Since we started this series on answering dating questions, one of the things I’ve been asked about the most is my opinion of online dating or dating apps. Hopefully, people don’t just want my opinion on anything, but rather want to know what the Bible says on the issue. On the issue of online dating, or even dating in general, the Bible is void of examples. That’s because, like the internet, dating as we know it is a relatively new invention that didn’t exist throughout most of human history. The Scriptures do, however, have many wisdom principles that we can apply to these issues.
My concerns with dating in general are that people usually misrepresent themselves. We get dolled up and put on our best behavior to hopefully win an engagement proposal. Consider this: as our culture has gotten more experienced or “better” at dating, it seems we have gotten worse at marriage. We are marrying later, marrying less, and those marriages are failing more often. WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG (fact) and I believe it has to do with how we date.
So how should we date? It’s no secret that in biblical times, our example was arranged marriages. I’m not advocating arranged marriages, but I am strongly advocating the principles of arranged marriages. You must hear me out here:
Marriages were arranged by people who knew the bride and the groom and loved them.
Marriages were arranged based on someone’s longstanding character, or said otherwise, their reputation.
Marriages were arranged by families who had the couple’s best interests in mind.
The principles there are that you don’t make these decisions in isolation; that wise people who know you very well and care about you very much are in favor of it; and that decisions are based on who the person really is, as evidenced by how they act even before meeting you.
OK, so what about online dating? First of all, I’m sure you know someone who met online and has a “happy” marriage (so do I). So it can work out. However, there are some things about online dating that can make it less likely to work out.
Online dating adds another step to the “dog and pony” show of dating. Now, it starts with a profile and a profile pic. And to paraphrase Proverbs 31:30, profiles are deceiving and pictures are fleeting. No one puts their worst picture on their profile; they put their best, even if it’s a few years out-of-date. (And if the picture is the main thing you’re basing decisions on, remember that physical attraction isn’t as important as you think.) Also, no one puts their strange idiosyncrasies or sin struggles in their profile; they present their most positive resume. Why? Because we all want to be loved, liked, swiped, chosen, asked out, etc. You’re not swiping a real person; you are swiping a veneer. They might end up being the biggest pain of your existence, and they might be really good at keeping that from you until they choose to let you know.
So if I’m right, what do you do? You have to be really good at getting to know the real person. That’s tricky because if they don’t want to show you who they really are, they might be excellent at keeping it from you. I have two simple rules that will help a lot if you choose to date online:
Remember that profiles lie (see above).
Don’t go on a date with a stranger.
So, number 2 makes online dating difficult, I know. I wouldn’t compromise on it, though. If they are a stranger to you, then hopefully they are not a stranger to someone you know and trust who can say “I’ve known so-and-so for many years and they have proven to be faithful and genuine and (list the qualities you are after here).” If we did this, I’d bet divorce rates would go down. We’d marry earlier. Marriages would last longer (like until death), and we’d have a greater satisfaction in them.
Should you date online? I’m sad that you’d need to. I don’t say that at all to shame you; I’m simply bummed that guys aren’t asking “who are the good girls” and then asking them out and girls aren’t asking “who are the good guys” and praying they ask them out. (I know some of you do! Thank you for your examples.)
I love my single friends, and if you desire marriage, I pray that you would find someone who loves Jesus even more than they love you, who might ask you to spend the rest of your life with them.
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)