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10 Steps To Success in Internet Dating

Anne Perry

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A common thread running through all correspondence and conversation referencing internet dating is how fast it is becoming a socially acceptable method of meeting people and not just for the very young. The vast majority of my contacts are over 50 and not one has expressed reservation that this approach to dating is anything but OK…however, there are caveats and from those warnings I’ve been able to compile a list of 10 Steps For Success with Internet Dating.

First, by way of introduction, some general thoughts on this whole process of diving into the internet gleaned from readers. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the internet with it’s instant access, response and elements of voyeurism is any different from the “old” style of dating. You are still going to meet the good, the bad and the ugly; the liars, the cheats; the socially inept and the insincere. In the real world it is the socially adept, articulate, together (for want of a better word), upbeat and extroverted girls who get the guy and the internet world is no different. Just as in real life a needy, closed up, insecure, whining person is a turn off, same holds true for the internet. You are not magically transformed into someone else by the click of a mouse.
Secondly: "to thine own self be true" holds for you writing the ad in the same way that you expect the person on the receiving end to be equally honest and forthright. So many of you who commented for this article spoke of the deception that goes both ways. The women who post heavily air brushed or 20 year-old glamor shots; the men who make no mention of a wife (it is estimated that 13% of men on dating sites are married)! It’s a medium ripe for deception but what defies logic is the number of people who state in a passionate personal profile that they are “genuinely seeking a soul-mate” and then go about falsifying the facts. How can anyone honestly expect to meet a person with the hope of building a life together if they start out by disguising the truth. And before I hear the chorus of protests that all men want younger women, check out my earlier article that gives that myth a run for its money.

The rules are written for women but apply equally to men.

First Step: ask yourself the question “why am I doing this?” If your answer is “I just want to see whose out there, make new friends, get some dates, enter into a strictly on line correspondence/flirtation; then this rule and the subsequent ones are probably not for you! If you answer that “I am sincere about using this method for meeting men with whom I might possible enter into a committed relationship”….read on.

Step 2. Don’t put your toe in the water…immerse yourself! Take this search seriously. Read all you can about the various sites that exist. Most allow a visitor sign in for you to look around…do that. Test drive so to speak. If some element of personal interaction with the site owners/management is important to you…don’t go for the huge ones, look for a boutique operation.

Step 3. With sites narrowed down to those that appear to attract men with similar interests and expectations to your own, start filling out the required data and assessing your own criteria. Please, no absolutes about height, hair color…save the absolute no compromise issues for things that really affect quality of life such as smoking or drug use. If you are a devout church go-er, you might one to rule out atheists but only limit the field to the extent that it makes sense. In other words, chances are that you are not going to find that perfect package you’ve carried around in your head but by being open minded, you stand a good chance of coming up with a new definition of perfect. One man I spoke with had been absolute he would never date an older woman; he’s 66. His best friend told him he was a fool to limit himself and he’s now happily thinking “it’s commitment time” with a woman 4 years older. “Much fitter than me too” he added. A close woman friend, she a lofty 5’2”, insisted that she could never date a man under 5’10” (go figure). The love of her life turns out to be 5’6”. A final valid absolute is location. If you have no intention of re locating no matter how great that other person, then don’t go fishing in the seas that are far away!

Step 4. The Profile/Personal Statement: Drum roll, please! Be honest. What’s the point of listing as favorites books you’ve never read or music you’ve never heard? Be honest about your level of physical activity; the way you enjoy spending leisure time; your political leanings. By all means state a dream list of activities you’d like to get involved in but don’t imply that you are a marathon runner if your morning jog to the mailbox leaves you gasping for breath. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to an ongoing relationship is a faulty foundation. You are trying to connect with someone with whom you have common interests, common language (in terms of music, art, literature, politics) ; if you pose as someone you are not, you’re going to get found out and the house comes tumbling down. By all means state “I know little about….(music/art/football, you name it ) but am open to learning and sharing my interest in (name it) with someone else". “I like walking on the beach….” clichés appear to be universally derided by men and women. Stick to those elements of your life about which you have some passion, some fire. Write something up and run it by a family member or trusted friend. Ask them outright to describe you as they see you. I don’t doubt that you’ll be surprised at aspects of your personality that mean little to you gain big points from your friends. Men and women both do not like or respond to needy people. The “I need a man to complete my life” is, according to my sources a huge turn off. Try rephrasing that “my life is rich and the inclusion of a compatible man would only enhance it”…you get the message, No whining, no desperation; no “this is my last shot” statements. Avoid any statements that are sexual innuendo unless that’s the kind of person you are trying to attract.

Step 5. THE PHOTO!!! We are all visual creatures, men especially so when it comes to online services. No photo, no click, pretty much sums up an internet search from the male prospective. If this is a serious quest for you and you have no decent current photos or you believe that you don’t photograph well, invest in a head shot by a professional. Be clear about what you want (e.g. if you are a nature girl, get that shot taken outdoors; if classical music lights your fire, set the scene.) If that’s not in your budget or something you want to do, get your best friend on the job. With a digital camera you can get hundreds of shots in as many minutes and then go through them with a friend and pick out the ones that best show you.

