Match Me! A Guide to Online Datingbysophia jane©
So you've decided to try out the wonderful world of online dating, and you don't know quite where to start. Obviously your first step is to pick the dating site you want to use. In larger towns, there are usually free local sites that have a limited number of features. If that's not an option, there are always big sites like match.com or yahoo personals. Be sure to check out all the details before you sign up for one of these; often you can sign up for free, but actually being able to contact someone requires a paid subscription. It doesn't do much good to sign up and then not be able to do anything with your membership.
Your next step is to do some thinking about what you're looking for- do you want to find people to casually date, or are you looking for your soul mate? What interests you in another person- someone who likes to party? Someone who likes to stay in and rent movies? Someone who's active in sports or someone who's a couch potato? Once you give some thought to what you're looking for, you need to do some thinking about who you are. What are your strengths, your passions, and your pet peeves? What does someone NEED to know about you?
After you've got some ideas, sit down and get creative. A well worded profile that expresses who you are and what you want is going to be far more effective than one that's thrown together in a hurry. Be funny, be original, but most of all, be yourself. Your profile is actually your first impression, so it's essential that you make it work for you. It's also essential that you use spell check, and, if possible, have a friend look it over. Glaring spelling errors or badly worded sentences will turn many people off completely.
If you have one, use a good, but recent, picture of yourself to go with your profile. People are far more willing to invest time in corresponding with someone online if they know a little about what to expect. Plus, you'll get more initial hits on your profile if you have a picture because many people will only browse through profiles that have a photo attached.
So now you've written your profile, given a description of yourself and what you're searching for. Next it's time to do some browsing of your own. Don't expect everyone to come to you. Women, especially, expect that men will approach them, but if you're serious about meeting someone you need to take some of the initiative yourself. Browse through some profiles and see if anyone catches your eye. Once you find one, or two or three, send them an email through the dating site. Again, though, it's essential that you think about you're going to say. I've had some great messages, and I've had some terrible ones including notes from strangers who give me their number or who simply say, "What's up?" I recommend that you mention something from their profile; this shows that you paid attention to what they had to say and you were interested. It's flattering to the recipient and is a lot more likely to get them to respond than giving them your number without any lead up. It's also good to include a question in your initial email; if they said something about traveling in their profile, ask them where they've been. Whatever it was that intrigued you, ask about it. Asking questions makes it more likely they'll write back.
Don't expect everyone you write will return your interest; and don't be rude to those who are interested in you but don't catch your fancy. Everyone is there for the same reason- to meet someone special, and it's important to remember that everyone has their own interests and expectations; don't take it personally if you're not getting twenty emails a day.
The usual progression if you find each other interesting is a few emails through the site, then emails on regular email, then online chatting, then phone, and then a meeting. Some of the steps are occasionally skipped and of course you can do what feels right to you. Sometimes you get halfway when you realize you're just not interested anymore. It's okay to admit that; no sense in leading someone on, though it's nice to be sensitive in your rejection. Just because it's online doesn't mean people's feelings can't get hurt.
It's very important to remember basic safety issues, especially when you get to the meeting stage. A good friend of mine recommends a meeting in a very public place for drinks or coffee (so no meal commitment is made if you hate each other); you should leave the contact information of the person you're meeting with a friend or relative, as well as where and when you're meeting. It's also a good idea to have a safety call during the date to that friend or relative, just to check in. I'm sure this all seems a little extreme, but if you think about it, when you meet someone online, you are trusting that they are who they say they are. But occasionally, they're not, and since there's no way to know up front, it's important to do what you can to protect yourself.
Just like meeting at work or through a friend, meeting someone online can lead to a meaningful relationship, a one stand, or a lousy first date. The benefit of meeting online is that you have a chance to get to know each other before you actually "know" each other; the downside is that it's impossible to know for sure if you have chemistry until that first date. It's possible to "click" online and have no spark at all in real life. And it's possible to be only moderately interested online and then be hot for each other in real life. You just never know.
My last tip, one I know not everyone will listen to, is to be honest. If you only want a one-night stand or a casual relationship, be honest. Don't' pretend to be looking for a soul mate if you just want sex. There are plenty of people with similar intentions, so there's no need to lie. My profiles always read that I'm looking for something casual, for fun. This is my way of saying that I don't want a lifelong partner, but want to have a good time and enjoy whatever happens. I tend to steer clear of profiles that talk about finding soul mates or wives because I know I can't be that for someone, and I don't want to mislead.
Meeting someone online isn't that complicated. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. But you have a lot better chance if you take the time to create a thoughtful and creative profile. And an even better chance if you take the time to be thoughtful and creative in the way you approach those who interest you. Unlike a bar, you can take your time to come up with just the right thing to say, and I say, take advantage!