Navigating online dating as a millenial: What I learned

So three years ago I met this quite sane man online and one thing led to another and we ended up getting married sometime early this year.

Yeah, it’s still surreal.

-Oh, how did you guys meet?

-The same way I met my potted terrarium – online!

But you know what? Dating online was one hell of a journey, and I ended up learning more about social cues as well as my very own self than I’d ever imagined.

Let me break it down for you.

As normal as pepperoni on your thin crust

The practical part of my brain screamed RAINCHECK when I was asked out by a guy  I met online after a couple of days of intense conversation. But I sat on that pesky voice till it retreated to a corner, beaten, resigned, but still shooting dark looks.

Enough, brain!

I almost chewed through the inside of my lower lip and rationalized. That evening, I picked out a killer dress for my first ever online date and a pepper spray.

I couldn’t deny it though – what did I really know about him, except he’s a rabid Breaking Bad fan and probably watched too much football.

But then, what would I really know about him if I say, met him at a bar instead of online? Probably that he’s a rabid Breaking Bad fan and watched too much football.

The next Friday evening I simply walked into Mordor sans Sam and Pippin. Mordor in this case was a vibrant microbrewery in the happening part of Bangalore. But you know what? The evening hummed along nicely – there were no awkward pauses, we laughed often, and the house-brewed beer was fantastic.

So that was it. My first date with a guy I met online. Regular stuff. Drinks. Some pool. Discovering we had a couple of friends in common. No do you like knives kinda rhetoric.

Serial dating is inversely proportional to dating success

Spurred by my good experience, I jumped in with both feet. I was exhilarated and I did meet a lot of amazing people. But I also realized that while dating was fun, it shouldn’t be the only thing in my life.

Online dating can be addictive: kinda like dipping into a bag of every flavor beans. And soon I realized quantity couldn’t make up for the quality, specifically, the quality of connection I was willing to have with someone.

Basically, my goal changed over time when I failed to have any genuine connection with the people I was meeting. I didn’t give them the time to get to know me nor did I invest in getting to know them.

Essentially, it all boils down to what you define as dating success. For me, after breaking out of my introvert shell, meeting people and having a good time was the definition of dating success. However, over the years this evolved into finding someone who detested small talk as much as I did and didn’t mind spending a Saturday night in occasionally.

But either way, meeting more people as frequently as possibly doesn’t mean you can build a connection of any kind.  

Transition time isn’t a myth

This threw me off at first, but all it takes is a little patience to strike a balance.

I met this amazing guy online and we couldn’t stop talking about how much we had in common. Over the next two weeks he recommended a couple of books, which I ended up loving and we decided to meet up for coffee and some more book discussion.

With feels all over the place, we braved the Mumbai monsoons and ended up in a cafe in Bandra.

And then crickets.

Some nervous smiles over the rim of our coffee mugs. Some wayward concern about the weather. Some choice expletives about the traffic in Khar subway.

It took him about an hour to get comfortable, and he did admit it was the first time he was on a date with someone he met online. But once he got into his element, there was no stopping the conversation that flowed over coffee, pav, and chorizo.

Rejection is way too common – don’t dwell on it

Look, it’s not you okay? I had to dig this out from the bottom of many ice cream bowls and deduce it from this very common phenomenon called no new texts from your match, sucka (no matter how much you’re urging them to get back to you Dr. Xavier style).

Let it dawn on you. They’re just not into you.

And that’s fine.

You may also meet someone you’re not digging. How do you plan to handle that?

If it’s exhausting in the beginning, it’s not worth it

Once upon a time, I matched with this bronze God. His profile seemed impressive. Articulate and funny. As a confident, independent woman (*insert sniggers*) I kept reassuring myself that there was very little chance of this blowing up in my face.

So we did meet up. Briefly.

Turns out his idea of a conversation was chewing on a thesaurus and throwing up sphinx-like riddles.

It all comes down to this: if communication feels like a chore, it’s best to nip it in the bud.

That gut feeling? Don’t ignore it

Instinct is a huge part of how we’ve evolved as a species. Instinct (and distinct red flags) is how I knew bronze God and shy coffee shop guy were not for the long haul.

The thing is, all things added up to something less stressful and more enjoyable when I first met my husband online. He wasn’t afraid to text first, be silly, or give me my space without starving me.

Over thinking kills the fun

For whatever reason you’ve ventured to find a mate online, over thinking makes you come across as, pardon my French, not right in the head.

I know it’s excruciating to wait for someone to show the same level of interest – I’ve been there far too many times. Sent rushed awkward texts that were tell-tale signs of me putting my life on hold for them. Forked myself into a bad mood over a fictional narrative in my head when everything in fact was going great.

Seriously, don’t do this. None of these associations made me particularly happy or feel good about myself.

Don’t cut cords with your other matches

Can’t stress this enough: Always have a Plan B when you’re dating online, or in fact, dating in general. Consider this a smart way to deal with rejection as well as to you figure out the level of involvement your busy life will allow you to have with your matches.

Nobody’s perfect – have a good time any way

Too many of us have this flawed idea of perfection, me included. Unless you’re brewing up your date in a test tube, there’ll always be human factors that make them a little more or a little less than what you conjured up in your head.

A rule of thumb for dating happily is to make sure the pros outweigh the cons and to keep in mind that there will be some cons no matter what.

Here’s the rub: if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.

Make sure you’re on the same page

This is probably the most basic thing that leads to all heartbreaks. If you want to date casually, tell them. If you’re looking for something long term, communicate that.

And when your date communicates their expectations, listen. It never works out if you think you can wing it and change their mind.

Are you having a good time? Roll with it

A significant thing about online dating is how normalized it has become as the lines continue to blur between our online and offline lives. Essentially, it’s just yet another way you get to meet people who’re possibly looking for the same thing as you (and somehow they’re there to be approached at your finger tips). So with this in mind, after the initial hiccups and jitters, the pursuit of a good time and good company had me dipping my toes in online dating from time to time.

All things considered, don’t put your life on hold, don’t over think it, and you’ll be just fine.

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