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Confessions: Tips for dating online
The club scene's not working for you, friends try to hook you up on blind dates with people you have nothing in common with, picking up guys or girls on your own is leaving you hanging. Why not try online dating?
Choosing a Community
First, you have to choose which online dating scene is best for you. Like real-world places, online dating sites are each distinct communities, with their own culture.
Sites like Yahoo Personals, Craigslist.com, Facebook and MySpace communities are ok if you like to write your own personals ad and go fish. However, you don't have any security that who you catch is being truthful.
Professional dating sites like eHarmony.com and Match.com give you flexibility in writing your personals ad. They also give you confidential e-mail, a matching service (personality profile), and tips on how to select a potential date based on what you want out of a relationship.
Examples of good dating site pictures
Testing the Waters
Let's say you choose a professional dating site. Your next step is to upload a picture and choose what to say in your ad. First impressions might not count for everything, but they count for a lot. The best pictures are closeups, with nothing obscuring your face (like sunglasses, scarves, low hats). The two pictures here are good examples. Glasses are fine as long as they're not sunglasses or have glare. If you wear glasses normally, don't leave them off for your picture. If you normally wear a hat, you can leave it on, but make sure the brim is up enough to show off your eyes and face.
When creating your profile and ad, be truthful. When someone meets you in person and finds out you're 10 years older than you said in your ad, they will probably not find you as attractive. This may sound like a no-brainer, but people try things like that all the time. Also, as the saying goes, "little lie, big lie". If you lie about things like your hair color, height, and weight, what else might you be lying about? Relationship status?
That said, if there is something big you aren't comfortable saying outright, like past abuse, you can say something that clues in potential dates, such as "friends first", "need to go slow", etc. If potential dates aren't paying attention to clues like that, chances are they aren't going to pay attention to you.
Remember, this ad will help narrow down the playing field to the matches who have something in common with you. If you don't like watching wrestling, don't put down that you do. If you like car racing, that is an obvious must to put in your ad. Don't think stereotypes at this point; stick to what's true for you.
Trying it Out
Now that you've created your profile, written your ad, and published it with your photo, sit back and watch what happens for a bit. Give your ad a few days to just sit there, and watch the reaction.
Chances are, the first few responses will be from people desparate to try to lure in any newcomers. Look through them wisely, doing comparisons between their profiles and what you said you wanted in a date. This will help you determine whether or not they are really interested in you, or are just reeling in whatever comes their way.
If there is someone interesting in the first few responses, go ahead and send a reply back. On Match.com, you have the option of "winking", a non-committal note letting the person know you are interested. The person may "wink" back, or may send you a confidential e-mail. If they "wink" back, you can "wink" again, or write them.
You can also go fishing yourself, by comparing your profile to others who have posted profiles, whether or not they have looked at yours. You can choose the percent of compatibility. If you have too much in common with someone, they may be a great new best friend, but be too close to your own personality to be a good date. If you have too little in common, it might be a one-night-stand or a one-date-wonder (i.e. why did I ever go out with him/her). Sometimes, the best matches are found by tweaking the compatibility factor, then browsing within the matches.
Meeting Someone via E-mail
Now that your profile has been up for a while, you have browsed through your potential matches, and "winked" at a few, you're ready for the next step. Write a carefully crafted e-mail, telling a little about yourself, but not too much. Ask some questions that you really want to know the answers to. Do not give your real e-mail, exact address, telephone number, or any other major tracking information at this stage. Just like meeting someone in person, judge the response to see if they are being honest. Are they responding in the same style their profile was written? Do they sound like someone you could hang out with? Do they answer your questions and ask some of their own?
Meeting Someone in Real Life
You've found someone who seems honest and attractive through e-mail correspondence, and you both decide to meet in person. Congratulations! Do not expect the first date to go smoothly, even though you may have sent and received many e-mails. You still are meeting them for the first time, and both of you will be nervous.
Meet in a well-populated area.
If you feel too nervous, take a friend with you to watch from a distance.
Set a pre-arranged signal so that you know you're meeting the right person.
Never go anywhere alone on the first date with the person you're meeting.
These may sound like advice from parents, or no-brainers, but remember that people can write anything to a screen. It is much harder to fool people in real life. Most people out there are honest, but there are always the few that are trouble.
Go with the flow on the first date. Just like any other first date, be yourself. Are you having fun? Can you relax and enjoy your date? Is he/she relaxed?
After you have your first date, evaluate it. Was it a good date? Was there mutual attraction? Did he/she seem interesting?
Go ahead and write your date a confidential e-mail. If the date didn't go well, you can drop all communications, or tell them a polite "no, thank you". If the date went well, you can plan another date, or continue your online communications.
Also, remember in the early dating stage, you can go on dates with more than one match. See who's out there. You'll know when you find someone right for you.