In 2015, I went on 49 dates with people I’d met online.
One man told me he was a motivational speaker yet in person had all the charisma of a sloth on Quaaludes. Another smelled like a 13 year-old boy’s bedroom and another wore so much cologne I had to get my jacket dry cleaned after a mere hug.
The majority, however, were decent guys who simply didn’t have the values, personality or lifestyle I could see myself with in the long-term. They would be great for someone, just not for me. And while I didn’t meet Mr. Happily Ever After, I did learn a lot about my city, interpersonal communication and myself.
Whether you’re an online veteran or are simply considering dipping your toes in the digital pool to test the waters, here are some of online dating’s surprise benefits.
1. You learn how to set boundaries
When I first went online, I wasn’t sure how to answer that polite gentleman who messaged me with “Hey Hun, Wanna hang? I’m hung.”
After receiving roughly 2,000 similar messages, the proper course of action was clear – no response is the best response. But it’s not just the online sex trolls who teach you to set boundaries. You also learn to trust your gut and block that seemingly “normal” person you’ve been messaging when they suddenly turn creepy or angry or get far too clingy far too fast.
2. You figure out what you want
At the beginning of the year, I was messaging men simply because they looked good and seemed interesting. Meeting multiple men who clearly weren’t right for me taught me to be much more strategic in my search. By the end of the year, I had a list of 10 must-have qualities and was only responding to those whose profiles indicated they would meet at least half of them. I‘m now meeting fewer people overall but with much better results. Those I do meet I typically want to see again.
3. You figure out what you bring to the table
The process of writing a profile is really an exercise in self-examination. What are your values? What is your life like? What makes you happy? And most importantly, why would someone who has the qualities you are looking for want to be with you? Before you can find the one, you’ve got to be the one. Writing a profile is a good check-in to see how you’re doing on that process.
4. You get to test the dating expert’s advice
According to Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, women in their 30s and 40s often sabotage themselves by paying too much attention to external attributes such as looks and income and not enough to the internal qualities that matter in the long-term.
After reading her book, I decided to put all superficiality aside and see if I could be attracted to someone purely for their personality. During this phase, I dated obese men, short men, men with questionable fashion sense, and some otherwise great guys who I’ll be honest, I really didn’t want to kiss let alone look at.
What did I learn? For me, looks matter. He doesn’t have to be Channing Tatum, but I do have to like his face and body. As someone who looks after her own face and body, I think this is only fair.
5. You learn how to say no, nicely
Ghosting is common online. You have a great dialogue with someone and then they simply disappear or you have one or two incredible dates and then messages never get returned. What I’ve learned this year is that men appreciate honesty upfront.
Why waste his time, pretending there is something there when there isn’t? You are not responsible for other people’s feelings and most people are way more resilient than some women make them out to be. Whether it’s before or after a date, a simple “I don’t think we’d be a good match” goes a long way.
6. You get to see parts of your city you might not have otherwise
In 2015, I went to art galleries and winter fairs and Broadway shows and roughly 20 restaurants I’d never tried. Thanks to one date, I now know the best party bar for a girl’s night out. Thanks to another, I can impress a future date with a fantastic yet little-known ice cream parlour.
I’m fortunate to live in Toronto, a large city where there is always something to do. For this reason, I don’t do coffee dates. Even if the person doesn’t pan out, the surroundings can make a date worthwhile on their own.
7. You get to practice being the best person you can be
Want to overcome shyness? Learn how make people feel more relaxed in your presence or be more charismatic? Online dating is the perfect Petrie dish to experiment with new and improved ways of being.
After all, no one you are meeting knows anything about you other than what’s in your photos and profile.
This year, I unpacked a lot of baggage from previous relationships and acknowledged my role in their demise. It sounds hokey but meeting people online has given me the opportunity to make better choices, try out more self-honouring behaviours and, ultimately, become a better person.
“Every person who is a no is a step closer to a yes.”
I may or may not meet the next love of my life on the Internet, but I do know one thing – surfing those online waves has sure put me in better shape to take that plunge when I do.