12/19/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Digital Dating: Desperation or Necessity?

"I always thought dating online was for desperate, older people, but now that I'm finding I can't meet anybody, I'm actually considering it myself! Am I crazy or pathetic for considering it? And I'm afraid to tell my friends. Should I keep it a secret to hide my shame? I just think I'm going to feel like a loser if I tell people that I met someone online."

~Online Dating-Phobic, 26, Atlanta

Dear Online Dating-Phobic,

It's a bit scary, but true: human connections are either replaced or initiated by internet connections. We now live in a different age of emails instead of letters, text messages instead of phonecalls, and Facebook "friending" and "poking" are seen as a real relationship bond. Everything we do from finding a job to finding a friend seems to have an online component, so no need to be ashamed for wanting to broaden your circle, for friendship or dating, by taking advantage of the myriad of possibilities brought to you by the world wide web - just don't rely on it completely.

The stigma against online dating, particularly for twenty-somethings, is really intriguing, especially because you are the generation that founded socially networking sites like Facebook and Myspace. You are looking for a person to date, someone to be in your life and no one else's, so who cares what your friends think? And they are probably doing it too!

Think about it this way: what do you gain by trying online dating, and what do you lose by not trying it? By not attempting it, you get to remain safe behind your concept of regular dating, which by your own admission has become undesirable. Or you can try online dating and open yourself up to the possibilities. Just be cautious. Be smart and careful about what information you post, who you give your personal contact information to, and where and when you meet someone for the first time (I recommend afternoon coffee in a very public place).

Also, online dating isn't only for pathetic or older people, so you can let that go. Here's some insight from Adam Sachs, co-founder of the group dating site "I can see how young people would look at the conventional online dating sites and think that going on one of those dates would make them feel like a loser or desperate. I was once like that too! There's nothing organic about creating your own blind date. And there's nothing fun about either. What's natural and fun is meeting new people in the company of your social circle. That's why we created It's a group-to-group dating site, a way for you and your friends to meet another group of friends in an environment that is safer, less awkward, and more fun."

Another upside to online dating is often you get to know a person better than when meeting them face-to-face when judgments about superficial things may get in the way. I'm not saying to give up meeting friends of friends, or talking to a person who catches your eye; use online dating as just another tool rather than an end-of-the-line solution. You never know where or when sparks will fly with someone, so if meeting Mr. or Ms. Right is a priority, start researching dating sites. But please, no embellishing profiles or glamour shot photos. If you want to attract your "soul-match," be who you are on and off line.

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