Despite the undeniable prevalence of online dating in 2016, most of us would agree that the practice is still riddled with an unusual stigma.
The subject itself continues to be divisive. ‘Confessing’ to online dating to a group of friends can generate some sideways glances, a barrage of unsolicited compliments (“you don’t need online dating!” “you’re too good for that” “just meet someone naturally, you’d get asked out all the time!”) and the inevitable “but what if they’re a mass murderer?”
It might come as a surprise, but research suggests that most people are not mass murderers. Or even just a one-off murderer. Considering most murders are carried out by husbands or ex lovers, you are statistically less likely to be killed on a date than your married friend is in her own house. Maybe don't say that out loud. But it does reveal how steeped the online dating stigma is in myth.
And that is why Fiona Falkiner's recent position as the first eHarmony ambassador is something worth celebrating.
She explained "I’m really happy with all areas of life, but the one area lacking is my love life. So 2016 is time for me to do something new."
There is an assumption that online dating dating equates to "sad" or "desperate", but as Falkiner highlights, this could often not be further from the truth. Falkiner is an accomplished, career driven and fulfilled woman, who is not ashamed to admit that love is the one thing that's missing.
I am extremely reluctant to evoke the tired and often misused label of "brave" - so let's go with "important" instead.
Falkiner's willingness to talk about online dating is a step forward in normalising the social practice.
The joke often goes: "We'll lie about where we met". But how is approaching a man at a bar any more 'natural' or 'romantic' than matching with a man online? Why are the familiar narratives of meeting through friends, or at work, or on holiday, so much more acceptable than meeting a man intentionally on an online dating space?
Online dating defies a number of cliches regarding love that we remain socially invested in. These include, "you'll find love when you least expect it", "it will come to you the moment you stop looking" and the post-feminist sentiment "you don't need a man". Indeed, we do not need a man. But the single woman in 2016 has the right to be honest about what she wants, and purposefully seek it.
Falkiner described how "I feel it’s the right time in my life to meet someone special and I know this is a great place to start.”
With women being busier than ever, online services allow us to meet potential partners on our own terms, in our own time, and in a safe, comfortable space (eg. in our pyjamas, in bed).
Falkiner recounted a recent bad date, which involved being interrogated about her fertility, and then being joined by another woman. Most single women can agree that bad experiences are not confined to suitors found online. Bad dates are universal.
WATCH 'If first dates were honest'. Post continues after video...
Hopefully Falkiner's ambassadorship will go some way in tackling the stigma that still plagues online dating. As a happy, successful woman, Falkiner demonstrates that actively searching for love is nothing to be ashamed of.
Maybe, just maybe, we can even stop telling white lies about where we met. 'The pub' was never that romantic anyway.
How did you meet your partner?