Sunday, January 23, 2011

Online Dating 101

Q: What are your thoughts about online dating sites, are the rules different? What are the guidelines to texting, meeting in person. Is there a generic rule book on dating to follow? Ie. When to text first, how long to wait, are most interested in love?

A: I'll be honest: I'm no expert in online dating. In fact, it used to kind of scare me. However, allow me to swallow my pride and admit that, YES, I have tried it before and find that it can be a great way for people to meet potential mates--especially if you are excruciatingly shy or if you are having trouble finding members of the same sex to meet. 

A lot of my friends are getting in the mood to try it lately, and I say go for it. As far as "rules" go, I say it should be just like normal dating with a few twists. Here are some guidelines that I think people should follow if they do decide to brave the vast web-ocean that is internet dating.

1. Check out peoples' profiles in depth before you initiate contact.
Be honest with yourself--there ARE a lot of wackjobs out there. It's not hard to spot a "fake" profile out there, so use your brain. If you spot a profile of a beautiful girl who wants to "trade pix" with you and whose only listed interests include "sex" and variations thereof, ummm...yeah, you are dealing with one of the millions of profiles that creepy people (men and women alike) use to bait innocent onliners like you. 
In addition, there are plenty of real live people out there who have their interests and stories laid out for you to see. Take advantage of that, and make sure the cute guy you're chatting up isn't a white supremacist or a 40-year-old living at home or a Celtics fan (hahahahahaha). It will save you a lot of trouble.

Be yourself. If someone doesn't like who you are or how you look, they can screw off. Putting up pictures of your 16-year-old self when you're 35 or saying that you're a partner at a law firm when you do data entry in an office is not going to serve you well in the end.

3. Meet as soon as possible, and meet in public.
Ideally, you should meet with the person you begin talking with that very week. If someone puts off meeting you for too long, it's usually a sign of something. Make it like a one-hour meeting at a coffee shop. The length is so that you leave enough to the imagination and the public-ness is so that nobody gets any wrong ideas--also, to make sure you are safe. Honestly, this isn't a great "first date", but it's the best way to go about it. Make the first date after this.

That's it.
Those are the twists, those are the differences.
The only thing I would probably add is to not make a big deal that it's an online meeting if everything goes smoothly after a few dates. Treat it like any other relationship. Who texts first, how long do you wait for things...these questions will naturally be answered and one should abide by their own personal values for any relationship, whether they are dealing with an online-initiated one or a RL-initiated one.

--Dr. O.

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