10 Online Dating Tips
By Frank Kermit
Online (Cyber) dating can be challenging. Dating unto itself is a challenge. Meeting someone new that you have to get to know. Allowing them to get to know you. Finding out where you are, and are not compatible. It is not always a fun process for some people. Add to that mix having to meet through technology, where a person’s interpretations of communication get muddled, and dating can sometimes be unpleasant.
I could write a book of advice on online dating, and I likely will one day. In the meanwhile, here are some quick tips for online dating that I share with my coaching clients to keep online dating as positive as possible.
There are many people that just like the attention that being on online dating sites affords them, and they have no actual interest in ever dating someone, so by following this tip you avoid having weeks (or months) of your time wasted by someone that never actually wants to date you. (Yes, attention mongers lurk on online dating sites). Also, there are stories of people posing as the opposite gender online that are either just having fun, or doing research on online dating practices. There are fake profiles designed to get people to sign up to online dating sites, but who have marketing teams behind them, not an actual interested person. In fact there are some dating services that will communicate on behalf of a client to arrange a date, so unless you see the person face to face to match up the voice with the face, it is possible that you are not even talking with the person you think wants to date you.
Tip # 2 Never Send Anyone Money
This may seem obvious, however it is important to keep in mind that professional “catfish” are very well trained and skilled in the art of manipulation. They fester online trying to get someone attached to an online dating profile. By using attractive profile pictures, and carefully worded texts in the profile description and other written communication (emails/texts), they achieve their goals to make their targets feel an emotional attachment. And when they feel the attachment is strong enough, they create a “crisis” moment where they require you to send them money to help them out. At that point, they have been actively studying every bit of your communication to see what kind of crisis you would most likely respond too. For example, if you mentioned that you suffered a death of someone close to you (death of a spouse or sibling), a crisis you may be presented with could be the person saying someone close to him or her has died, and they need money for the funeral or to pay off the dead person’s debts in order to claim the body. There is a very real science behind what these “catfish” manipulators use in order to properly target vulnerable people to get them attached to the person they THINK is on the other end of that profile. No matter the crisis, never send anyone money during “an online relationship.” BTW, this also means never send someone your credit card number, regardless of the reasons they state (such as, “prove you are a real person, send me your credit card number so I can check”), no electronic payment services, no loans, no investment opportunities, no gift cards…you hopefully get the idea.
Note: The origin of the term “catfish” comes from the movie Catfish (2010). It is a story about a man named Nev Schulman who travels to America to meet a young woman that he fell in love with over social media, only to meet her in person and to find out she is older and married and nothing like her online profile. In the movie, the husband tells the story of how catfish were put in with the live codfish for long oversea travels in order to keep the cod fish swimming and moving, so that codfish would be a better quality meat. The catfish would nip the tails the codfish and keep the codfish active. The deceptive wife in the movie is compared to the catfish because her life would be dull and boring (like unhealthy codfish meat), if she did not have someone “nipping at her tail fin”.
Tip # 3 It Is Not a Relationship Until You Meet In Person
This is a tip that some of my coaching clients have found very upsetting. The idea that if you are interacting through texts, emails, phone calls, and even face to face technologies (ie. skype, facetime, etc…) it is still not considered a relationship. Sometimes the chemistry and connection that people feel through technology can make people believe that what they are experiencing is a real relationship. The feelings may be real, but the relationship is not (ok, go back and read that line again, as I know some of you may have to ponder that one a bit). Just because you feel something for someone, does not make what you have with that person a committed relationship. Relationships come with commitment (such as the expectation of not talking to anyone else online), but commitments are to be earned, not expected. It is unreasonable to assume anything has been earned when you have yet to meet a person face to face in the real world. (There is a lot more I could say on this topic, however it is best that we table this for now and move on to the next tip).
Tip # 4 Keep Your Own Online Dating Profile Honest
The new buzzword in online dating is “Kitten Fish”. The term means to make yourself out online to be very different from how you actually are in real life. The biggest culprit of “Kitten Fishing” is using good photos of yourself from the past that do not at all match how you look at the moment. It is important to present your best self in an online profile, but it is wrong to misrepresent yourself. Be honest in your profile. If you are only interested in casual dating, do not say you are looking for something serious because you think it makes you look like a better person. If you work in the mailroom of a prestigious company, do not try to pass yourself off as a partner in the business. If you have taken less than a handful of night courses at the local college or university, do not try to pass yourself off as a graduate. Kitten Fishing might get your more attention, even a few first dates that end quickly, but only someone Kitten Fishing as much as you did MIGHT want to give a second chance, but honestly, would you want to date a kitten fish yourself? Right. (Remember my point earlier about attention mongers who lurk online?)
Tip # 5 Focus on Your Boundaries (Must Haves), Not Preferences
One of the best ways to approach online dating is to use it as an efficient filter. Let’s say you normally have to go on about 9 lousy or semi-decent first dates in order to find a 10th person that you would actually like to have a second date with. (Don’t let the numbers scare you OK? Just play along). There are reasons those 9 first dates did not work out. What makes online dating profiles so efficient is that you can communicate all of your “Must Haves” (your boundaries) that you are looking for in someone that you would like to date more than once, and because of that eliminate having to experience those 9 actual dates, and just focus on every 10th date. If you take this approach, you will likely get less attention, but the attention do you get will be quality. (Remember what I said about attention mongers?) Preferences are things that you would like your date to have, but they are not necessary. If they are not necessary DO NOT LIST THEM. People reading your online profiles might mistake your preferences, as must-haves and might reject you before you ever get the chance to meet them in person. For example, if you have lung issues and cannot date a smoker, say so because it is a boundary. If you would prefer not to date a smoker but you wouldn’t mind it too much either, then do not mention it at all.
