Is Online Dating Dehumanizing?


Online Profile

After my last blog post, “The Church Has Not Forgotten Singles” which generated a lot of vigorous discussion, I received a message from a fellow CatholicMatch.com member asking me to comment on some issues he has experienced with online dating. He was concerned with the fact that we are only “virtually” meeting people online, which should never take the place of encountering someone in person. He pointed out that it’s much easier to view other people as “objects” instead of “persons” when encountering them online.

Before you start fiercely objecting that you never objectify people, let me explain.

When I first joined CatholicMatch, I admit I still thought it was for “desperate” people. And the idea of meeting someone online seemed so “unromantic.” But a friend of mine insisted it was just like meeting people at a party, and that I could use the site to meet local people whom I hadn’t yet managed to meet at church or the local young adult group. That advice may have helped me sign up, but I soon found out that it is certainly not “just like meeting people at a party.” Why not?

For several reasons:
1) Have any of you been to a party that has hundreds of thousands of people at it (except perhaps for World Youth Day)? Realistically, there are too many people on the site to actually interact with any but a minority of them in one’s limited time.

2) Most people specifically sign up because they want to find a spouse, whereas one doesn’t normally go to parties only to meet potential spouses.

3) When you meet people at a party you encounter the whole person, including that twinkle in the eye, the winning smile, and all of the non-verbal communication. The internet, for all its amazing technology, can’t possibly transmit all of that.

One is limited when meeting people online, and so when one goes “searching” it’s easier to look through the list of photos as one would look through a catalogue. After all, you’re not exactly looking at the person, but a glimpse of who that person truly is. This can contribute to what the gentleman who wrote me was concerned about. He said that “when it comes to online dating you have to have thick skin to do it, and because of that it dehumanizes us. We forget that the other person has feelings and we treat the avenue like a meat market because of that.”

Do we want to view others only as items in the “potential spouse” or “non-potential spouse” categories? Or dismiss the possibility of friendship simply because they seem to fall into the latter category before we even meet them? Of course not! But, if you are part of an online community which of its nature has certain limitations, I think there are some things we can do to at least help to “humanize” our interactions with each other.

I often think about what St. John Paul II said in his book Love and Responsibility. He talked about how we are all unique, unrepeatable persons. If I’m tempted to view someone as a “problem,” I try instead to remember that he or she is an unrepeatable mystery and a gift from God, made in His image. Even if I don’t really have the time or interest to carry on a conversation with a particular individual, at least I can word my replies in such a way that they communicate respect for him and best wishes for his future. (Obviously, one has to recognize that the “online dating” world has its own etiquette. A casual conversation at a party doesn’t necessarily convey interest, whereas it’s easy to regard any communication online as indicating interest in something more than friendship. Hence, we will more likely give others a chance at a party, whereas it’s easier to disregard them immediately online.)

So next time you are contacted by someone who takes the time to send you a personal email indicating that he or she has really read and appreciated your profile, before you send an immediate “no thanks,” or nothing at all, at least think twice about whether you’d at least have a conversation with the person if you happened to meet casually at a friend’s partyand if not, then remember he or she is a child of our same Heavenly Father, and, if you can’t converse, at least wish them many blessings from our one “Daddy” in heaven.

In the meantime, if you are looking for ways to meet lots of great people, and not just the online “version” of themselves, then join us at the 13th National Catholic Singles Conference in San Diego next month!

We’ll be having fun with more than  500 other single Catholics, listening to some great talks, being inspired in our Catholic Faith, and enjoying lots of opportunities to socialize, not only during the conference but at the pre/post-conference events!

It’s not too late to register at NationalCatholicSingles.com! Hope to see you there!






