Have Online Options Really Changed Dating?

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If you’re considering entering the dating world as a mature adult, you may hear confusing opinions from friends and family members, especially concerning online dating.

Your children may tell you that dating has changed dramatically, and you will not understand the new dynamics and ins and outs. Your friends may give you names of individuals to meet; others may give you names of online dating sites. And some family and friends will discourage you and say that you will never understand the new world of dating since you are not computer savvy.

It is hard to know what to do when there are so many opinions related to dating and how to meet potential dates.

It is helpful to consider others’ advice when moving forward in your dating process, especially when younger people tell you that dating has changed. That thought is worth exploring because a new component of dating is online sites — and there are online sites that cater exclusively to seniors.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 6 percent of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had used an online dating website or app. The demographics are scarce related to the population over 65, although a 2016 article in The Washington Post stated that 1 percent of that segment is engaged in online dating.

Online dating can be scary for seniors since this is not their accustomed way of dating. Sitting in front of a computer screen and looking at eligible singles’ pictures is definitely different than going on a blind date scheduled by a close friend or relative.

Seniors may worry about the use of technology and think that dating has changed too much for them to use this avenue to meet others. A helpful way to look at online dating is that technology is just an additional way to meet prospective dates.

A senior has the advantage of bringing life experiences and world knowledge to the dating process. It is helpful to be honest when letting a new person know about your hobbies, family obligations, interests in travel, pets, etc., so that you can start with realistic expectations.

If you do arrange an in-person meeting with someone you meet online, make sure the first meeting is in a public place.

It is always important to consider safety when engaging in online dating. Consider meeting in a familiar place, and notify a friend or family member. This really isn’t any different than when you went on a blind date years ago.

Don’t let the date pick you up, even if friends tell you that you know the person from extensive online information, texting, FaceTime and/or Skyping. You know from your years of experience that you really don’t know an individual for a long time. Always bring along your cellphone, and have a friend call you during the date just to make sure all is going well.

With anyone you meet online, there is always the possibility they may not be who they claim to be. Trust your instincts.

There are positive reasons to use technology for dating: It is a way to learn about the other person.

Some individuals feel that online dating permits them to date at their own pace and spend more time communicating with the person before meeting them. You can join blogs where you share interests related to hobbies or areas of study or work. Joining reunion sites for your high school and college may also be a good way to reacquaint with old friends.

At the same time, there is nothing wrong with not using technology when you want to start the dating process. You can still meet people at common places of interest, book clubs, golfing, card or charity functions, lectures, or blind dates.

Technology is a useful tool when used appropriately and when the individual is comfortable. It is also a way to meet others when you choose to use your computer, tablet, mobile phone or dating app to assist the process.

But it is not a sign of weakness or a lack of intelligence on your part if this is not your chosen way to approach dating.

Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D, is a psychologist at Abramson Center.