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Is Long Distance Online Dating a Good Idea?

shutterstock_141259906Would you be willing to date long distance in order to find true love? This is a question I often ask myself while I’m huddled over my laptop browsing online dating profiles. I can’t count how many times I have stumbled across a profile for a guy who looks truly fantastic, only to discover upon closer inspection that he lives 200 miles away in Seattle or Portland – the closest large American cities to my medium sized hometown. I’m not alone. My girlfriends have all had similar experiences, to the point where we’ve coined the phrase, “all the good guys aren’t taken, they just live in Seattle!” Swap Seattle for any other major urban hub and you have the same “the grass is always greener” predicament that many singles find themselves in. Most of us have reached a point in our online dating careers where we’ve considered broadening our geographic horizons in the name of finding love. However, can long distance online dating really work?

The beauty of online dating is that you’re no longer constrained by your immediate social circle or geography when it comes to finding love. Whereas previous generations had to rely on chance meetings in foreign locals in order to connect (and hopefully fall in love) with someone abroad, the internet now allows you to connect instantaneously with other singles from all over the globe. Not only is it easier than ever to meet people, there’s now the technology available to help maintain these relationships through email, text, Facebook, Skype and apps like Zoosk Delivery which allow you to send your favorite online match gifts like chocolates, teddy bears and flowers. Because of this, long distance dating is now less daunting than ever before and many singles are embracing it as a viable option for meeting a potential partner.

Long distance online dating definitely comes with it’s share of advantages. For many people, the idea of dating someone long distance is very appealing because of the inherent romance that comes along with it. The longing. The anticipation. The heightened intimacy that comes from sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you can’t touch. For people who are naturally a bit shy or reserved, long distance online dating provides the opportunity to really get to know someone, without the immediate stress or pressure of first date jitters. By establishing a relationship beforehand through messages, phone or skype, it allows both parties to ease into dating, often making that first face to face meeting that much more special.

It all comes back to the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – an old adage, that scientists have recently discovered actually holds some weight. According to a new study published in the Journal of Communication, couples in long distance relationships have more meaningful interactions than those who see each other on a daily basis, leading to higher levels of intimacy. The study, which was co-authored by psychologists Crystal Jiang of the City University of Hong Kong and Jeffrey T. Hancock of Cornell University, concluded that because long distance lovers have less face to face interactions than geographically proximate couples, they have to put extra effort into keeping the romance alive. This means that the couples will engage in more frequent communication and discuss deeper, more intense topics like love, trust and future plans. As Crystal Jiang told USA Today, “The intimacy developed here is a psychological closeness – it doesn’t include physical or sexual intimacy.”

However, while on one hand the psychological closeness that can develop from an online relationship can increase intimacy between two people, it can also be deceptive. According to Jiang and Hancock, couples in long distance relationships are also more likely to idealize their partners – for better or for worse. When you’re doing long-distance online dating and you don’t have regular face to face contact with the object of your affection, it’s so much easier to only see the positive aspects of the person you’re interested in. You might miss out on important cues like facial expressions, tone of voice or even seeing how your love interest interacts socially outside of the online world. This is especially true if you’ve never met each other in person beforehand.

Long distance online dating is essentially a double edged sword. On one hand it has the potential to bring people together, however because of the anonymity the internet provides, it also provides the opportunity for people to misrepresent themselves – or worse, make room for a full blown Catfish scenario. Even if both parties are completely sincere, there’s always the chance that the online chemistry won’t translate to real life. Although there’s definitely success stories that have come out of long distance online dating, it’s still wise to err on the side of caution. Therefore, it’s best to avoid getting too emotionally involved until you’ve had a chance to meet and see if you actually have any chemistry in real life.

If the potential pitfalls of long distance online dating turn you off, luckily there are lots of other options available to you. The online dating industry has become increasingly mobile and location based, therefore changing the way you can search for other singles online. For example, Match.com’s unique searching feature allows you to narrow your search so that you only see local singles that are online, therefore completely bypassing the long-distance dilemma.

At the end of the day, whether you decide to embrace a long distance romance, or take advantage of technology that allows you to pin-point nearby singles, online dating sites offer helpful tools to make either option work for you, making it a very exciting time to be single.

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