Her date had stumbled in, his whole body swaying as he slumped into the seat, stuttering out an introduction before hitting his head on the hookah pipe in front.
They had arranged to meet two messages ago, over OkCupid, fueled by the excitement of bridging the virtual contact into a real-life setting.
The night had followed suit, her date struggling to hold his poise mid-attempt at rapping out a song relating to his work at an Arab newspaper. All while Catalina Lehmann sat, mulling over her decision to spend the evening out on a virtually arranged date.
“Everyone’s on Facebook, everyone uses the Internet. I just think [online dating] is easy and convenient,” Lehmann, 19, said. “I’m not expecting to find ‘The One’ on this dating website … but it doesn’t hurt to meet new people.
“Is it practice?” she paused, “You could say that, I guess.”
With a larger selection of fish in a virtual pool of prospective dates, what effect does online dating have on the notion of “The One”? Has “The One” turned into a search for “The Ones”?
“[Online dating] encourages people to believe that ‘The One’ exists and that if you use the online dating sites correctly, you would find that person,” University of Rochester psychology professor Harry Reis said.
The increased opportunity to date as provided by online dating revitalizes the search for the soul mate. In the process, it’s the social skills gained in acing the art of dating that individuals can transfer into other avenues of life, namely the professional setting.
Laura Rose, blogger behind Single in the District, began online dating around the time she began her job hunt.
“First dates allowed me to develop more solid interview skills because I was more sure of myself,” she said. “You learn to ask questions. You learn how to read people if they’re feeling uncomfortable.”
The shift to online dating has reinvigorated dating in a way that modernizes tradition — taking the hang out to hook up culture of college to one that opens opportunity for individuals to experience real-life, post-college dating situations.
“Online dating is terrific,” said Eli Finkel, professor of social psychology at Northwestern University. “It broadens the pool of options. … As always, the majority of those people won’t be compatible with you but there could be a diamond there in the rough.”
It’s been just under two months since Lehmann met her new boyfriend, a partner she found through a browse on OkCupid. Out of respect, she’s deactivated her online dating profile, turning full focus to a budding relationship that traces its start to one at the fingertips.
“Everyone just doesn’t want to be that person on the online dating site because it seems pathetic,” she said. “But I think it’s an opportunity.”
And for whatever reason things don’t work out, “I’ll probably reactivate my account,” she laughed. “If I have the time!”
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