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When much of the world started living under lockdown just a few weeks ago, I wondered what this would mean for people’s dating lives…
Surprisingly, as people have started to settle into quarantine, the latest stats have come out suggesting the online dating world is absolutely flourishing. Many dating apps and websites are reporting a massive increase of new user profiles along with record highs in online engagement. There’s also been a rapid rise in in-app phone calls and videos.
This last point in particular got me excited. Why? Because finally we’re bringing more of the human factor into online dating!
Let me explain…
Online dating has always had its pitfalls and challenges. Part of the problem is that creating an online dating profile requires us to reduce our beautiful, complex three-dimensional self into a glorified two-dimensional representation.In this process, we tend to relate to each other very differently than in ‘real life.’ Connecting in this way makes it easier for people to cancel plans, ignore messages and send dismissive, rude and offensive texts. After all, you’re no longer speaking to a real person – just a digital representation.
Our behaviour has been starkly different from dating in Brisbane bars to online. On top of that, online dating has provided us with the illusion of endless choice and possibilities. In reality, this has often led people to leapfrog from profile to profile and from date to date without really building a strong emotional connection – something that is integral to a long-term relationship.
Within this dating culture, there is also a tendency to prioritise exploring a physical/sexual connection before diving too deep into a personality connection – which is all well and good if hooking up is all you are looking for. But it can also be misleading as it creates the illusion that we are closer to someone than we actually are. In other words, physical intimacy is no substitute for emotional intimacy. But now that physical dating is off the table for the time being, we have a great opportunity to conduct our own ‘Love is Blind’ experiment (à la Netflix) and explore our emotional compatibility with a new person well before getting physical.
Something that I have always encouraged my clients to do when dating online is to have a phone call before meeting someone in the flesh. Often this was met with a little resistance… ‘Won’t I seem weird in asking to talk on the phone? What if they have telephonophobia?’
Well here’s the good news, it’s not so weird anymore!
Not only are voice and video calls becoming the new normal with online dating, it’s the necessary ‘next step’ to dating in these times. And it certainly has its advantages…
As we bring more of our actual voice back into the early dating process we are provided with a shortcut to connection. You could spend days messaging back and forth and still not reach the level of connection that you can create in a fifteen-minute phone call. After all, so much critical contextual information is lost in textual communication.
We learn so much about a person from their tone of voice, vocabulary, cadence, and ability to converse in the moment. Not to mention how much easier it is to convey warmth, humour and empathy – the attractive qualities that so often get lost in text. All in all, online dating apps can be a good way to meet someone new, but until we actually talk and meet (virtually or not) it’s very difficult to gauge the most important aspects of a romantic connection, and very easy to become overexcited and blinded by our own fantasy.
Here’s the pitfall: when we’re just going off photos and a few flirty texts, we often tend to ‘project’ our hopes onto a newfound potential date. The less ‘real’ information we have about them, the more we can project onto their empty canvas. Speaking on the phone, (or even better having a video chat) colours their canvas much more effectively. This leaves us with less empty space to fill with our misleading paintbrush of hope and will save us time in the long run as we get to see a less contrived version of a person before falling for the fantasy.And if the phone call goes well, next you can try a video call. 😉
If you’re still cringing at the thought of suggesting a phone call with a stranger, allow me to make the transition easier for you:
We can be flirty about this – after exchanging a couple of messages online we might say… “You seem fun, I wonder what your voice sounds like… Up for a phone call?”Or we can be more direct: “I find the messaging side of these apps gets old pretty fast, would you be up for having a chat on the phone sometime?”
Another tip: keep your first call relatively short and sweet – anywhere between 5-15 minutes. No matter how well you click on that first call, it’s always good to save a little for later.
Learn More: Dos & Don’ts for Digital First Dates
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Co-author of 'How to Make the Biggest Decision of Your Life' and online dating, attraction & relationship coach committed to helping you attract a healthy, sustainable and passionate relationship.