I am back in the world of dating, but I am taking it slowly, because I realised before I took my break, I was dating for all the wrong reasons. It had turned into a bizarre addiction, not in the damaging way drugs, drink or cigarettes would, but in a time consuming way, that hopefully I am now over :)
I was a member of several dating and social networking sites, but most importantly Illicit Encounters, one of the largest and most successful, and the only one that worked very well for me. Over the years, while I talked to lots of guys and met quite a few dates, including several fabulous friends, Mr Right was taking his time making an appearance in my life. Although I wasn't on there to settle down into a routine relationship I was looking for that connection with someone I wanted to see often. I was impatient for his arrival, and in the meantime, for as much attention from potential dates as I could get. Before long, I was losing hours of my valuable time hungrily scouring the profiles of candidates who had mailed me, and starting conversations with men I didn't know.
You'd think that such activity would have thrown a few choice morsels my way – after all, quantity equals quality, right? Wrong! Not only did I begin to start clicking 'Yes' to profiles of guys that I had little interest in, I started to spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter, talking to anyone who seemed able to string a sentence together, or looked amazing on their pictures. I had no intention of meeting any of these people but talking to them had become an addiction that devoured even more time, obsessively chasing after the elusive crock of gold, that man who had everything, was perfect, and we all know he doesn't exist! An unconscious hole in my psyche was not being satisfied, and I was making myself insane.
It came to a head when I woke up one morning, and realised my first impulse was to log in to see if I had messages – this, after another late night surfing. I wanted to log on even more than I wanted my regular hit of espresso. My fingertips itched for the keyboard. Clearly, something was awry. I had to find a way to step away from my laptop, dating, and my needy impulses. I had to get my life back.
Apparently I was not alone in having this experience. It is a phenomenon that is on the increase, among both women and men. As internet dating takes up a larger slice of the dating pie, the slice that formerly included meeting people at work, through friends, or in bars and social activities, it is becoming more and more like shopping. We have become dating 'consumers'.
So, what's going on? Is all this frantic searching leading to an increase in smug attachments? Is Cupid having to take on more staff to cope with the influx of new couple registrations? No, not really. Because there may be hundreds of thousands of us looking for love online, and we may be making connections, but our expectations are becoming less and less realistic.
It is easy to lose sight of what I really want, and who I am, and get caught up in the thrill of the chase, the competition, the euphoria of a success. It can end up being as much about escapist fantasy as it is about a genuine desire to meet a partner. When that happens, I am not only more likely to lose my sense of 'self', but less likely to 'see' that special person when he comes along too.
What's a singleton to do then? Well, if I truly want to meet someone special, I have to stay grounded, and hold on to my perspective. This means restricting how long I spend online. It means having a realistic expectation of what online dating can provide. First and foremost, it should be fun, a way of meeting people that enhances my search (and my life), rather than dominate it. It also means investing as much (or more) energy on creating real-life encounters as virtual ones. Because apparently datable people do still exist in the real world, too, you know.
I can't guarantee that someone will come along immediately, but there's a small chance they will. All I need to do is inject some balance into the heady, sometimes crazy, often compulsive world that is online dating.