Online Dating... Discerning or Desperate?! What you need to know.
The fact is that in today’s day and age, it is incredibly hard to meet people outside of your current work and friendship circle. In any case, what are the chances that your ideal mate is lurking in that incredibly small demographic?! Virtually nada. Enter the online world, one that is full of nice normal people looking for a meaningful connection, as well as those looking for a potential pet to keep in their basement. It’s really wonderful how there is something for everyone.
Jokes aside, there are loads of advantages to online dating:
- It’s a great opportunity to be upfront about your wants and needs in a relationship without chemistry clouding that initial interaction
- You get to meet people that you ordinarily wouldn’t interact with
- It’s a safe way to interact and get to know someone
- You can totally ‘meet’ people while sitting on your sofa in pj’s eating toast with the dog
- You can narrow search criteria to fit you, eg. smokers, children, interests, etc.
One in three people in SA have tried online dating, so you can stop feeling like you are either pathetic or strange. In any case, you could always lie about how you met. That said, there are a couple of things you should remember to make your dive into online dating as smooth as possible…
1. You probably won’t find your ‘perfect match’ right away - persevere!
Hell, how many of us EVER find a perfect match?! Unfortunately, when you join a dating site or download a dating app, you probably won’t be presented with your one true love’s profile right away (trying not to say “DUH”). Dating apps help introduce you to people so you can discover who you want to date, but instant love connections don’t authentically happen at first click. You’ll likely browse profiles, chat with people, and maybe even decide to meet some people in person before finding somebody that really intrigues you. But that’s part of the fun! Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find “the one” right away and just enjoy the ride while you learn how to flex those dating muscles again.
2. Find the right dating app
Not all dating apps are created equal. Some have you “swipe” through potential dates, saying “yes” or “no” to many profiles in rapid succession. Others let you take more time to search for matches based on variables like age, location, and interests. It’s totally normal to try out more than one type of dating app to see what you like best, as well as one aimed at your desires, for lack of a better word. Want a hot hook-up? Go for Tinder. Looking for a meaningful connection? Try EliteSingles or DatingBuzz. You might prefer the search criteria on one site, or the convenience of another. This doesn’t make you promiscuous, it makes you discerning ;)
3. Don’t be pushy… it’s creepy
Online dating newbies may be excited to get things started, but they should make sure they don’t get the etiquette wrong. Don’t harass people. Don’t send repeat follow-up messages. Don’t be insistent. Even if you do find a match online, you should know that the texting interaction may be short-lived. With that in mind, send out messages with no firm expectations, and if you don’t hear back from someone within three to four days, move along without being abusive. It’s not a failure on your part, so just cut your losses and move on to the next awesome person who IS interested.
4. Focus on the hard-hitting details
What do you have in common with your love interest? Is there something that is a no-go for either of you? Pay attention to what they say (and don’t say!) as opposed to a great picture. Your strongest first message to explore a connection will likely come from honing in on one or two aspects of someone’s profile, like aspects that you may have in common. The perfect first message should be organic and interesting, demonstrating that you read their profile, and present a cool but fun opportunity to communicate.
5. Stay true to yourself - ditch the filter
Take time to create a strong first impression. You’re given the flexibility to create a profile of who you are and what you want, so use it! Don’t try to perfect your profile - not only does it look unbelievable, but it’s just opening the door for deep disappointment. Disappoint them upfront! Keep it fun but say that you hate sport, or thing SoundGarden is overrated. It also opens the door for a good conversation.
And yes, you’ll probably want to use a flattering photo where you look your best, but it should be normal photo that is still easily recognisable. Beyond that, don’t get tied up in looks when browsing potential partners… sometimes someone amazing could be hiding behind a bad pic. But ALWAYS insist on photos, and several at that, to prove that the person actually exists.
6. Take the connection offline
When an initial connection doesn’t lead anywhere, don’t drag it out because you feel bad. Some people are just there to hook up and send angry messages when you stop texting them back. In these cases, you certainly have the right to sever communication - listening to your gut is extremely important. But if you hit it off with someone online, the next step is to meet in person. It can be nerve-wracking, but this is the entire point! See what’s really there or not. Of course, be smart about where you meet - it should always be in a public space. With a big bathroom window, in case you need to climb out.
Err on the side of caution AKA "don’t land on an episode of CSI"
After you put yourself out there in the online dating world, it’s important to remember that people aren’t always what they seem. Unfortunately, even though most dating sites work to protect their members, there are still scammers out there. If you’re ever unsure about somebody, err on the side of caution. If somebody’s online dating profile seems too good to be true or if they’re dodging meeting you in person, it might be for a reason; they could be lying about something. If somebody sends you a message that makes you uncomfortable or pressures you for too much personal information, you have the option to block or report them. Have fun, but also be careful.
Watch out for scams
As if dating weren’t already hard enough, something that you should be aware of is that scammers and harassers lurk on dating sites. They’re NOT the norm, but they’re common enough that you should know the signs which indicate when you’re talking to one. If things are going a bit too smoothly or someone wants to move thing along very quickly, be cautious and go with your intuition. While possible love does require you to be open-minded and trusting, make sure you don’t let yourself get taken advantage of: someone you’ve just met requesting money should be deleted, reported, and forgotten.
Be transparent, not a tool
One of the difficulties of dating is knowing what everyone’s expectations are. Are they looking for a one night stand or a member of their cult? Are they planning a date with you because they adore you or are they just looking for something fun to do? This uncertainty is exacerbated online when communicating via text, which is a great way to cock up tone and read what you want. So rather be as straightforward as possible. If you’re interested in asking someone out, you may want to include a line in your profile about your preference for in-person interaction. Similarly, if you’re just looking for friends or online connections, be upfront about that so you don’t get someone devastated because they were planning a wedding. It’s fine to want a casual hook-up. It’s not fine to mislead anyone.
Don’t be a jerk
Kindness counts. You can say no without being rude. If somebody sends you a message and you’re not interested, there are ways to decline without hurting feelings. We suggest keeping it simple and direct: Hi, thanks for your message, but I think we’d be better suited as friends.
Good luck out there!
- Georgina Roberts