41 Comments

  1. Robert-3483 July 21, 2014 Reply

    Saint Paul reproaching the derangement of the Gentiles, accuses them of being people without affection, that is to say who had no friendship (Romans 1:31). Make yourself affable to the congregation of the poor, humble your soul to the elderly, and bow your head to a great man (Ecclus 4:7). St. Thomas the Universal Doctor, states that friendship is part of the virtue of justice.1

    Either to seek or to shun society is a fault in one striving to lead a devout life in the world. To shun society implies indifference and contempt for one’s neighbours; and to seek it savours of idleness and uselessness. We are told to love one’s neighbour as one’s self. In token that we love him, we must not avoid being with him, and the test of loving one’s self is to be happy when alone. Think first on thyself, says Saint Bernard, and then on other men. So that, if nothing obliges you to mix in society either at home or abroad, retire within yourself, and hold converse with your own heart. But if friends come to you, or there is fitting cause for you to go forth into society, then, my child, by all means go, and meet your neighbour with a kindly glance and a kindly heart. – “Intro to the Devout Life: Society and Solitude” by Church Doctor and Gentleman St. Francis de Sales

    References:
    Introduction to the Devout Life by Church Doctor and Gentleman Saint Francis de Sales
    On Friendship: Evil and Frivolous Friendship
    Frisky Friendships [ämitiés folâtres] / Frivolous Attachments / Amourettes
    Of Real Friendship
    Of the Difference between True and False Friendship
    Remedies against Evil Friendships
    Further Advice concerning Intimacies
    Of Society and Solitude
    Footnotes:
    1The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas – Question 114. The friendliness which is called affability

  2. Michael-410923 July 21, 2014 Reply

    Meeting someone both in person and online have their strengths limitations. If one believes that a religious compatibility is required/increases the chances for a good relationship, how to bring that up in a party? Online one can filter for that. In contrast, once I thought there was a great match online, and tried to contact them. Then, I bumped into them at a mixer. Only one-way esteem. Not enough for a relationship.

  3. Robert-3483 July 21, 2014 Reply

    Then you’ve got “It’s Just Lunch!” as a concept that should be considered. In Christianity, sharing a meal is something that should bring things close to home. Meet the person and have no pressure or expectations of results.

  4. Mary-1057416 July 21, 2014 Reply

    As with all human interactions, common courtesy is a must. I like to view online dating the same way I would view being in a crowd of people. If someone makes eye contact with me I might nod or say “hello”. The eye contact on here would be a profile view. So, I will write back and give them a friendly hand wave emotigram. It doesn’t have to become a rude degrading situation just because it is online. What it does require is that we remember there are other people behind the photos who may be feeling insecure or unsure about who they might encounter. Common couretesy and treating the other the way you would want to be treated will certainly win the day.

    • Charles-1074845 July 21, 2014 Reply

      This is so true. Respect, courtesy, and being at least polite should be extended to everyone.

  5. Patrick-341178 July 21, 2014 Reply

    I think that is why, if you are interacting with someone local, to set up a meeting a reasonably fast as possible if you feel that there is anything substantial there. Once you meet in person, it is really no different than meeting someone through more traditional means. As for starting friendships, to each their own, but I think that should be discouraged. This site should be for dating, not making buddies. Join a local social group if you want to make friends.

    • Mark-973089 July 21, 2014 Reply

      Patrick the friend part is referring to this. As human beings we have always been taught that you are suppose to be friends with somebody first before you consider dating them and that is the natural way to do it. The problem with online dating is we tend to think of somebody as a relationship first instead of a friend first and that is a big reason why a lot of interactions between potential matches never get off the ground.

      If we constantly think of somebody as a husband/wife first instead of a friend first then things will never get going and we will continue to shoot ourselves in the foot over and over again with this avenue of dating. So it is much easier to strike somebody down on this avenue, people treat this avenue like they are trying to land their dream job and you know how the saying goes, it is much easier for the employer to find a bigger reason not to hire you then to hire you. Well that mentality is certainly alive and well here

  6. Paul-91858 July 21, 2014 Reply

    It is dehumanizing if you don’t actively engage the human on the other side of the keyboard or allow the tool to become a shield or barrier to authentic human interaction. People can and have had long distance relationships on the phone and through paper letters before the computer and internet dating was invented. On line dating is a tool used to interact with people and is only dehumanizing to the extent that the individual using it allows the tool to become a shield or barrier to meeting someone in person in time.

