Just a few years ago many people wouldn’t even think of dating online, believing that only weird, unattractive, desperate, or extremely shy people used the Net to find dates. Since then, online dating has evolved and is now a mainstream trend among singles.
This change in public opinion has sparked remarkable growth in the online dating market. In 2003, an estimated 3 million people paid for an online dating service listing (Jupiter Research). Internet dating sites are booming and are likely here to stay.
It is estimated that there are 90 million singles in the US alone (Marketdate Enterprises: The Dating Service, 2004). It’s no wonder that many are turning to the Net to meet potential mates. If you too are considering online dating, you should establish some ground rules before jumping in headfirst. So let’s get started.
Is Internet Dating Right for You?
Can you really find your true love online? The answer is yes. Some do! Online dating is fast becoming part of mainstream culture and many see it as a great way to meet new people and possibly even find their soulmate.
So, why would someone want to use an online dating service?
· Some people are extremely busy and lack the time to meet people on their own.
· Some singles are tired of the club/bar scene.
· Some are new in town and don’t know anyone.
· Some find it hard to find dates in more traditional ways.
· And some live in small towns or rural areas with few opportunities to meet new people.
If you are looking for someone special and have not had much success with conventional dating, you may want to consider online dating. All kinds of people–from business professionals to doctors, lawyers, and even “the boy or girl next door”–are searching for love on the Net.
But you must go into it with your eyes open and with a positive, healthy attitude. Susan, an attractive, 30-something single who has not had a lot of luck finding dates offline, has just such an attitude. Susan is not desperate for a man–she simply wants to find the right man. She says,
I am perfectly happy on my own. I really don’t need a man to make me happy. I am happy. What I am looking for is my soulmate, the person who is the right match for me. But if that isn’t in the cards for me, that’s okay–I am perfectly fine on my own.
If you are desperate to find someone, then the Internet dating market is not for you. Desperate people are likely to make mistakes in judgment. They see only what they want to see, and this can be extremely dangerous in online dating.
Online dating has several advantages, such as the following:
· Anyone (over the age of 18) can participate in online dating–young, old, straight, gay, and even those looking for casual encounters.
· It’s quick and easy to get started and you don’t need to be a computer whiz. All you need is Internet access.
· You can meet people in a matter of minutes in the comfort of your own home.
· You can search for people of a specific sexual orientation, culture, religion, or location, and find people who share your interests, values, and attitudes.
· When you meet someone, you can get to know each other at your own pace before you meet in person. You are always in control.
How Does It Work?
Most dating sites function the same way. You create a profile, browse, and search for free. But to receive and send email or instant messages you have to buy a membership. If another member likes your profile, he or she can contact you (or, if you like what you see, you can contact him or her) and you’ll start an online friendship.
Online dating can be a bit hectic. Some sites have thousands of members, so it helps if you keep your contacts at a reasonable number. If you find sorting through candidates overwhelming, take a break. Go for a walk and get some fresh air to help clear your head. Consider taking a week or two off from your search. When you get back to it you will have a renewed sense of excitement.
Know Yourself before You Go Online
Before you subscribe to an online dating service, ask yourself, “What am I hoping to find?” Although getting started with Internet dating is quick and easy, there is no reason to rush into anything. Take things slowly and allow them to progress in a natural way. Stop, think, and plan before putting yourself out there.
Whether you’re looking for casual dates or you’re interested in a long-term romance or a marriage partner, it is important that you are clear on your goals and that you never compromise. Stay focused and remember that desperate behavior never brings positive results. Be selective, choosing only those people who share your values and attitudes.
How to Get Started
Okay, now that you are clear about how you are going to approach this new way of finding dates, it’s time to get started. The first step is to sign up with an online dating service.
Most quality dating sites charge a fee, ranging from $20 to $50 a month. Some offer a discount on extended memberships. Choose one that fits your budget and that offers services that appeal to you. Read all rules and regulations carefully.
If you can’t afford the extra expense right now, you may want to try a free dating site. However, free sites are not highly recommended. Most lack the features of higher-quality sites and have fewer services, lower activity, and lots of advertisements. And, as Greg Holden, author of Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Online Dating (Que Publishing, 2005) says, “If anyone can join without committing any money, you are more likely to get people who aren’t serious about dating. You might get married people looking for an affair, or people with bad manners, criminal records, and the like.”
All dating sites require that you create a personal profile. Writing this profile is very important. It is your chance to make a good first impression and to stand out from the crowd. Don’t rush the process–make your profile a good one.
The trick to writing a profile is to be as honest as you can be without revealing too much information. Show who you are and what makes you unique.
