Let’s face it—online dating can be intimidating. But ask around and you’ll find that it is the way couples are getting together. Sources like Psychology Today and Huffington Post actually suggest that marriages that begin online are more fulfilling than those that begin off-line.
If you know the landscape and can find your true north, you will be just fine. Here are a few tips to get you on the road.
Tip #1: Don’t Dread the Photograph(s)
Find at least two recent photos of yourself: a headshot and a body shot.
For the headshot, it’s simple: make sure you’re smiling, and choose a recent shot—you want prospective mates to know and love you as you are now! (Also, no sunglasses, for obvious reasons; and crop out photos of anyone else if it’s a group shot. Men want to see YOU, not all of your friends.)
Now, the body shot—it’s not as cringe-worthy as it sounds! Don’t worry about perfection—think more about what the photo says about you. Are you in the middle of doing a favorite activity like hiking or traveling? Are you in a location that has meaning to you, a favorite beach or pond? If so, your confidence and comfort will shine, and that’s what is important. (Hint: men are attracted to women in red!)
In a nutshell: show yourself as you are!
Tip #2: Watch Your Language
A lot of women make the mistake of making a laundry list of qualities that describe her kind of man. They start off with “I really want to find…” or “I hope to find…”
Your list, however, will be confident and engaging, and it will reflect the values that are important to you. Try to be specific and open-minded: instead of saying “I want to find a kind man,” try something like, “My man is kind—maybe he helps his elderly neighbor carry groceries.” The “maybe” demonstrates that you know that kindness comes through in a multitude of ways. You want YOUR man to see himself reflected in your words.
To put it another way: let your language say as much about you, as it does about what, or whom, you are seeking.
Tip #3: What Are Your 3 Deal-Breakers?
Everyone has them, and it might be hard to limit yourself to just three. But coming up with them can be a useful exercise in thinking deeply about what qualities are essential. You might be inclined to reject someone without a sense of humor. But what if that someone is able to laugh at himself?
Deal-breakers should relate to your core values. Maybe a potential date speaks bitterly about his ex (bigger picture: he holds on to resentment). Or he is rude to the waitstaff at a restaurant (message: he values some people over others).
In short: the deal-breakers will help you weed through online profiles and help you focus on the overall quality of the relationship.
Tip #4: It’s Okay to Ask
Forget any rules about dating. If you are interested, go ahead and take the first step. Most men will simply be flattered.
When you do reach out to someone, don’t just cut and paste the same boring message (that we know you didn’t send to the last guy, right?) Your first message is an opportunity to start a conversation and to reveal yourself: ask about him; give him a compliment. If there was something in his profile that interested you, go ahead and say, “I love a good Sunday brunch, too. Do you eat your eggs scrambled or sunny-side up?”
The takeaway: let yourself be interested in the details. It will make you stand out, for one thing; and his response will tell you more about him—which is the whole point, right?
Tip #5: Should We Meet?
After a few exchanges, try moving to phone conversations. Yes, they can be nerve-wracking, but you’ll be a step closer to finding out if there’s a connection.
Remember, a phone conversation does not have to lead to a first date. If you’re just not feeling it, say so. Your job is to find a match, not to take care of hurt feelings. If someone gives you a guilt trip over not going on a first date, just say firmly, “It was nice chatting but I don’t think we’re a match.”
Basically: trust yourself and go with your gut.
A word on safety: protect yourself and exercise common sense. Meet in public places. Take your own car or find your own ride (there and back). Let a friend know where you’re going and with whom, and tell them you’ll call when you get back home.
Dating online can actually be a relief to some women. A profile tells you more than furtive glances at a bar. You can “meet” lots of men in one go. You don’t have to waste time wondering if someone is just chatting, or chatting you up—you’re both there for the same reason, and something like twenty to forty percent of relationships are now the result of online dating, so go out there and find that guy who will just be thrilled to hear from you!