Swipe right: Make online dating work for you

Dating in the digital age means there are many websites and apps at your disposal, seeking to match you with “the one.” Online dating is a popular way to meet other singles based on shared traits, preferences, or interests. For Military Service Members who might find themselves in new cities or countries with little free time, online dating can be a convenient way to make local connections. With free and paid options available, finding a dating app or website that meets your needs can be relatively easy. And you can put as much time into online dating as you can manage.

Positives and pitfalls

For some, online dating can feel pretty fast-paced, which has its ups and downs. With some personal details available up-front, you can decide quickly about compatibility with a potential partner. In addition, meeting people through apps and websites often means you communicate more frequently and intimately early on compared to traditional dating. Online dating can feel even more genuine since you’re able to truly express yourself and match with like-minded people. For many, self-disclosure on the Internet also can feel safer than chatting in person. Some people feel communicating with others online is more authentic and produces closer relationships, especially those who struggle with social skills.

Still, if you move too quickly, things could backfire. The most successful online dater is one who takes time to get to know the other person, even before meeting up. Talking on the phone prior to meeting can lead to more committed relationships in the long run too.

Online profile: Put your best self forward

Online dating is often most successful when people authentically portray themselves in their profiles, where they post pictures and basic information. A good place to start is to think about how to show a genuine image of yourself. It’s normal to feel some pressure to manage the impressions others have of you through this experience. While it can be tempting to portray an ideal image of who you are, online dating will produce the best results if you’re honest and forthcoming about what you bring to the table. Your dating profile is a place to showcase your interests and those character traits you feel best describe you. Spend some time thinking about what these are and ask family or friends for feedback to confirm if your vision of yourself aligns with what the people who know you best say. Instead of focusing on what you think might attract “matches,” strive to be honest and genuine.

Think about what you really want in a partner too. Dating apps and websites position you to make choices about who you’re connected with. Consider what you’re looking for in a date or long-term partner, so you can readily spot those traits in profiles. Are you looking for a great conversationalist? Or do you want to meet someone who likes the outdoors? Which values would you want to see reflected in a potential date’s profile? Maybe it’s a love of animals or a passion for volunteer work. Perhaps your ideal match is someone with a big support system or a person who loves to read. People often choose to spend time with others who are similar to themselves, so look for these commonalities.

Military-specific considerations

It’s also important to be mindful of how you represent your military service in your online dating profile. Military Service Members are held to the same standards for using dating apps and websites as they are for their Internet and social media usage. Be professional and avoid commenting or behaving inappropriately. Keep OPSEC in mind by not posting or sharing details of your training and not geotagging your location as well.

How to spot a good match

As you begin to explore possible connections, you might notice how quickly your matches respond, how much time they spend on the site or app, and the words they use to express themselves.

Online dating requires a balance of open-mindedness and critical thinking. It’s true that some people misrepresent themselves or their intentions when dating online. Look for consistency in the information your matches share with you. Ask open-ended questions with curiosity if the person’s story doesn’t align or keeps changing. Once you start chatting on the phone, look for signs of reliability. Does he or she call as promised? Does she or he show genuine interest in you by remembering things you’ve shared and respecting your boundaries?

When you feel ready to meet in person, consider what activities you could do that might be mutually enjoyable. Brainstorm together to see what you’d both be comfortable doing. Pick an activity that has a set beginning and end time—such as meeting for coffee or lunch—to help manage any concerns about how the date will end. And think about how different schedules or distance might make it hard for you to meet up. Decide on the level of effort you’re both willing to make—and see where the journey takes you.

Resources

Ali, A. I., & Wibowo, K. (2011). Online dating services – Chronology and key features comparison with traditional dating. Competition Forum, 9(2), 481–488.

Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415–441. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00020.x

McKenna, K. Y. A., Green, A. S., & Gleason, M. E. J. (2002). Relationship formation on the internet: What's the big attraction? Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 9–31. doi:10.1111/1540-4560.00246

Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., Cummings, C., & Felt, J. (2008). The impact of emotionality and self-disclosure on online dating versus traditional dating. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 2124–2157. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2007.10.003

Walther, J. B. (1992). Interpersonal effects in computer-mediated interaction: A relational perspective. Communication Research, 19(1), 52–90. doi:10.1177/009365092019001003