Online dating often has a bad reputation. There are certainly upsides. But no, it cannot replace meeting a person in real life. For some people, this may work, but for most people, it would be impossible to form a real connection and feel like you truly know a person if you never meet in person. That is not to say you have to spend all your time together. It may be that you connect with someone who lives far away, but you must make the effort to see each other, to keep the relationship alive and fresh in your minds. Plus, it will be fun!
Here are some of the benefits of online dating. A lot of people work and live fairly isolated lives, and do not feel they have the time to spend in bars or at social occasions for singles. Online dating is a way for people to only spend time speaking to people they know they have a connection with. Especially websites that are less like Tinder, and more like e-Harmony, which take time to get to know you and match you with people with whom you might be compatible. Online dating as a way to meet people in person can be a really good method if you are willing to put in the time and work at getting to know someone well. If you are looking for something more permanent, a service like GoMarry.com can be the place for you: they take the time to find someone with the same life priorities as you and set you up for something long term.
There are lots of downsides of dating also. A lot of the time, as with any sort of serial dating, it is very hard to find someone to spend a long-term relationship – even marriage – with. This is true of all types of dating, though. There is more of a danger of “catfishing” (where someone pretends to be a better match for you, perhaps more attractive or even a different gender, in order to gain your trust) in online dating.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are going to engage in online dating, to be safe, and never meet someone in an isolated place for the first time. And be wary of becoming too isolated: if you only ever speak to people online, you will probably end up feeling very lonely. Make sure to always still spend time with your friends, and never neglect your other obligations in favor of online dating.