Mostly Mensch: Caught in the Net (5 Tips for Online Dating)

In the net

It used to be said that you need 10,000 hours to become an expert at a topic. I shudder to think how close I may be to being an online dating expert by that definition, and yet I’m still single.

Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of sites: JDate, Match, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish…if it’s out there and fits my demographic, I’ve looked (sorry, Christian Mingle—you keep showing up in my Facebook ads, but it’s not going to happen). I’ve even used sites that are now defunct–Yahoo! Personals comes to mind. Yep, I’ve been doing this a while.

A benefit to online dating is you get to meet people whom you wouldn’t have otherwise and start conversations in a relaxed manner. It’s a good situation. Obviously it hasn’t introduced me to the love of my life, but I’ve had a few nice relationships and friendships develop from these sites.

As time has gone on and my “expertise” grows, I’ve found a few bullet points to remind myself of the good habits that’ll give me a shot at making it work. They might work for you, too.

Don’t lead with the libido

I’m a sucker for a pretty face. I will admit to being so drawn in by a good-looking woman that I’ll ignore all of the red flags in the profile itself. This never, ever goes well. My mind and expectations are in the wrong place for anything to potentially happen. So there has to be more to the profile than that.

Read between the lines

I like someone who introduces herself confidently, positively, and with a touch of a sense of humor. Simplicity, honesty, and creativity are great. Misspellings, grammatical errors, and text speak within a profile tend to drive me away. To me, it speaks to attention to detail. As cliché as it may be, it’s true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Other things that will make me click ‘next’: long lists of qualities that a potential partner can’t have (makes me worry about the level of expectation), the phrase “real man” in relation to what she’s seeking (I’ve never gotten a straight answer as to what a real man is…), and references to her pet as her child (Being second to a cat is frustrating!).

Stay grounded

It’s so easy to feel like you’re deeply connecting with someone on the internet. When you have time to think about what you’re going to say, polish and perfect it, you can make everything sound ideal and make the connection seem stronger. I’ll admit it—there are times that I’ll think, “What would they want to hear?” before I write. After all, isn’t the goal to market yourself as the most appealing product possible? There are a couple issues there. First of all, you’re going to have to meet at some point, and once you sit across the table from each other, the chemistry is completely different. What seemed strong in the rehearsed, well-planned world of the internet may not translate to the unrehearsed small talk of a noisy little coffee shop in Uptown. Secondly, there’s the reality of internet dating—you’re likely talking to multiple people. So is the person you’re going to meet. I’ve found that the more that I keep what I share initially simple, the easier it is to go into multiple dates without overthinking what it might become. There’s a fine line between sharing enough to get to know each other to see if something is worth pursuing, and sharing too much that you feel too much pressure when you do meet in person.

There are other fish in the sea

Obviously, every date isn’t going to be a perfect fit, so you have to be willing to accept that and dive back in if it doesn’t work. But part of me always wonders if people give up a little bit too easily knowing that there are hundreds of other people back on that site if the date isn’t perfect. Nothing in life is perfect. I’m not. You’re not. Sometimes it takes a second date to provide the connection you’re looking for.

Don’t let it be a time suck

It’s so easy to lose yourself in the online dating sites. For me, there’s the temptation to check back regularly to see if that cute woman that I wrote has gotten back to me yet. Or if there’s someone else even more intriguing if I just keep looking. Or if I should perhaps tweak my profile just a little bit more. And suddenly hours have gone by. Online dating is a great tool, but there has to be a life away from the computer. Otherwise I have nothing left to offer that potentially perfect partner that may be awaiting me on the net.