Let’s break down the profile into five easy steps:
1. Start with a greeting.
2. Describe yourself (your appearance, including your height, weight, eye and hair color; age, background, ethnicities, education, etc.)
3. Talk about your interests and hobbies.
4. Describe what you are looking for in a date (good looking, non-smoker, social drinker, etc.)
5. End by asking a question–this will encourage a response.
Keep you profile positive and light-hearted. If your goal is to get married and have children, don’t mention this right off the bat, because readers may think you are needy and desperate.
Although most online dating sites don’t require you to include a photo, almost all recommend that you do. If you don’t include a photo, readers may assume that you have something to hide or that you are not happy with your appearance. Posting your picture on the Web is not difficult. If you don’t have a digital photo of yourself or a scanner, just take a photo to a local office-supply store and have it scanned and copied onto a disk. Another option is to ask a friend or relative who owns a digital camera to take a few pictures of you. It’s that simple!
However, if you are really uncomfortable about adding your picture to your profile, then don’t. You should never do anything you are uncomfortable with. Consider instead saying that your picture is available upon request.
Is Internet Dating Safe?
While there are certainly liars, cheaters, scammers, and imposters to be found on the Web, online dating has proved to be relatively safe. You stand no more chance of meeting a weirdo or loser on the Net than you do in the traditional dating world. Unfortunately, dating is never risk free. Maintaining your safety and privacy both on- and offline is extremely important. It is always wise to exercise caution and common sense.
Be very selective about who you choose to give your personal information to. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of thousands of member on some of the major dating sites and you might be overwhelmed with the responses you receive. It is your job to sort out the good from the bad.
Take a look at the following 13 common-sense online dating tips:
1. Guard your privacy. Don’t be too quick to give away your last name, address, phone number, place of work, or any other information that may reveal your identity.
2. For the first few weeks communicate solely by email. Create a separate email address for this purpose.
3. Next, start communicating by phone. Use a cell phone or a pay phone so that your home phone number will not be accessible. Only when you feel completely comfortable with someone should you reveal your personal phone number.
4. Take your time. Collect as much information about someone as you can before bringing him or her into your life.
5. Watch out for someone who seems too good to be true. He or she probably is.
6. Be aware that people may lie in their personal profiles. Maintain a bit of skepticism. Don’t believe everything you hear or read.
7. Trust your instincts. If anything makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, stop communication completely.
8. Beware of anyone who rushes a meeting. You are under absolutely no obligation to meet anyone. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured in any way.
9. Never meet a complete stranger. Get to know each other first. Communicate by email and phone before you decide to meet in person. Learn as much as you can about a potential date.
10. Meet only when you are ready. Certainly, never meet before one month of communication.
11. Meet in a public place. Your first few meetings should be held at a public place such as a restaurant, coffee shop, or mall. Avoid remote areas.
12. If at anytime you feel unsafe, leave. Try to diffuse the situation and get out of there. Make sure you have enough money to get yourself home if necessary.
13. Don’t fall in love and became intimate with anyone too quickly. Remember the person you are seeing may be dating or interested in a few other people. Just because you think you have found someone you want to be exclusive with doesn’t mean he or she feels the same way. Protect your heart.
When evaluating a potential date, watch out for the following red flags:
· Inappropriate behavior
· Inconsistencies in his/her comments
· Asking you to meet at a remote location
· Demeaning or disrespectful comments
· Appeals for financial help
One more word of caution: The online dating world is not for the overly sensitive. The chances of rejection can be much higher than with conventional dating. It is very easy to become infatuated when there is distance between you, but when you actually meet face-to-face, you or your date may back right off. As you gain more experience and have a few dates under your belt, you will realize that people are usually very different online and in person.
You must be able to move on from rejection quickly. Keep in mind that you can’t be all things to all people and try not to take it personally. And as the old saying goes, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Online dating is a numbers game. Most experienced online daters will date several people at a time until they meet someone they want to be exclusive with, and you should do the same if you hope to be successful. Getting over rejection is also much easier if you have other prospects.
If you have been online for a year or so and have not been successful in finding someone special, consider other options. The Internet may not be where you are meant to find your special someone. Start looking elsewhere.
Just because you are giving online dating a try, by all means don’t give up conventional dating. Keep your options open. The best way to meet singles is to go to as many singles events as you can. Meet people at your place of work, at fundraisers, or through volunteer work. Join a sports league or a religious group. By doing the things you enjoy, you will meet compatible people who share your values and attitude and want the same things out of life.
Now, get out there and live you life to the fullest. You can be happily single while still looking.
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