  7. Ann-69118 July 21, 2014 Reply

    If you take it too seriously it can be dehumanizing but it you take it as light interaction and not serious at all then it can be a handy way to meet people. The real trouble is there seems to be and either or senario. Either your really serious to find a partner or you’re on here just to play at it and pass the time. There’s nothing wrong with either senario as longs as you’re honest in your dealings. Not everyone is honest with themselves. They may start chatting and messaging someone across the country or on the other side of the world thinking in the back of their minds this person is too far and nothing will ever come of it then before you know it things have progressed and one person gets scared the the other gets hurt. I’ve seen it over and over. It even happened to me in my first internet communications. After that I developed the policy of not taking any of it seriously unless you’ve met in person a few times and have a honest and open discussion about moving forward. There is no relationship with someone you haven’t met in person. Just keep that in mind is all I’m say and guard you heart for it the wellspring of your soul.

    • MariaLina-1110487 July 22, 2014 Reply

      I agree with you Ann-69118. I’ve had a bad experience online dating before which took me years to overcome.

  8. MariaLina-1110487 July 22, 2014 Reply

    I must admit, I’m guilty about not talking at all. I’m sorry :(

  9. John D. July 22, 2014 Reply

    I think that modern media has something to add to dating. It is a change to express feelings and taught which brings people together. It may start by sharing once hobby. Which in my case photography. And if I can pick up a photography job which is paid I will take it to, this to cover the expenses which do come along with photography. I know a number of people who did have the same interests and did get engaged and later on married. I think for a good relationship sharing once interest may add to the quality of that beginning or existing relationship. So far I have not met any one as yet. ?

  10. Joseph-833864 July 22, 2014 Reply

    I would say that as long as technology and the internet is intended and used for the good of human health and happiness, and I think it is safe to say that online dating is intended for the good of having human beings meet other human beings, then it is good. I think if and when technology is used wrongly then its’ ridicule and comdemnation is acceptable.

  11. Patrick-341178 July 22, 2014 Reply

    Mark, I have to respectfully disagree. I will clarify my remarks to a degree. I suppose, to an extent, other people who comment here or on the forums are my friends to a degree. I have and likely never will meet any of them in person, but we are singles who believe strongly in our faith, so I do appreciate that even if I never do meet that someone special on this site.

    But as for interactions with women who I am interested in dating, again to each their own, I honestly have no interest in being their friend. If a friendship did occur, I suppose that is ok, but that isnt the reason I pay money to be an active member. I disagree that being friends first is a natural precursor to being romantically involved. I can’t think of one instance in my like where being friends with a woman had lead to a future relationship. You get stuck in the friends zone and it is extremely difficult to get out. I am a member of local young adult group at my parish. It is a great group that I have gotten a lot out of, but in the 10+ years I have been a member, it has lead to nothing in terms of dating. Any time I have met a woman that I would like to date, we have become friends, and even when I have tried to turn it into something more, it has never happened. Now, I understand there are some exceptions to this rule with other people, but they are rare.

    So, my advice is if you meet someone you would like to date, go for it right away. Do NOT become friends first!!!!

    • David-1054431 July 22, 2014 Reply

      Thank you, Patrick, for making a refreshingly practical point. Most secular dating gurus advise men categorically NOT to become a friend to a woman that you have a romantic interest in. I’m a person of faith, but nevertheless I think that secular advice has truth to it. When a woman gets locked into a perception of you as her “friend”, you’re like a brother or a like a male first cousin. She can’t think of you as a possible romantic partner.

    • Mark-804661 July 23, 2014 Reply

      I hear ya on that! I used to think that friendship was always the stepping stones for dating, but it doesn’t seem to work for us guys at least. I avoid the “friend card” like the plague! I also could never be friends with a girl i had dated previously.

  12. Robert-514120 July 22, 2014 Reply

    I’ve had some hits on this site, but a lot more misses. I view it like applying for a job. Your profile has to be top-notch in the eye of the beholder to get as much as an emotiogram. Otherwise, you’re not going to hear from anyone.

  13. Theresa-978087 July 22, 2014 Reply

    All I can say is, you can have a great on line conversation with a man who has the same interests as you, and all is well, until you post your photo and then you never hear from them again. Looks are more important, then great conversations.

    • David-1054431 July 22, 2014 Reply

      Speaking as a man, I have to admit: yes, sadly most men are like that. I’d say the majority of guys look at the photo first, and if they don’t feel visually attracted then they won’t look at anything else in the profile. In all honesty, I must plead guilty to it myself on many occasions.

      • Mark-804661 July 23, 2014 Reply

        Women are the same way. If you are not a Brad Pitt, do not expect to get many replies to your e-mails. Looks matter in society, as does the car you drive.

  14. Jennifer-728047 July 22, 2014 Reply

    What is de-humanizing is the copious and sad, frustrating and devastating amount of guys who use this site as a porn substitute and feel “better” about having a “relationship” with the screen and the typing/photos in it vs any real urgency to get offline. Because of my vocations and jobs in Critical Care and as an NFP Practitioner, guys are up front, honest and confide easily in me, regarding their CURRENT use of pornography which is not merely objectifying women but inhibiting the MEN’S ability to love, be loved and simply….pursue! Yes, I can speak affirmatively on this matter because I’ve been on this site for about 10 years (never consistently, as I have a relationship every couple of years, then need hiatuses, etc) and it’s getting worse, as the addiction to computers, iPhones and other visual devices that remove the spirit, emotional and humanity of the person. When I posted a topic on “Porn Porn Porn!!” you can believe how many comments and personal emails I received (talking dozens per day!) and I continue to still, on this very matter. In some senses it’s worse here than the secular sites because there is a level of denial and hiding in the Church vs dying trying to stop, and getting to the wounds which set one up and one allows computer addictions, and porn to be specific to delay their (or HAULT) their pursuit of us women. Boys in their 30s and 40s writing about their “love” of video cakes, sports and being “movie buffs.” I don’t want to hear “go Chargers!”..I want to hear how much you desire husband and fatherhood, looking forward to loving a woman and helping her with her crosses and she, his. Seriously, while good comes out of the internet, so much that is NOT good (sorry, this is a raw comment with 100% truth) when it comes to enabling a non-real world pursuit of a woman. I get so many emails “you’re cute, nice smile, want to talk” when I SPECIFICALLY write in my profile no non 7/7, zero porn tolerance, and only political and moral conservatives please, and yet I get 5/7 liberals who are just seeking a “girl who loves movies and will appreciate my interest in video games.”

    I see NOT perfection. I’m a realist, in reality, and want something real. I’m 35 and was engaged to TWO men who were not practicing Catholics but became as such during our relationship and my invitation to chastity, and they are now in the Priesthood (ordained in 2006 and 2008, respectively). I am ready for a mature friendship with a mature man who is discovering and healing from any wounds if any big ones, and not in denial, self medicating with porn.

    I know this post was about whether online dating was dehumanizing, but I cannot help but connect the inhumanity of porn which his MOST prevalent (priests report over 90% of males confessions regard porn use — married, single, young and old) and THAT is what makes internet dating sterile and inhuman.

    Thank you and God bless you all. Ladies? It’s been WONDERFUL getting to know so many of you, and building a support center to handle the very real problems male usage of porn is affecting the mind, body and soul of those who are not pursuing us, and in turn we affects our society, culture, nation and world at large.

    • Jason-862068 July 24, 2014 Reply

      Jenn,
      I see you haven’t let a guy in to even have a fighting chance as you seem to be waiting on someone that only you can fabricate. Ya some guys have problems and are immature why can’t you just move on as there are good fellows still (numbers have fallen) after telling them the reason why your not interested? It brings me to ask why women would wait so long to begin a family with only a few years of fertility left and all the time past.
      You have some deep seated issues with how porn conflicts in even a well intentioned man as mens thoughts are more physical and need to be affirmed as well and not torn down. Men struggle with it just as women struggle with gossiping and trashy magazines and wearing the low cut, immodest or revealing outfit. Where is your comment on that? Maybe you have experienced stories from a cross section of those who had or have porn issues and have been around people who have been addicted to it as people are lacking in other areas reach for porn because its easy. The reason why this site is in play is an alternative to porn and it sounds like you are just judging most men as porn addicts. Are you trying to drive men away now?
      We all struggle in our chastity walk and if you don’t then you are lying to yourself but I believe many in this site are wanting something more (fullness of truth) even though there might be some half hearted catholics they realize or could be on the path. I don’t think you can speak for men as you think you may just being around it. Self control is something that is worked on all the time as it takes practice and is a lifestyle. You make it seem like porn is only a man issue.
      I think you are a blessing for turning men to the priesthood if it was there calling but there is more to life than battling the issue of porn as it is a big issue. Porn is a misguided perverted passion and so is other things people struggle with. I know what you are getting at but it came out harsh and judgmental to men who are very genuine to the faith. Not all women are full of sweet gum drops, yes they clearly have some spit and vinegar.

