Contrary to Friendship
Though it is true there is no replacing the in-person experience when it comes to developing friendship, friendship can be developed before you ever meet in person. Again, so much of what makes human interaction affective is the non-verbal communication exchanges. You must be in person to really know if things can go further and continue to move forward. But there is something very beautiful about writing letters to each other to develop a friendship that has been lost in the modern world.
Too many people are using the dating site messaging system ineffectively and counter-productively. They write inconsiderate messages that are short, choppy, and do not demonstrate that they read the person's profile. Basically, they write as if it is an email or a text message instead of a letter. Letter writing is very powerful. As you exchange well-written, thoughtful letters, a friendship can develop. And that friendship is a spark that is incentive to talk on the phone and meet in person.
Even after moving to the phone and to meeting in person, continuing to write letters while you are apart is an age-old way to develop a deep friendship. Letters express the heart. The beginnings of a friendship that can lead to love can be realized through letter writing.
You have a concern that when people join a dating site, you have already jumped right over friendship and are starting into courtship. I can understand how you get this impression. When someone is on a dating site, they see a lengthy profile of information which reveals all kinds of things that would take you months to find out about under other circumstances. So it can seem as though you know as much as a friend would know right from the outset.
Some would argue this is a great thing. I am one of those people. The profile provides so much information that is helpful for avoiding wasting each other’s time. And I don’t mean eye or hair color either. I am referring to things about what a person believes and how they live that belief. For example, a person who states on their profile that they believe in the use of artificial contraception is typically a “deal breaker” for a Catholic who believes the Church’s teaching that the use of artificial contraception is wrong.
When would this topic come up under normal circumstances? I have spoken to countless single Catholics who tell me heart-wrenching stories of their dating a person seriously for 6 months only to find out that they are firm about using contraception in the marriage. The relationship ends after so much personal investment. Had this information been known up front, there would not have been a 6 months and all the pain that follows from such a break up.
The profile also provides a wealth of information about the person that can be used to foster interesting and engaging conversation, especially making an initial conversation. A woman who gets an initial note from a man who talks about things he noticed in her profile and asks questions about her is going to consider this man in a favorable way.
It’s true that a couple can get to courtship much faster because of online dating because of how much is known ahead of time. It still should never be too fast (1-3 months) before engaged or even married. But cutting out a lot of wasted time helps focus on what is most important and can help a couple who met online to get to the point of decision to marry faster than the normal way of meeting and dating. Never is friendship to be bypassed.
Using a profile wisely to develop friendship will make all the difference. I hope this helps you to consider these concerns of yours in a clearer way. Friendship is very possible to develop using an online dating site.