing the work to make something better, improve it’s features, or remind ourselves of the things that made us first fall in love with it, we are getting rid of it and getting something better. Until that better thing bores us too.

Keep in mind during your dating journey that online dating is still pretty rare. 12 or so years isn’t really all that long in the grand scheme of things, and most people have never actually tried it for themselves. They have heard the horror stories, seen it in movies, and have maybe even looked at a profile or two, but have never actually done it. The conclusions they are drawing are based on word of mouth and media, not actual experience. Try to keep that in mind, and that the next time you share some horrible online dating story with a friend also remember to include a few good ones too. Improving the reputation of online dating will help us all out the next time we have to tell mom we met someone through the world wide web.

Author: The Happy Traveler

The Happy Traveler lives in a northern Canadian community of about 80,000 people. She has a professional career, a wicked sense of humor, and a teenage son that spends a lot of time shaking his head at her. She is taller than most women, more robust than a fashion model, and smiles incessantly. In her spare time she immerses herself in sci-fi and fantasy culture, plays card and board games, and explores the outdoors whenever possible. She eats meat, nuts, and bread, and cannot stand the taste of artificial pumpkin spice.

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