"The Internet is introverted
dater's best friend," declares Doug, who met his new bride online
Except some introverts are skeptical.
"I guess I lump the promises of online love right along with the promises of a fortune coming from a deposed African prince…" says Chris, an introvert who met his wife long before online dating. "There's so much anonymity behind a computer, and while that's a great tool for me when I want to limit my interactions with people, it seems counterintuitive towards starting an intimate relationship."
Well, yes. It does seem that way. But is it really? We probably all know people who made a serious connection--perhaps even met their spouse--through the Internet, either on an online dating site, or on Facebook, or through other online communities.
"My current girlfriend and I are both authors so we ended up following each other on Twitter, then graduated to emails, then to phone calls, then to meeting in person," says Don, another introvert. "It's what I'm most comfortable with."
There's a lot to be said for the combination of introverts and the Internet for making love connections. First of all, it's the only way that love might find you in your living room. You don't even have to leave the house (at first). Second, introverts tend to be comfortable with, and good at, expressing ourselves in writing. Third, communicating online first, before meeting, can be an easy way through all the awkward preliminary chitchat. (Doug and his now-wife learned even more about each other reading each other's blogs.)
Of course, like anything else, there are ways and ways to go about online dating. So let's talk a little about using online dating sites like Match or eHarmony.
For one thing, it helps to know what you're looking for. That's not to say you want a stringent and inflexible list of must-haves, but go into it with at least a rough idea so that you're not succumbing to what online dating coach Kimberly Dawn Neumann calls "supermarket syndrome"—filling your cart with everyone who seems even slightly plausible, until you become overwhelmed. And stipulate for yourself a certain number of hours a week that you will spend on reviewing profiles and responding to emails, so that it doesn't become yet another job on your to-do list.
You want to make sure your profile accurately represents you. No lying! Maybe, maybe you can fudge your age a little bit to turn up in a different search bracket, Kimberly says, but you have to 'fess up in the first email. You can tell yourself the other person will get over your lie once they get to know the wonderfulness that is you, but they won't. Mostly they'll start off not trusting you right off the bat.
And be sure to feature some of your charming idiosyncrasies in your profile—your unusual hobbies and particular passions. Yeah, yeah, romantic dinners and travel. Who doesn't like those things? But you don't want to blend into the crowd, so be sure to mention your pet ferret or competitive fencing medals or lifelong desire to walk across Siberia. Rebecca, an introvert who met her introverted husband online, was drawn again and again to his profile photo of himself hugging a horse. An animal lover herself, she recognized a kindred spirit. She also liked that he was articulate, witty, could spell, and paid attention to what she said in her emails, all indicating he was the kind of man she had in mind.
You can be upfront with your introversion—if the more isn't the merrier for you, you might as well say so. At the same time, you probably shouldn't be responding to people whose profiles are full of party pics. Some introverts are particularly attracted to extroverts and that's fine, but if partying is such a big part of a person's life that they use it to represent themselves, then the prognosis for an introvert's relationship with that person is not good.
And a particular caveat for introverts: If you think you're starting to click with someone, don't let the emailing drag on and on, no matter how much you enjoy it. "The danger here is that you create this online relationship that starts to get too intimate before you’ve ever met in person," Kimberly says. "What happens if you do all this sharing and then the in-person chemistry isn’t there when you are finally in front of each other?" This is a recipe for hurt feelings and disappointment, and it might make it harder to cut your losses and move on.
And, finally, be patient. “Try not to get discouraged," says Elizabeth, who met her girlfriend of three years online. "I think we have a tendency to get our hopes up that the first person we meet will be ‘the one.’ It can be a real emotional letdown when that doesn't happen, and there's a good chance that it won't. You might have to meet a dozen or more people before you would even consider a second date with someone.”
Which is not to say you'll meet a lot of people you won't like at all—Elizabeth made a bunch of new friends during her online dating adventures. And that's how you want to approach it: As an adventure. And it's not, as one introvert suggested to me, a sign of desperation. Desperation is sitting at home bemoaning your solitary state. Getting online and seeing who's out there is determination.
I hope you have my book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. You don't? Well, what are you waiting for?
Also, c'mon and join me and a bunch of other introverts on Facebook, K?
Photo by Don Hankins via Flickr (Creative Commons).