Tips and advice for singles exploring online dating
Finding a mate can be pretty scary, whether we are looking for a hook-up, casual relationship or a life partner. For many people, online dating can be difficult to negotiate in a million different ways, especially for people who’ve come out of long-term relationships, but even for people struggling to connect with likeminded others.
There is plenty of advice online or even within dating apps, but here is some additional advice from me, and friends of both sexes who’ve kindly offered to comment. This advice applies equally to everyone.
Research which app or apps might suit you best and spend some time having a look through their clientele before writing a profile (if necessary, start with a mostly empty profile and then add to it if you decide to stay). It’s probably a good idea to use more than one app, but keep in mind that there will be cross-over with other apps you’re on, and also it can be time consuming and difficult to keep up with messages in the early ‘honeymoon’ stages when you are ‘fresh meat’.
Decide right from the start what information you will share; whether you will use your real name, your surname, your home suburb and actual age – you will need to answer these questions immediately and some apps such as Tinder will not let you alter any of those, and will only accept your account if you have a Facebook profile.
Manage your settings to filter what appeals to you – at a bare minimum choose your preferred partner age range and location (for example, within 50 kilometres of your home). If you don’t want people from overseas or interstate contacting you, most apps will let you filter out those requests. Some will let you choose from a range of other attributes such as body type, smoking/non-smoking habits, income/professional status, kids/no kids, or height.
Choose at least two recent photos that you think are flattering but accurate portrayals of yourself. If you are a woman, full body shots have been quoted as increasing the hit rate by about 200%! If you don’t show your body, be prepared that you will be asked about it, and more than likely, be asked for a photo.
Think about what to write in your profile. Don’t opt for clichés stating what a nice and genuine person you are, avoid the phrase ‘I never know what to write in these things’ or ‘Just add me and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know’ or ‘I don’t trust online dating but…”. Try to write something meaningful – it doesn’t have to be long, in fact short profiles that are intriguing or funny can be great conversation starters. If you are a man, it’s a big turn-off to women if you come across as aggressive, rude, smug, resigned to misery, or angry. This is incredibly common. Please do not ever include photos of your kids or playthings – the number of men on dating apps who have photos of their cars, motor bikes, boats/fish or dogs is scary! (Although animals always seem to draw in the ladies!) Again, a big mistake men make is taking very unflattering selfies! No one looks good from below and a smile can work wonders for even the most average face. If you choose not to display a photo keep in mind that your success rate may be extremely low. This interview has some great pointers about what not to say.
When you initiate a message, avoid the generic ‘Hey’ or similar banalities. Try to say something that shows you have read their profile and like the look of them. If you’re a man messaging a woman, don’t focus on her appearance too much and don’t immediately ask about her body or breasts.
Keep in mind that a lot of people don’t even acknowledge a message. Very attractive young women often can’t keep up with the number of requests or messages they receive, and others can’t seem to be bothered replying unless they are very keen on your photo and profile. Try not to take this personally. Most apps don’t have a polite option (some do, such as RSVP) where you can say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and so many people opt for silence rather than directly hurting someone’s feelings. Also, it is not uncommon for men to become feral and rude if they are rejected!
A lot of men seem to like to cut to the chase very soon – sometimes even in the opening line (“So, what are you looking for on here?”). This can be a good thing or it can be just plain uncouth. Be prepared to answer the question though, to save you both time if necessary!
Women are culturally conditioned to be polite and to please men. Try not to fall into this trap because you will never succeed in an online dating environment. Sometimes you need to be blunt and ‘say it like it is’. Some women have no qualms at all in blocking men or deleting conversations if things aren’t going the way they like. Find your own path, but put your own needs first.
Men have said in a large survey about online dating attitudes in America that they like photos, sexy texts, emoticons, and correct spelling and grammar – but no netspeak, don’t text more than once before a reply, don’t ask too many questions, don’t text during work hours and don’t use all capital letters.
Women have said in a large survey about online dating attitudes in America that they like photos, sexy texts, emoticons, and correct spelling and grammar – but don’t send sexy photos (especially porn or dick pics unless requested), don’t text more than once before a reply, and don’t ask too many personal questions.
Don’t ever send nude or semi-naked pics that show your face – and beware that these could be shared without your permission or knowledge. Most dating apps will not allow you to post nude images onto your profile.
If you are indulging in sexting or virtual fun and games, it’s best not to use your real name, and especially not your full name. Keep in mind that the internet has a long life!
State clearly in your profile what your ‘non-negotiables’ are – examples might be that you are not interested in married/partnered people, smokers or drug users, one-nighters, people who are not employed, or people overseas. Some apps will let you filter out those who are able to contact you based on this type of information (including your age, height and body type preferences) and some will not allow anyone to contact you unless you give them permission (eg, Tinder, Oasis and kik’s Match&Chat).
