Whenever people tell me they are going to give online dating a try, I always give them one piece of advice: Get your mind right.
Many people look at online dating as, at best, a plan B to meeting people in real life, and, at worst, a last resort to overcome the bad luck they’ve had meeting people in real life. Online dating can be as bad as both options.
Now if you’re wondering how I would know, it’s because I have met many women online, and not all of those encounters exclusively came from a dating website. The truth is I, like many people — including maybe you, the person who is reading this — was reluctant to join an online dating site. I only did so after I became a dating columnist for The New York Post, where I set residents of the Big Apple up on blind dates. Going online to find singles who may be open to the idea of meeting someone new seemed like it would yield me some pretty good results. So I went to OkCupid because: 1) it was one of the more popular dating sites and 2) it was free.
Of course, even though I was on there for work purposes, I had to disguise myself as a member of the OkCupid community. This was easy because, like many other members, I was single. From there, it didn’t take me long to meet women on the site who were interesting for me in ways that went beyond business.
Online dating increased my dating life exponentially, and I wasn’t even looking for it to do so. That’s why I enjoyed it, because it gave me a boost and changed the way I dated. For so long, I was meeting people who either came from within my immediate social circles or were only separated from them by a couple of degrees. Meeting new people, dating other types who were totally different than who I usually dated, was a challenge, but I was so active I didn’t make it a priority until I joined a dating site. That’s when I realized, I could expand my options and date somewhat differently.
The first girl I met from a dating site was a Latina who grew up in Florida (we met for coffee during the afternoon, which is the way I suggest most people roll if they are meeting in person for the first time). Of course, it was easy to get into her because I found her so attractive, but what kept me fascinated with her was our cultural exchange. Yes, I’m part Puerto Rican, but I only speak and know English. This girl was as American as the next, born and raised in the States, but grew up bilingual. Just being around her made me want to learn a language that some would say I should know. And I’m sure some of this sounds like I’m fetishizing, but trust me, nothing could be further than the truth. I would have appreciated her if she spoke Greek. I wasn’t attracted to her talking in Spanish so much as I appreciated being with someone who came from a different world than I was used to dating in and could show me something new. There was a cultural exchange happening between us, and for a man like myself, such a thing stimulates me in a physical and mental way. Had she not had to move down South, who knows how much longer we would have continued dating? I’m sure for quite a while, but again, that wasn’t ever my intent. I just found someone who interested me beyond the physical, someone I probably would not have met offline.
When people join a dating site, the expectations must be kept as low as they are when you are gearing up for another Friday night at the same bar at which you and your friends always hang out. People forget, those are human beings on the other side of that screen (assuming you haven’t been spammed by bots) and they have the power to surprise and disappoint just like the people we meet face-to-face. That’s why I tell people to get their mind right. This isn’t a cure to a problem so much as it’s a preventive measure against the future problem of meeting the same people at the same bars over and over again. And if you’re weirded out by the idea that a lot of people online are crazy, it would be wise to also understand that crazies are everywhere, including where you met the last person who turned out to be not right in the head.
Consider online dating another tool in the tool kit, or if you really have an imagination, a portal to an alternative universe with inhabitants who look and talk like you. Online dating should be an addition to what’s going on in reality, not a replacement. It won’t stop the bleeding that is your love life, but it can slow it down. When people ask me why they should do it, I tell them that if they’ve gotten to the point of asking such a question, that’s all the reason they need to do it. If everything was going swimmingly in their real life encounters, dating online wouldn’t be something they would be curious about. The fact is, up until this point, every method they’ve tried offline hasn’t worked. And while there is no guarantee going online will yield different results, the odds are much higher it will because, at its core, dating is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more people you know, the more people you date, the more likely one of those people will be the one right for you.