Old Enemies - New Friends?

Advice
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In a perfect world, online dating sites would have an endless stream of fresh prospects, people who live just around the corner that you never knew existed. People who live in your town and have your interests, who attend the same concerts and museums and county fairs as you, and it's through a cruel twist of fate that you'd never run into each other before.

Certainly, this can happen, and does. In cities with tens of thousands, or even millions of people, it's quite possible for there to be scores of compatible people right around the corner that you've never seen before.

However, we don't all live in a place like New York City or Los Angeles. Maybe you live in a city that feels more like a small town. Maybe the people who share your interests are the small community – every Ultimate Frisbee player knows every other. Or maybe we really do live in a town that numbers in the hundreds, and there's only five single people in your age range – and you all know each other.

In these situations, it's almost inevitable: eventually, you see someone you know on an online dating site.

Most of the time, it's a little jarring, but not earth-shattering; maybe it's that newly-divorced co-worker who had mentioned they were thinking about creating a profile. Maybe it's your neighbor down the street that you dated once, but there was no spark. Their profiles don't present any story other than the one you already know.

But what if it's someone you knew as a child? Someone you hadn't thought of in years? Or worse – someone you'd despised?

In mid-sized towns and cities, it's entirely possible to know someone for a brief time in your life – say, elementary school – and never encounter that person again until years later. Now, social networking sites make those re-connections all the more likely. In our youth, we tend to make judgments that stick with us – but what if the person's profile describes a person completely unlike the one you knew years earlier? Do you take a chance, or trust your first impression?

As with everything, every situation is unique. Instead of pros and cons, try balancing logic and gut instinct. How long ago did you know this person? How grievous were the crimes committed against you? A little teasing in elementary school is quite a different subject than cruelty as a teenager. And finally, which feels more accurate: the person in the profile before you, or the person you disliked in your youth?

If you're certain of that answer, you know whether to take a chance or let sleeping dogs lie.