“We met online.” Maybe you’ve said this or maybe you’ve heard one of your friends say it. Maybe you’re a veteran of dating sites, maybe you’re a beginner or maybe you’re just curious to know what it’s all about. As a self-proclaimed veteran of Internet dating, I learned the rules the hard way and I’ve dealt with the stigma on a daily basis.
Internet dating has seen a huge increase in popularity in the last few years. As of 2011, according to Leger Marketing, 36 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 have tried dating online. Nonetheless, a stigma still exists about people who find dates through the Internet. But it is gradually lessening.
“[When] I see clients who are single and have a hard time finding a mate, I will absolutely guide them towards online dating,” said Montreal therapist and doctorate candidate Stine Linden-Andersen. “Some people have a stigma, but we know from research that the stigma is incorrect. I think people used to think that people who go online, they would call themselves losers or socially inept, but we found through research that those who date [online] are more sociable than those who do not date online. So I think we really do need to revisit that stigma.”
The research Linden-Andersen refers to is that of Online Dating Magazine, which found that the majority of online daters are more confident than offline daters. Also, online daters are reportedly getting married faster with 72 per cent marrying within the first year compared to 36 per cent of offline daters.
In the past, Linden-Andersen has dealt with couples who made up entire stories about how they met that were not true, in order to bypass the perceived negative reactions from friends and family. As our society becomes more technologically involved, this stigma is changing, as exemplified by the growing number of people who use online dating sites and find success there.
Internet dating is not without its difficulties, but just like conventional dating, knowing the ropes is a key to success. Online dating is “an easier way to get into the whole dating scene and start finding out what your preferences are,” noted Linden-Andersen. “It gives you access to a lot more people than you would otherwise meet through connections or friends of friends.”
This is not to say that you should go out with every person who expresses an interest in you online or every profile you come across.
A profile is the first interaction you will have with potential dates. Most dating websites are set up in this way; your profile contains information about your height, weight, age and type of relationship you’re looking for, as well as information about your interests, what you’re looking for and your personal beliefs.
When writing a description of yourself, plentyoffish.com recommends that you include information about what you like, what you dislike, your passions, your fears, your personal beliefs and your personality traits. It also suggests thinking up creative first date ideas as this will reveal a lot about your personality, such as whether you’re sporty, romantic or adventurous.
Most dating websites will allow you to restrict your search to members who share the same interests as you, but those search restrictions are usually pretty generic. It’s important when reading profiles that you consider the profile as a whole, “finding love online means not just reading a lot of profiles but reading between the lines of a lot of profiles,” according to lookbetteronline.com.
Some people will write too much and some people will write too little, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about the quality of what they’re saying and what they’re not saying in their profile that is important.
It’s true what they say, a picture can say a thousand words, which is why it’s important that your profile include a photo. You don’t want a photo that shows you too made up, you want one that shows you as how you normally look. This photo is what will catch an individual’s eye and make them look at your profile, but you don’t want to misrepresent yourself. Despite what we tell ourselves, looks do matter. The truth is we are attracted to people initially, based on their looks.
“Ask five people what they find attractive, and you’ll get a lesson in human variability: girls with ears that stick out; guys with soulful eyes,” said Carlin Flora, a former editor and writer for Psychology Today, as quoted in the article “Fast Forces of Attraction.” We all have physical preferences when it comes to potential mates and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Lastly, but most importantly, is communication. In my experience, this is initially established through email or an instant messaging application provided by the website. However, the rules are the same when trying to open the doors of communication. There’s no need to reiterate the basic facts about yourself as you’ve already done that in your profile. Therefore, it’s a good idea, according to plentyoffish.com, to talk about a common interest you both share because this shows that you were interested enough to read their whole profile.
It can be overwhelming to search for a date online, but it can also be a great and fun experience. The most important thing, however, says Linden-Andersen, is “that when you’re looking for someone online, don’t look for that one and only. [It’s important that] you’re looking for someone who you might consider a friend […] and then sort of meet and see where it goes.” In other words, take a gander, it can’t hurt, and you never know who you’ll find waiting for you online.
How to search for a safe relationship online
- In my experience, if you are seeking a relationship, you should avoid anyone who mentions sex either in their profile or in your initial email or conversation.
- As well, you should not mention sex unless you are looking for a purely sexual relationship.
- If a person does not have a profile picture, ask them to provide one. In this day and age, taking a picture of oneself is easy, so there should be no excuses.
- Consider the kind of picture a person uses in their profile. Blurry, distorted or badly taken photographs are a sign that this person doesn’t care that much.
- It’s sometimes hard to tell what a person looks like based on their photos, so don’t judge a person too harshly. I’ve gone on several dates where the person didn’t look at all like their photo, but usually we had established a good rapport before then so it wasn’t a big deal (and sometimes it was a nice surprise).
- My most important piece of advice is don’t be afraid to tell someone you’re not interested in meeting them. Never feel pressured to meet someone just because you’ve been chatting online.
- I like to play it safe, so I always tell someone where I’m going to be and I never get in a guy’s car if it’s our first meeting.