Last week, I was out with a friend for dinner. While chatting over dinner, she told me about her friend who recently got together with someone she met from an online dating site. It made her keen to try out online dating as well, though the more we talked about it, the more she backed away from her initial thought. While not articulated, I could feel a great wave of inertia from her surrounding the idea of online dating.
In the end, she decided she didn’t want to try online dating and she would rather check out sites for meeting friends, and only friends, first. While I felt there was more to the decision than laid out on the table, I respected her choice and didn’t press on any further.
Now if you were wondering if I did anything to dissuade her (from online dating), I didn’t. In fact, I was totally supportive and encouraging her about it. (In fact, I’m even thinking of trying it myself at some point.)
She didn’t explain her sudden change of heart but I suspected it was partly because of the way online dating tends to be viewed in Singapore — with great disdain and aversion.
Online Dating — A Dating Tool for Desperate People?
Stigmas against Modern Channels of Dating
I guess there are just very heavy stigmas surrounding modern channels of dating in the Singapore society, despite the fact that it is quite a modernized city.
Not trying to speak for everyone when I say this, but the way I was brought up and with the people I know, online dating, dating apps, and arranged dating are generally seen as shameful, embarrassing, and “uncool” ways to meet new people.
“For desperate people,” is how people would refer to them.
These are seen as channels you resort to when you are really desperate to find love or when you are really, really at your wits end in the romance department and can’t seem to get together with anyone, even though you have been secretly trying/yearning/waiting for a great person to sweep you off your feet.
(Update in 2022: It’s been 10 years since I wrote this post and the societal attitude towards online dating has changed a lot since then, which is fantastic. Nonetheless, there are still people who feel negative about proactive approaches towards love, and this post is written for them.)
It wasn’t too long ago when I viewed such channels with great distaste myself. Of course, that has since changed, which led to my recent decision to give arranged dating a go and openly write about it on PE.
So, why do people carry such negative attitudes about such avenues of dating?
Notion that Love Should Be Seen as “Natural”
A lot of it has to do with the Asian culture and Chinese values.
Generally in Asia, love is seen as something that should happen by itself, not something you should work too hard to make happen. Love is seen as something depicted in films like “When Harry Met Sally,” where you miraculously bump into the love of your life one fine day when you least expect it, such as when you are on the bus or when you’re hitching a ride to another country.
Consciously pursue love? Uh-uh — that’s only for desperate people. Miraculous, unforeseeable, inexplicable, and one-in-a-millionth chance encounters that will lead you to the love of your love? Uh-huh — this is seen as the ideal love story. This type of airy-fairy scenario is the exact thing that everyone is taught to strive for since young, be it by media or society.
Shame Associated with Being Proactive in Love (Especially for Females)
The belief that one should never pursue love is especially true for females. Females are expected to maintain a level of “pride” when it comes to dating and relationships. Initiation of any kind is usually frowned upon by others and seen as being “unladylike.”
If you are a female and you make the first move, try to seek out love, or try to initiate a relationship, you are deemed “desperate,” “needy,” and perhaps even a “loser.” (Harsh, but yeah.) I mean no one will ever say such things in your face, but people will develop such perceptions about you—some consciously while some unconsciously so.
It’s significantly worse when you make the first move and remain single. It’s like triple the shame.
For the supposedly proactive females, sometimes people gossip about them behind their back; sometimes people will mock their actions. Most of the times, people look at them quite differently after that, like women who have been scorned.
Because of that, if you ever ask an Asian (especially woman) to try online dating, arranged dating, or any form of proactive approach to dating, they will usually react with resistance. When you ask why, they probably won’t be able to give a clear response, other than because they just don’t want to or prefer to let things happen their natural way. There you have it: traditional Asian values at work.
Addressing Common Misconceptions about Dating and Love
I believe the culture here is slowly changing. People are slowly opening up to new ways of meeting people (read: friends and potential romantic partners). People are gradually accepting that love is a conscious creation, and not some random, chance, airy-fairy encounter that falls onto your lap where you least expect it.
For the record, I believe the latter does happen to people and it has in fact happened to me numerous times before, though things didn’t work out in the end. I also know of many people who found their current partners through chance encounters, say while vacationing, while sitting in the library, or while going about their daily routines.
However, these are really more of the exception rather than the rule. I also hardly think that this is a standard we should strive to achieve in love—at all.
Look, I think that love, like many things in life, is something we have to consciously work toward. And I think that there are still many traditional views on dating, love, and meeting the right person which do absolutely nothing in helping us realize this intention. For the rest of the article, I’ll redress the top five myths surrounding love and dating.
If you are single and looking for that special person for you, I hope this article will help open up your perspective surrounding dating and really get you to take conscious action in the romance area of your life.
