On sites like these, friends show affection through status comments and “likes.” Complete strangers bond over 140 character comments. Romantic relationships can begin with a personality test and electronic matchmaking. No matter what your opinion is on internet dating or your preference for social media sites, the Internet has forever changed how we do relationships.
One study found that 2% of all couples married in 2007 met on eHarmony. A Match.com study says that 1 out of 6 marriages in 2009 were between people who met through an online dating site. Yahoo Personals claims to have 200 weddings and engagements in a 6-month period through their dating site. According to Pew Internet senior research specialist Mary Madden, “While the use of online dating sites has remained steady, the use of social networking sites has exploded, giving users free access to rich networks that they can mine for potential mates.”
The internet has opened a whole new world for relationships, and with it, a generation of digitally promiscuous daters. Immediately, when you read the term “digital promiscuity” your mind goes to scandalous profile pictures, sexy screen names and sexting. And yes, obviously those things are promiscuous and we generally agree as Christian women not to take part in those things. But there are many other temptations that we often overlook when it comes to these online dating and social media websites.
The temptation for completely private interaction and secret relationships
The temptation for hours upon hours of late-night messaging
The temptation for flirtatious comments full of subtle and not-so-subtle innuendos
The issue is not as much about the “online” aspect of dating as it is our behavior when we are online. Often online dating – in all its forms – quickly crosses “normal” Christian dating boundaries to become something very intense, very quickly. So, if online dating isn’t inherently evil, how does a girl honor God in all her dating relationships, both online and otherwise?
Attraction Obsession: Attraction is a compelling drug. It causes us to smile for no apparent reason, wander about in a happy daze and makes our heart flutter at the mere mention of his name. It’s said that men fall in love through their eyes and women fall in love through their ears. Since online communication (with the exception of web cameras) is all “ear talk” women must be careful with our time.
Be careful of letting the initial attraction tempt you into giving too much, too soon. Any online relationship should have the same boundaries of time that you would a face-to-face relationship. As Katie reminded us in her earlier post, “Limiting how often and for how long you talk during a week keeps you from moving too fast, too soon.” Phil. 4:5 says, “Let your moderation be known to all men.”
Most importantly, is the powerful tug of attraction pulling you away from your Savior? Is this dating relationship more important to you than the Lord? Does this new online “possibility” take up more of your time and thoughts than you give the Lord? Remember, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37.
Electronic Inebriation: There is a phenomenon that happens when two people develop their relationship solely by staring deeply into a computer screen – I call it electronic inebriation. Just like alcohol dulls the senses and lowers inhibitions, so communicating solely through a computer gives women a false sense of security through anonymity. She reads his profile a hundred times and memorizes all her favorite parts. It’s only been 2 days since she was “matched” with him, but she feels like she knows him. And by their second email, she’s confiding in him things that even her best friends don’t know. Something about the anonymity of the internet lowers our natural inhibitions and tempts us to share things that bind us emotionally to a stranger.
What you talk about in emails and messages matter. Yes, by all means be honest and communicate about things of importance. But don’t mistake communication with flirty talk and fantasy dreams with someone who isn’t worthy of that role in your life yet. Boundaries are a good thing in relationships, they guard your heart. “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Prov. 4:23 And remember, God commands that all our words build others up in Christ – even our direct messages. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.” Eph. 4:29
Secret Suitors: In the Christian community, it seems like online dating isn’t talked about and generally frowned on – but no one can quite articulate why. Unlike the giggling girlfriends who descend on your house the morning after a first date to hear all the juicy details, most friends don’t get as excited about an email from AdventureMan24.
Whether it’s fear of disapproval or concern that people will think they’re desperate, there are quite a few Christian girls who don’t admit to participating in relationships through online dating services and social media sites. Ironically, those relationships that started online between Christians and ended in marriage were honest about their relationship with friends, family and spiritual mentors. Anything kept in secret is dangerous. Satan works in the dark and can most easily attack things hidden from other believers. I’m not saying that an online relationship is innately wrong, but any relationship kept a secret is playing with fire. Accountability is vital for any believer, especially us girls as we face the temptation for lust, fantasy, idolatry, and immorality that comes with the start of any new relationship. Romans 13:14 commands us to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Whether you date online or otherwise, transparent accountability with sisters in Christ is vital. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24
Flirtatious behavior is fun, it makes a girl feel really good….because it gratifies the flesh. It strokes the ego. And it’s completely superficial. According to Proverbs 7, flirtatious behavior is characteristic of a wild woman. Flirting isn’t just hair flipping and exaggerated compliments. It is also teasing direct messages and Facebook pokes.
Flirting, whether across a table or in an email, is still flirting. Read our blog on flirting for further explanation. At its foundation, flirting is making a sexual promise that cannot righteously be fulfilled outside of marriage. And, as Christians, we are commanded to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and “not to be a stumbling block to any brother” (Romans 14:13). What we say – topics, tone and innuendo – matters to Jesus. Our Savior calls us to be above reproach, on Facebook as well as at Starbucks. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:3-4
You’ve seen the symptoms, have you contracted digital promiscuity? Have you secretly delved into the world of online dating, with no accountability? Are you are cyber flirting with the guy who took you out last week? Or do you struggle with Facebook stalking ex’s?
It all comes down to this: Are you glorifying God with your online dating and social media interactions?
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20