Manti Te'o would never have gotten catfished if he'd just had a coffee date.
The recent debacle involving college football star, Manti Te’o getting catfished is another unfortunate example of what’s wrong in our hi-tech social world. It’s a complicated, tangled story and it only seems to get more unbelievable with each new interview. What’s more surprising is that all of it could have been avoided with one simple step: a coffee date.
We increasingly rely on technology for communicating. Facebook is ubiquitous adopted by people from every generation, and the numerous smartphone apps for messaging, photo-messaging and texting are making even phone calls seem too time-consuming.
When it comes to finding old-fashioned love, what do we do? We go online.
Online dating is big business – in 2012 it was a $1.049 billion. It’s big business because the drive to find a lasting, meaningful relationship is one of our most powerful instincts and using technology to finding potential mates is a perfect application.
Just as our instincts drive us to find a partner they also warn us about blindly trusting technology and hence the need to “get-to-know” someone. Companies like Match and eHarmony have invested heavily in communication processes that help matches overcome this hesitancy. The questions and step-by-step emails give a sense of connection and security to make us comfortable enough to suggest a meeting without fear of rejection.
That’s a positive but one downside is this electronic communication can speed up a relationship without truly developing it. The average length of courtship for marriages that met online is just over 18 months compared to a lengthy 42 months for couples who met offline. The back and forth, swapping of personal information and tidbits, creates an illusion of knowing each other so the relationship process develops faster when in reality it may be lacking in the fundamentals of shared values. Ultimately authentic intimacy doesn’t develop.
The truth is no amount of technology is a substitute for meeting in person. The solution is to be brave, be courageous and meet in person and the sooner the better!
A coffee date is the perfect first meeting – from a safety viewpoint, you can arrange to meet there, you’ll be in a public place and you won’t have to divulge any personal information. You can still depend on your online dating service for communication so you don’t even need to give out your phone number or email address.
It’s inexpensive so if your date offers to pay, you can accept without it creating a sense of obligation. And the timing is flexible – if it’s going badly you could ask for a do-over or if you decide you have little in common you can finish your coffee and politely excuse yourself. If you’re getting on like long-lost friends, stay for another cup.
Still intimidated? Think about it just exactly the way it is – a coffee date. Don’t over-analyze it. It’s not a marriage proposal, and it doesn’t involve any commitment to meet again.
What it does require is curiosity and good listening skills. It helps to know the values that are important to you and to think about the conversations you can have around these values. Preparing like this will help you to really get to know your date and will also help calm your nerves.
Give your date plenty of time to respond to your questions. Allow them time to pause and think, be comfortable with the silences and resist the temptation to talk to fill the quiet. Let your date do the talking.
Learn to enjoy the art of conversation, learn to savor getting to know someone slowly, and let your relationship evolve gradually. Pretty soon you’ll know that you can have coffee with just about anyone and enjoy it.
Naturally, there is the risk that if you skip the step-by-step, question-by-question communication and jump to a coffee invitation, you’ll be throwing your match an unexpected curveball that they won’t know how to handle.
They may well decline. Then what? Don’t second guess yourself. You shrug and you move on. It’s more about them than you.
They may also put you off. Delaying once is understandable. It could be a sign that your match isn’t truly ready to date. More than once though and it’s time to open your eyes. Think Manti Te’o!
Sheila Paxton is the founder and creator of Fit4love, the dating coaching program that helps singles find their true love. Are you ready to find true love? Download the free Fit4love Singles Report to find out three secrets to making yourself more attractive to the opposite sex.