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Online Dating Part 1: An Intro on What to Do


Hello, daters. If you are considering, flailing within, quietly cursing, or slowly navigating through the world of online dating, this one is for you.

The thought of online dating can be a scary. There is new etiquette, tricks to learn, feelings to consider, encrypted communication, and a whole lot of navigating through who knows what. So let’s break it down. Are looking to find someone you enjoy dating? Whether for a fun fling or a lifetime partner or any other desire, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! Let’s get started with part 1: what to keep in mind and do as you start out.

1. Give it a shot. It may be scary, you might have issues, you may not immediately find The One. None of those facts mean you can’t try this. There are even free online dating sites (Okcupid.com and PlentyofFish.com are two of them) so you don’t have to risk your hard-earned dollars to see who is out there.

2. Be true to you. Get comfortable with you because there’s going to be some sharing of her in this thing called dating. From your pictures to your text, represent the real you. The point is not to be popular or be ideal, it’s to represent you and find another you mesh well with. Online dating profiles are like a first look and perhaps initial conversation yelled over a DJ. If the goodies are showing, you’re going to catch a goodie monster. You choose what you put out there and attract.

3. Clarify what you are looking for. You may be tempted to say you’re seeking Friends, Long-Distance Penpals, Activity Partners, Long-term Dating, Short-term Dating, Serious Relationship, and Other to increase your odds of showing up in searches, but are you really seeking all those? (see point #1) Select what you’re looking for in terms of relationship type, religion, views on kids, etc. and state what you want. My profiles state I’m looking for “that click” and a partner who is as ambitious and supportive as I am. Not only will you better filter matches, you will get clearer with yourself on what you’re up to in dating.

4. Proofread. Take a second, look at what that red squiggly line is telling you, and edit. Your online dating profile and messages are your way of communicating with others, so make sure you’re saying what you mean to say! Miscommunication happens often enough face-to-face, so make an effort to come across as you intend.

5. Look for people! This isn’t a guide on how to check your online messages. This is dating. Keep your eyes open (and not just on your own profile), try different searches, rate people, and check out who’s out there.

6. Invite conversation. Include a question on your profile or invite certain types (“those who know what movie that is” or “anyone who thinks Karen O. is a goddess”) to shoot you a message. In messages, include follow up questions to keep the conversation going.

7. Make a move. I’m not talking about you sliding your hand up a dude’s thigh. I’m saying come out from politely revisiting the cute smile guy and actually do something. Maybe you send a wink. Perhaps you instant message a couple lines or carefully calculate the words used in your initial email. Whatever you do, make it something. If the right people were approaching you all day, you would likely not be reading this. And no, continuously checking out somebody’s profile in hopes of him checking his “people who viewed me” list and finding your pretty face does not count as a move.

8. Get creative! First, please change the subject line. Do you know how many “Hi” messages I get? Do you know how excited they make me? About as excited as I am for my period to come while I’m wearing white. Change the subject to “Yo” or “Dogs are better than cats” or “Awesome snowboarding pic” or “Normal gal here” or anything else you are so inspired to write. (I will even let you use any of those gems above.) Next, offer something in your message not from your profile. You’ve already stated you like Mos Def and you go to work. Perhaps mention that you caught Mos play in the park last summer or are Rosetta Stone’ing French or also like green tea as his profile indicates. Like a cover letter to a résumé, make your message stand out and highlight points of interest.

9. Be safe. This is the interwebs, home of creepy. This is not the place to post your awesome driver’s license or daily schedule. Be smart. I know a lot of ladies are hesitant about this whole online dating thing because they are afraid of meeting a creep. Well, I’ve met a self-proclaimed Afro-centric male who flat-ironed his hair and preached to me, a guy who was leading some sort of sexual revolution (?), a woman who was actually married, and people who may have hired body doubles for their profile pics. So, yes, there are creeps, but these are the same creeps you may bump into on the street or have a crush on at the club before you learn the rest. And yes, there are really dirty creeps online, so be sure to tell friends when you have a date (choose safety over secrecy issues). Meet up in a public place (not your home, ladies) and make sure you have transportation to leave on your own (have some cash handy, too).

10. Have fun! I mean it! On the real, dating can be frustrating. There are expectations and weird communications and disappointments and wondering if this is working. I get it. You can still enjoy it. Go someplace you always wanted to try so at least you have a fun experience if the date isn’t so hot. Send out some funny messages if it helps you just be in action. Laugh at the silly pick up lines and allow yourself to take a compliment. It’s all about the journey, right? So make this journey a fun one as you seek out something you want.

Do you have any other tips for us? Do share! And check back next week for what NOT to do.

Image Layout: Margaret

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