This is part five of an eight-part series published over eight consecutive weeks.
Many people meet their soulmate online. Yet how do you use a dating app such as Tinder, Bumble or Match? Are you simultaneously engaging in chats with dozens of eligible partners as a means of escaping the real world, or—noting recent research that has found that the Internet is a helpful tool for meeting new people but not for developing relationships with them—do you use these dating apps to meet someone and then quickly shift to developing a relationship offline?
The Elusive Balance of Convenience and Enjoyment
For many Digital Natives, texting has become the new courtship—the new form of getting to know someone new and attempting to not become vulnerable in the early stages of dating. It ultimately fails to accomplish either objective.
According to Krystle, a thirty-year-old systems analyst in Menlo Park, California (I recount her story in my new book Screened In: The Art of Living Free in the Digital Age):
I was on my phone periodically throughout the day to talk to someone I am dating. We haven’t had an in-person date/meeting yet so most of our relationship is over text. I met him through mutual friends, so we are trying to move things slowly and get to know each other. “Getting to know each other slowly” today means texting for hours on end. About every ten minutes I was texting back and forth with him.
Texting becomes particularly challenging when emotions need to be adequately shared and transmitted—which, in the early stages of dating, is all the time. A few weeks later, after a few in-person dates, Krystle had to confront this challenge:
The guy I am dating hasn’t seen me in a few days because I’ve been traveling and busy, and he wants to see me when I get home tonight. I want to see him too, but I think I need time to myself. Saying no over text message is hard because I don’t know how he will take it.
Be Who You Want to Become
If you profess to wanting a serious relationship but in practice partake of the former in a relentless search for approval from the opposite sex to fortify your fragile ego, you can run but you can’t hide: I’m no stranger to such behavior and am calling you out.
There were times in my life when I had online conversations going with many women in faraway places as a kind of buffer to deflect my feeling hurt over a previous relationship and to keep my fear of commitment at bay. I suspect I’m not the only one.
Whether it’s an intimate relationship, making friends, listening to music, watching movies, going shopping, or even seeing a therapist (in person or, yes, by Whatsapp or Skype, which some people are doing now to save money), we can ask ourselves how we can integrate short-term convenience and long-term enjoyment in our lives.
With a little ingenuity, we can find creative ways to foster our social, psychological, and emotional development, the lifestyle we desire now, and our capacity to become the person we desire to be in the future.
Too Much Contrast?
While eating his mother’s delicious saag paneer, my thoughts returned to my friend Arvind’s friend who meticulously curated his profile with five photos, each strategically placed to attract a different type of woman. “Isn’t your friend worried that he may attract a woman for the wrong reasons?” I asked Arvind.
“Is there a unified version of himself he could present in one photo?”
“It’s a numbers game,” Arvind replied. “He figures that, between his five photos, he will expand the number of people he can potentially attract, so hopefully he’ll meet the right woman.”
Listening to Arvind, the irony was not lost upon me that his family provided my home away from home during my years of being single and going on dates with women I met on the Internet.
I remembered how self-conscious I felt during some of those dinners. The instability and unpredictability of my life always seemed in stark juxtaposition with the regularity, caring, and warmth of their family life.
I always considered Arvind’s father, Narendra, to be the mentoring older brother I never had, a lighthouse guiding me through a tumultuous single life toward the shore of commitment and lasting love. It’s why I asked him to marry my wife and me and officiate over our wedding in Mexico.
Finding the Right Person Requires Vulnerability
Discover your own healthy equilibrium between convenience and enjoyment and you will be pleasantly surprised to begin feeling more like the master of your life. Why? Because you will learn to use technology as a helpful tool without becoming its servant.
If you desire to meet the right person and wish to use online dating sites, don’t become a deer caught in the headlights of innumerable glossy profiles. Recognize that these meticulously curated images and words take the age-old practice of self-presentation to new, stunning levels yet camouflage much deeper insecurities.
Don’t fall prey to yet another opportunity to throw hours of your life into a text-addled cesspool only to earn the right to sit across the table from someone who bears little resemblance to their virtual persona.
About the Author:
Anthony Silard, Ph.D. is a world-renowned leadership educator and coach. He has coached G-20 cabinet ministers and the CEOs and senior leaders of Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, IBM and GE and the world’s largest nonprofits such as CARE and Save the Children. He has taught leadership at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, California State University San Bernardino, Claremont McKenna College and IESE Business School and has lectured on leadership at Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown. His new book, Screened In: The Art of Living Free in the Digital Age, was just released in March 2020. You can find more articles on his weekly blog The Art of Living Free.