Do we want more mystery in online dating, or less?

Mystery is an important part of dating. How much mystery do you like online?

Internet Culture

Published Sep 20, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 6:01 am CDT

Beth Cook is a dating and career coach. Want advice? Have advice? Send her an email at [email protected].

Mystery has always been an integral part of dating. Will he call me? Where will we go? What will we talk about? Will we hit it off? Will we kiss? Will we see each other again?

The unknown is sexy, and also terribly frightening. What if we have nothing to talk about? What if there is no chemistry? What if I get stuck on a bad date?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether meeting someone online adds more mystery to the experience, or steals a bit of it away.

From one perspective, there is more mystery involved in meeting someone you have never once talked to in real life, and with whom you share no common friends. You have no idea how they behave out in the world, if they measure up—physically and otherwise—to their digital selves, and whether you’ll feel the teensiest of sparks while in their company.

From another perspective, a bit of the mystery disappears in that you don’t get to organically learn about what people do, where they’re from or the fact that they couldn’t live a day without artisanal coffee. You’ve already read about these details and more, in their online self-summary.

Then there are tools like Tinder, the hot-or-not-like app that leaves almost everything to the imagination (except for looks). Simply featuring photos and a one-liner about someone, the app is used by many for hooking-up on the fly, and apparently is also used by many of my friends who are looking for dates and significant others. None of them have embarked on a Tinder date yet—perhaps the outcome is too mysterious (read: unpredictable)?

These days, generally speaking, dating apps are asking us for less and less information about ourselves (i.e., How About We…, Crazy Blind DateGrouper) rather than more.  And I’m left wondering, are we getting closer to the traditional blind date or old newspaper personal ads? Are we actually craving more mystery?

The truth is, I certainly am. I don’t want to see a photo or self-summary before meeting someone anymore. I’d rather just trust that my friends have good taste when setting me up, or hope that I’ll meet someone great in the ever mysterious and unpredictable playground that is real life. Hell, I’ve flown to other cities for first dates; I like surprises.

With the help of technology, the line between exciting mystery and scary uncertainty is certainly becoming blurry. Everyone has their own personal boundaries with regard to dating sites, apps and real world behavior… and how much mystery they want. What are yours?

Photo by terr-bo/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 20, 2013, 11:00 am CDT