Online dating has become very popular these last few years. Twenty million Internet users visit dating sites at least occasionally. Over 30% of the population either uses online dating services or at least knows people who are using them. In 2008, 120,000 marriages that took place were attributed to online dating services. In 2009, around 350 million dollars were spent in marketing the online dating services. Among all the Internet services, online dating remained at the top. Its growth estimate is 10% yearly.
We see in the advertisements for these services people who have found their true love, or “soul mates.” Of course these accounts are anecdotal and not at all statistical. 2009 also saw a rise in number of bogus accounts and scams. Free-to-subscribe dating sites were mainly responsible for these problems. Out of the total accounts created this year, 10% of them were bogus. Out of the total number of singles who seek online dating services, only 33% manage to get into a relationship. Out of the remaining 66% people, 33% lose hope and quit while other 33% of keep on searching for the right partner. (Source: Buzzle.com)
But the question arises if you are a Christian single person, is online dating a good thing? Like all of the important questions of life, I believe that in some way, shape or form, the answer lies in the Bible. Now you may well react quizzically and ask, “Where does the Bible speak of online dating?” Of course, it does not. The Bible does, however, have a richness of principle, social patterns and religious traditions from which I think we can learn a great deal on the subject of dating.
First of all, the ancients were very keen in understanding the impact of human nature on the societal dynamics that impacted their culture. As a result, the interval between physical maturity and marriage was kept to an absolute minimum. You could almost say it was close to zero. In our society, it is approximately ten years.
Secondly, they understood in those times that there was a serious pitfall in expecting a person to make the most important decision of their lives apart from salvation at a time when they were the least equipped to do so. As such, that decision was heavily influenced by those who were arguably better equipped to do so: family. Today, Christian families often do not have much influence in the marital decisions of their children. Much of the fault here obviously rests on the shoulders of the parents. The principle job of parenting is to teach their children how to properly relate to authority. Far too many families never get there.
So what is a Christian single person to do with respect to deciding for or against online dating? My answer is this: put some of the same safeguards in place that were foundational in relationship development in the biblical societies. Rely on the wisdom, validation, counsel, and opinions of people who can help you navigate the often turbulent and hazardous waters of online dating: family, church, and the right friends.
In Bible times, societies were based on well defined social building blocks: family, extended family, tribe, and nation. What this did for the young woman seeking a husband, is that it virtually eliminated the possibly of gross deception in courtship. If a boy was from another town or village, the social or cultural network was quick to find out if a thumbs up or a thumbs down was appropriate. Add to this the respect and veneration for elders inherent in that culture, and you have a tremendously solid basis for courtship. Look at the trouble that Abraham went to find a bride for his son, Isaac. That is a perfect illustration of this ancient marriage protocol and is found in the 24th chapter of Genesis.
So today, it is in my view foolish in the extreme to not use the same resources in validating a dating or a marriage candidate. If you ask him or her, “I’d like to talk to your pastor about you,” and the reaction to that request is not a quick and positive one, if not even enthusiastic, then that should signal the time to move on.
The Bible teaches us that “In His favor is life,” speaking of God. If you are seeking God’s favor in your life, bearing in mind that He is not only the source of all love, but He in fact is the very essence of love, then you should understand that this can never happen without a committed Christian partner for whom God’s principles are demonstrably the roadmap and footprints of his or her life.
Anyone can be anything or anybody given the anonymity of Internet dating. It is unwise to accept anyone’s presentation of themselves in this venue at face value before thoroughly validating that they are whom and what they portray themselves to be. This is not the time to put one’s heart behind the wheel. That is the role of the brain at this stage of the game. Beware of anyone who would suggest otherwise.
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.