Though many people will claim that finding love online isn't all that different from meeting and connecting people the traditional way, I beg to differ.
Before I hooked up with my now-wife, I met several girls online and then in person. Though all but one encounter led to nothing more than exchanging pleasantries over lunch, I made a few observations when comparing how the two approaches differ.
For one, when meeting the old school way, people are usually drawn to one another by virtue of physical attraction. The get-to-know-you phase comes later.
With online dating, it's the other way around. You get to know the person based on whatever is said in online or phone conversations, then you meet in person and determine if you're both physically attracted to one another.
Provided that people are being truthful about themselves -- we've all heard horror stories of people who misrepresent themselves -- I think the online-then-offline option gives both parties the opportunity to get to know each other quicker and on a deeper level. Once you feel attracted to someone's personality, you're more likely to be drawn to their physical appearance as well.
In person, the process seems a bit more superficial. If you're not physically attracted to someone right off the bat, you may have little interest in proceeding to get to know him or her better.
Of course, you may love a person's personality over the phone, only to find that he or she doesn't quite match up in person to what you'd envisioned. Maybe the person is a little less fit (e.g. they sent an old picture) or more introverted than you had anticipated.
Meeting people online offers a bevy of advantages. You can connect with people in the comfort of your own home without having to deal with the awkwardness that comes with approaching a stranger. You can also screen people based on set criteria. For example, sites like Match.com and eHarmony allow you to search for people who match your preferences, whether it's 50+ divorcees or single church-going college students.
However, those who wish to venture into the world of online dating should heed this warning: It's common for people to spend a long time talking to someone online and/or on the phone before meeting in person, especially if both people live thousands of miles apart.
The problem with this is that the longer people go without meeting in person, the more likely it becomes for them to idealize each other. Subconsciously, this sets the bar ever higher for that elusive in-person meeting. If the person doesn't live up to the other's expectations, there may not be another meeting in the cards.
That's why it's imperative for both people to meet in person as soon as possible. The quicker you do it, the faster you'll know whether this has the makings of a fairytale romance, or a case of people falling in love with the idea of being in love.
The best case scenario is, of course, that both people find they are a good match both physically and personality-wise.
But just because the meeting doesn't lead to a romantic relationship does not mean both people can't remain friends. I maintained contact with a few of the girls I met, but with others it felt unnatural to try and force a friendship after the build-up leading to the in-person date.
Finally, no approach is necessarily better than the other; each has its pros and cons. Whether you want to meet someone online amd then in person, or the old fashioned way at a club or party, be mindful of what you're getting yourself into.
If you want to increase your odds of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, why not try both?