Virtual Dating: The Trip from Virtual to Reality

It’s Tempting… But Not Always Successful

Researcher Dr. Jeff Gavin suggests that both men and women grow to trust Internet partners quicker than in regular dating scenarios. We’re also more likely to reveal our true self, in contrast to our actual self, which is the difference between who we really are when by ourselves, and the characters we create for various social engagements (first date self, party self, business self, etc).

The Obstacles of Virtual Dating

Virtual dating has a lot of benefits, but for those looking for an actual relationship, the road from virtual to reality often has many obstacles to overcome. One of the greatest hindrances you’ll find is that some daters are perfectly happy with leaving the relationship virtual, either by choice, adulterous marriage, or other commitment. Websites such as Second Life allow people to date and mingle through a virtual atmosphere, and while 70 percent of its members have had long term partners, only 19 percent have actually met them in person.

According to LMU professors Nora Murphy and Richard Gilbert, many of the subscribers to Second Life describe their virtual relationships as more satisfying than their real life ones. They report communicating better, having an easier time expressing themselves openly (due to the increased trust), and even more surprisingly, nearly half preferred sex with their virtual partner. How exactly these members get it on behind the screen I’ll leave to your own imagination.

Of course, not everybody on dating websites participates in these virtual dating worlds, but there is an important point to be made with the data collected. Virtual dating is much easier to succeed at than taking someone out to dinner/movie. With that said, studies show there are ways to successfully transfer these two very different experiences, to increase the chance of hitting it off in the real world. The first bit of advice that researchers would offer, is to always take your time when getting to know someone.

The Road to Success

While online relationships develop quickly, we tend to actually know very little about the person we are talking to. Studies show that we fill in the blanks with the things we don’t know, with preferred characteristics. This is one reason that when a couple meets for the first time, the sparks may not fly as anticipated. It takes time to get to know everything about a person online, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through simultaneous web chatting. Studies show that emailing back and forth does not give the full story of a person’s personality.

Another important step is talking on the phone, and most research suggests the more you do, the better your chances of hitting it off in person. In surveys, both online and offline couples claim more satisfaction in their relationships once they understood each other’s communication style. This is something that is only learned over time. Another way to create stronger bonds before the first meeting is to exchange gifts. By sending a trinket as a token of your friendship, you are creating a small commitment to the relationship, which is a good way to kick start a potential long term relationship.

The more information about yourself you include on your profile, the less number of interested parties you’ll receive. This is the bad news. The good news is, of the fewer inquiries, studies show they’ll be more compatible and more likely to lead to a long term relationship. As mentioned, we fill in the blanks with what we want to believe. For instance, let’s say you discover a love interest does not like collecting action figures in their parent’s basement the same as you. This could be a real deal breaker if this is something you’re looking for. One way to avoid such an awkward outcome, is to be up front about this interest in the first place.

Studies show over 90 percent of online relationships result in a second meeting, and of those, 20 percent will still be going two years later. Virtual dating can be an effective tool for finding a soulmate, as long as you understand the rules of engagement: When it comes to the quality of your matches, the more information on your profile the better. Take your time getting to know each other, learn their communication style, use web chats more often than e-mail, talk on the phone before meeting in person, and don’t be afraid to exchange gifts if the gesture feels right.

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