If you are single, the chances are that you will have considered Online Dating at the very least. Statistics show that 1 in 5 single people have been on a date with someone they met online. In 2009, 17% of marriages were between couples who met through Online Dating. I dated online for 2 years on and off, following the break up of my marriage. It was great fun, but at the same time, I found it difficult emotionally. There were times I thought I was never going to meet ‘The One’! There are some horror stories out there, but through this post, I want to share with you some of the tips I learned along the way.
Firstly, the profile. You want to paint yourself in the best light possible. If you have any insecurities or hang-ups, you don’t need to share these with the people you are hoping to meet. The jerks out there will sniff out vulnerability, but you’re not on the site to meet jerks. You want to find a great partner who will love you and care about you. Don’t use words like ‘fun’ or ‘fun loving’. Fun in online dating language translates to ‘sex’. You’ll be inundated with jerks looking for a hook up, and unless that is what you are looking for, you want to try to eliminate these from making contact. The same applies to your profile picture. You may be proud of your cleavage or your 6 pack, but posting a picture of yourself in sexy attire will attract the ‘one night stand brigade’ like moths to a light. Sex does sell, but it sells to the wrong kind of people.
The first contact. Girls, if you see a guy who takes your fancy, don’t be afraid to drop him a line. Most guys will be flattered to receive an email from you; it saves them having to be brave and make the first move. Before you write your message, I always found it useful to read their profile properly first. Check where they live. If they live in Mexico and you live in New York, will you want to regularly travel to see them if things progress? If not, it’s best to decide that now and not make contact, then later down the line when you’ve emotionally invested in them. If you smoke, and they have specifically stated in their profile that they won’t date a smoker, don’t waste your effort. Move on and find someone who can accept you as you are.
Both sexes love being teased, it makes them feel special. Pick something from their profile you can rib them about, and make reference to it in your first email. I don’t mean insult them, sending somebody a message commenting on their big nose is insulting and cause hurt to the recipient. My profile made reference to my cat, as I wanted to eliminate guys who didn’t like cats from contacting me. I once received an email from a guy who claimed “I didn’t look old enough to be a spinster with cats!” It made me laugh, and I stayed in contact with him. I did also receive too many messages commenting on my ‘pussy’. These were ruled out immediately. It’s an explicit comment which I did not appreciate on first contact, and the sender can’t seriously believe they were sending an original message?! Women generally receive lots more first contacts than the guys. It’s a numbers game, and there are thousands more guys on the sites than women. Guys, if you want your contact to stand out from the many others the lady will have received today, don’t just say ‘hello, how are you’! Urgh! If you can’t make the effort when you are trying to impress, we imagine you will be slobbing on our sofa in your vest watching our cable all day before long. That’s likely not to be the case, but we have to make a judgement from what you write. Make a bit of effort, and it’s more than likely you will be rewarded with a response.
If you don’t get a response, don’t be upset about it. There can be many reasons why a person will ignore your contact. They may have met someone they like and want to give it a chance, or they may have so many emails, it would be impossible to reply to them all and you were just unlucky. It can start to affect your mental health if you read too much into things at this stage. It isn’t personal, and try to think of it in the context that you wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with somebody who ignores your contacts. More than once, I received angry and insulting emails from guys who had messaged me and I hadn’t responded. These messages only highlighted to me that they had some issues of their own, and earned them a blocking from ever contacting me again. I figured if they were going to get angry and insult me for ignoring one email, their behaviour would potentially be worse later down the line and that raised too many red flags for me.
If you are on a site which allows ‘winks’ or similar before making email contact, do not place too much importance on receiving one. I used to find the majority of these winks were sent late at night, presumably after too much alcohol. By all means if someone you like the look of winks at you, follow it up with an email. However, don’t be surprised if the sender of the wink denies all involvement. Equally, if there is someone you want to make contact with, don’t only wink at them. They are a personal bug bear of mine, as they require no effort to send, and I’m not going to be impressed by a lazy contact. In my mind, a wink as a sole method of contact is worse than sending a message only saying “Hi”!
Now you’ve been exchanging emails for a few days, you’re ready to move onto the next step, regular contact. Opinions differ here, but I would ask to move the conversations from email to Instant Messaging (IM) after 3 or 4 emails had been exchanged between us. IM conversations are more akin to a spoken conversation than emails. The sender of the email has time to consider their response, whereas an IM conversation requires a more ‘off the cuff’ answer giving you the opportunity to assess their personality a little more, and decide if you are on the same page. IM allows you to pick up some extra clues about the person you are in contact with too. Someone who takes ages to respond to your message may well have several conversations on the go at once. Like in real life, if I’m speaking to somebody I expect them to give me their attention, and don’t want to be one of 4 or 5 other potentials they may be speaking to at the same time. The exception to this is if they have children who they care for. Manners cost nothing though, so the least you can expect is a couple of words to explain they need to attend to the children. After all, if you were talking to a potential date in the mall and they just walked off or started chatting up several other potentials at the same time, you wouldn’t be too impressed. Why should an online conversation be any different? Show respect for each other.
If the conversation is suddenly terminated by the other person going offline, this could mean they need to hide their screen quickly. You could assume they are married, or living with a partner. I know, it could also mean their IM service failed, so you will have to make your own judgement of the situation. If this sudden termination of our conversation happened regularly, it would raise red flags for me. A person who can only get online very late at night would also raise concerns for me. Again, I would assume they were waiting for their partner to go to bed before contacting me. Another no-no!
Be wary if you are asked for ‘graphic’ pictures of yourself at this stage too. Only jerks would do this. The good people will want to get to know you properly and won’t initiate sexual chat at the first chance. I never used to give out my cell number until I’d chatted to the guy over IM for a while. I was cautious until I felt able to assess them as best I could. The last thing I wanted was to give them my cell number too early, then discover they were a jerk and not be easily able to stop them calling me! It’s far less stressful to not give them the number, than it is to have to ask your network provider to block their calls. I did used to come up against opposition over this; many people don’t like IM, preferring to hear the other person’s voice straight away. If you feel the same, I would suggest purchasing a second pay as you talk cell just for your online dating contacts. If your potential date turns out to be a jerk or a stalker, you can always change the sim and never have to hear from them again. When you do find your Mr/Ms Right, you can also chuck the 2nd cell in the garbage, so you can concentrate on your new love and not be distracted by your ex online daters.
Very soon, you’ll be arranging to meet for the first time. Next week, I’ll give you some tips on how to stay safe when you meet each other in person. If you’ve got any tips of your own, or want to share your Online Dating successes or failures, please do get in touch