The term “pen pals” seems on the face of it rather old-fashioned, especially in the context of the Internet with its instant messaging, chat rooms and social bookmarking sites. “Pen pals” as a term seems to come from a by-gone age when people would spend a couple of hours penning a letter on thick patterned paper, dipping into an ink well a long white quill pen made from a swan’s feather. But don’t be misled by this.
The term “pen pals” has persisted into the Internet age, and come to mean different things to different people. It still has its original meaning of remote friends in different parts of the world who you write to. But for many singles, becoming a pen pal is seen as a way into using the online personals for single dating.
Seeing yourself as a single pen pal who is seeking other single pen pals, has many advantages when it comes to dating online. To begin with it offers that extra layer of protection or insulation that allows you to say if necessary:
It’s a potential last resort, if the going gets tough.
Being a single pen pal also gives you the advantage of time. As a single pen pal you can take your time with a new contact, getting to know the other person and only gradually sounding that person out as a potential dating partner. You can also have many such contacts on the go at the same time, providing you with the opportunity to see which ones might be romantically inclined and which not.
However, time can also work against you. If you spend all your time chatting to people who are ultimately not going to become potential dating partners then that may be time lost, depending on whether you see online friendships as an end in themselves or not. If you have plenty of time to chat to people online, if you are young and not in a hurry to find a dating partner, then this may well be a good approach for you. At the very least, it feels safer.
Certainly when you approach dating through the route of pen pals — or more directly — online dating gives you the advantage that you have the time to “suss somebody out”, rather than trying to weigh her or him up in the short space of an hour or two in the heady context of an actual date.
That is the big advantage lent to dating by the Internet; the disadvantage is that you cannot see somebody face-to-face and see their body language, and so be in a position to make judgments about them and their potential as a dating partner based on these ‘traditional’ factors. So, see online single dating for what it is, a system that has its limitations but does give you the advantage of time — so long as you are not in too much of a hurry — an advantage of time that can sometimes be better utilized by becoming a pen pal.