Myth #1: Online dating and arranged dating are for desperate people
No they aren’t. I don’t know who made up this belief but looking back, this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard regarding modern channels of dating.
Desperate people are people who dedicate their entire existence to finding their “other halves” rather than have their own identities and pursue their goals. Desperate people are people who can’t stop evaluating every single new person they meet just to see if he/she is suitable as a romantic partner. Some of these desperate people might even avoid online dating and arranged dating just to avoid being labeled as desperate. Go figure.
On the other hand, online dating and arranged dating are merely new avenues of meeting new people; new people who may or may not turn out to be a romantic match. If they don’t, that’s cool—you just made some new friends. If they do, awesome—enjoy and see how things go! Who knows, perhaps one of them might turn out to be someone you would want to spend the rest of your life with.
People usually see these channels with great disdain because their belief is that one shouldn’t have to resort to such channels when you can just meet people organically, through normal means. However, the reality is that people’s lives are increasingly wired today. We are spending more time on the computer and the internet than ever; in fact, most of us probably spend more time in front of the computer than in front of real people every day. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the internet can now be utilized as a new way to meet people and get dates; this method should also not be seen as distasteful because the internet is simply one of the various tools that can be used to to expand our horizons.
I actually think that these modern dating channels are actually more helpful than traditional, when-harry-met-sally type methods of meeting compatible people, because with the former, they are (a) effective, since you can immediately see who’s out there and filter by whatever criteria you have for your dates (online dating), (b) targeted, in that you know these people are also interested in dating, and you aren’t just randomly barking up the wrong three, (c) boundless, because the pool of people you can meet/date is no longer bounded by who you know, and (d) time-saving, for the aforementioned reasons. What’s not to like about them?
Moreover, online and arranged dating dating are particularly suited for the busy professional today who is too busy with his/her work and prefer to spend his/her time in a more targeted manner when it comes to dating and romance. If you’re currently reading this article now rather than socializing with others, that’s probably you.
Myth #2: Love will happen when it happens (a.k.a. I’ll leave it to fate)
You know what? I used to adopt this school of thought. Then I realized how limiting it was.
I realized that if we have intentions about being healthy and we take actions to become healthy, and if we have intentions about improving our careers and we take actions to improve in our career, then there is no reason why we should do things any differently when it comes to romance and love.
I’m not saying to go all the way out there and hunt for a relationship partner. I’m also not saying to force love to happen where there isn’t anything. That’s just turning love into some goal and looking for someone to slot into the placeholder you have reserved for your future partner (whom you have not even met yet). That’s not how love and dating should be and it is something I covered in Step #2 of 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love.
All I’m saying is that where you have intentions about something, you have to take action to make it happen. Want something? Go and get it. Thinking of doing something? Go and do it. You sitting there and hypothesizing for hours on end about whether to do it or not (perhaps even ultimately justifying to yourself that you shouldn’t do it), isn’t going to help you realize your deepest wishes.
At best you might marginally realize your intentions in the distant future by some fluke, but why would you want that to happen? Because of fear? Because of embarrassment? Because of how people would perceive you? All these are merely limiting beliefs! You are no sooner happier by letting these thoughts go. Trust me, when you do that, you will realize how illogical your past beliefs were. I know I did, and that’s why I opened myself to arranged dating thereafter (which I covered in my Lunch Actually series).
- Not Getting What You Want? Time To Change Your Actions
- How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions: 3 Decision Making Methods
Myth #3: I prefer to meet people the “natural” way (i.e. not online dating or arranged dating)
What’s so unnatural about meeting people through online dating, arranged dating, or modern dating channels? Plenty of people use such channels for dating nowadays.
Match.com, a leading online dating site, has over 20 million members today with websites that serve 25 countries. Lunch Actually, a lunch dating company, has set up over 18,000 first dates for its members since its inception in 2004. Some of the most popular applications on Facebook are actually related to dating, such as Zoosk (8.4 million likes), Are You Interested? (2.2 million likes), and OK Cupid (which seems to pretty popular in Singapore). In India, arranged dating continues to be a popular way to meet potential future partners.
Numbers aside, I do know of various people who met their partners through online dating sites and Facebook. Some of them are even married with kids now! These are all very accomplished individuals in their own rights; there’s nothing undesirable or needy about them at all (referring to Myth #1).
People are increasingly using modern dating channels to seek out romantic partners today. What you see as “unnatural” is merely the result of certain enclosed beliefs. If you are ready to open your mind and embrace new possibilities, you will find that there are many new things waiting for you to explore, and you’ve just been the one holding yourself back all along.
Myth #4: Girls should never make the first move
My viewpoint on this one is neutral, in that I do not think that girls should or shouldn’t make the first move. I think that you should just do whatever you want and whatever rocks your boat. That means if you are a guy who doesn’t like to make the first move, so be it. If you are a girl who wants to make a first move, go right on ahead.
I do know of numerous females who made the first move, and continue to make the first move, in the relationships they are in today. First move can be seen as initiating the first date, initiating dates in general, or even proposing for that matter. There is nothing shameful or disgraceful about females taking the initiative sometimes; initiative is something that shouldn’t be reserved for a certain gender.
If you are a female and there’s someone you might be interested to know better, invite this person out as a friend and get to know him better. Who knows, perhaps something might spark off between both of you in the future, yeah? If not, like I explained in Myth #1, that’s a new friend gained! No loss at all.
I think approaching any form of relationship with friendship in mind is a great philosophy to live by, because you start to be yourself and stop teetering on the edge about every little thing. The former helps you to shine as your natural self which in turn helps you to attract more compatible people; the latter is a very exhausting way to live to say the least.
In this day or age, any gender-wide stereotype should be thrown out of the window. Understand gender norms as a way of knowing the society and how it operates, but don’t stick to them like they are your bible for life.
(There are many gender stereotypes in dating which are worth exploring. I might cover them in a separate article in the future.)
And the final myth for today’s article…
Myth #5: Finding love is about being the right person
Partially true. I believe finding love is about being the right person and meeting the right person.
Let’s take these two factors to the extreme for illustration purposes.
Example #1: Let’s say someone has an absolutely great character, looks great for his/her age, has good dress sense, and is doing well in his/her life.
However, this person works inside a cubicle for 10 to 12 hours every day, five days a week. When he/she is off work, he/she heads straight home to watch DVDs, read, or sleep. During weekends, he/she stays home to rest, in anticipation of the busy week ahead. Occasionally he/she goes out to run some errands, but that’s really about it.
For this person, how is he/she going to expect to meet compatible partners? From the television? From the bathroom drain? From the kitchen sink? There’s just no way! Even if this person is a great catch and there are tons of people out there who would love to know this person and perhaps date him/her, there’s just no way for them to get acquainted! That’s because all he/she is doing is sticking to the same old routine—a routine that keeps him/her behind closed walls, away from civilization.
Example #2: The second example is someone who has a poor character, pays little attention to personal grooming, and has no aspirations in life. He/she is constantly job hopping, avoiding his/her problems, and procrastinating on his/her goals.
Every day, this person hits the pubs, hoping to meet new people. He/she is a member of every singles and personals site, looking for dates. He/she also buys PUA books to learn more about how to appear more attractive to the opposite gender and how to seduce them.
Even though this person is putting him/herself out there and actively trying to meet new people, he/she has little success meeting compatible dates. Why? Because this person has neglected his/her personal development. While he/she may be exposed to many people, others are not attracted to him/her because his/her personality, poor grooming, and lackluster state in life.
Implications: What Examples #1 and #2 tell us is that it’s important to work on (a) being the right person and (b) meeting the right person. Spend time working on your personal growth; at the same time, you have to put due effort in getting out there and meeting people. In the context of finding love, the effort you spend on each step should be split 50-50; if not, 60-40 or 70-30 at the very least (in favor of personal growth).
Some resources on how you can start working on becoming a better person:
- How Are You Faring In Your Life Now? The Life Wheel
- Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program
- Are You Emotionally Generous?
If you want to meet someone conscious, self-directed, and open-minded, then you have to drop narrow-minded views surrounding dating and love. That includes the five myths above.
I think the time has come to overturn cultural norms and be conscious in how we approach the area of love in our lives. It’s one thing to abide by cultural norms; it’s another thing when these “norms” are merely things holding us back in our pursuits in life, our happiness, and achieving greatness. I say we start doing things our way and stop letting us be clouded by unconscious, illogical, and irrational “standards” that are incongruent with our beliefs.
I’m boldly taking steps in this area and openly writing about my experiences here on PE (more so than ever) so that others can read and perhaps take something away for themselves. I welcome you to join me in this conscious way of life and work on creating a blazing trail in your life as well.
Last but not least, my recent article on vicarious living proved extremely popular among a number of you. I believe all of us can identify with the main message of the article, which is about how we sometimes imagine ourselves as the characters in shows/games and use these shows/games as a way to put off living our lives and achieving our goals.
It’s no different with love, really. Work on creating your love story, not living others’ love stories. Check out the article here: Are You Living Vicariously Through Movie, Drama or Game Characters?
If you’re new to PE, you might want to check out some of my past relationship articles (classics):
- Are You Looking For A Relationship To Complete Yourself?
- 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love
- The Secret To Meaningful Social Relationships
If you know anyone who may hold such myths surrounding dating and love, do pass this article on to him/her (plus some love). ♥
Update 2014: I’ve since found my soulmate and husband, which I shared in How I Found My Soulmate series. :) Check out my Love category for more posts on finding love.