Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tips for Online Dating Success, Part IV

Today, Singletude concludes the "Tips for Online Dating Success" series. Now that you're armed with all the tricks in the book, get thee to eHarmony and put them to the test. ;)


Okay! You've sent a message, and a prospective date has responded to you! You've reached level one! Give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far and take a minute to rest on your laurels. :)

Now I want to return to what I said in 8. about forcing respondents to pursue you. While Singletude doesn't advocate game playing in the sense of manipulating others toward ends that are beneficial to you and harmful to them, it's helpful in online dating to have an understanding of human nature. And one of the well-researched facts of human nature is that we value things we have to work for.

This is why I suggested in 8. that you hold off on barraging your potential date with compliments, contact info, and requests to meet up. Not only will that put an unbearable amount of pressure on him or her, but it also establishes a pattern in which you're doing all the work. And if you're doing all the work, what incentive does he or she have to meet you halfway?

That is not to say that you should kick back and twiddle your thumbs while your soon-to-be significant other tries desperately to flag your attention. Singletude doesn't support The Rules or similar systems designed to drive your date crazy with angst, jealousy, self-doubt, and confusion. However, if you think of your budding relationship as a game of ping-pong, you'll soon realize that you can't play it if one person isn't returning the ball. When you "ping," your romantic interest has to "pong" and vice versa.

To that end, you've set the pace with the first message, and your prospective date should respond in kind. From this point on, you will probably engage in a series of emails leading up to a phone call or two, and if the phone contact is smooth, you'll most likely arrange a date. (Of course some encounters will depart from this pattern, but at least in my experience and that of others I know, this seems to be the general structure of online dating relationships.) The emails you exchange should parallel each other in response time, rate of self-disclosure, overall enthusiasm, and progression toward the next level.

If you write to a member every day, but he or she only writes back once a week, that's not a good sign. Similarly, if after several weeks of communicating your potential date knows all about your family, friends, job, star sign, and favorite color, and you know...his or her first name, something's amiss. Did you give out your number but wait in vain for your phone to ring? Have you scheduled dates that the member keeps canceling? These are all situations in which you're pinging but not receiving a pong.

If you're not getting consistent pongs, examine your emails for the following problems:

A. Are they too long? When people want to read novels, they go to a bookstore, not an inbox. Run-on emails can make the reader feel overwhelmed or intimidated. The exception to this rule, of course, would be if both parties like to write and send lengthy emails every time.

Are they too short? Emails of just a sentence or two may communicate a lack of interest, especially if the other person tends to write fuller replies.

C. Are you responding promptly? If you wait too long to respond, your potential date may lose interest. A good rule of thumb is to reply within two days of receipt of the last message, more often if he or she replies more quickly.

D. Are you balancing your messages between information about yourself and questions addressed to the other member and/or responses to what he or she has written? If you don't seem interested in what the other person has to say, you risk coming across as a self-centered bore.

E. Are you revealing so much of yourself that there's no mystery left? Don't be "easy." Try to save something for the phone call and first date! ;)

Regardless of how closely you adhere to the above guidelines, some members will cut you off during the email stage. This can happen because a member has met someone else with whom he or she has a better connection, detected some incompatibilities after reading your last message, or had a bad experience that suddenly turned him or her off to online dating. Sometimes it may happen when the member is a flake, commitmentphobe, or cheater playing around. For whatever reason it happens, it signals that this person is not a good catch. You may want resolution, and of course you can ask for an explanation, but if you don't get one, don't waste your time. Look elsewhere.

On the other hand, perhaps your pings are getting ponged, and your game is seeming more and more like a love match. Great! Now comes the real hurdle, taking the ping-pong table out of cyberspace and plunking it down in the midst of the real world without losing your stride. How and when do you move your interaction to level two?

There are as many different preferences concerning the pace of online dating as there are singles. Generally, women are more cautious than men, so if you're a guy, don't be fazed if she's not ready for dinner and a movie as soon as you get her personal email. On average, users exchange two to three emails over three to four days, but it's not uncommon for communications by email, IM, or phone to continue much longer before a first meeting. While there is some evidence that these virtual interactions can strengthen the foundation of a relationship, few would deny that chemistry is best judged in person. Accordingly, if you postpone your first date for months on end, you're liable to form expectations based in fantasyland that are particularly suscpetible to disappointment when you finally do meet.

A lot of singles recommend setting a date to meet after a few weeks or a month if possible, and that is Singletude's recommendation as well. If the frequency of communication is quite intense, with emails flying back and forth every day and nightly phone conversations, it may be appropriate to meet even sooner. The point is to make sure that the missing puzzle piece, physical attraction, is present before emotional bonds become so deep that an in-person mismatch is devastating.

Online daters typically spend some time agonizing over where to meet, what to do, and how long to do it for. Obviously, safety is paramount, especially for women. For your first date, you should arrange to meet in a public place and have your own transportation so you don't need to get in a car with your date. It's not a bad idea to leave your date's name and contact info with a friend or family member and promise to call him or her when you get home. Resist the urge to go back to your date's place, no matter how the sparks fly and sizzle. After all, moving slowly never hurt anyone, and it just might save your life. (For more online dating safety tips, see, Safer Online Dating Alliance (SODA), and Online Dating Magazine.)

Even if your date isn't Ted Bundy, keeping your time together short and sweet will build anticipation for date two...or give you a convenient escape route if you're already regretting date one. A lunch break or cocktail hour, after which you have other places to go and people to see, can be the perfect setting. Some singles even go so far as to specify a time limit for the rendezvous, although it may take some finesse to walk out when your date's 30 minutes are up and he or she is only halfway through the story of Uncle Billy Bob's first time on Jerry Springer.

