Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ZMG's Guide to Online Dating

I've never been big on the bar scenes and I'm not huge on chance encounters, so I find myself applying to online dating services a lot. I find there is a lot more potential in these sites as it removes the physical aspect and gets down to what is really going to make the difference in a long term relationship: communication. Granted, the physical is important, but only so much so that you dont have to hold back last night's dinner every time you wake up next to this person.

Communication is essential in any relationship. You need to be able to express yourself effectively and efficiently in a variety of ways. This includes visual and vocal, verbal and non-verbal, physical, emotional, and yes, even sexual communication. In a way, sexual communication is just as important as expressing yourself physically or emotionally as it is a crossroads of the physical and the emotional. Communication also means listening effectively as well. In order to listen effectively, you need to incorporate all of your senses: hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. Most importantly of all, when its time to listen, STFU and pay attention! If you care about the person you are communicating with, you will pay attention. Otherwise you are just wasting the individual's time and energy.

The nice thing about online relationships is that, since the physical is not as big a part of it, it is much easier to form an intellectual and emotional bond with the other individual. The problems lie completely within the anonymity of the medium in which you are communicating within. I'm not talking about the possiblity that the person you are talking to on the other side of the computer screen may be a serial killer. Personally, I feel if you are going to be worried about that on a regular basis, then you need to get offline because you are never going to meet anyone you meet online and you are just wasting people's time. I am talking about the fact that anonymity removes inhibition and you are more likely going to be yourself online. If you are dishonest, you are going to lie about your physical attributes. If you are honest, any relationship-based fights are going to be more intense and more likely to end in heartbreak. If you are inarticulate or lacking in the communication department, you are going to have problems understanding what people are telling you and they will have problems understanding you. If you are shallow, greedy, ignorant or rude, it will become apparent to everyone around you. Every ugly part of your personality will shine through whether you want to admit it exists or not.

So what can you do about it? The best thing you can do when confronted with your own inner ugliness is to face it, overcome it, learn from it and try to be a better person. Otherwise, you're just going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again and you will never find happiness. No one wants to be with someone who is ugly on the inside, no matter how cute they may appear on the outside.

So what if you aren't ugly on the inside and you dont want to deal with people who are ugly on the inside. How can you protect yourself? Well, all you can do is be careful, be honest and learn from past experiences. But for those of you who aren't as experienced as I am, allow me to list a few of the red flags I've accumulated over the years...
  • Old photos, no photos, limited physical description on the profile: As I said before, the physical is only so important just so that you don't have to hold your dinner back when you wake up next to them. But the physical is important and everyone has the right to be attracted to that which they are attracted to. People withholding this information are usually insecure about what they look like and so should you. I assume fat until proven fit.
  • Photos with obvious multiple persons cropped out with no explanation in the title: This is more of a cautionary flag, but it could mean they are stepping out on a significant other.
  • Number of kids matched with no income: Husband just walked out and has no other means to support themselves other than to latch onto some online sucker.
  • Looking for a generous person: This person either has no income or they think they entitled to a higher class of living and expects you to provide it.
  • Describes self as a Realist: This is just an all-purpose excuse for people to exhibit anti-social behavior and be rude.
  • Pornographic photos: The person on the other end is usually a spam artist looking for email addresses.
  • From Russia, Ghana or Nigeria: Various scam artists. Don't even bother. They have seperate agencies for mail-order brides. But, even then you need to be watchful.
  • Married, looking for discretion without explanation or lists unidentified marital status in profile: I've played the third wheel before. Very emotionally unfulfilling. Not recommended. Plus trust will always be a worry.
  • One word answers to questions: Usually means the person has a hard time expressing themselves because they don't know who they are yet.
  • Too much "l33t" speak and "2" many internet shortcuts: Indicates intellectual laziness and immaturity.
  • "My god comes first" or seeking a god-fearing individual: A jesus-freak. Can not understand why their last relationships don't think going to church or praying for hours on end isn't considered a good time. Needs one of these badly.

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