Brief Encounter(s)

In January of this year, I took the head staggers (is that just a Northern Ireland saying?) and joined the  world of online dating. It was New Year and I was bored with my current life situation. As I’m sure you can imagine, having most of your best friends either married, engaged or in a relationship while you remain eternally single is disappointing to say the least. The weekends I didn’t hang out with friends were spent thirdwheeling with tea and Netflix and as much as I love both of those things, I decided we needed a break.

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I bit the bullet and joined a reputable dating site for 6 months. I figured I may as well give it a  shot and seeing as I didn’t have to spend money on anyone else (does that sound sad?) I paid for it. If you didn’t pay for an account, all you got to do was ‘wave’ at people and send automated messages expressing interest. That wasn’t helpful because unless you have super sleuth social media stalking skills (like me), you couldn’t interact with them anymore.. I put minimal effort into my profile at the beginning, giving basic information and using my wit to write some really funny stuff (well, I thought so anyway). I added some Instagram worthy pictures of myself and sat back, waiting for the messages to come flying through. I’m kidding.

Once I’d settled into it, I took it a bit more seriously. After all, I’d parted with at least 5 months worth of a Neftlix subscription in an attempt to find the love of my life. I made an effort to reply to messages and engage in conversation. For anyone I’m close to, you’ll know this is a big thing, mainly because I’m really bad at replying to any form of communication unless: I really like you, there’s an emergency or someone has tagged me in a hilarious meme on Facebook which immediately requires the crying with laughter emoji.

I wouldn’t say my experience was totally terrible – I met some lovely people, had some good conversations and felt more confident in myself, but not all of it was so sweet. I did learn a lot about people in general and it changed my opinions on things so, if you like, read on down for some lessons I learnt during my adventure in online dating.

Things I Knew Already And Are Fairly Obvious But Online Dating Reaffirmed:
(bit long winded that, I’ll work on it)

Lesson 1: No matter how detailed you make your profile, people will still ask stupid questions.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times a guy has sent an introductory message asking where I’m from and what I do for a living. Right underneath my picture was my location and further down I gave a vague description of my line of work. Others have asked what my favourite movie is and it’s right there, in bold, under ‘Movies’ (it’s Shawshank if anyone is wondering and wants to make a mental note for future reference). It just proved that they never really paid attention to what I had written. My point is that whilst what you write on your profile is really important, don’t spend forever perfecting it because

  • You’re probably wasting your time listing all the countries you’ve travelled to and your favourite inspirational quotes.
  • You don’t want to give everything away. Leave yourself something to talk about after the initial introductions. You don’t want to lay everything out on the table so they know everything about you before they even ‘wave’ – be a bit mysterious and I can guarantee you the conversation will flow much better.

On the flip side, don’t leave it so bare that someone has to launch an investigation into who you are. Give the basic information and answer the questions the site provides but don’t write essays worthy of grading – nobody really wants to read why Zoolander is your favourite film or why your gap year changed your perspective on life – leave that for the conversations! Have a bit of fun with it – the questions they ask usually make you a bit reflective so you might learn something about yourself too!

Lesson 2: Some people definitely don’t look like their pictures.

Don’t get me wrong, obviously everyone picks the best pictures of themselves to display to potential sweethearts but when I meet you in real life, I expect you to at least look a bit like the picture you’ve put up. When I look back on the various dates I’ve had, very few actually looked like their pictures. One guy had been using pictures from 5 years ago and I walked past him twice before I realised he was my date #awkward. Others had slightly less hair than their pictures displayed and some used pictures so pixellated, I wasn’t sure if they were a 8-bit character or not.

If a person starts a conversation and they haven’t any pictures up – don’t be afraid to ask to see one. It might sound shallow, but I’m a firm believer in being physically attracted to someone as well as their personality for a relationship to go anywhere. You’re entitled to see who you’re talking to before you agree to a date! Or if you like taking risks, you could wing it and re-enact Cilla’s legendary Blind Date.

When it comes to uploading pictures of yourself, carefully consider which ones you’ll use. We all love a selfie but add in some group photos (with  your friends’ consent); there’s nothing wrong with solo pictures but people like to see you in your natural environment. Unfortunately Amaro filtered Insta pics don’t really help with that. I like to think I looked similar to the pictures I put up – I posted a few of myself that a friend had taken and some group shots so that people weren’t just seeing photos I had taken off my Instagram.

Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your friends in choosing photos – if anything, they’ll be more than happy to help you in your quest to find true love! People see you differently to how you see yourself so having an honest friend choose some of the best photos of you might be wise.

Lesson 3: People are very different online, obviously.

Image result for online vs real life

(www.hongkiat.com)

You might have spent a good few weeks talking to someone online – conversation flows, the craic’s 90, the flanter is on point but when you meet them in real life, trying to have a conversation with them is like trying to take my hand out of a bag of Doritos – nearly impossible. Everyone has an online persona that’s a pumped up version of themselves. Me? I’m more confident and sassy online; I’m actually pretty funny too but when you meet me in real life, I won’t crack any jokes or take the mick out of you until I’m totally comfortable around you. After that I’ll probably talk forever and you won’t want to date me anymore.