Step 6. You’ve decided who you are and what you want and you are out there in cyber space. Don’t sit back and wait for the email to flood in to your box. BE PROACTIVE. You’ve paid your money, use the product (or as one woman put it to me…it’s a bit like being at the grocery store faces with mounds of fruit…you’re going to have to squeeze a couple to find a ripe one; variation on the kissing a few frogs theme Make working the site something you do for an hour every day. Read, read, read. Don’t dismiss based on a fuzzy photo or a typo. Look hard at what people are writing. One of the women from the Philadelphia walking group made a check list. Certain criteria based on common interests were important to her and she checked those off. Three out of five and she wrote a note of introduction. And that note/e mail is so very important. Make it honest, upbeat and if you can do so without coming across as trying too hard, inject a note of humor. We all like people who make us laugh. Point out some areas of common interest but not limited to "I note we are both birders..." try "we're both birders and that really excites me. You can see that I live in one of the best birding spots in the state and the thought of sharing outings with someone is great. ."
Don’t make the note all about you. Refer to points in his statement that do interest you. “I was delighted to read that you had recently volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about and I’d be interested in your thoughts about the experience”. You get the picture. If someone has interested you, bring out the ‘why”! and furthermore, if the person you are writing to is indeed interesting, chances are they’ll write back because you expressed a specific interest in them. Establishing common ground…it’s what it’s all about. Do not even consider cutting and pasting a generic note to 50 or more! Why waste their time and ultimately your time if your level of commitment is so minimal that you don't want to write a personal note.

Step 7. Expect around 90% of your initial contacts to go unanswered! Sad fact but people are thoughtless. Don’t give up on the entire human race because of a few bad apples. Keep after it. Persevere, try, try and try again. The internet implies speed and instant gratification. Don’t expect it from the dating sites. Consider all your efforts to be part of the long forgotten courting ritual that used to add so much spice to life. And when you do get a response or an approach, don’t fall into the trap of making an instant judgment. Why did this person single you out? What about you attracted them? Look at them carefully, if there are no major red flags, respond. You’ve nothing to lose.

Step 8. Red Flags: unless you’ve been living in a cave you must be aware of red flags. Dead give-aways according to my sources are the use of overtly sexual language in any statement; significant references to drinking; negative statements about a former spouse; bragging about possessions; request for your address; finances introduced into early correspondence; unseemly haste in wanting to meet you; endless excuses about why meetings are put off. Use your common sense.

Step 9. You’ve clicked on line, you’ve graduated to phone calls; no red flags,; lots of things in common; never at a loss for words. Move on to a face to face meeting within the first month if at all possible. Despite all the perceived chemistry, you’re not going to know if this has real possibilities unless you meet. Follow all the rules for personal safety in arranging that first meeting. Don’t make a snap judgment. Unless both of you are obviously shocked and horrified in a face to face meeting and you cannot wait to leave, think of what lead up to the first meeting and allow for nerves, shyness etc. Give it another try.

Step 10. No more than 4 dates into this new relationship make clear that you want to introduce friends or family in an informal setting. Getting a third party opinion is important and listen to what your friends have to say. If either party in a budding relationship is reluctant to let the other into his./her life in terms of meeting friends, drop it. There’s obviously a reason. If it’s long distance arrange the first meeting in a mutual and neutral location preferably one to which you both have to travel. Next meeting, if one is warranted, should be in one of the home towns followed by one at the other persons home location. If one party is totally reluctant to let you see where they live (reasonable caution aside, I’m talking several months into the relationship) find out why. Could be another red flag.

Step 11. (I know I said 10 but...!) Persevere. So many of you have written with positive stories about the outcome of internet dating, overcoming initial trepidation and offering your pointers for success, many of them are incorporated into the first 10 steps. A daughter told us of signing up her widowed father; a sister wrote of giving her divorced brother a gift of membership and one intrepid woman wrote of how she and two friends gave a membership to fourth friend and when she remained sitting on her hands, they wrote her bio, posted photos and got her out into the world again! It can and does work but not if you wait for the white knight to ride in without any prompting. You've got to get out there and participate. Times have changed but who can say that this particular change is not for the better. Certainly not the man who wrote to tell us of meeting on the internet a woman who lived three blocks from him in Cincinnati. They would never have met under any other circumstance. They were early internet voyagers and have recently celebrated a 7th. wedding anniversary on their shared 72nd. birth date!

Thank you you to everyone whose ideas and comments helped me pull these steps together. We love hearing from you so don't be shy.  Use the contact us form to share your thoughts and express your voice on this subject.

See the results of our Survey for Internet Dating.

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