Has online communication taken importance away from in person dating?

Question

Do you think that the advent of mobile phones and instant messaging services has taken some of the verbal aspects out of dating? These days it seems like most people will use IM services to talk and get to know each other, and going out on dates is less prevalent. Often this expedites the dating process as a whole; what you would learn about someone over the course of maybe a month in physical dates can be learned in the course of a week via a mix of physical dates and instant communication.

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Answer

It is certainly true that instant messaging and online communication have changed the dating landscape substantially in the last few years, and not necessarily for the better in every instance. Being able to learn practically everything about a potential mate, from one's favorite foods to one's kinkiest desires, before even meeting in person is a double-edged sword; while it can be great to connect with someone online and determine that you absolutely have everything in common, sometimes this sort of online intimacy fails to translate into in-person interactions, for one of two reasons.

In the first case, you simply get to know someone too quickly, and burn out on the new person. I hear from furs frequently whose relationships burn fast and bright online, but then find themselves guttering as topics of conversation are exhausted too quickly. Getting to know someone over a period of time usually helps to prevent this kind of premature exhaustion with a potential mate. 

In the second case, it is very common for people to totally hit it off online and then fail to connect when it comes to an actual date, because the chemistry just isn't right. When this happens, people often regret having "wasted their time" getting to know someone with whom they ultimately simply were not romantically compatible. For better or for worse, it is nearly impossible to truly know whether you will "click" with someone without meeting him or her in person. There are just too many variables: physical appearance, smell, mannerisms, and the sound of one's voice can all majorly influence attraction, and often in ways you would never have anticipated. So, yes, online communication can expedite getting to know a potential new mate, but it is usually a good idea to meet in person sooner rather than later to make sure that physical chemistry is there before spending too much time getting to know someone in a romantic context.

My own strategy for online dating is to exchange at least a few messages with someone I am courting to establish that romantic interest is mutually present, but I definitely try to avoid having extensive conversations covering all of the usual first date topics before actually meeting in person (assuming the person is relatively local). When someone I am getting to know in a romantic context is more long distance, I am more willing to have detailed and emotionally intimate conversations online before meeting in person, but I do so knowing full well that we might not hit it off in person, and I prepare myself mentally for the possibility of that outcome, so I am not crushingly disappointed if things don't work out as well as I had hoped.

Ultimately, it is wise to go into an online dating situation realizing that, if the chemistry isn't right, you might just be left with a good friend rather than a romantic partner, and, in my opinion, that is perfectly okay. When you approach getting to know someone online as if you are interviewing for the position of lifemate, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and putting an unreasonable amount of pressure on yourself, not to mention the other person. Don't do that! Remember that making a new friend is never a failure; making friends can be just as rewarding as making new romantic connections, and these connections often stand the test of time better than romantic connections. In my experience, getting to know someone as a friend is actually the best way to form lasting emotional connections, and such emotional intimacy often turns romantic, meaning that over time, a friend can turn into something more. Putting the cart before the horse, and trying to force every new online connection to be a romantic one, often means missing out on a lot of important social connections.

TLDR: Try to be open to friendship as well as romance, get to know people in person sooner rather than later (especially if relatively local), and don't invest heavy amounts of online communication into a potential romantic connection without acknowledging the possibility that the connection might not be the same in person. Also, prepare yourself to accept that it is okay for the connection to end up being a friendship instead of a romance.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.