While cautionary tales of predatory behavior on the internet continue to remind of the importance of maintaining vigilant safeguards, the social stigma once attached to online dating seems to be diminishing in correlation to the growing prevalence of success stories.
A 2015 Pew Research Center report showed exposure to online dating services had grown since the research center first conducted a survey in 2005, with 15% of adults reporting they had used an online dating site or mobile app and the overall cultural acceptability of the practice increasing in the decade since the research was initially compiled.
Although the majority of Americans still use offline dating methods to meet potential partners, Pew reported that 5% of Americans who are married or in a committed relationship met their partner online. Among that statistic are Bay City residents Karen Stevenson, an administrative assistant at a tri-city hospital, and husband Steve Stevenson, a local machinist.
“My husband and I started talking through an online dating service in November 2011,” Karen Stevenson said. “We had our first date on Dec. 4, 2011, and were married on Oct. 17, 2015. We did have kind of a false start. We started dating Dec. 4, but broke up in mid-January 2012. We started talking again on April 5, 2012, and have been together since. We simply weren’t ready the first time.”
Karen said she turned to online dating because of her inability to meet new people. She said she previously had been told that she sometimes came off as unapproachable, and she thought it might be easier to meet someone online. For Steve, the foray into the world of online dating services came at the prompting of his sister, who helped him set up his online profile, Karen explained.
Still the decision to try a new approach didn’t come without reservations.
For me, I was hesitant in the respect that you don’t know for sure who you are talking to, and when it came to the first meeting, as a woman, I had to be extra careful,” Karen said. “Steve was hesitant because he didn’t know what to expect and also the aspect of not knowing for sure you are talking to the person pictured. One of his biggest concerns was that he did not want anyone that was associated with drugs. He did not want that around his kids, since they still lived with him.”
As is the case in offline dating, there is no guarantee of immediate success in online dating, and Karen said she had to work through a line of frogs before finally coming across her prince.
“I talked to a lot of guys and went on quite a few first dates,” Karen said. “For one reason or another, things didn’t work out, whether it was no chemistry, or he came off as a creeper. I had a lot of creepers that messaged me. … Steve talked to quite a few ladies but only went out with three, and I was the lucky one that he stuck with.”
“Or got stuck with,” she added with a laugh.
The type of “e-motional” connection the Stevensons found in cyberspace is becoming more and more the norm. The couple said they wouldn’t hesitate to recommend online dating to another person in pursuit of love or romance.
“That seems to be how a lot of people meet these days,” Karen said. “It’s worth a try for sure. Just always be careful. I hate to say be untrusting, but I guess don’t be naive and don’t take everything at face value.”