My intent in writing this is to to share any advice that may be valuable to those who have decided to try online dating. What I cannot stress enough is that you need to think of yourself as the buyer, rather than the seller. This is possibly the most valuable piece of advice I can give you. Of course you want to present yourself well, but in this marketplace, you get to choose!
My foray into online dating began 13 years ago, back in the dark ages. It was 1999 and sites were less than sophisticated. There were chat rooms and a few sites for personals, like Yahoo! Chat rooms were a great way to engage in conversation and get to know people quickly through some directed questions. With the Yahoo! chat rooms you could even narrow down the room according to your interest. That made for some understood common ground and easy conversation. Because I was traveling a lot I was able to also meet people in other cities for a nice meal or weekend activity like hiking or sight seeing. It was through this process that I met someone in NYC and entered into a long term relationship in 2001. That relationship lasted for about 3 years. When it ended in 2004 I jumped back in the online dating game, since it was an easy way to meet people. It was from 2004 – 2007 that I spent the most time honing what I like to call my online meeting skills. I was living in NYC. Between the multitude of single men looking to date and the evolution of the online dating sites, there were a lot of opportunities to meet available companions. The trick of it all, of course, was not to meet a lot of people, but rather to meet the one right person, or at least that was my goal. And in 2007, I did! We have been married since 2009.
Understand the Purpose of Online Meeting
From here forward I will refer to online dating as online meeting. This is quite intentional. Online dating implies that you are dating through a virtual means. You should actually be focused on meeting, and meeting quickly. Dating sites are just a tool for you to be exposed to more people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Before you ever log onto a dating site and build your profile, I encourage you to sit down for some self reflection. This endeavor is not really about anyone else but you. You are in charge. You get to define what you want. And you get to go out and “shop” for available companions.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why am I doing this? Where do I want to be in 2 – 3 years? Do I want to still be logging onto a website or do I want to be in a committed relationship? The answer to this question will drive everything about your profile and about whom you seek. You cannot be afraid of ruling out people that don’t share your interests.
- Do I have a pattern in my relationship history that I am trying to break? If so, what are the characteristics I should avoid? Understanding this will help you when you are looking at the profiles of others.
- What are the characteristics of the person I would like to meet and commit to in the next 12 months?
- Corporate? Artist? Academic? Blue Collar?
- Does he have children? Is it ok if he does?
- Religious preference?
- Lifestyle? Is he active/fit? Alcohol/drugs? Eating habits?
These are tangibles that you can use for your own screening process, whether it is screening those who approach you, or those who you approach. Once you establish them, stick to them. You MUST be honest with yourself about these. Go back to that picture of yourself in 2 – 3 years. Who is that person in the committed relationship with you?
- Be very clear about your objective. What is it you want from this experience, ultimately? It is important to be clear about this with people. You are not saying that you want to settle down with them, but your wish is that at some point you will meet the right person and settle down. Being clear about this will weed out the people who are just looking for a good time. If you just want a good time, be clear about that. But if you are gray about this topic, you run the risk of attracting people that you could have quickly ruled out.
- DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, develop a relationship online. By this I mean that you should not exchange a bunch of emails, IM’s, texts, or phone calls. If your goal is to meet people, establish that there is mutual interest, and schedule a face to face. This should happen within one week. You run the risk of developing an emotional bond prematurely if you spend a bunch of time in the virtual world. Following this rule will also eliminate those who are not serious about meeting, and it will allow you to move swiftly through the process.
It is critical that you are authentic on your profile. Think about what you would want from the person whose profile you are considering.
- Photo: Use a current photo that captures you.
- Screen Name: Don’t go crazy over this. The reality is that men are jumping to the photo. But also don’t try to get too cutesy or too cerebral. I always liked to use something that included my interest, my home, or an adjective. Eg. Knittinggirl, smartgirl, Alabamagirl, etc
- Interests: Don’t provide interests from your childhood or that you think you might pursue someday. Rather, think of it as a snapshot of you, right now, in time. Remember, you are going to meet this person in less than one week, not in 10 years, when you look like you think you want to look, or are doing things that you think you would like to do.
You get what you pay for. That is not to say you should go out and pay for a pricey matchmaking service, but by being willing to chip in $20, you immediately eliminate those who are not serious about meeting someone. Think of that $20 as the price of a couple cocktails or movie tickets or a few cups of coffee. If you are serious about meeting someone, it is a drop in the bucket. But once you have paid, be ready to invest your time so that you get our money’s worth.
If you have just invested $20 I strongly suggest that you get out there and do the choosing. You get to have a hand in this. Sift through those profiles. Narrow down your search according to your vision for your companion, and then make that date.