      • Casey-1002390 July 25, 2014 Reply

        Respectfully, Jason, parts of your comment (in my opinion) come across as harsh and judgmental as well.

        “It brings me to ask why women would wait so long to begin a family with only a few years of fertility left and all the time past.”

        Ouch. I’m not sure if it was intended or not, but that reads like a not-so-subtle dig at her age.

        Also, I think it a bit presumptuousness to assume her (or any…) women still single at the age of 35 are to blame because they simply “waited too long”.

        Admittedly, I am may just over sensitive to this being 35 years old myself. It is hard not to feel completely disposable on a site like this. Something men (with no “clocks” to worry about) can’t begin to understand.

        Anyway, just some thoughts.

        God bless you in your search!

        God bless us all. :-)

        • Casey-1002390 July 25, 2014 Reply

          Also, I agreed with many of the thing you said as well. (us all struggling in our chastity walk, “half-hearted” Catholics perhaps looking for fullness of truth, even if they don’t realize it,etc…)

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave that out in the first reply!

  15. David-1054431 July 22, 2014 Reply

    I’m somewhat new to Catholic Match.

    I will say I have been a member of the secular free sites OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish. What my experience there has led me to wonder is: does anyone ever actually meet through an online site? Granted I’m going to be biased, but in all honesty I’d say my profile paints me as an interesting guy with some diverse interests and enthusiasm for life. And I have no drama. I’m not battling any addictions; I have no child custody battles or family conflicts; I don’t make big bucks but I am financially secure. At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I should sound promising to women. But do I get any hits? Virtually never. Do I even get replies to polite messages I send to women? Out of about 20 or so messages I’ve sent in the few months I’ve been on those sites, I’ve gotten exactly one reply. And then that one only replied once and never communicated with me again.

    My guess is that some guys reading this will know I’m talking about, but women maybe not as much.

    I have hoped that Catholic Match might be better because by definition, it is for people of faith. That should narrow the clientele down to a better quality of people, people that have some values and appreciate what truly matters in life. And I am an active Catholic. So I would hope to have better luck here, but so far I haven’t gotten motivated enough to take the full plunge.

    Anyone with any experience to offer along this line?

    • Ann-69118 July 23, 2014 Reply

      I’ve been on CM off and on and off for around 9 years. My experience is that many people aren’t really serious in their hearts about finding someone they just like to play the field or looking for some one who doesn’t exist. It’s important to be realistic in what you are looking for. If your a guy that’s not so active for example a really active person might not be a good fit for you just as if you decided you want to start a family at 50 you might not find a younger women so keen on the idea of starting a family with an older guy. Same goes for ladies of course we need to be realistic as well. Just saying.

    • John-1062906 July 23, 2014 Reply

      My way of working through that was to approach it knowing that I shouldn’t get invested before I say hi. A friendly emote or a message just introducing yourself doesn’t need to be more than simply saying hello. Perhaps it will even encourage you to say hi to people who don’t really fit your idea of an ideal, broaden your focus in a way. It will help you stay positive when you don’t get responses right away, or maybe ever. My biggest experience, though, is that your picture is worth your whole profile.

      Most people won’t even glance at a profile unless they can see what the other person looks like. If you do have a profile picture, make it one worth looking at. I took a homemade one on my tablet when I first signed up but changed it to my company staff photo later and the difference in views was very noticeable. I also found my current girlfriend here and actually passed her over at first because her profile picture was instagram filtered and didn’t look good.

      Regarding text, I found it’s best to fill up your profile, but don’t say everything. Give the girls looking at it some interesting stuff about you to catch their eye but leave room for questions to build conversation.

      I hope things start looking up for you, David!

      • David-1054431 July 28, 2014 Reply

        Good advice. Thanks, John.

      • David-1054431 August 4, 2014 Reply

        One other thing, John … I might differ with you on one point. I’d say your first message to a lady should be more than just saying hello. If she’s even a moderately attractive lady, she probably already gets lots of messages saying “hello”. I think if in your first message you have a question you can ask her or some comment to offer that relates to something specific in her profile, she’s be more likely to respond. That way you can stand out and you should be more interesting to her.

