Online dating used to be considered an "embarrassing" pursuit. Women wouldn't admit to dating online in an effort to not appear desperate. I remember the first time I shared with another Christian woman that I met Shawn online and the look that she gave me. The look of shock followed by a comment stating "I wouldn't think you would have to go online to find a man." From there, I vowed to keep my "how I met Shawn story to myself." I felt so judged by her. Then I began to realize that this is an issue in the church among Christian women. I believe there are many Christian women who think that the church is the only place that you can meet a Christian man. I remember another sister sending me a dm saying "I always thought that we should be found. That's why I don't believe in online dating because we shouldn't be seeking." Whew chile, that type of bondage and twisting up scripture will have you single for a long time! There is nothing wrong with online dating. There is no shame in online dating. One-third of married couples in the US met online. Sure there are some concerns in terms of safety and how to navigate the online dating world. It's completely different from dating the "traditional" way so I compiled a list of some practical tips that can help if you are considering online dating.
1. Ask God for wisdom and permission. If you don't have peace or if at any point online dating becomes an obsession, stop.
2. Have a captivating profile picture. Make sure that you use a profile picture where the lighting is great and don't use any filters. Nobody wants to get catfished. Also don't use any professional headshots. After all this is not a flyer for your next speaking engagement. A lot of online dating platforms allow you to add other photos. Add photos that show off your personality. For example, if you love sports or outdoors, maybe a photo of you at a sports game or doing an outdoor activity. And please don't be like Shawn and wear sunglasses in your profile picture. He really won me over with the message he sent to me and how he answered some of the questions in his profile because I couldn't really tell what he looked like.
3. Be honest. One of the dangers of online dating is that it gives a person the ability to re-create themselves into whoever they want to be. Be authentic. You do not want a marriage built on lies or to have to keep up with a fake facade that you created for the rest of your life. That's an exhausting life with no peace!
4. Be God led not emotion led. You've seen all their pictures, you've read their words on their profile and through messages, so you start to imagine who this person is and in the process you have created a fantasy in your mind of who this person is. Don't let your imagination and emotions lead you. You are setting yourself up for failure if you do because now the person doesn't meet who you imagined them to be. Keep your imagination and emotions in check. The Holy Spirit will show you the red flags. Use discernment.
5. Be specific on what you want and the type of person you're looking for. That is going to determine who you are matched with. Now is actually the time to pull out your "list." With thousands of profiles on these dating apps, the goal isn't to attract everyone, just the One.
6. Be safe. Guard your personal information. They don't need to know your full name when you are still in the messaging stage. Establish trust before you start giving specific details. Use a profile name that is not related to your real name. Your real name can be revealed once you feel comfortable enough to share your phone number. Make sure you are spending time getting to the know the person by using communication through the app. Then once, you feel comfortable you can set up a Skype call or a regular phone call. If you still have peace, then set a date to meet. Do not have them pick you up at your house. Meet at a public place. Also make sure that you tell someone where you are going and give them their name. Before my first date with Shawn I told my co-worker where I was going and that I was meeting Shawn Spears for lunch. Just in case he tries to kidnap me or something, there is someone who knows where I was and who I was with.
Last tip, guard your heart. God calls us to be responsible for our heart and to guard it diligently. The first step in any relationship venture is to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically ready for whatever God has planned for you. So when a quality person is in front of you, you can recognize it. If you don't meet anyone at all, don't let that measure how worthy you are. I have heard many success stories and I've heard some crazy stories. Online dating isn't for everyone. Our hope in sharing this is to get some Christians out of their box and thinking that their spouse is going to miraculously appear. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there (use wisdom). If I never took the leap, I wouldn't have met Shawn. Choosing him as my husband is one of the best decisions that I've ever made.