When you’re talking to potential baes, it’s important to remember that people are different in real life. Obviously, nerves play a huge factor in how someone conducts themselves and on a first date, the person you were having a laugh with the night before might be too nervous to even crack a smile. Conversation can be stilted, there might be awkward silences and you might feel like whipping out your phone and availing of the “there’s been an emergency” excuse. But hang tight and don’t let it put you off seeing them again if you think there’s a chance you two might get on well together. First dates aren’t always amazing.

For the most part, all the guys who were chatty online were pretty mute when I met them, conversation didn’t flow and if it did, it was pretty much what we had talked about on the dating site. One guy did surprise me though. He wasn’t very talkative online, in fact he was quite formal, but I put it down to him never having online dated before and I reluctantly agreed to meet him. He couldn’t have been any different. He was really talkative, sarcastically funny (like me), took the mick out of me several times and conversation flowed for a few hours. For other reasons, we didn’t take things any further (in case you’re wondering).

What’s my point in this uber long lesson? Don’t have any expectations until you officially meet your date. Don’t build your hopes up, don’t build a picture of what you think they’re like, don’t start imagining your life together 10 years down the line. Start your date with a totally open mind and go from there.

Lesson 4: You will date some truly horrible people.

Image result for smiling frog

(www.sodahead.com)

They always say you have to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince/ss right? You might not necessarily have to kiss the frog before you realise what an idiot they are. Online dating showed me just how easily people can disregard the feelings of others. It’s as if when you online date, your feelings don’t exist so it doesn’t matter if they get hurt.

Boy oh boy, I don’t know how many tools I met over the course of my adventure. My friends actually began to worry about my mental health because I just seemed to date really nasty boys. The one experience that sticks out the most is actually a guy I dated for a few weeks. By dated I mean we went on two dates and spent the rest of the time deciding whether we wanted to see each other or not. He was nice at the start, not as talkative as he was online (see Lesson 3) but he tried to be funny and sometimes made me laugh.

Over the course of the few weeks we had a “thing”, he changed. He never became nasty, he just liked to do things his way. He determined the times we met and the times our dates finished. He would suggest doing something then back out at the last minute or just not reply. Eventually, he totally ghosted me; he refused to acknowledge my existence and stopped replying to messages. I never heard from him again after that. To be honest, I didn’t really care that much (if you’re reading this because I know you stalk my social media, thankyou because you did me a massive favour) and I quickly moved on. He made me feel self-conscious for a while and whilst it didn’t put me off dating new people, I was very cautious.

Others cancelled dates 2 hours before we were supposed to meet for ‘personal reasons’ ( you guys SUCK) and others just met with me because they wanted more than conversation but didn’t want to admit that online (sorry to disappoint lads). In 90% of the dates I went on, we never had contact again. I’m not sure if that’s just what happens when you first meet an online date and realise you might not like each other or whether the guys I met just had no manners.

On the other hand, you’ll meet some really nice people and have some great conversations – you might not end up in a relationship with them but it’ll definitely help your conversation and flirting skills if you’re feeling a bit rusty! You’ll also figure out what your “type” is, if you haven’t already and that’s super helpful!

Lesson 5: If you like someone, tell them. If you don’t like them, let them down gently.

Image result for i like you

(www.ilikeyoulikeyou.com)

I know, I know, this is easier said than done. But honestly? You’ll save yourself so much time. Too often we tip-toe round whether we admit we like someone until it’s too late and the ship has sailed. Yes, it’s embarrassing; yes, you’re being really vulnerable but ultimately, it’s the best way of figuring out if someone likes you too and you might find they have more respect for you for being honest. What’s the worst that could happen? They tell you they don’t reciprocate the feeling, you feel scundered for a wee bit and then you both move on.

If someone tells you they like you and want to date again but you don’t feel the same, don’t be horrible about and definitely do not ignore it. Be honest about it rather than stringing them along because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings; that’ll hurt more than you telling them you don’t reciprocate it. It might be embarrassing but at the end of the day, you’re unlikely to see that person again, especially if it’s online. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll bump into them at the shopping centre, or at church, and inwardly die.

Lesson 6: Just kidding, I’m done (I had to have even numbers, sorry).

In hindsight, online dating is not for me and I’m in no rush to try it again. In my opinion, there’s an immediate expectation that you’ll either hit it off straightaway and fall in love, or you’ll not like each other and never meet again. There’s no in-between, no chance for friendship or letting something develop from that. Of course, I’m a cynical person and part of me wanted to try it out just to see whether it worked. For me, it didn’t (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post) but there are so many successes out there and it’s one of the most popular ways of meeting people. It’s no longer a taboo topic and generally a very acceptable method of finding love. You do hear the odd horror story from time to time but if you’re careful, keep your wits about you and always tell people where you are, you should be fine!

Boys and girls of the online dating world, guard your hearts. Online dating can be so savage and many see it as just a way of building up the notches on their bedposts whereas you might be looking for a genuine relationship. Don’t take yourself too seriously on it and have patience – dating is supposed to be fun; it’s an opportunity for you to figure out what features or characteristics you would like in a partner. You won’t necessarily find ‘The One’ straightaway but as the old cliché goes; if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen!

If anyone did make it to the end, give yourselves a pat on the back and a celebratory beverage of your choice! I’d love to hear your thoughts about online dating if you have any!

Laura

(online dating logo taken from youqueen.com)

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