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May 20, 2024

Online Dating: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Finding someone to date or marry isn't always easy, especially if you desire a man or woman with a strong faith in God who chooses to live out their Christian life on a daily basis.

Of course, there are many different ways to find a date or a potential marriage partner. You might meet someone at work, church, or school. Or, a friend might set you up on a blind date. Then there's your meddling Aunt Macey who says (every Christmas) that she knows someone who is "perfect," but you differ greatly on what you think is ideal.

The fact is, more singles than ever are meeting, dating, and marrying through online dating or dating apps. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans used online dating services or apps in 2023.

What about you? Have you tried online dating or dating apps? Why or why not?

Let's look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the online dating world. And then you can decide if this is an avenue you want to pursue—or not.

First, the good. With online dating, you have a significantly wider pool of dating candidates. On many sites, you can specify in your search criteria if you want to meet someone locally, or if you're willing to meet others in your country or internationally. Some sites are even free to join.

Plus, I can name at least four friends who have met their spouses—all strong Christian believers—on dating websites. Most likely you know friends who have met someone significant online too.

Second, there's the bad part about online dating. Sometimes people are not who they say they are. They fudge the truth or outright lie. For instance, I met someone online years ago who said he was a certain height. But when I met him in person, he was at least three inches shorter!

Finally, there's the ugly stuff that happens. Innocent, yet naïve, people get taken advantage of financially because they give out their bank information or credit card numbers to strangers.

Or, they get "catfished," which is when a person uses a fake identity online to scam people. They pretend to like you in order to intentionally mislead you. I wrote a separate post about ways to avoid online dating scams.

Whether a scammer siphons your savings or breaks your heart, it hurts.

For some, meeting a special someone online is wonderful. It works for them. Others have had horrible experiences and it's downright disappointing. Here are a few stories, from both points of view, along with some tips for having a better online dating experience.

Online Dating is Discouraging
A number of years ago, I met a man online from Northern California. Let's call him Nick. We started communicating by phone and email fairly quickly. Then, he had to go out of the country on business. So we emailed for a few months that autumn while he was away.

Finally, Nick and I made a plan to meet in person and celebrate New Year's Eve together in the city I live in, nearly 900 miles away. Two days before he was to fly in, he canceled our date—and our budding relationship!

The reason? He said he was looking at his calendar and he was going to be very busy in the new year, so he didn't have time for a relationship. Needless to say, after communicating for nearly three months, I was confused and upset.

He never contacted me again.

Another reader said online dating didn't work out too well for her either.

"For me, it was disappointing," said Tina, a single woman in Colorado. "There were players, liars, and gentlemen who clearly reached out only because I was new in the lineup." She is glad this method of meeting people worked for other people, but it didn't work for her.

Online Dating Works—For Some
Then there are those for whom online dating has been successful. A reader in North Dakota who met her husband online shares her story:

After moving to a new state in my mid-thirties, I tried online dating. As an introvert, I liked the opportunity to meet single men in a way that allowed me to get to know something about them before meeting in person.

Since I was more comfortable with options that were faith-based, I used one particular site, off and on, for a few years. Sometimes I'd get frustrated when I didn't get many matches and I'd take a break.

Several years later, I decided to try again. To my surprise, I received a match from someone I knew from my college days. Finally, we shared contact information and continued getting to know one another through emails and phone calls.

About six weeks after we were matched, I traveled from Colorado to visit my family in North Dakota, and he drove five hours to meet me for lunch for our first date!

From there, we made trips back and forth visiting each other. About six months later, he proposed and we were married two and a half months later. Online dating was a good option for both of us, and we were older singles, ages 40 and 46.

We're grateful to God for crafting our unique story using the tool of online dating. It may not be for everyone, but it worked for us!

Tips for Better Online Dating
If you choose to try online dating, here are some helpful ideas to consider:

Be prayerful. Before you start swiping right or left, look up and talk with God in prayer about your love life. What is His will? How should you proceed?

Be honest. Use recent photos and be authentic and truthful about how you describe yourself in your profile. If you can't decide what to say, ask a good friend for input. If you want to find someone who shares your faith, many sites let you select your religious preference (or even your denomination) as a search criteria.

Be patient. Trust God's timing. For most people, the reality is that you won't find your best match on your first click. As you wait, ask God to lead and guide you every step of the way.

Meet sooner than later. Sure, you may want to video chat or talk on the phone a bit before you meet in person. But make it a point to meet in person fairly soon. You may find that you have great conversations virtually, but there's not a connection in reality.

Have a time limit. When one of my male friends was dating, he said he would make coffee dates and limit them to one hour. Then, if they weren't hitting it off, they'd go their separate ways. If they seemed to like each other, which happened with the woman who became his wife, they could stay longer.

Be safe. Wait to share personal information (like your home or work address) until you get to know the other person better. For your first date or meet-up, choose a public place, like a restaurant or coffee house, and meet him or her there. You may want to let a friend know where you're going before you meet up with your date.

In the end, it's up to you if you want to try online dating sites or apps. God is more than able to use any method to connect you with someone special.

Just remember to be wise, be safe, have fun, and ask for God's guidance in your love life. He is with you every step of the way.

Who knows? Maybe your online connection will be a success—and you'll have your own story to tell.


Jackie M. Johnson is an author and blogger who writes inspiring content on growing a better life, the power of prayer, and encouragement for singles. Jackie has a heart to encourage single adults of all ages, and she has led numerous small groups and Bible studies for singles. Her books include the breakup recovery guide, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty, Power Prayers for Women, and Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough. Connect with Jackie at JackieJohnsonCreative.com.