Should You Encourage Friends to Try Online Dating?

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Friend: “I’m sick of being single. I gotta make dating more of a priority.”

Me: “Why aren’t you trying online dating?”

Friend: “I know, I know. Will you help me with my profile?”

Me: “Sure. Send me a draft next week.”

A couple months later, it starts again. “I really should get out there,” the friend says. And so on.

It’s frustrating to see friends who claim they are aching to meet a sweetie stay stuck in the realm of “Some day.” On one hand, you want to respect their choices – in the same way you wouldn’t push friends who say they want to take up running, stop smoking or lose 10 pounds but never follow through with their intentions.

But in matters of the heart, you really want to help them. You don’t buy that they’re just too busy or want to take time off to “work on themselves.” You suspect they’re scared of rejection and just need a little scoot down the turnpike of love. After all, you’re probably grateful for all nudges you’ve received throughout your life to apply for jobs, try out for a triathlon or go gluten-free. Why should dating be any different?

Besides, our friends need us. Who else will tell them that mentioning their love of fancy cheese trays and expensive Italian heels might make them come across as “high maintenance” rather than showing off their “passion for life”? Or that writing “If you’re a cheater or liar, don’t contact me!” might be scaring off even the honest prospects.

We’re also the ones who can give them a confidence boost by reminding them how awesome they are. We can help them identify and articulate their strengths – or at least the parts we admire about them. “Make sure to put in there that you’re really good at telling corny jokes and make heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday mornings,” we say.

The problem is that even the most well-worded encouragement is pointless unless your friends are motivated to actually date. You can even write a killer profile for them, but they have to post it, initiate and respond to communication, plan dates and go on them. Oh, and make an effort to look good and be charming!

Still, we can’t abandon our friends. So here are some tips for helping even our most resistant pals:

Try a Softer Touch

Ever wanted to bolt from a store when a salesperson practically accosts you as soon as you walk in? You don’t want help. You just want to passively look at the merchandise at your own speed. Maybe you see someone else try on a turquoise wrap dress and then wonder if it might look good on you. It’s the same idea. You might have more luck influencing your friend who shies away from offers of profile help by mentioning that you can’t meet for drinks on Thursday because you have a date. That will pique their curiosity!

Or you can help in other ways, such as offering to take photos of them or pointing out good date outfits. “You look really good in this light,” you could say. “Let me take a picture of you.” Then it’s fair game to suggest it might make a good profile photo. Your reluctant friend might start to warm up to the idea, if he thinks he’s got something flattering to post. That’s because he can see that his arms really do look buff from that angle.

Respect Their Boundaries

I never want to push anyone to do online dating unless they’re ready, but I was confused by one friend in a decade-long dating drought who begged me to keep bugging her to put up a profile. “Please! I’m just having a hard time taking the plunge and need you to stay on me,” she had pleaded. So I gave her a deadline to send me a rough draft. A week after it passed, I sent her a reminder. Two months and several more pings later, she still hadn’t followed through. In the meantime, she had met someone through friends. It turned out that my friend really didn’t want to do online dating. So don’t take on the job of being the heavy. Offer your help and let them come to you.

Let Go of the Outcome

Here’s the most annoying part of helping your friends go forth and find love online. You can spend hours fine-tuning their profiles, and you never learn what happens afterwards. Oftentimes, they get so busy with dating they forget to send you an update. Three weeks later, they’ll talk about going on a fourth date with someone, and you hadn’t even heard about the first one. It’s a reminder of your true role. You’re simply a cheerleader, and they eventually have to get out there on their own.

You can at least hope they’ll remember you in a wedding toast.

What tactics have you used to help a friend?

About the Author:

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.

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