Dating can be confusing, whether you’re working on finishing high school or working at an office. Whatever your age, you might find yourself in a world of hookups and hangouts, wondering what your place is and how to stay true to your values in the midst of it all.
Online dating can be a wonderful way to meet new people who are outside your networks, or even those you may not have noticed inside your friend groups. While many might warn you away from online dating, I believe it’s a fixture in the dating world that will dictate more and more how we connect with potential boyfriends.
Here are five ways to navigate online dating without getting lost.
- Be yourself. The temptation to “manage” your personal brand will undoubtedly grow when a date is on the line. Examine your motivations before downloading an app or opening an account. If you find yourself changing your personality or story when you’re online, seek out help from friends or a pastor to get to the root of that desire. Even subtle tweaks, like fudging on your height or saying you’re easygoing when you really like to plan, can make it hard to be honest when moving into a relationship. Don’t deceive yourself or others. You want someone who wants to get to know you—the real you.
- Keep your standards, manage your expectations. You know what you’re looking for in a boyfriend. You know you have a list. Now take that list, and pretend that you can only pick three to five qualities on it. Narrow it down to the most important ones, the ones that are closest to your heart and who you are. This is your real list. If you hold true to your priorities and stay open to the other things, you might surprise yourself with all the great guys you find. If this makes you nervous, you can steal my online dating mantra: “People are worth knowing.”
- Use your connections. Many apps use your Facebook friends to make connections you may not have made on your own. You’re selective about your friends, so let them “help” select your dates. Many of your friends have faith backgrounds, values, interests and goals that are similar to yours. Their friends probably have these things in common as well. When using an app that introduces you to friends of friends, check out how you’re connected. If it’s a good connection, he will probably be a good prospect.
- Take a break. Online dating can take a lot out of you! The vulnerability required for multiple first dates or just the idea of fishing for possibilities would wear anyone out after a while. Whether you use a free or paid service, don’t be afraid to take a break when you need one to focus on hanging out with friends and enjoying the single life.
- Stay open to meeting someone IRL (in real life). Though so many of us rely on dating apps to meet new guys, you never know who might be hanging out in your favorite coffee shop or signing up for your intramural team. While it may be tempting to hide behind your screen, get out in the world and do something you love. Be brave. Smile at that cutie with the awkward dance moves at your favorite band’s show.
Psalm 51:6 says of God, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (ESV). God delights in giving you the wisdom you need to walk with him. With online dating and relationships, trust your values, trust your heart and ultimately trust God with the process.