Photo by Unseen
A few months back, i was hanging out with a fellow blogger & the subject of internet dating came up… But how can we know who we’re meeting? We ended up talking in length about our experiences, and my lady friend seemed to feel my thoughts were worth putting out (there).
I’ve gone on quite a few dates through the interwebs – faux paus & good stories alike. Primarily, my long-term relationships have been instigated via real life connections, but i’ve met amazing people through internet dating sites (a/s/l, anyone?!). Below you’ll find my tips, because when i started dating online, it wasn’t really an acceptable thing to admit, and i had to learn from scratch.
1.) Anonymize. Deviate from your standard user name or screen name. I suggest a handle that isn’t easy to link by googling. Also, if you have a web “persona” attached to your name, i’d suggest signing the e-mails with a less obvious name. Maybe your initials? a nickname?
The above prevents any potential suitors from being able to google you & find out information about your entire life. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen at this point in the game — some dates don’t go well, and depending on the level of your comfort, it is nice to not have an annoying date following your life online. Plus, it removes the mystery! Find out things the old fashioned way.
2.) Present yourself nicely. While i suggest an “anonymous” user name, photographs are the most important part of the game. Try to think of internet dating like regular dating, but with an easier, more polite approach & potential let-down. People at bars don’t have a blinking neon sign over their head with their interests – the photo should be the first thing that draws you in, and the subject matter keeps you looking. I look for profiles that offer photographs that show a variety of the subject in flattering, direct light. Smiling is important, fun is awesome & a full-body shot helps to give a better taste of the overall attraction. I believe that most individuals find myspace angles misleading & gratuitous party shots distasteful. I highly recommend you be honest with yourself & what you find physically attractive; but also keep a flexible, open mind.
3.) Keep it creative. Profiles with eclectic expression often merit more messages than smokin’ mommas with dull profiles. The creative profiles will give your potential suitors incentive to message you & something in common. Tell a little story about your didgeridoo, or share a photograph of your favorite costume. Chat speak is to be avoided at all costs.
4.) Less is more. Dating profiles aren’t a place to share really personal information — rather, a place to share your interests & the outlying reason you’re on the site. No matter what you’re looking for, try to keep the profile like an essay — talk about the subject (you) at the beginning of the profile & keep what you’re looking for at the very end. Try to be open & keep it basic to stuff that is a must.
5.) Be honest about your status. Save your date some time — if you’re in a special relationship that allows you to date others, mention it at the bottom of the profile.
Despite preparedness, I’ve noted that there’s still concern about dating people that you’ve never met before — keep in mind that the internet leaves “footprints” like an IP address, whereas a random encounter at a bar does not. If you feel uncomfortable, take a few steps to protect yourself, such as let a good friend know you’re going on a date with someone you met online. Try to trust your intuition in any situation when interacting with a stranger – if something feels wrong, get out of the situation quickly & gracefully.
My rules tend to follow that i try to meet early, because this prevents something i call the BOOK TO MOVIE phenomenon. Remember that time you read that really great book & then the damn industry took it, put it on screen & it wasn’t at all how you recalled it?
Yeah. Internet dating can be a lot like that.
Over time, i learned that it was best to look at profiles & pick my dates based on photographs — i’d take a quick look at them & gauge my response. The subject didn’t have to be a hunkadilla, just someone who seemed kind, had photos that caught my eye & represented themselves in a way i found at least peripherally attractive. Smiling is also something incredibly important to me. No photos of my suitor smiling? No bueno.
I usually scan the profile afterward for dangerously incompatible key words & if most everything looked interesting, i’d send a simple message. Utilizing the basic rules of flirting, a friendly hello followed by a genuine compliment about something external (not biological, this is getting too intimate) & a question about an interesting piece of information on the profile is sufficient.
I don’t suggest mentioning meeting in the first message, either. After a few messages have been exchanged — i usually offer an e-mail address, or something more intimate, like a telephone number suggesting we talk. Some people might think this is risky behavior, but i find the voice incredibly important. I think this is the best way to tell if someone is creepy or if the date will go poorly.
I tend to think meet-ups are a no-brainer — someplace with ambiance that is public & well-lit (truck stop bathrooms are generally a poor locale). I think that a coffee shop is a little ubiquitous, so choose something different, like a tiki bar. Keeping the first date light & open ended is important – i took an online date to a play once. Conversationally, we were painfully incompatible & i had to spend the night introducing my date to friends i knew in the cast of the play. I think i’ll save the play for a few dates down the road next time.
I find internet dating to work the best when i’m approaching it as a fun experience, rather as the means to end a lonely night & find a relationship. I’ve found love with a friend connection on craigslist, met lovers through burning man message boards, and become friends with people i sought dates with originally. In my opinion, an initial shared interest is still the best way to meet, but internet dating is fun.
Dating online can be a liberating change for people who want to incorporate certain things in a relationship (like kink), that can’t be established in the first date. I highly advocate bringing things like kink to the table in a profile & searching it out if it is necessary to a relationship or something you’d like to explore.
And last, here’s some ideas for dates —
♥ Do a Crazy Blind Date & double up with a pal.
♥ Speed date through craigslist – meet up with potential dates at different bars in one night. Be open, have fun, think of the night like investigative journalism.
♥ Check out Gala Darling’s site for style tips. I really like looking at posts like “How to have a great picnic” or Gala’s podcasts come with high recommendations.
♥ Make a silly goal with dating – a great incentive to meet people. Over-fixate on a whimsical detail you like about a potential partner & plan a date based on that detail. Send the person a silly message such as, “Hello! I am a great aficionado of the color purple & pixie cuts on women. I’m going out on dates to write a paper on the topic of fae women in urban environments.”
♥ Check out Francesca Lia Block’s new book, Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur – a Mythological Dating Guide
Above everything, i encourage politeness. I feel that not saying anything at all is better than a rude message. Don’t feel you have to respond to every message, or request a date from anyone who pays you attention. Have fun! And remember: sometimes dating is a great excuse to find your new favourite hang out. My best first date find? A David Lynch-esque bar, complete with an enourmous polar bear & red damask wallpaper & Dracula pin ball & a giant walk-in fridge full of foreign beer.