Tip # 6 Know Your Sex-On-A-Date Rules
I am often asked if someone should have sex on a first date when meeting online. My answer is it depends if you are already comfortable having sex after any first date. No judgments here. The key to sex and online dating is about finding someone that has compatible sexual values as you do. If you are comfortable with sex on a first date and the person you have sex with judges you for it, it is disappointing, but you probably would not want to keep dating that person anyway. If you are not comfortable with sex on first dates, communicate that, and PLEASE stick to your rules about sex whatever they may be. If you want someone to question whether or not they can trust you for things to get more serious, start breaking your own rules on a date like having sex when you initially said you were not going too. In fact, one of the most hypocritical things you can do is have rules about not having sex on a first date, when you already regularly take part in anonymous one-night stands. If you do connect with someone and date them for any length of time, you will likely share with them your values when it comes to sex (and how quickly you engage in sexual activity). If you behave in a way that is counter your actual sexual values when first dating, at best you might come across as manipulative. At worse, you could attract and end up in a relationship with someone that has the opposite sexual values you do. Can you say, “Things are likely to end badly here”?
Tip # 7 Look for Contradictions In the Profile of Others
When looking at the online profiles of others, something I coach my clients to do is to be on the look out for contradictions within an online dating profile. Those contradictions can be very telling about the kind of person you might end up dating and can help you decide if you should even bother. If one part of the profile contradicts another part of the profile, it is a warning sign. For example, if someone writes in their profile their family (their kids) is very important to them, but when it comes to listing 5 things they cannot live without, they do not list their kids in those top 5, that could be a warning sign. If someone talks about how easy going they are, but then talks about how they have rules about how a first date needs to happen in a fancy restaurant with certain high-end criteria, that could be a warning sign. If someone describes themselves as open-minded, but goes on in the profile about the kinds of people they hate, that could be a warning sign. Some profiles are so filled with contradictions (“I like to go out a lot but I also like to stay home”) that it makes a person wonder if you are dealing with a people pleaser, or someone that is so afraid to be honest about what they want, that they play it too safe by being on the fence. Just keep in mind that contradictions could be a big warning and at the very least are conversation topics to be covered on a first date if you make it that far.
Tip # 8 Use A Decent Photo
A good photo can change how much attention your online profile will get. I was presented with a study by a match making site that describes which profile photos get the most attention to your profile. Women may be encouraged to smile more, look happy, and show cleavage. Men may be encouraged display their pride (stand tall, chest out, appear confident), regardless of how happy they looked. Both may be encouraged include photos of them having fun, and having a profile shot focusing on the left side. That is what the data shows. However, the main thing is to use a CURRENT photo (see the tip on Kitten Fish above). My personal suggestion is not to use photos with your ex (still not over it eh?) no matter how hot your ex was, and not to use professionally photographed or touched-up portraits. Yes, you want to be your best online self, but the dating world wants your best-realistic self too. Also, if you use a photo that is slightly less flattering than your actual looking self, then when someone wants to meet you, it makes the first meeting much more of a pleasant surprise. Nice way to start a date.
Tip # 9 Be Realistic About Who You Can Attract
One of the biggest misconceptions I have to dispel amongst my client base is how some of them assume that just because they are going to try online dating that they can now raise their standards ridiculously higher. It is good to have standards (see my tip above about boundaries). However, having very high standards when dating online does not matter if you would not be able to attract such a person in real life. This is not about fulfilling your unmet fantasy. This is about finding a real person, who is a real human being, with some of the good qualities a human being can have, and having some of the not-so good qualities that a human being can struggle with. If you are holding out for perfection, you will be just as lonely dating online as you currently are dating in real life. And if you legitimately do want to find a better partner for yourself, the best place to start is to work on yourself to become a better dating candidate partner first. There are times where I have coached people for 3 months before they attempt another date, so that when they do get that next first date, the challenge isn’t trying to get a great person to like you; the mission is about you getting to screen how great the other person is that you like. See the difference?
Tip # 10 Learn To Love Online Dating
The worst thing you can do is approach online dating with a terrible attitude about it. It will come through in your communication (from your profile, choice of photos, texts, emails and if you make it far enough phone calls and first dates). People, who seek out to sabotage themselves in online dating, will kill every chance they get to meet someone who is a decent candidate.
They are the easiest for manipulators to target online.
Those with negative attitudes tend to fall for the fake profiles the most, because fake profiles promise the impossible: an ideal fantasy of the perfect match. It is not enough to be willing to try online dating. You have to take pride in the fact that you are putting yourself out there. You have to be proud that you want to date. Yes, it means you have to screen through fakers and manipulators (just like in real life). Yes, it means you have to put yourself out there and make yourself a little vulnerable (just like in real life). Yes, you may have to go through a numbers game (just like in real life). Yes, you may have to make the first move if you aren’t getting any attention (just like in real life). Yes, you have to take some precautions for safety (just like in real life). Yes, you may have to make building a love life a priority and put in lots of time (just like in real life). Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop Self-Shaming. It is what it is. Learn to love it. Own it. Make it yours, just like you would any other great opportunity in life that you have to work at.
A good solid profile, a great attitude towards meeting new people, and the willingness to take action can make online dating a great way to meet new people, if you are prepared to make the most of your online time together.