As an aficionado of online dating, and founder of MarryMeAlready.com, a dating site targeted strictly at people looking for serious relationships and marriage, I am often asked how online daters can distinguish between people looking for that special someone and those who are just in it for a night of fun. Fear not! Online dating can really work, with as many as one in six marriages today between people who met online. The trick is in sifting out the diamonds from the ruffians!
Here's something you should also know when reading this piece. Though these tips are written specifically with the ladies in mind, they can easily apply to the menfolk as well. So guys, do read on! Now, without further adieu, here's a list of what you'll need to discover quickly if he or she is an online loon or someone who'll make you swoon. Just add a dash of common sense with a pinch of your own instinct, and you'll be well on your way to finding that special someone who may just make you say, "I do."
1) Create a great online dating profile that showcases you.
They say that "like attracts like," so if you want to meet someone who is well-groomed, articulate, and interesting you first need to make sure your profile is of the same caliber. Post realistic but flattering photos, and write something about yourself that is intriguing and tells your suitors what you are passionate about and what makes you tick. Then watch how quickly other quality people who also put in the same type of effort are drawn to you! I hear complaints from people all the time regarding the quality of users they're hearing from, or the fact that they're rarely hearing from anyone at all, and without fail, each time I have checked out that person's profile, it's a train wreck! Even for those who do experience some success online, their profiles often could use a lot of improvement. Spelling errors and grammatical blunders abound in online profiles; do you really want to present yourself as either uneducated or lazy? Self-taken photos reflected off the bathroom mirror with poor lighting and dirty towels in the background rarely make a good first impression. A frightening number of profile photos can be found that are taken from bad angles, have frowns on faces, or are primarily of the user's pet dog, frog, or a pogo stick. Put simply, a quickly thrown-together profile with unflattering photos and misspellings of words like "Hi" (I have literally seen this spelled "Hie") is NOT going to cut it! Putting your best foot forward can and will yield positive results when consistently applied. So get off to a fresh start by revamping your existing profile or by signing up for the first time with a great new profile.
2) Don't share any personal information until you've exchanged at least four to five meaningful emails within the original site. (I'm talking about your cell phone number, your personal email address, your LIVING ADDRESS etc.)
First of all, you're really able to tell a lot about a person based upon how he writes. So before you take the conversation to the phone, invest some time in reading his emails and profile. How much time did he put into his profile, and more important, how much time is he willing to put into get to know YOU? This is a great early gauge of "commitment," because if he's looking for a one-night stand, he probably isn't going to go back and forth with you sharing his innermost thoughts. Also, if by chance he's an online scammer (unfortunately, the net is teeming with these), he is going to want to communicate with you as quickly as possible in another forum where he doesn't risk getting banned. A serious potential mate doesn't have to be a poet laureate or a novelist to catch your attention, but if his first message to you reads something like "Hi, you're cute. Email me at email@example.com to chat," you can probably guess that he's emailed 100 other girls the same intro, and he's probably not the type who's looking to settle down anytime soon. On the other hand, if he asks you thoughtful questions about yourself or about something you wrote in your profile, or he tells you about his favorite things, his thoughts on the Civil War, or why he loves dogs but would never want a gerbil, read on! You may have just ignited a spark that will change your status to "table for two."
3) Technology is here. Use It.
Lucky you. I mean that. When I was dating online, I had to spend two hours primping for a first meeting and then show up only to find "Brad Pitt" from the photo looking more like Kermit the Frog. You can avoid daters who aren't serious by sending lots of photos back and forth while emailing and getting to know each other. This is especially effective in weeding out those occasional misguided people who either show you really old photos of themselves or use someone else's photo altogether. Here's a tip: Not many thirtysomethings still wear a high school letterman jacket, and most fakers don't have 10 different stolen photos of the same attractive person. Information is power! Once you feel comfortable moving to the next level, feel free to share your personal email or chat address, or better yet try FaceTime or Skype. Now, for those who don't find your iPod or computer's monitor to project you in the most flattering light (I am one of you), keep your "Skype date" short! Just say something like "it's nice to have a quick hello, but let's save the real magic till we're face to face." That way, you leave him anticipating more of you, and you also get to see him in living color and then determine if the two hours you'll spend primping to meet "Mr. Wonderful" are justified before you make the investment!
4) Don't be afraid of going niche! Give the targeted dating sites a spin.
Targeted sites that focus on common interests like marriage, religion, lifestyle, etc. can be a great way of not only meeting someone who is like-minded, but also like-intentioned. The more you have in common the more likely you are to connect on a deeper level. If the most important thing to you is being vegetarian, or a fitness freak, or Mormon, or into line dancing, then why not find a site that attracts others who have the same values? And, yes, there's a niche site for just about everyone!
5) Absolutely No Coffee Dates!!
This is a bold choice, but it can really pay off if you stick to it. First, let's face it; you're a quality catch (if you do not agree with me, you might want to start with first improving your feelings about your self before jumping into a relationship, but that's the topic of another article). Second, let's also agree that you're looking for something serious to come of your online dating effort (if the answer is not really, then you're one of those one-night stand types and you should be meeting like-minded people on one of those other niche sites). So, if you're going to put in the effort to have a good hair day, paint your face, and pick out the cute outfit to meet "Mr. Wonderful," the least he can do is ask you on a proper date! If you insist on keeping things casual, you can meet for cocktails (preferably non-alcoholic, otherwise not more than two for the evening is a good rule of thumb). You can also opt for a casual lunch, or hey, if you and he both suspect there's a connection, dinner is preferable. Starbucks has "I'm not too invested in meeting you" written all over it, while dinner hints at "I'm hoping you might be the one."
6) Leave him wanting MORE!
Have a fantastic time on the first date, laugh, share stories, even agree to one or two extra activities if things are going well, but please, by all means, don't let it go on for too long. This is a situation where less is actually more. Would you rather let him learn everything about you in one mega-date or keep his interest and let him find out more by taking you out again? Remember, a long-term relationship is like a marathon. If you're hoping that this one might go the distance, you have to pace yourself. In other words, leave him wanting more.
So between revamping your online profile, arming yourself with some new dating strategies, using technology to date smarter and more efficiently, and having some standards about how you deserve to be treated, a whole new dating experience awaits you! Oh, and when you're ready to say "I do," please be sure to drop me a line so I can say "I told you so." Keep an eye out for part two of this series, where I'll share some unconventional things that you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd!