I moved back to Nashville over four years ago and the vast majority of the time since, I have been single. The first couple of years I wholeheartedly embraced this. I had spent the bulk of my college years in a long term relationship and to be honest, I wanted to embrace my singleness.

And I did. I took the time to focus on myself and to strengthen the bonds with my family and my childhood friends.

This time was very beneficial for me personally and ended up being some of the more valued years in my life. But as it does with most people in single circumstances (or at least I assume), the benefits of singleness begin to lose their luster after a while.Thus, I began to long for companionship again. Not all the time, but some of the time. I had been on a handful of dates since my return, girls I had met through mutual friends, at a bar, etc., but I had not been proactively dating.

And I was ready to do so.

Proactively Online Dating

Upon realizing this, I encountered a varying degree of social obstacles that are tied to dating. One these obstacles that was unique to my situation however, had to do specifically with my social circle. As I stated earlier, I had spent a large amount of time within my first two years back in Nashville really reconnecting with some of my closest friends from high school and before. These efforts proved to be invaluable as most of these relationships remain some of the strongest in my life.

However, most of my friends were in long term relationships and on their way to getting married at this point. As a result, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to “cruise for chicas,” as one might say. At least not in group setting. And honestly, I was totally fine with that because it was more valuable to me to spend time with those that I cared about than it was to be hanging around singles bars. The results of this though are pretty obvious. I did not have many opportunities to meet single women on a regular basis.

The next step in all of this seems pretty obvious, right? Online dating. Also, it’s in the title. But believe it or not, I had to be somewhat forced into the technologically propelled world of dating.

And by forced, I mean a friend of mine set me up a Tinder account one night when I mistakenly left my phone at the table while I waited in an obnoxiously long line for the bathroom when we were out one night. It was intended as a joke, at least so I’ve always thought, but I’m going to honest, I was curious.


Digital Get Down

So, despite my initial negative connotation that I associated with any sort of online dating, I spent the next couple of days poking around. I think it’s a good place here to plug a PSA in defense of a large faction of Tinder users: NOT EVERYONE ON TINDER IS JUST LOOKING TO HOOK UP. Sure, it has a reputation for a reason, but the majority of the women that I met and chatted with on the app were just looking to meet someone, just like I was. I think that the reasoning behind this stigma most likely has much to do with the limited amount of information the app gives and how easy it is to download and use. But the latter also happened to be the reason behind why I continued using the app, as I was and still am on a tight budget. This is also the reason why I canceled my Match.com subsription after the first free month.

Looking beyond the reasoning behind my personal use of various platforms, I did have some success in my ventures into online dating. Over my roughly year and a half of use I’d say I yielded around 15 legitimate dates. And you might might find it hard to believe (most do), but none of those were terrible dates. There were no “blog worthy” horror stories or misleading profiles. They were all very “run of the mill,” casual drink or coffee dates. But the important thing to note here is that none of these dates resulted in a second date.

The more of these dates that I went on, I began to find the reason behind this lack of progression is perhaps the same void involved with online dating all together, and that is absence of personal interaction. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how many interests you have in common on your Match.com profile, or how attractive you deem someone to be based on their 10+ pictures, or oven how much “chemistry” you seem to have via your weeks worth of back and forth messaging. When you meet that person face to face, you can often tell within the first 30 minutes whether or not you “click.”

It is this intangible element that makes online dating so frustrating and often draining. Users spend hours of time sorting through profiles, and then once they “match” with someone they then often spend just as much time, if not more, digitally interacting with that match before both parties feel comfortable enough to engage in a face to face interaction. Do this a handful of times with no significant success and trust me, you will start to feel burnt out.

A Shift in Strategy

It was these sorts of results that prompted me to change my dating strategy. Once I realized that it was this “intangible element” that I was missing from my online dating pursuits, I began to search for more productive avenues by which to seek it out. The source that I found to be most beneficial was my friends. Yes, I know it sounds a bit old school, but think about it; your friends know the things about you that you would typically list in an online dating profile (your likes, your dislikes, your hobbies etc.), but they also know you well enough to know whether you might click with another person on a personal level (i.e. the “intangible element”). This is the factor that no algorithm can determine.

When you break it down, using this method is not unlike networking to find a job. You utilize the endorsements of your already established relationships to meet new candidates, hopefully resulting in a match. Sound familiar? The trick here (also much like networking) is removing the discomfort and inhibitions that are commonly associated with such interactions.

I have found that it is really not all that weird to ask a friend (they don’t even have to be a good friend) if they have any single friends that you might be compatible with. You might even find that this question excites them. People love to play matchmaker. The key here is timing. Also much like networking, asking a friend or even a friendly acquaintance for contacts before establishing the relationship can yield a bad impression. After all, who wants to do a favor for someone they do not have some sort of attachment to?

This new strategy has proven fairly fruitful for me. While I did not generate as high a volume from this method, the quality of dates was much higher. In fact, I am currently in the first relationship I have been in years, and guess how we met? Hint: A screen was not involved. That being said, do I now not endorse online dating? Absolutely not. There are many different services available online that have proven to be very successful for hundreds of thousands of users. I honestly think it is a bit foolish not to utilize such vast resources when dating, especially when as a result of the associated stigmas. But if you find find yourself getting worn down by the monotony that can accompany such methods, much like I did, you might want to try kicking it old school for a bit and just see what happens. You might be surprised.