There used to be a stigma attached to meeting someone special on the internet, but by now we know better: It may be handy for picking up cheap sex, but it's also possible to score a relationship that's a little more meaningful. In fact, the first online daters just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, proof that internet love can last. Besides, how many winners are you going to meet at a bar? Here are some tips for making the most of the opportunities online dating can offer:
1. Create a profile that showcases your best assets: Stick with realistic-looking photos; you won't fool anyone when you meet them in person and you look totally different. On that note, honesty (followed by a lighthearted sense of humor) really is the best policy all around. Don't list horseback riding as your favorite hobby if you haven't ridden since you were a kid at camp, and while the goal is to make yourself seem as attractive as possible, don't ramble on about how great you are lest you portray yourself as a narcissist. It's always a great rule of thumb to get a second opinion, so run your profile by a trusted friend or relative before you post it.
2. Consider the pool you're diving into. There are now so many dating sites that you should choose one wisely. For example, there are a lot of weirdos perusing Craig's List in search of a little afternoon delight, but if you're looking for something a little more serious, it's not the place for you. Facebook and Myspace tend to attract the younger, post-college set, Nerve tends to attract the urban sophisticate while Match.com and eharmony are for more mature daters, and large communities such as Yahoo Personals offer a broad reach of ages and types of people and service options. Some sites are so specific that I've seen one that's just for "cougars," and yes, there are even sites devoted to rating dating sites, so do your research and choose the one that tends to speak to you so you will meet like minded candidates.
3. You don't have to say "yes" to everyone, or even respond to every message. Online dating can be like a second job. You'll want to make sure and update your profile and pictures and obviously check your messages regularly to see who has responded. But if someone seems sketchy or is totally unappealing, don't bother responding. Just as you would if you were hiring an employee, focus on the candidates with the best resumes (in this case, profiles), and take the time to correspond with them before actually agreeing to meet them. You may find that you have religious or political differences that might be a deal breaker for you both.
4. When you do agree to meet someone for a real date, create safeguards. Whenever you meet a stranger, be sensible about letting someone know where you'll be, when and with whom, and even though a drinks date usually seems appealing, adding alcohol to the mix may not be in your best interest. Similarly, I always tell people dinner is for the second date, because if you meet them and instantly know it's not going to work out, you certainly don't want to sit through a whole meal with them! Ideally, you can meet them for coffee or tea, have a conversation, and then excuse yourself. If you want to see them again, great, and if not, you've escaped relatively unscathed.
5. Don't take your suitors too seriously, at first anyway. Remember that the people you're meeting are strangers, so don't take it personally if someone suddenly stops corresponding with you or doesn't call you after a date that you thought went well. For all you know they could be dating multiple people, be temporarily on the outs with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or who knows what? It takes time to get to know someone, and to really do that, you have to spend some quality time with them in person, not online. That said, how freakin great is it that we have access to this tool for meeting people? The possibilities are both endless and exciting, so dig in and have at it.
Anyone want to add to this list?
See also: "How to find chemistry online"; "Y Video: Erin Flaherty of Shine talks about online dating"