In a recent post on his 4Marks Blog regarding misconceptions about online dating, my friend Brian Barcaro (co-founder of CatholicMatch.com) reminded us: “you really don’t do the dating part online.”
How true that is. Yet those who still insist on attaching a “stigma” to singles websites act as though we use web technology in lieu of phone calls, dinner dates, and in-person meetings to get to know each other. It’s truly unfortunate, and a disservice to the singles who may be contemplating going online.
Although we don’t do the “dating” part online, we certainly do the “meeting” part online. And just as every form of meeting and communication can have its hardships, virtual singles communities have their difficulties that need to be worked around as well.
Don’t get me wrong: complexities in online meetings do not make singles websites any less useful than any other form of meeting prospective dates. It’s just important to acknowledge the downsides so we can minimize them and use them to our advantage.
The Rules of Intelligence Collection
I have a good friend who’s an interrogator and Intel collector for the U.S. Government. He recently told me that when interrogators go through training, they learn that only a very small percentage off importance is placed on the actual words a suspect or hostage is speaking. He said that most of intelligence collection is done by observing the person’s mannerisms, vocal patterns, and overall demeanor. He also shared that the psychology of analyzing a person correctly is broken down in the following levels of importance:
55% = body language and eye contact.
38% = voice (especially tone, inflection, speed of talking, etc.).
7% = actual words.
Clearly, meeting a prospective date online has its disadvantages. If we meet via a Forum, Chat Room, or Email message, we only have approximately 7% of our effective means of observation available.
This lack of intelligence data is certainly not the end of the world – it’s just important to be aware of the issue, acknowledge what’s missing, and work harder to compensate for the problem.
The question for all of us who are members of a dating website is: what can we do to utilize the communication and observation means we do have to the best of our ability?
The Best Policy
Nothing is going to help us accurately get to know one another online better than honesty.
Make it a personal policy to be absolutely honest with what you write in your profile description, how you answer the interview questions, and what you say in forums and chat sessions. If you’re less than honest with your words, how do you expect things are going to go when you have a chance to meet someone in person – with the other 93% of observation techniques available to them and to you?
Let me give you some concrete examples of online honesty vs. online dishonesty that I’ve encountered in my own life:
I once noticed that a good friend of mine had written in his profile that he drinks alcohol “regularly.” Since I had never witnessed this particular friend drinking very often, I asked him about it the next time I saw him in person “Brett, people who browse your profile are going to think you drink all the time – you have a beer or two at a sports game or when our group goes out to dinner – that’s not exactly regularly!” His reply to me was “I want to make sure I’m being honest and letting women know that I like a beer a couple times a week – I didn’t want to answer “occasionally” and have them think I rarely had a drink.” Brett was obviously trying to make his profile reflect his personality and habits as accurately as possible – which is definitely commendable.
Contrast Brett’s behavior with another gentleman I met online a couple years ago. In this guy’s profile, he had written that he was single and had never been married. It was only after instant messaging with him several times and talking to him on the phone once that I found out that he had actually been married for several years, gotten a divorce, and had the marriage annulled. This news naturally shocked me, so I wrote him back “your profile says you’ve never been married??? What’s the deal?” to which he replied “well I figured a girl like you would never talk to me if I had put “annulled” on my profile, so since the Church recognizes that my marriage is null, I decided to put “never married.”
Technically…theologically…this guy may have a point. However, since his intention was to hide from myself and other interested women the full history of his relationship status, I was most definitely turned off to what I felt was a lack of honesty in his interactions with me.
If you take the risk of being honest in how you present yourself online, it is my strong conviction that fellow site users will appreciate an accurate presentation of who you are about a million times more than a sugar-coated profile written to make yourself look extra-good in the eyes of others.
After all, when the “dating” part of online dating actually begins (in person), who you really are is going to come out anyway. So choose your words carefully – make that 7% of intelligence collection through actual words really count!
Honestly, it’s worth it.
Stephanie Wood is the coordinator of NextWave Faithful, a young adult division of
Family Life Center International
that seeks to motivate, equip, and encourage young adults during
their “transition years” to live faithful lives for Jesus Christ and
His Church. She is the host of “NextWave Live” on the EWTN Global
Catholic Radio Network, and is a frequent speaker and writer on topics
relating to Catholicism and young adult life. Stephanie can be reached