January is here; a new year, a new start, and for many people it’s a time to brace oneself and step into the weird and terrifying world of internet dating. Whether you’ve had much experience of dating or you are just deciding that this is the year to begin that journey, I think we can all agree it’s not always a comfortable experience. Here are our 7 top tips for using Internet Dating in a way that honours God, ourselves and others.
1. Start with an open mind – give those biscuit eaters a chance!
Hopefully in our daily life we’re all agreed that we try not to judge people too quickly because of their appearance or life situation, but for some reason when it comes to internet dating this flies out of the window! I have ignored online messages because of a wrongly placed comma before or because someone listed ‘eating biscuits’ or 'drinking tea' as a hobby. It is worth considering what online dating service you sign up for – here I’d really recommend you avoid app-based services such as Tinder or Bumble, precisely because of how they objectify based around appearance.
Of course we all have some ideas about what we are looking for in a future partner. However it’s worth bearing in mind that in the same way your own dating profile doesn’t fully reflect the wonderful, complex, interesting individual that you are – other people’s won’t fully reflect who they are either. Reflect on what you’re looking for and then give yourself a chance to be wrong. No date is wasted time because you will meet someone new and either have your initial opinion challenged or confirmed. In fact, dating the wrong people can really help you to think more about who might be right for you.
2. Remember – dating is just meeting, not getting married!
A wise friend of mine likes to call a first date a ‘pre date’ because she says you can’t really date someone you don’t know. This is especially true if you’ve met online for the first time. If in doubt, go on that date. Dates can be terrifying so don’t be put off if you feel scared. It doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing – it just means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Internet dating can bring its awkwardness if you encounter people online from your church – dating someone from your own church community can be scary as there is a fear of making things awkward or dealing with expectations from mutual friends. Just remember– a date is just hanging out and it is perfectly possible to go on a ‘date’ and then become friends afterwards if there is no romantic spark. Sometimes what can damage a friendship more is actually those mixed messages or a bit of confusing flirting with no follow through. Don’t be afraid! We were not made to let fear control our actions!
3. Be honest – even if you don’t like the sound of it.
I’m not saying throw a truth bomb at everyone you end up messaging online but honesty is the basis for all good relationships so it stands to reason that we should start as we intend to carry on. If you don’t want to date someone for whatever reason then it’s best just to say.
Don’t make up things about your life or work just to impress.
Don’t claim to be 'average height' if you’re 4ft3.
Don't use a profile picture that's 10 years old.
If a date develops into a relationship any untruths will eventually be revealed for what they are and you will have left a seed of doubt in the other person’s mind about your trustworthiness!
4. Don’t be a ghost!
It’s so easy to just stop messaging someone if you start to think they are not the right person for you or if you find out they like James Blunt or they don’t drink wine, but it can be hurtful and confusing for the other person. Although it might seem a bit harsh it’s always best to say “it’s been lovely chatting but I’m not sure there’s a romantic connection”. I always appreciate it when people let me know that they are dating someone else or for whatever reason they can’t meet up. In the same way we try to avoid road rage in the car, let’s try to avoid dehumanising people just because we’re not face to face with them.
4.Share with care – pick your support team
We all need a community of friends around us when we’re dating, especially those nosy married types who love to live vicariously through our exciting dating highs and hilarious dating lows. However, Christianity can be a small world where many people run in the same circles and it can be a terrifying thought that whatever happens on a date or within a relationship might be broadcast to everyone in the surrounding area. Choose the people that you’re going to be vulnerable with, that you can have a moan at, which you can share your frustrations with. However, be careful about telling too many people details, that if the tables were turned, you might not want sharing.
5. Enjoy the experience
While the prospect of crafting an internet dating profile can seem vain, and waiting for a new message in your inbox seem self-gratifying, you have stepped out and decided to date. Please enjoy your experience! Relish the opportunity it brings to talk to a wide variety of people from differing backgrounds. Go to some new places, try some new experiences, get dressed up and have fun!
6.Staying safe online
This being said make sure that you keep yourself safe and avoid situations where you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Think about the information that you are sharing and when you share it. Perhaps initially choose to meet in a public place that you are both familiar with and think about how you are going to get home afterwards.
Make sure a friend knows what you are doing and where you are going and check in with them once you're home- as well as ensuring your safety this can also be emotionally helpful when you need debrief after the date.
7. We’re all in this together
If you’re internet dating, whether you like it or not, you are part of this community of people who are experiencing similar highs, lows, frustrations and insecurities. For this reason there should be an unspoken bond between us that means that we protect and respect each other. I felt pretty convicted last year for the times I let my married friends browse Christian Connection and read other people’s profiles with a critical eye. Or for all the times I screen shot a terrible profile picture and sent it to my other single friends for laughs. We’ve all done it and I don’t want to condemn anyone but wouldn’t it be cool if, as a community of Christians, we could be distinctive from the world in this area? Let’s move away from the Tinder culture and remember that we are all humans and we are all precious and loved equally by God. That will be my aim for 2018!