As a dating and love coach, I hear a lot of complaints about online dating. Single women and men alike complain about how many people they find online who lie about their age or their height or their weight or their hobbies (and/or more!). Or they find that people seem singularly interested in playing the field, irresponsibly handling communication and treating online dating like a supermarket for casual hookups. There are also, of course, the old-fashioned date complaints — that people turn out to be boring or arrogant or jaded.
Trust me, I used to join in this tirade. It felt good to bond over the trials and tribulations of what it was like to size someone up "IRL" (in real life) after the initial round of Google searches, mutual friend interrogations and innocent Facebook "stalking."
For that reason, when my clients today want to list their complaints about this modern way of meeting potential mates, I nod my head and tell them they're absolutely right.
Most of them look at me, shocked, as if they had expected me, a relationship coach living in 2015, to defend online dating as a practical and exciting way to meet someone.
Well, they are also right to be shocked, as I do indeed believe that modern technology has allowed us to speed up the process of meeting people, exposing us to people and communities we may not have found in the places we go (work, the gym, our friends' parties) in our own every day lives. But I don't tell them this deliberately.
Instead, I simply tell them they're right about however they feel because they are. But not for the reasons they think.
Here's the real reason everyone is right about online dating: our brains are wired to see patterns that prove ourselves correct. It's evolutionary, something hard-wired in each of us. If a person approaches online through a negative lens, believing everyone is out looking for noncommittal hookups, he/she will find evidence to support that, while his/her brain passes over evidence of the opposite.
Remember the last time you bought a car? Up until the point you started thinking about buying that particular model, you most likely didn't notice it on the road very often. But once your brain is made aware of its existence, and even attuned to notice details about it, you will start to see that car everywhere.
The same thing happens in our search for love, thanks to our good old pal the unconscious mind. In short, our unconscious mind is comforted by habit. That's why habits are so hard to break, even if they're "bad." None of us will deny that humans love looking for patterns, making patterns, following patterns and so on. Our ego minds want so badly to be right, such that when we experience the world, we often wear blinders to experiences that might prove us wrong. And this is not a bad thing, really. Our egos are just trying to keep us safe. But this way of believing certainly can put a damper on our lives — in love, work and otherwise.
By entering online dating from a jaded or negative space, one's experience is more likely to meet that expectation (or lack thereof). The same holds true when we actually go on dates. If we approach the date expecting the person to be boring or superficial or angry, then we will see the other person through a filter, looking for evidence to of these qualities. We create our own reality this way.
So how can we change this paradigm?
The answer's simple, but not necessarily easy. Enter the experience with an open mind and heart. Try to clear your mind of expectations and beliefs about what online dating is or is not before you try it. No, I'm not encouraging a Pollyanic, naive approach. But you can begin the process of looking for love online with a fundamental belief in place that will anchor you: you already have everything you need inside of yourself. This will allow you to remain as neutral as possible. At the same time, it will also allow the other person to show up freely as himself or herself, without the filtering effect of your judgments and assumptions.
That said, if you find your judgements bubbling up, simply to notice what your mind wants to label "bad." The beauty of being aware in this way is that you can take your power back, and no longer have to navigate dating from a negative space.
Look at this way: the online world is so much larger and more spacious than the worlds each of us inhabits each day. Appreciate that space, and realize how freeing it is. There are beautiful, open, conscious individuals everywhere, looking for love just like you are.