Monday, August 02, 2004

For what it's worth - my internet dating advice 

So, in response to Sloth, I decided to post some advice on internet dating. These were my rules, so you can take them or leave them. Also, I wrote them from my perspective, but just switch around the pronouns and they'd probably work for guys as well.

The sites I used were Yahoo personals, Match, and Lavalife. Not all three at once, of course. Yahoo and match I paid the fee for, lavalife I didn't. Check them all out and see which would work best for you. I started out with yahoo because it was the cheapest!

Designing your profile

1. when making your own profile, be honest
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to designing your own profile. Making yourself taller and slimmer than you are in real life may be tempting, but not very fair to a guy who's looking forward to meeting your tall slim self. I decided right away that I was going to be honest (to a point!) about my weight. It would only make it worse for me if I hit if off with a guy online, only to get rejected when we finally meet because he's not a fan of girls with a little more meat on their bones. A tiny voice in your head may be piping up right now saying "he should like me for who I am, not what I look like!" Now let me be the voice of reason, physical attraction is important. There's no denying it, it's built into us by evolution. So be honest with describing yourself. That's not to say you need to mention your 11th toe or your vestigial tail. Leave that for later.

2. picture or not to picture
I think you're luck will be better if you include a picture. That being said, I found K even though he didn't have a picture on his profile. I have teased him about this. He teases me back, asking how desperate I was to be cruisin' the no pic profiles.

3. Most dating sites will let you write a paragraph about you. This is your chance to tell them what your interests are, and also what you're interests AREN'T. It was important to me to meet someone of a similar religious background (I wasn't going to go through THAT again!), but because I live in the south, religion is a bit of a touchy subject. I made it clear that I was a person of faith, BUT religious fanatics need not apply! Also, this is a good way to screen guys. If during a conversation, they ask you what you do, but you already said in your profile that you're an accountant or a teacher, then you can be pretty sure they didn't read your profile (more about this later)

4. some sites will also let you publish what you're looking for in a match in your profile. Again, be honest. People can learn a lot about you by what your looking for (see below for more!)

Going shopping!

1. doing searches is a lot like shopping, you have to do a lot of searching to find what you really want. Generally these sites let you be as specific or as vague as you want. The more specific you are, of course, the smaller your pool of potentials will be. I never really specified eye or hair color, but if you've got your heart set on a blue eyed, blonde haired cutie, that's your decision.

2. once you've found a potential match, make sure you read his profile carefully. I always looked at what HE was looking for in a match. You can learn a lot about a person this way. Are they incredibly specific? Down to an eye color? Seems very picky to me. Kinda shallow maybe? Are they incredibly vague? Did they answer doesn't matter for every question, including location? Not picky enough? can't seem to make up his mind! Also, make sure that you are at least a close match to what he's looking for. If he's got his heart set on a short, curvy girl, and you're 6'0" and 110 lbs soaking wet, you're probably not the one for him. That's not always the case, and you really lose nothing by trying, I suppose. But why get your hopes up?

First contact and beyond
1. generally, if you've paid for the service, you can send an message to them. Make this quick but casual. Something along the lines of

"hi! I was just browsing some profiles, found yours, and thought we had some
things in common. Write met back if you're interested."

2. it's best to keep communication to messages at this point. You can learn more about each other, and if something sends up a red flag - simply stop replying! Don't worry about hurt feelings. If something doesn't seem right, end it. If it becomes clear that he didn't read your profile at all (especially if he contacted you first!) then he might be a "blanket message" guy. These guys send out messages to just about every female on the site, hoping to get lucky. Ick. Also, and this advice is for the guys, you may get messages from women who want you to "look at their website." Unless you're looking for a "pay by credit card" relationship, ignore them!

3. after a couple of messages, you can move to IM for a little while. Again, if a red flag goes up, simply add him to your "ignore" list. Hehe. Funny story: when I used yahoo personals, some guys figured out that I had an IM account that was the same as my profile name (it wasn't my primary IM account, but it was an active one). So I would occasionally get IM's from some random people who found my dating profile. On not one, but two of these occasions, when I checked the person's yahoo profile, the pictures they had posted were...not of their face. And...a they were little too happy to be there. Size-wise: impressive. But overall impression wise: creepy creepy creepy! IGNORE!

4. when you feel ready, move up to phone conversations. It's important to note that you need to insist that you move at your own pace! If he starts pressuring you to meet him before you're ready, stand your ground, and if needed, end it. Likewise, respect his wishes when it comes to moving forward as well

The Meeting
Only two hard and fast rules here
1. pick a location that's very public, and meet him there
2. arrange a "rescue call" with a friend (have him/her call you at a set time, giving you an excuse to escape if need be)

I began using internet dating in November of 2002. I went out with a number of guys. With one exception, all the dates were pleasant. (my very first date was with a guy who was a DJ for a local radio station. When planning to meet, he seemed very insistent that I wear something sexy, like a tight short skirt. Yeah, whatever buddy. I wore jeans and a turtleneck. He spent the entire time talking about being a DJ - two whole hours! I was bored stiff and incredibly annoyed.) Only one guy lied about his looks (on his profile he was 5'10", on the phone he was 5'8", and in reality he was something like 5'6". I still went out with him a few times. He was pretty nice). I didn't meet any stalkers or crazy people. Nobody tried to kill me. My screening process seemed to work pretty well.

I found K's profile in February of 2003, and we went on our first date in march. So really, it didn't take long for me to find someone. Like I said before, these were my personal rules for internet dating. They may not work for you. But I found my love in around 4 months. So who knows?