Limitless Opportunities

Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch of the Wichita State University Elliott School of Communication is an accomplished academic by day but has a lesser-known hobby on the side as a “love doctor.” It’s in this role that she tells single people, “There are so many online and social media options that make meeting someone easier than ever.”

This is quite true, and eHarmony, Match.com, PerfectMatch.com and Chemistry.com would probably love to snag her testimony. However, there’s a problem with this ease and abundance of online dating options. While it may be easier than ever to meet someone, it’s also easier than ever to get dumped or passed over because there is the perception of limitless opportunities. Dr. Jean M. Twenge, author ofGeneration Me and Dr. W. Keith Campbell explain in their book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement that “With the advent of digital photography and online dating, blind dates aren’t so blind anymore (though they might be Photoshopped). Fifty years ago, people already knew everyone in their small town, so these things weren’t an issue. There were only so many potential partners out there, you new them all pretty well, and nobody was going to be able to make a radically new impression by getting a new haircut or outfit, much less plastic surgery. Now most people live in urban areas and meet new people almost every day; physical appearance is the first, and sometimes the only, thing they see. Finding a mate depends not on family contacts but on looks. This is even more true of hookups, the short-term sexual encounters now the norm among young people and that have all but replaced dating and boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. When you have to find a different sexual partner every time, appearance becomes paramount. ‘Only ugly people date,’ explains a TV character. So you better go buy that teeth whitener.”

Their point is that there’s a new vanity at play in online dating. It may not be right but I must agree that whether we like it or not, it’s true, and this is why I encourage my clients to use high-quality photographs – preferably professionally shot – for their profile pictures and to follow my rules of “Do’s and Don’ts” for posing.

This is also why I try to persuade clients NOT to click on the “Next” button quite so hastily if a less-than-perfect prospect appears. It’s too easy for online daters to develop a supermarket mentality to the selection process: “There are thousands of people on this site. If the next match doesn’t knock my socks off, there are plenty more where he/she came from.” And the sites themselves do little to dissuade this type of thinking with their frequent updates, notifications, reminders, and other prompts to keep users returning to the sites and actively engaged in their quest for the perfect date. We need to slow down; take a moment to discern whether the person is a good person with a bad picture or truly someone we’re disinterested in. And remember that he/she is a person. Sometimes the humanity of the people we’re evaluating gets lost in the impersonal medium.

This is probably how some users come to view online dating as merely a source for hookups. Twenge and Campbell go on to assert, “Hookups move the focus of sexual relationships away from the whole person and toward physical attractiveness.” The result is a shallow, self-centered approach to dating and relationships. In these cases, easier isn’t better.

Now that you know better, you can do better. Here’s to better dating…

The Date Maven

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