        Otherwise though, everything else you say is good advice. And thanks for the good wishes.

        • Kiz-1124626 October 30, 2014 Reply

          I agree with you David. Subconsciously that is what usually happens, at least from my experience. It adds interest when there is a different approach conversing with someone. Although, the context of the message is most important with it’s sincerity and all, it would be better to be different from time to time. It would also show the level of interest you have if you put a lot of thought to it. Have a great day!

  16. Michael-978729 July 23, 2014 Reply

    After schooling, it’s difficult. I read the best way to meet a girl is socially after that. At a birthday party, a charity event, a club, your church. But there is no established etiquette for either sexes. I remember once, a girl contacted me months later. I said why are you contacting me? I’m moving out of state tomorrow. But I have met one couple who met on line. They wanted to be happy. And they would have never met any other way. They are very successful people.

  17. Patrick-341178 July 23, 2014 Reply

    So most guys sign up for catholic match as a porn substitute? I must admit…. never heard that one before….

  18. Patrick-341178 July 23, 2014 Reply

    If a guy wants to view porn, he can google porn. No substitute is needed.

  19. Ed M. July 23, 2014 Reply

    You might coordinate Singles groups for Catholic( numerous )such as Catholic Match, Singles & Soul mates etc., in number with local parishes in the various states who have parish or state wide Catholic singles groups. In Ct. you have Credo-Hartford New Haven area,, St. James parish in Stratford, St Michaels in Beacon falls and St. Anthony’s in Prospect. Hold similar events to the Stir events sponsored by Match.com to coordinate local singles parties and interested members of the numerous Catholic groups top meet and mingle both online and at parties at those events in Ct. etc..

  20. Ed M. July 23, 2014 Reply

    To meet is the proper last phrase.

  21. John-1046049 July 25, 2014 Reply

    Our humanity is not contingent upon our romantic, financial, or career success…instead it is based on knowing who we are in Christ Jesus. Many martyrs have suffered worst fates then rejection on CM and they have done so with great joy and dignity because they were focused on God’s love for them and that’s what all of us need to focus on as well. When we allow His love to transform us, it’s impossible not to be happy and not to be at peace! Focus on Him, and the human love will come…

  22. Rodrigo-1115250 July 25, 2014 Reply

    I’m here out of curiosity more than anything else, but I must say this works. I found this site through a friend. She married last Saturday to a guy she met here. The sole idea of a Catholic dating site sounded great to me.

  23. Joe-786218 July 25, 2014 Reply

    I’ve spent some time on secular relationship blogs; I rarely read them anymore, but the best tip I got out of any of them regarding online dating was this: for most men, online dating doesn’t work without a huge investment in time and (questionable) creativity unless he is at least 6 feet tall and/or looks like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Hence most men should only allow so much time for online dating. The rest of a man’s free time is better spent getting out of the house and meeting women in real life. Whether on the dance floor or in the Starbucks or at the local parish event, whatever, just get out of the house.

    This isn’t meant to be slam on Catholic Match, it’s just that one has to be realistic about one’s prospects and what it takes to get on with one’s search. For many including myself, that may mean going offline more often. Good luck and God bless

    • David-1054431 July 28, 2014 Reply

      Thanks, Joe. I think the hard reality is that generally a decent looking woman will get lots of responses online. She doesn’t have to look like Jennifer Anniston; she just has to be reasonably good looking. But for a guy, you have to be more exceptional in some area to attract women. It might be exceptional looks or it might be having a impressive profession or income or just lots of charisma or something. It’s just tough going for guys who are perfectly nice decent guys with no serious problems but simply don’t have anything flashy about them. Many women will say that a simple decent guy is all they really want, but their actions don’t match their words. I think your advice about not expecting too much from online is spot-on.

      • Walter-533749 July 30, 2014 Reply

        David, I think you hit the nail on the head. I have been a member of other sites and I have responded to women’s profiles that seem to match 100% but never get a reply. I enjoy the Catholic Match articles and blogs but finding someone on these sites is like playing the lottery. I am amazed that people are on these sites for 10 years and are still looking. Tells me these sites do not work. I am active in a secular social club and enjoy the company of many women who I call friends. Although, lately, many of the people in the club are now dating or are married and some of the fun is gone until more unattached singles join.

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