A friend of mine is getting into online dating, and she admitted this to me with some embarrassment and equivocating, with the usual explanation that there’s just not a lot of good places to meet people once you’ve left school. And that’s very true. Without the constant rotation of parties, classes and meet-ups that college life facilitates, it’s tough for a young professional to get out there and meet someone compatible.
So on paper, online dating makes a lot of sense. Dating profiles become the equivalent of resumes, listing your likes and dislikes, and giving a capsule impression of who you are as a person. Perfect icebreaker material, right there. You get to see what the other person is into, get a sense of their personality. Chatting via instant messaging lets you get to know the other person in a quiet, thoughtful environment, where you’re not distracted by a party around you.
Online dating should be, in fact, the least messy, and the most efficient, utilitarian and convenient dating method on the books. But it’s not, is it? Everyone who’s tried it has their horror stories. I’d given it a go a few years back, and I’d ended up on some of the worst dates of my life. But a lot of people I know have also ended up happily together.
So I don’t think that should deter you from trying it yourself. After all, if you’re a young professional who’s often too busy to meet people the conventional way, who’s to say there’s not someone else like you out there on as well, wanting to give this online dating thing a go?
Before you try it, though, here are some tips.
Don’t be an idiot. If you’re a guy reading this, congratulations! Once you’ve set up your online profile, you probably won’t receive literally dozens and dozens of “hey baby”-style messages.
Right this instant, thousands of girls on OKCupid are receiving scores of dull, vaguely sexual, sometimes vaguely threatening messages from clueless losers. Your job is to not be that guy. Treat online communications as if you were really there, face to face, at a party.
In fact, because of those guys, you’re going to have to be pretty good at your first message. Cute girls get spammed by breeders and mouthbreathers a lot, so you need to stand out.
So instead of being an idiot…
Be presentable. Your online profile is your first and best shot at attracting interest. Candy Tolentino of Huffington Post suggests, “They say that “like attracts like,” so if you want to meet someone who is well-groomed, articulate, and interesting you first need to make sure your profile is of the same caliber. Post realistic but flattering photos, and write something about yourself that is intriguing and tells your suitors what you are passionate about and what makes you tick… Spelling errors and grammatical blunders abound in online profiles; do you really want to present yourself as either uneducated or lazy? Self-taken photos reflected off the bathroom mirror with poor lighting and dirty towels in the background rarely make a good first impression. “
Instead, use a good, high-quality photo where you’re not looking into a camera; it’s more dynamic, and suggests a life outside of the online dating site.
With a good picture and a good profile, you’ll likely get a few queries. And in that case…
Be choosy. Don’t respond to every message you receive if the person sending to you doesn’t seem like your type. Online dating is supposed to simplify the dating process, not complicate it.
Plus, there’s another big reason to be choosy, and to be cautious.
Watch out for crazy people. I don’t want to frighten you away from this endeavour. A lot of sane, well-adjusted people use online dating as a way to meet people, for all the reasons listed in this article’s introduction. But so do crazy people.
This is the biggest drawback of online dating. Face-to-face, you can often sense who’s a nutbag, but online, that’s harder to suss out. You could be talking to someone for months, and only after meeting them for the first time realize they’re a whacko.
A few years back, a friend of mine was talking to a girl for a while, seemed nice, and then she ended up an eighteen year old actual, literal runaway, who wanted him to drive over and score her alcohol. That’s a keeper, to be sure. Another friend of mine once met a woman who literally thought that her favourite fictional characters were real.
The reason this happens a lot on online dating is because genuinely crazy people are usually too crazy to be out in the social world meeting people. But they’re not too crazy to be cooped up at home on a computer.
And don’t trust a dating profile and a compatibility match score. Sometimes they’re not accurate. Talk to the other person as much as possible to find out what they’re really like. But, as with anybody, a face-to-face meet up is pretty much your only way to get a really good look at a person. So always set up a coffee date in a neutral, public location, just to be safe.
It’s difficult to tell how absolutely, crazily, ridiculously insane a person is without meeting them. You could chat with a girl for weeks, laughing about your favourite, I don’t know, Goddard film or whatever, and then when you meet, you realize that she’s loud, rude, and terminally obnoxious.
If you met someone like that at a party, you’d already be talking to the people on the other side of the room. But in cyberspace, no one can hear how loud someone screams terrible jokes at you. Keep your heart and mind open, but always proceed with caution, at least up until the second date.
Most of all, though…
Be yourself. Holy cow, have you looked up online dating advice recently? I sure hadn’t, except now to research this article. Listen, if the dating advice you read makes it sound like you need to jettison your personality, and become whoever the other person thinks you should be, that’s not great dating advice. Wear your hobbies and interests on your wrist, and be completely yourself.
Online dating can seem frustrating, anti-social, and problematic, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, all the ingredients are there for it to be just the opposite. It just takes smarts, know-how and a bit of luck.