by Therese Ivers, JCL
Is online dating a legitimate tool for one’s vocational discernment? I believe it is. Here are some reflections on the online dating process.
1. The pool for a potential spouse can be too small if you are in a small town with a handful (or less) of eligibles. The pool can likewise be small in our current pattern of sequestered living in larger towns or cities. Out of those thousands or millions of people in a city, how will you connect when you go to work (or school), come home, maybe participate in a group activity or two, and go to bed? Your church only has a minuscule sliver of potentials, and ditto for most people’s workplace or campus (you work in a particular department and you go to class with a certain number of students). You can be an island in the middle of large city particularly when your network is small or self restricted. Online dating can open your horizons even in the same city. Maybe that person is two churches down in the city. Or maybe you will find someone who looks promising half the country away.
2. Finding someone online is one thing. Knowing how to prudently pursue or drop the online relationship is another skill to learn. Dating in one’s own town poses certain risks and certain benefits. Dating someone you’ve only met online also poses its own set of risks and benefits. The prudent discerner will take the necessary precautions to minimize safety risks, and other risks associated with long distance courtship.
3. Online dating is a tool. It gives you the opportunity to initially connect with a potential spouse. It is appropriate to use the tool as long as you realize that marriage requires extensive interaction that goes way beyond the virtual world of emailing, texting, skyping, and telephoning. At some point, you have to have the one on one physical interactions of courtship to really know whether this is a relationship that should continue.
4. What is said above applies to not only potential spouses, but dioceses, religious communities, secular institutes, and societies of apostolic life. Most people flirt online with checking out diocesan vocations websites, websites hosted by secular institutes or religious communities, and may even have a digital relationship with the vocation director or members. This is great, but this is only the first step. Don’t waste your time or theirs when it’s time to take the plunge and see for yourself whether they are the right match for you. When you have exhausted the usefulness of virtual communications, or feel impelled to check the person or community further, it’s time to make a decision- do I pursue this face to face or do I drop this and move on. To do otherwise is an abuse of the process.
5. Yes, there are risks involved in taking the plunge to go face to face. That’s why this process is a process of discernment. Good luck with your journey and God bless you.
(c) 2011 by Therese Ivers, JCL