Ask whether someone’s photo is recent and if they only have one image listed, scrutinise it for ‘authenticity’ – beware of models or photos of very good-looking people, which are often stolen from social media or other places online. You can also ask politely to see more images. Beware of people who will not share an image – it’s hardly fair if you’ve shared yours. It also smacks of illicit behaviour where someone is ‘playing away’.
Be conscious about whether someone’s ‘voice’ and language matches their image. A lot of scammers use fake pics and message in poor English.
Be conscious of rapport and good conversation flow. If it’s stilted and awkward, think twice about whether you like what you see enough to meet face-to-face. Keep in mind that some people just don’t do well in a text message medium, and others are slow bloomers.
It can be difficult to juggle a lot of conversations at once. Some sites are overly clunky and awkward to use, especially via a mobile phone. I suggest moving to a chat app like kik soon if you think you might like to get to know someone further. Keep in mind that most chat apps easily allow you to block someone, if things don’t go well. I advise you not to give out your mobile/cell phone number even if just for what’s app – unwanted callers can still reach you and if they call from a private number or landline, you can’t block them.
If you like someone, arrange early to meet them – ideally within a week, that way you limit the chances of building each other into something unrealistic, and also running out of things to say if you’ve been texting a lot!
If you really like someone ask them out! This applies whether you are a man or a woman; just bite the bullet and suggest a date and meeting place, or at least get the conversation moving in that direction. Many women want to be asked and will lose interest if it doesn’t happen soon.
Decide whether you want to share your mobile/cell phone number (keeping in mind that you can block people if you change your mind), or move to an anonymous chat app such as kik (this means that you don’t have to share your mobile number). If you choose a chat app such as Viber or What’s app, be sure to let your chat-date know that you are not agreeing to have them phone you without warning. (Remember that you can block people from all of these apps later if you don’t want to keep in touch but you do run the risk of them using your mobile/cell phone number without permission).
One benefit of sharing a mobile number is that you can easily confirm the arrangements or text/phone them if they are late or don’t turn up. Time wasters do exist!
Choose your first meeting place with care – make it public and not in your home, tell a friend what you’re doing, where you will be and for how long. Check in with them once you’re finished. Make your safety paramount. Daytime meeting is a great idea if you can manage it – possibilities are a nice cafe, the botanic gardens or a well-populated park.
If you are having a meal together (especially at night), decide from the outset that you will split the costs. If one person decides to pay, agree up front so there are no nasty surprises when the bill comes! Some men believe that if they asked for the date, they should pay – some women believe this is a polite gesture.
Plan a get-away strategy if it doesn’t feel right or you don’t like your date. Be courteous about it though.
Be aware of your personal safety at all times and do not put yourself in compromising positions.
Try not to judge a book by its cover, and give your date a fair go. They may be nervous or shy, so try to make smooth conversation, ask questions, show an interest in them, and listen to what they have to say.
Don’t get too personal too soon, don’t appear too needy or clingy – this puts a lot of people off.
Try not to pre-judge what you think a person is like before you meet them. If you’ve messaged heavily before you meet, this can result in disappointment – but it can also be a great way to continue to build genuine intimacy in person if you ‘click’ in real life.
It might seem obvious, but remember to smile, don’t be rude, and try to stay calm if you’re inclined to be nervous in these situations.
Beware that a lot of people behave badly online! You might be chatting away to someone, only to be deleted with no warning five minutes later. You might arrange for a date and then with no explanation, the same thing happens. You might be verbally abused, or have a complete stranger speak to you as if you don’t deserve basic courtesy. Unfortunately it’s mostly women who are exposed to these behaviours – men just tend to get the silent treatment. Either way, check out my last point here in this list!
Be clear in your own mind whether you want things to go down a sexual pathway quickly. If you’ve discussed sex with your online interest, try to gauge whether you are ‘on the same page’ sexually – make sure you are not hooking up with someone whose sexual practices will offend you. (Keep in mind that the search for experience in some sexual practices is behind some people’s desire for hook-ups or FWBs.)
If you’re not looking for casual sex or a hook-up, take your time with sexual intimacy. It really does change everything and that’s not always a good thing.
Beware of people with a lot of time on their hands; they might just be looking for a distraction or just not a good match with you if you are leading a busy life.
Go with your gut instinct if something doesn’t feel right.
Beware of scammers and ‘catfishers’ – they are everywhere and they are extremely skilled in the art of manipulation. If someone won’t meet with within a week or two, with no good reason, don’t pursue the communication.
If you aren’t available for more than a week, don’t ask someone out on a date – just wait until you’re ready. People generally don’t make plans to meet someone they’ve talked with online beyond this timeframe.
If you do meet face-to-face and your date tells you after (or during) the meeting that they don’t think it’s a good match, be gracious and don’t pester them with all the reasons why you’re perfect for them, and asking for a second chance.
Keep in mind that people can and do lie online and that until you meet them, they are strangers!
Above all treat people the way you would wish to be treated.
The internet does not give anyone the right to behave like a troll, abuser or ghost. If you don’t have something positive to say, my advice is to keep it to yourself.