I believe there's a certain mindset we must have before entering the meat markets known as online dating. People hold swords and shields on the internet. It can be a very cruel place. We must protect ourselves.
The following is a mental guide, plus a list of tips for online daters.
First, the mindset. Instead of holding onto a pole, we must cast a net. This means put up your profile, then walk away. I think many make the mistake of fishing instead of casting, spending hours and hours in front of the computer searching for our perfect match like old people in front of a slot machine. Then if we don’t find anyone or if the people we message don’t message us back, we get discouraged. Very quickly.
Set up accounts on multiple sites — wherever you want to cast your net. They’re all different and attract a variety of demographics. Remember, shotgun over sniper. See this process as an unfinished painting you don’t want to rush. Come back to it if you’re not in a good mood; and by “mood” I’m referring to how you feel about yourself. If you feel discouraged, desperate, or lonely, skimming strangers who can possibly reject you is probably not going to make you feel any better. This is the biggest mistake people make in this process.
If you surf when you’re in seeking mode, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Basically, you’re throwing yourself into a vicious cycle that can eat away at your worth. Instead of trying to fill that loneliness with someone else, get offline and try to fill it on your own. Call your friends. Or not. The more you exercise this muscle, the more control you'll have over your loneliness.
Here’s the other thing: When you do find someone who deserves you, you'll need this tool. Otherwise, you may fall into codependency. We're responsible for our own loneliness, even when we're in a relationship.
If you’re feeling good about yourself and your dial is turned to give, grab your brushes. Draw, color, splash. Flirt. This energy will leak into your words and you'll come off as fun and attractive. And if you get “rejected,” it won’t crush you because you’re okay with yourself. You are not powerless.
That said, you have to know when to stop. I don’t care how great you feel about yourself, an entire day spent in front of the computer searching for potential prospects will eventually eat at you. Faces will begin to blur and it will feel more like a job search than dating.
If you use online dating as a desperate attempt to find your soulmate, it’s like going to Vegas hoping to win the jackpot. You’ll just end up with a drinking problem. Online dating can be fun, but only with the right mindset. Control how much you engage and only engage when you feel positive and good about yourself. Remember, it’s a tool. Use it as such or it will have power over you.
If you don’t have a “net” mindset, your desperation will leak through. They’ll be able to feel it in your writing, and you won’t be at your best. If you use online dating as a tool instead of your last resort, it can actually be convenient and fun.
Here are a few tips to get you on your way:
1. Don’t take anything online personally.
They don’t know you; they only see photos and words. That’s only a fraction of who you are. They'll judge, and so will you. There’s no way around that. Except not to take it so seriously.
2. Don't be insecure in your profile.
Don’t write in your profile, “This is my first time trying the online dating thing.” Or, “My best friend put me up to this.” We don’t think you’re desperate. We think you’re insecure. It’s 2013. Online dating isn’t for people who can’t get dates in real life anymore. It’s a tool, a standard, for busy people with real jobs. No one’s going to think you’re a loser because a) they’re on it also, and b) if you care, this may not be for you.
3. Make sure all your photos are current.
No one’s interested in the old you. Notice I said photos, as in plural. One pic is called hiding. Also, Instagram: only a few. If every picture is filtered, again you're hiding. Post real-life photos, snapshots of you living, doing things other than posing. People want to date a person, not a model.
4. Don't pigeonhole yourself.
Yes, we all have preferences. I get it. But don’t announce that you'll only date a certain height or ethnicity. You come off as narrow. If you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t want to waste my time with anyone I’m not attracted to.” How do you know? Relax. It’s just a date. Dating is about exploring, not finding someone who fits into your perfect mold.
5. Remember, nothing slices faster than humor.
No need to get all serious in your messaging. Compliments are fine, but can also come off as generic. Keep it light. No one wants to read a documentary.
6. Write like you speak.
This doesn’t mean poor grammar and typos. It just means present yourself in an accurate way. Everything about your online presence should be a snapshot of the true you, and this includes how you type. Don’t use a thesaurus. It’s okay to say dude if that’s your jam. See what I did there?
7. Always start with a coffee date.
Coffee means you can bounce if things aren’t flowing. If you commit to dinner and dancing and you see that they look nothing like their photos, then you’re not stuck with them for the entire evening. Coffee is casual.
8. Although it may seem like everyone’s doing it, it’s not for everyone.
I’ll be honest. I dabbled in it. I met a few people. Most didn't look like their pic. I stared with three sites, then ended up canceling two and just using one. But it was fun. I made sure I only used it as a tool, and got on when I was only in a good “mood.”
But at the end of the day, I prefer to meet people the old-fashioned way, in person. I spend most of my day in front of the computer, so the last thing I want to do is get back on the computer and scroll through profiles. But for those who don’t spend a lot of time in front of the computer, online dating might be fun and refreshing.
I think everyone should give it a try. With the right mindset, I believe you can learn a lot about yourself through the experience. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find love.