Cultivating Relationships Online
By Kelly Ann
It is hard for me to imagine a world without the internet. Emails, instant messaging, blogging, online searches, Facebook, and Twitter have become such a ubiquitous part of reality. I love the access to information and to people. For example, I treasure the friendships I have made online with some of the members of the Exponent community. And so I find myself thinking about the many types of relationships I cultivate online, including dating …
LDS online dating sites were actually my first introduction to getting to know people online. When I was first joined LDSsingles.com almost ten years ago, I was incredibly cautious given the negative associations with online dating in general at the time. I chatted with a few individuals but it took corresponding with a particular individual for months, with whom I had felt safe because he lived across the country, before I was willing to go on a date while he was nearby on vacation. Meeting at a restaurant, I was pleased to discover that we both had portrayed ourselves accurately. It was like meeting an old friend. As we continued to go out for about six weeks, I was teased lightly by my roommates for finding the relationship online but I would still argue that online dating has been accepted longer in the LDS community given the importance placed on marrying a member. But despite this fairly positive experience, I quickly became frustrated with the wasted time searching, sending “flirts,” maybe chatting once with other individuals, finding those who did not accurately portray themselves, etc – not to mention the cost of subscribing. So I quit. And I didn’t date much as consequence (as my BYU experience involved lots of friendships but not a lot of dating).
Shortly after I moved back to the Bay Area in 2005, Elder Oaks gave his famous CES fireside at the Inter-stake Center in Oakland entitled Dating vs. Hanging Out. Making a point to be more social anyhow post grad-school, I decided that I could benefit from one-on-one interactions and would follow his counsel to date more, even if that meant I had to do the asking. So I made a list of the guys in my singles ward that I wanted to get to know better whether friends with them already or not. I probably asked out on average one every month, not always successfully, which unfortunately garnered me a bit of a reputation and perhaps extinguished some possibilities of guys asking me out (which I always found an annoying double standard as the guys who did the same did not suffer the same consequence). So I then made a point to go to regional activities, mid-singles activities when I hit 27, and rejoined a couple online lds dating sites, including ldslinkup which was hugely popular at the time, in an effort to get to know more people. While I have plenty of other good stories from these years (including awkward exchanges at dances with guys approaching me saying they recognized my profile), I never really got past the hanging out phase. So I eventually even prayed to help me date more which brought me to the realization that I should be open to dating non-members which I had not been.
Shortly thereafter, I met my ex-boyfriend at my aunt’s Halloween party. We dated on and off for two years and it was nice to go out (and maybe sometimes just hang out) with a true friend. We cared about each other, had fun with each other, and helped each other. The fact that it encompassed my faith transition added a measure of difficulty, but he was not concerned with how active or inactive I was as long as I was happy. And honestly, having an unbiased person listen to me ramble at times with my frustrations with the church, while respecting me and where I was at, was what I needed. Despite the things which led to breaking up (which I won’t go into here), I found a relationship that really helped me become a better person and imagine wanting to be married, something I had never imagined previously.
When we finally ended our relationship, it was interesting. Given the on/off nature, one of the first things I did was subscribe to an online dating service to make it clear that I was putting myself out there (although not really rushing into it given the time I needed to process the previous). I browsed match, okcupid, eharmony, and the variety of other sites, curious to see new features and online dating more accepted (although still deserving caution). It has been nice to be able to chat, go out to dinner, maybe on a couple dates, and get to know people although it has not resulted in anything longer than a couple months.
I also recently decided to give the LDS dating websites another chance. I browsed LDSplanet, LDSsingles, and LDSmingle before subscribing to one of them. However, I clearly reference LDS blogs and my liberalness (although not the focus of my profile) so I don’t let the more traditional facts about myself attract me to someone bothered by who I actually am. I do this although I do not like the need to “sell” one’s faith on these sites, in addition to “selling” yourself as you find on other sites. Anyhow, I have had some responses but they are all unfortunately from 50 year old men … (who also contacted me and I ignored 10 years ago).
So while I also actively try to date through more traditional channels, I am left wondering if I am wasting my time (although it has all been good experience for screening roommates on Craigslist and making friends with bloggernacle folks). Don’t get me wrong, I am happy being single, and don’t think about all this most of the time, but there are days when I really want a long-lasting relationship.
In terms of discussion, I would be interested in hearing about how other people cultivate relationships online. How do (or do) your interactions differ from real life? What do you think of online dating? Have you had good or bad experiences? In general, what are your experiences with dating in general? How do you think they can be improved? More broadly, if not in terms of dating, how do you turn your online interactions into better friendships? Do you think it possible to be successful? I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with online dating and in general. And finally do you think it would be useful to have a bloggernacle profile site (not just for dating)?
And since we are opening the can to a relationship discussion, for those not familiar with Seraphine’s series at Zelophehad’s Daughters about “Being a 30-something Single in the Church” (written last year before she got engaged), I highly recommend looking at them as they cover a range of applicable topics including Part VIII, My Experiences with On-line Dating Sites; Part VII, Attempts at Comfort; Part VI, Divorce; Part V, the Law of Chastity; Part IV, Family Wards; Part III, Marriage; Part II, No Sex; and Part I, Dating. Also a search of the Exponent and a search with the keyword dating on LDSblogs.org yield some interesting articles including: LDS Dating Sites (BCC); Worthless Dating Advice (T&S) (written by a guy); Economics and the Vicious Dating Scene (T&S); and Dating the Single Mormon Momma (MMW)