For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. -- Isaiah 55: 8-9
If y’all are wondering how on earth I intend to link a passage from Isaiah to the subject of online dating, then sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show, my friends!
As I’ve said before, I never really planned to talk about dating or relationships on the blog. Despite my desire to be authentic and vulnerable with my readers, these topics have felt…a little too authentic and vulnerable. But lately, I’ve been feeling a tug to share my experiences while I’m still in the messy middle of it all, to say all the things I wish someone would have said to me before, and if nothing else, to let others who are single and searching know that they are absolutely not alone. (Despite what your social media feeds may suggest, not everyone you know has found his or her One True Love.) And based on your feedback thus far, it seems like this stuff resonates. So today, I’m tackling a hot topic that’s become even more sizzling since the pandemic began: online dating.
It should be noted that I’m still very new to this world — in fact, I downloaded my first dating app just seven weeks ago in a lively series of events now known as The Great Bagel Mix-Up of 2020. But more on this rollicking tale in a bit — first, let’s start with the “why.”
Why I started using dating apps
Prior to this year, I simply hadn’t felt a need or desire to try online dating. My first serious relationship started the summer after I graduated from college, and since then, I have dated pretty consistently just by meeting people the “old fashioned” way: at a party, at an event, or even at work. And for a hopeful romantic like myself, this is exactly how I’ve always wanted it to be! I often joke that my dream would be to meet someone in the produce aisle at H-E-B when we both reach for the same apple at the same time, but…I’m not entirely joking. I’ve always dreamt of a great story complete with all the humor and whimsy of a 90’s romcom, a “meet-cute” that feels a little like chance and a little like destiny. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, I had become so attached to the desire that I had essentially closed myself off from meeting someone via any other route — especially when that route felt as contrived and superficial as the internet.
After taking a yearlong dating hiatus, I finally found myself ready to get back in the game — amidst a global pandemic. Impeccable timing! H-E-B suddenly went from my ideal place to meet that Special Someone to the only place I got any human interaction at all — and even then, from 6 feet away and with masks covering most of our faces.
This meme pretty much sums it up:
Furthermore, I was starting to realize that even though I have lots of friends and am involved in a variety of activities and ministries (“adult extracurriculars,” as I like to say), I have largely exhausted the dating options in my existing social circles. I needed to expand my horizons, and with COVID-19 greatly reducing the possibility of meeting new people IRL, it seemed that online dating was a logical next step.
I knew this in my mind, but I really struggled with it in my heart. Perhaps one too many Taylor Swift jam sessions are to blame, but my desire to meet someone in person was so strong. Plus, online dating seemed to produce such mixed results. For every person who found a lifelong partner, it seemed that there were several more who endured a series of ghosting and dead-end dates — along with the occasional creepy stalker — to no avail.
This is where the above scripture passage comes in. I started realizing that I was limiting God to my own ideas of what a love story should look like. As I mentioned in my recent post The Truth About Singleness, I don’t believe that I’m guaranteed to find a husband simply because I desire to get married. However, I do believe that if I find a husband, our love story will be beautiful — because real, lasting, sacrificial love is what makes stories beautiful. It’s not about the meeting — it’s about the thousands of times both of us continue to show up after that. Furthermore, how many times have I been wrong in determining how my life should look? How many times have my ideas not been the best ones? Too many to count. God’s ways are not my ways, and praise Him for that. They are SO much better.
And yes, I might have to endure some painful or awkward dates along the way. But if I feel called to marriage, then my duty in this moment is to be open to dating, regardless of the outcome. I think this is an important part of vocational discernment — seeking God right where we are and taking the “next right step” as appropriate, rather than focusing obsessively on the destination. So these perspective shifts, along with some gentle encouragement from my friends and spiritual director, helped me to put aside my pride and preconceived notions and give online dating a go.
How I chose a platform
This part was simple. Starting out, I knew the following:
- I wanted a platform that would allow me to filter/search by religious beliefs; however, the site didn’t have to be designed solely for Christians or Catholics.
- I wanted a platform where the majority of users were looking for long-term relationships rather than casual dates or hookups.
- I wanted to start with a free service rather than commit to a paid subscription right away.
I had heard the greatest number of positive reviews — and the fewest number of horror stories — for Coffee Meets Bagel, so I decided to start there.
The Great Bagel Mix-Up of 2020
My original intent was to wait to date until I moved back to Houston and got settled in. However, about a week or two before the move, I decided that it “couldn’t hurt” to start laying some groundwork. (Famous last words.) So one night, I downloaded Coffee Meets Bagel and began entering some basic demographic information. Somewhere around the “upload photos” stage, I drifted off to sleep, and when I woke up the next morning, I had largely forgotten about my evening escapades.
So imagine my surprise when, at exactly 12 pm, I received a notification on my phone announcing, “Your bagels are ready!”
It took my brain a few moments to register what was happening. My initial thought was, Bagels? Did I order Panera online and not remember?! It seemed like a reasonable explanation, since it was lunchtime, I have the Panera app on my phone, and online ordering has been my go-to ever since the pandemic began. But then I noticed the CMB logo and realized with horror that I hadn’t just downloaded the app and started exploring — I had also set up a publicly visible profile! And now I had bagels! (In CMB speak, “bagels” are simply potential matches that the app suggests for you at noon each day.)
So obviously, I did what any reasonable person would do in this situation: I panicked, deleted the app, and posted about the incident on my Instagram stories. But then I started getting a lot of encouraging responses from friends and followers: “Go for it!” and “So happy for you!” and “Don’t wait!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said. So I paused and reconsidered.
I realized that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to start finding some matches and striking up a few conversations. And besides, knowing me, I would probably get to Houston and find other excuses as to why it still wasn’t the “right time.” So later that day, I re-downloaded the app, finished setting up my profile, and decided to see what bagels I had in the toaster — er, queue.
In the interest of capping this post at a manageable length, I’ll pause here. (Ha! The suspense!) In a future update, I’ll share my actual experiences with the app as well as what I’ve learned so far. In the meantime, I’ve created a fun little Spotify playlist to capture all the ups, downs, and adrenaline rushes that come with this wild world of online dating. I’ve been jamming to it whenever I get ready for a date, and I can personally attest that blasting Taylor Swift’s ME! after you get rejected or ghosted helps at least a little. Enjoy!