Risks and rewards of online dating

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DECATUR, Ill, (WAND) - Finding your soulmate, it's something many of us have desired from the time we were kids, but the way we find our soulmate has changed with technology.

"I always hear these stories or even like my parents they met in cooking class and stuff'," says Jason Messina a Millikin student and non-online dater.

While meeting someone in person is one way to meet a significant other, for millions of Americans online dating has become the new normal.

"As soon as I matched, I started talking to him we had good connection,” says Lena Rotramel who met her boyfriend on the popular dating app Tinder. “We probably talked for like a month before we even met.  Which was nice, because I didn’t have that fear of meeting some random crazy person. It was cool because I knew what I was looking for and he did to."

While some people might prefer online dating, some say it could have negative psychological affects. 

"It's not just meeting people and going out. It's developing quite an intimate relationship that’s online that never goes beyond that,” says Dr. Leroy Hall a licensed clinical psychologist. “There is this sense of intimacy that develops online and for some people that satisfies that need.”

However, those relationships can sometimes be untruthful.

"People online are on there because they are looking for a relationship and they are vulnerable,” says Dr. Hall. “There are people out there that play into those vulnerabilities."

Those who prey on those vulnerabilities create a downside to online dating.

"One of the cases I really think about that has really stayed is where someone gets involved in a relationship online, only to find out the person that they are having this relationship with is not what they seemed,” added Dr. Hall.

According to the Pew Research Center, use of online dating sites and mobile apps by young adults has tripled since 2013. However, several young adults still prefer to do things the old fashion way.

"You get a better sense of a connection when you are in person than when you are on an online profile picture and just reading about the person," say Haylie Lading a Millikin student who has not used online dating.

"Online dating kind of feels like skipping a bunch of phases. If you're not supposed to meet that person maybe you’re not supposed to meet that person,” added Jason.

"I feel like it's not as healthy of a start to a relationship. I think it’s healthier if you would just meet someone in person and go from there," says Briley Housch who also has not used online dating.

However, research says whether online or in person, both can lead to healthy relationships.

"There is always the question of, ’is this a superior way to date?’ The literature seems to say no,” added Dr. Hall.  “It's not superior, but it's not inferior either."

While online dating may not be everyone’s preference, be sure you are using a creditable online dating site if you decide to date online.

"Find one that is reputable that seems to fit who you are it terms of your approach,” says Dr. Hall. "There are the secular ones, and there are Christian ones, So, just be sure you find one that fits your values, as well as one that is reputable."

Many wonder if online dating has made finding a relationship hard, but that's not necessarily the case.

"I don't think it's made it any harder I think it's just added another dimension,” added Dr. Hall.

But, finding the right dating service for you can sometimes be more beneficial then a face to face interaction.

“It gives the opportunity to weed out some of those negative or less then good fits to find somebody that fits you,” added Dr. Hall. “I encourage people if online is where you are going to be comfortable then go ahead and do it.”

So, while online dating can affect mental health it's no different than any other day to day interaction.

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