As a 26-year-old female, my entire life as a teenager existed around the Internet. The Internet was the place where I talked to people day and night, I felt comfortable in my own skin for once, and it was the place where I thought I could find love. I had a few relationships in high school, but when I turned 18, I decided to turn to the Internet to find someone I really wanted to spend my life with. I am proud to say that I have been with a man I met through online dating for over eight years now, and I could not be happier. Here are five positive and negative lessons I learned through the online dating experience, and how my lessons can help others.
Trust your gut feeling
I am not someone who thinks that intuition is always right, but when it comes to online dating, you really do need to trust your inner feelings. I can honestly say that when I first saw a message from my now longtime boyfriend, I just had this weird gut feeling that he was something special, and I should pursue him. That night I talked to him on the phone, and the conversation ended up lasting over five hours, which was very abnormal for me. There were some emails I had opened from previous men where I just felt uneasy or anxious, as if my gut was telling me not to even go there for whatever reason. Whether you begin your conversation on the phone or through email, you need to pay attention to what your feeling internally, and don’t ignore it because it could save your life.
Be realistic about meeting in person
One thing about online dating is that you can fall in love with words or pictures, without ever physically meeting someone. Sometimes the online love you have for someone does not translate into a physical connection, and it’s important to always keep that in mind. The best tip is that you should be realistic about the fact that this person you are emailing or messaging may not be someone you jive with in reality. You should not put someone on a pedestal or claim they are the one simply because of an email or hot phone conversation. I had started talking to a guy online and really liked him, so I invited him to a birthday party I was having in a couple weeks, thinking he was just wonderful. Well, when he got to my house I realized that his personality was almost completely opposite of how he portrayed it online. I thought we had a lot in common and that he was funny, but in reality he was boring and superficial.
Don’t blindly give out personal information
Whether you are male or female, you probably need to stay away from telling someone sensitive personal information, especially if you have just started talking to someone. When I first turned 18, I ended up giving one of the first guys I talked to my real home phone number. That was not good at all because the guy looked up my address through a reverse phone search online, and showed up at my door a couple days later. I was stunned because I had only talked to the guy a few times through email, so it was not like we were in the middle of planning to meet or anything yet. That really freaked me out because I realized what if this man was a rapist or just some creepy stalker? I saw a car coming up the driveway I didn’t recognize so I hid in another room and didn’t answer the door, and after 10 minutes he left. He sent me an email telling me he tried to see me but guessed I was not home, so I replied that I found a guy and we shouldn’t talk anymore. The biggest tip I have in regards to this is to only give out your cell phone number to people online. I would also suggest keeping contact through email only for the first month, in order to get a feel for the person.
Be real with everyone
One of the most important positive lessons I learned from online dating is just to be real, and don’t try to be someone you aren’t to impress someone. In the world of online dating, there are a lot of fake people out there, especially when it comes to pictures or a career choice. It is important to always put yourself out there exactly how you really are, because it will help you find the best person to match your personality. Yes, it is really easy to lie on the Internet, but it is only hurting yourself in the long run. When I was 18, there was a lot of things I didn’t like about myself, such as my height and physical appearance. I learned though that I needed to embrace who I was in order to find someone that would love me for me. I didn’t want a guy that loved tall women because I was short, and I needed to just own it and be happy. The thing about lying is, there will be a time when you meet in person, so the truth will come out eventually. A lot of websites match you on your personality, hobbies or career goals, so making up things only wastes your time if you are serious about online dating.
Don’t communicate with too many at once
One of the worst parts about online dating is that if you use a matching website, you will get so many emails relating to possible candidates. It is very important that you don’t just start messaging all of them at once, because you will end up confusing one person for another. A funny story is that when I first started talking to my current boyfriend, I was talking to about 10 other guys, so when he called I didn’t know which guy he was. I literally asked him which guy he was and what was his name and email, which probably made me sound disinterested in him personally. Luckily, he just laughed and told me he was the guy from my town that emailed earlier that night, and the rest is history. I have had a couple other experiences where I accidentally told one guy I would meet up with him only to remember I was meeting up with someone else that day, so I had to cancel on one of them. When it comes to online dating, it is so easy to lose track of how many people you are talking to at once and bouncing emails with. After that embarrassing night with my current boyfriend, I limited myself to just talking to a couple guys and seeing how they worked out first. You really don’t want to come off as someone who can’t keep track of who they are talking to, because it will give the wrong impression if you are serious about looking for love.