Me Jane, You Tarzan? – A Defence of Online Dating

It’s a jungle out there, sings Randy Newman. While life may not be as dramatic as the song seems to imply, it is not a far off assessment to say that many single and busy working adults have, more often than not, experienced some element of social anxiety when faced with the complex world of dating; doubly so when trying to reach out into that crazy world of online dating.

Of course, this is not without basis. I mean, I have had my fair share of strange-but-true stories involving one East Asian refugee slumming it out on the streets of Paris (oh, the horror!) and another extensively tattooed Beverly Hills chef living in the “hood” of South Los Angeles. Mom and I have had the opportunity to meet both, and while she was rightfully mortified by the former, she was surprisingly taken with the latter – tattoos and all.

But I digress.

Not surprisingly, there is still a whole lot of stigma associated with the idea of Online Dating. Never mind that the percentage of singles in Singapore, according to the Department of Statistics, has been increasing year after year across the age groups for both genders. The primary argument was that such practise is just not “natural” – hooking up with someone you’ve never met before in real life is just plain weird to the point of being desperate.

However, considering that the average person spends an inordinately large amount of their time online, whether at work or for leisure, this should hardly be a strange notion anymore. American comedian Aziz Ansari rightfully pointed out that the “early stages of courtship has moved on to texting” and we have, in fact, relied on words and pretty little pictures (aka emoji) to form an impression of the other party.  People, Aziz goes on to say, have these devices that contain a lot of their personal lives and the way we communicate via such social networks defines how people perceive us.

This is essentially why we put forth our best pictures, our most entertaining anecdotes and most charming experiences online, whether for professionals on LinkedIn or the everyday folks on Facebook. (And if anyone thinks this is “fake”, try remembering how your partner was like during the process of courtship and after being committed in a relationship. I know. Scary, right?) The point is, we have spent hours trying to define ourselves and make a presence online. It should, in theory, be a natural progression to dispense away with the whole “real life is better than the internet” and take a serious look at the possibilities online connections have to offer.

The thing is, it’s always the bad experiences that make the best stories (yes, I’m talking to you, Parisian boy). As such, we have learned to look on with morbid fascination at the failures of online dating instead of the successes. We’ve heard of people getting scammed out of their savings by unscrupulous con-artists or even worse, criminals awaiting in the shadows, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting preys. They are definitely out there, exploiters of the innocent, manipulating the uninformed and the lonely only to use one’s softer emotions for their own nefarious benefits.

Yet, according to a study on USAtoday.com, more than a third of new marriages start online, and we’re not even looking at those who has opted to remain in a committed relationship without getting hitched. Think about it for a second – for every three people you meet in real life who are married, one of them would have had met their partners on Facebook, a dating website, or even while playing online games (hello there, LA boy).

The potential for an emotional connection is there. It is real, and statistics have confirmed it. With a huge element of good sense and some research (it’s not stalking if the information is readily available!), you’ll find me in the camp in earnest support of online dating – right in the comfort of my own home.

So. Me be Jane. You Tarzan?

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