Dating has changed a lot since your parents were “going steady” or “dating”. It’s hard to even know what dating is these days. Usually, it is blurred somewhere between “hanging out” and “going out” and has something to do with liking someone and making out with them. So it gets even more complicated when you throw a computer into the mix.
The questions I usually hear people ask about online dating are: “Does it work?” and “Is it safe?”
And while these are very good questions, when talking about online dating, it is not as easy as answering a simple question. There are many things to consider when you are thinking about going out with someone online. Just like there are many things to consider when you are thinking about going out with someone in person. It’s just that you are usually considering a few different things. And it is all very individual.
Some questions you might want to consider asking yourself (and probably are if you are considering dating someone online) are:
How well do I know this person?
How does this online dating work exactly?
Will we ever get to meet?
What would my parents think about this?
What would my friends think about this?
There are good things and bad things about all five of these questions. Here are a few things to think about:
1. How well do I know this person? Have you talked to them on the phone? Have you seen only pictures of them online? Have you seen cam footage? These are important things to think about to make sure this person is real. Unfortunately, there are sickos out there who work really hard to seem like someone they aren’t just to lure you in and hurt you – even just emotionally. So do everything you can to make sure this is a real person. Also, how long have you talked to them? Knowing someone online for just a week can seem like you have known them for way longer because people tend to disclose things about themselves and become very personal very quickly online. Make sure you have known this person for a long enough time to even have dating make sense.
2. How does this online dating work exactly? Good question. And it depends on how you met this person. If you already knew them from in-person, then you both can decide if you want to email, meet in a chat room at the certain time, or just text and IM each other or a combination. If you met them online, you will probably keep in touch via the way you met. If you met via facebook or myspace, you will probably talk through there and perhaps IM. Often people make online “dates” to meet at the certain time. The important thing to note is that talking online can take up way more time that you think it is taking up. Because you are typing and having such a good time, you can lose a lot of evenings and I have known kids who have fallen behind and gotten bad grades because of it. So make sure you budget your “dating” time wisely.
3. Will we ever meet? This depends on a lot of things. The most important is how close the other person lives to you. If you are in California and the other person is in New York, it would be very tricky to meet and would have to be planned well and with much help and support from all the parents involved parents. Often, you may not meet in person and you have to decide if that is okay with you. If you live closer, you might want to meet in person but the important thing to pay attention to here is to BE SAFE. Even though you feel like you have lived a thousand lifetimes with this person and are closer to him or her than your own parents, you are still meeting someone you have never met before and you never know what could happen. Make sure your parents know about it – never do this in secret and make sure it is in a very public place like a restaurant or a library. And don’t go off alone with them until you know them much better in person. Better yet, have a friend or relative go with you. Always remember, safety safety safety.
4. What would my parents think about this? This can be touchy. Often parents are very wary about online dating because they care about you and are concerned for your safety because of all the bad things that have happened around it and continue to happen around it. The best thing is to try and talk to them about how you are being safe and thoughtful about it and listen to their concerns. They may think of things that you haven’t.
5. What would my friends think about this? This depends on your friends. Some kids have friends who are totally okay with this and even like to meet the other person online, too. Sometimes kids’ friends aren’t so supportive and this can be tough. There have been kids who have lost friends because of online relationships and this can make you feel very alone since the person you are going out with is online and your friends have abandoned you. So, feel them out and try to explain things to them like you explained with your parents. In the end, though, it seems to be best to make sure you have all the support you can get because dating someone online can be tough and having friends and family around you will help you feel cared about.