Online dating has opened a new world of opportunities for those seeking intimate relationships. ALLAN OLINGO advises on how to look before you leap into ‘virtual’ love
Statistics show that millions of people advertise themselves online in an attempt to make dating easier and have it fit into every day life. Facebook and other online dating sites are now connecting people worldwide.
Online dating is easy because people can do it during their free time and because there are no limitations of distance and proximity. And many people have found satisfying, long lasting love through online dating.
Jane Kenda, a journalist, met her husband through the social site Facebook and she reckons that online dating works depening on the individuals’ intentions.
“I was confident about him because we shared common friends and from the conversations I had with the mutual friends, I knew he was a great guy,” she says.
Jane adds that after months of chatting online and developing some virtual intimacy, the first first date was rather tense as she had to meet him and engage with him. Mercifully, her expectations were not thwarted.
“I realised that whatever he had shared with me online was true and from the extensive background checks I had done, I was satisfied with his honesty and I am now happily married to him,” she adds.
Jane however advises people to be wary when dating online as this platform is more prone to abuse and misuse by dishonest people who have ulterior motives.
“It’s advisable not to stay exclusively online too long. Meet your date in person and in public sooner than later. This way, you can gauge what kind of person he or she is in a safe environment,” she says.
Dr Gidraph Wairire, a sociologist, notes that many people feel more confident talking online than they do in person and using the internet as an ice breaker can be just the thing to kick off your dating life.
“It’s the easiest, most comfortable way to find someone with whom you can work out a relationship. By getting to know people well, before you meet them, you have a chance to weed out those whose interests and lifestyles are not compatible with yours,” he observes.
Many people are reaching for the computer in search of love because because of a number of factors. There is no rejection to deal with, and you can dictate the pace of the friendship.
“Rather than wasting time trying to get to know someone and then knowing that she isn’t your type, it is better to take the help of the online matchmaking sites which will gladly do the work for you,” Dr Wairire adds.
According to Wycliff Sakaja, an administrator of an online dating and matchmaking site www.datingkenya.com, precise and instant matchmaking is one of the advantages that a dating agency offers.
“Dating online is free on most dating sites and so the individual sieves through the available matches, narrowing down to their particular choice,” he notes.
But for a premium rate, Wycliff says, the matchmaking agency does the selection for their clients.
“This allows you to find the people who most closely match your criteria and whose criteria you match, so as to maximise your chances of ending up together,” he adds.
So what could be the advantage of online matchmaking as compared to the normal face-to-face dating?
Tabitha Murungi, the director of the Hearts of Gold, a matchmaking agency and Dr Love online magazine, notes that online matching transcends physical, social and ideological barriers, which interfere with conventional dating where people have to be physically together.
Agency monitors chats
“We take down potential candidates’ strengths, weaknesses, hobbies and interests as well as their aspirations and match these to other candidates’ precise lists of preferred mates. The waiting creates a lot of excitement and anticipation as meeting the person is usually the climax for our clients,” she adds.
The vetting process, for ‘Aunt Tabby’s’ dating site, includes monitoring the initial chats and having to give the go ahead for exchanging personal contact details and face-to-face meetings.
Says she: “Initially, people who we match can only chat on our site, and I monitor the level of honesty because I already have their profiles.”
Dr Wairire on the other hand notes that the risks of online dating are greater than those of conventional dating methods because you could easily relate with a fictitious character who claims to have great qualities but is only trying to sell himself or herself.
“Relationships take time to grow and must stand the test of time. They require connection and real heart to heart conversations. As human beings we cannot substitute the social structures that support friendships,” he advises.
Sheila Wachira, a relationship counsellor, agrees. She warns that the online dating platform creates super lovers with no flaws, as every one is tempted to paint a fake perfect picture of themselves.
“Missing the opportunity to embrace real and authentic friendships that happen in normal dating scene could be the greatest disadvantage of relying on the online matchmaking,” she adds.
Conflicts, which when properly resolved make relationships better, are often altogether avoided in online relationships. You do not get to see your partner’s frowning face when he is annoyed or hear the choking in his voice when he is nervous.
“Positive criticism and confrontation that happens in the normal dating cycle makes you grow as person, helping you become better at handling relationships and understanding yourself,” Sheila points out.
The big question then is, if traditional matchmaking which used to be conducted by the family produced lasting marriages, why is it’s contemporary online counterpart more prone to flopping?
Wachira notes that the traditional matchmaking took place within established social structures and the matchmaker had good knowledge of the partners’ family background, strengths, weaknesses, dreams, needs and temperament.
“The matchmaking then was not done for fun or to pass time, but as an opportunity to create a stable society by endorsing every new family with affirmation, support and accountability,” she adds.
There is divided opinion on the success of these online relationships, with some feeling that online matchmaking works and has given many people a second chance in life and love and others while others holding the contrary opinion.
People who have been hurt and wounded by past relationships find it easier to browse for a partner online, to avoid the initial emotional investment that face-to-face dating requires.
But when dating online, you should put more emphasis on the practical life than on passion or emotion. That way, you ground the relationship faster and see each other’s true colours.