Forum speaker emphasizes communication in age of online dating

By Autumn Young

Online dating is becoming increasingly common in an age of technology.  Farmers Only,, eHarmony, Meetme, and a hundred other sites have sprung up in the last decade to provide alternative ways for doing what humans have done for thousands of years—meeting other people.

“We are made for dating–we are made for relationships that have some degree of intimacy,” said Dr. Quentin Schultze during his Tuesday Forum presentation “Love the Photo—Don’t Like the Scent: Online Dating in the Age of Coffee Shops.”

Schultze is the author of numerous books on various aspects of communication, the director of Center for Servant Leadership Communication and emeritus professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College.

During his presentation, Schultze neither encouraged nor discouraged online dating, but proffered a few tips for getting to know someone through the screen of a computer—emphasizing the importance of communication during the process.

“The quality of our lives is dependent on how well we communicate […] and a vital part of communication is listening—especially when getting to know someone online.  Listening allows us to get to know each other as individuals—it lets us pay attention to reality instead of what we want reality to be,” said Schultze.

According to students, the issue of communication is one of the hardest to overcome when trying to get to know someone online.

“It’s definitely difficult to know who someone actually is when you’re interacting with them online.  Because of that, online dating just isn’t for me,” said Jeff Horner, a junior at Bluffton.

Other students have decided to give online dating a try, though they don’t rank the experience highly. Brooke Ryman, a sophomore at Bluffton, explained she had to be careful to insure someone really was who they said they were.  “I make sure he has more than 5 pictures and look them up on Facebook to see if he has a profile.”

To help get a sense of who someone is on the internet, Schultze recommended looking for someone with a particular personality trait.

“After looks, the thing that attracts people the most is gratefulness; the easiest way to tell if someone is grateful is their smile,” Schultze said.

Despite many students’ negative outlook, research suggests that online dating isn’t all bad.  A University of Chicago study found that married couples who met through online dating were happier and less likely to be divorced.  A study conducted by the University of Portland found that college students hook up less and have fewer sexual partners than in the past.

Schultze’s last tip for students looking for relationships on and off the internet was simple: timing is everything.  

“Don’t try to rush things—they will happen when they happen.”

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