In honor of my 100th article, I’ve summarized two years of writing to create an introductory guide to online dating, using some previously published work to offer expansion where it is needed.
So what is online dating? In the information age, the facts, figures, and advertisements spin into a dizzying maelstrom, inviting any curious party to enter the spin cycle to find that one vital tidbit for which they’ve been searching. People have hundreds of reasons for doing this and have even more questions about it, but the most relevant one is often the one least addressed: Is this going to work for me?
If there were one clear answer, we’d already have it. It works for some, doesn’t for others. Some are intrigued by it while others are repulsed. Some stick with it, but most quit in a rage after a few weeks. Some know what they’re looking for, and some are content to figure it out. In short, it’s different for everyone. Experience has taught me that those who go into it blind are three times more likely to give up, so before you set off on your maiden voyage, consider asking yourself some questions.
What do you want? Are you looking for a future spouse? eHarmony’s got you covered. Do you want to explore your wild side? Adult Friend Finder is the place. How about having an affair? Criticism lightning rod AshleyMadison is open for business. Feeling too nerdy or shy for your peers? SweetOnGeeks might put you on a level playing field while Alikewise gives sanctuary to bibliophiles. Looking to do things on the cheap? OkCupid is totally free and growing like Facebook. There are hundreds of options out there compared to the 15 or so reliable sites, but before you can pick the right one to start, you have to know what you’re looking for.
What will you say? Once you’ve picked the site, you need to plan how you’ll express yourself, so start by reading other profiles to get a sense of what people write. Keep your writing concise and personalized, and don’t be afraid to inject some humor, it’s not a resume! Choose the right types pictures, and if you can, tell a story about yourself with them. Craft the first impression you give in that first message; the internet gives you the ability to retract before you act. Be mindful of your responses to messages, unsolicited or otherwise, as people can very easily get the wrong impression by interpreting your words in their own way. Most importantly, revise your profile often! Stagnant profiles fall by the wayside while frequently updated ones appear more readily in search results.
What will you encounter? Any online dating veteran will tell you that for every good apple, you’ll run across five bad ones. Pay no mind to solicitous e-mails, or messages from the lowest common denominator; just like everyday life, people are going to say some rude or downright hurtful things. Learn to roll with the punches and block whoever bugs you. Be mindful of how much you choose to expose in your pictures, since you’re sending a powerful message with suggestive ones, and once you’ve had it posted, it’s easy for someone to save it.
What can you believe? Does a site with more users mean you’re more likely to find a match? Does paying more for a site ensure more accurate and speedy matches? Do free sites work as well as pay ones? When you start dating someone, should you just delete your dating site profile? Some of these have simple answers, and others you will have to figure out yourself. The internet provides opportunity for both hope and risk. Get to know the people you talk to before you actually meet; become friends on Facebook, talk on the phone, and don’t be afraid to use Google to look up potential dates or use Tineye to find out if their picture is legit. Learn to spot abandoned profiles, solicitors, spies, and sex-changers, and you’ll improve your batting average with messages. Watch out for the earmarks of scamming sites or lousy sites that can sink your ship before it leaves the dock.
What happens if you meet someone? You may think the work is over when you make a connection, but you’ve only just begun! Make smart decisions on where and how to meet for the first time, and keep a friend or relative informed of your whereabouts beforehand. Control your expectations; not everyone can accurately portray themselves with some pictures and a few blocks of text. If it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to let the person off gently. Most importantly, don’t let a bad experience turn you off for good!
All the advice gleaned from all the experts in the world cannot prepare you entirely for your online dating experience. Heed too much advice, and you’ll sterilize yourself from any natural fun. Prepare too little, and you’ll be shocked at every turn. It’s like your first time behind the wheel of a car: kick the tires, check the gauges, start it up, keep control, and keep your eyes open. With a little patience and experience, getting where you want to be in life is in your control.
E-mail Bryan at [email protected] for advice, questions, opinions, and website review suggestions. Questions, advice, and opinions may be posted anonymously. Follow Bryan on Twitter at ExaminerDating.