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Dr. Hughes Tackles Online Dating– The Positives and Negatives

by Maryann Pisano on October 2, 2013


The information presented in this website and the comments from Dr. Hughes are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or psychological disorder. The information presented is not a substitute for medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment. You are advised to seek professional medical and psychological help as necessary.

Hi Dr. Hughes!  What do you think of online dating?

Twenty five years ago I would have answered that this is a ridiculous concept that wouldn’t catch on.  At that time, I also carried a boom box and made my phone calls through pay phone, so let’s face it:  times have changed.  The internet is extremely useful and there is no reason why it cannot also be useful for starting and creating relationships.  First the good news: you can get a lot of information about someone, including photos, interests, non-negotiables, etc. prior to ever speaking or meeting in person.  If you have some very particular needs in a person (a specific religious affiliation or the like) this is an efficient way to make your pool of potential partners smaller.  Also, there is no need to think quickly and perfect your first impressions.  You, like the others online, can write and re-write their profiles as well as take time and fix errors in ongoing e-mail correspondence.  This can decrease anxiety overall and allow for a depth of communication that might not happen in face to face contact.

Now, the bad news:  with those benefits comes a cost.  Oftentimes online people are prone to lying, outright or by omission, or may paint themselves in a light that doesn’t quite reflect reality.  This is a universal occurrence and not limited only to the psychopaths and players out there.  The relative initial anonymity of the internet gives people a sense of veil that they very consistently hide behind.  In addition, the benefit of monologue communication and e-mail back and forth is not anything like holding a real-time conversation.  A real conversation requires social acumen, flexibility, in thought and speech, and a connection to the other person that just cannot be replicated in writing.  Many times I have had patients who have “fallen in love” through dating sites, with good reason should one pursue the written dalliance, just to be confused and disappointed with an in-person meeting.  So should one consider online dating?  Absolutely.  But  proceed cautiously, keep an open mind, be honest, and be sure to quickly graduate to telephone calls (not just texting!) and then in-person communication before falling head over heels.

Dr. Carsi Hughes received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Northwestern University Medical School. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in adult psychopathology, clinical neuropsychology, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Academic appointments include Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology and Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Studies at Dominican University.

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