You can maximize your opportunity for interaction by picking a quiet location and an activity conducive to conversation (think coffee at Starbucks, a picnic in the park, or, yes, a walk on the beach). Resist the impulse to avoid the getting-to-know-you dance through a movie, at which words are forbidden, a concert, at which you can't hear them, or some athletic endeavor that will leave you breathing so hard you can't form them. Those are great ideas for later dates, but the first meeting should be about assessing your connection.

Above all, the first date should be casual. Caviar and Cristal at this stage will likely seem pretentious, disingenuous, or even desperate and add an unnecessary weight to what should be a lighthearted encounter. Furthermore, if you're meeting a lot of site members, your wallet will empty quickly unless you budget your dates.

Speaking of wallets, as the evening draws to a close, the inevitable question of who's paying for what will arise. Dates with those you've met online generally follow the same etiquette that you're accustomed to with everyone else--in other words, none, so expect the same confusion over who's supposed to pick up the tab. Many women these days offer to split the bill but hope the men refuse as a sign of courtesy, while others genuinely want to pay their own way as a matter of principle or a concession to fairness.

Personally, I like to go dutch at least until there's an established relationship so that there's no chance my date will feel I owe him something, and I recommend the same policy to other women. The more expensive the date, the more essential this is. Furthermore, the meal ticket attitude that some women have toward men with whom they have no intention of developing a relationship makes me uneasy. Girls, if you know as soon as you lay eyes on the guy that you'd rather kiss an orc, don't smirk behind your forkful of filet mignon while he forks over the cash. Unless he's Mark Zuckerberg and earns money just by breathing, help the guy out!

By the time your date has wrapped, you'll probably know whether your ping-pong tournament has resulted in a match or a zero score. From here on, if both of you want to play, the game of love proceeds the same as it would if you'd met at work, through friends, or in line at the grocery store. Whether or not you reach level three, an ongoing relationship, isn't dependent on how you met but on where you go from here, and you have the same odds of staying together as any other couple. That's why you should consider yourself a successful online dater even when you don't progress beyond level two.

However, if your date isn't so keen on a rematch, be prepared for him or her to disappear. Although this isn't the most polite way of communicating disenchantment, online daters seem prone to fall into the black holes of cyberspace when no longer interested, perhaps encouraged by the anonymity of the medium. If two follow-up calls and/or emails from you are met with silence, accept the member's decision to forfeit the game and move on. Repeatedly contacting someone who has made it clear, in word or in action, that he or she doesn't want further contact, can be perceived as harassment and could get you banned from the site.

But if you and your date don't hit it off, don't worry. If you've made it to level two once, you've acquired the skills to make it there again...and beyond! Internet matchmaking sites are not the holy grail of the dating world, and they hold no magic potion for singles seeking mates. As in the "real world," you'll go on a lot of dates, and most of them won't be with someone you could fall for. But dating sites do provide a venue to meet a lot of singles in a short span of time, and those sheer numbers dramatically increase your chances of finding someone sooner rather than later. So check out the newbies, serve up your best introductory emails...and wait for the volley!

Have you ever gone out with someone you met on an Internet dating site? If so, what advice can you give to other singles about that crucial first meeting? Do you have any success stories or--God forbid--horror stories to relate about people you met through online dating sites?

Fun Link of the Day

(Although I'm no fan of The Rules, if you have the urge to find out why, read it for yourself.)

Clever Elsie is a freelance writer and a successful online dater. If you need help making your online dating profile the best it can be, finding matches, or polishing your emails to potential dates, please contact her for rates and more information.

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about online dating or some other aspect of the single life? Write in, and you just might see your question posted in a Singletude Q&A!


bobbyboy said...

As you know, I don't have any online dating experience, but when and if I do, I'll re-read your advice to have a better chance :)

Clever Elsie said...

I'm not sure you'd need any of my advice, Bobby! You seem to have some pretty good advice of your own. ;) But thank you for the vote of confidence! :)

Clever Elsie said...

Dating Tips: You said: However, people comment that online dating websites are not safe there is lot of scam, if you do online dating then you may be cheated and so on.

But why don’t you think from its advantage point of view, in off line world, you may have hesitation to talk to someone for dating purposes but online you can talk to anyone who you like, arrange date and you have much flexibility to understand your partner.

For tips and advice you may visit [link edited] it guides you and tells you about safe dating.

Most importantly, it gives you much flexibility to select your partner depending on styles, age, area, languages, religion, profession and a lot more.

I had to delete your comment since I can't accept links from adult sites. I'm republishing the rest of it since you actually had something to say even though you were mainly commenting for self-promotional reasons.

It's true that Internet dating sites offer opportunities for fraud, as I mentioned in my post above. As I said, if anyone writes to you from another country (except on an international dating site) or asks for money EVER, beware. As sick as it is, some predators will purposely build relationships with online daters just to play on their sympathy and con them out of their money.

A lot of people worry about infidelity on the Internet, too, but you can unwittingly meet cheaters in any environment. Some signals that someone may be a cheater include:

1. You're never invited to his or her place even though he or she has been to yours.
2. He or she calls only at specific times of the day, sometimes for specific amounts of time.
3. There are long stretches of time during which you hear nothing from him or her.
4. He or she is always busy on weekends.
5. He or she seems to have an irrational fear of going out in certain neighborhoods or at certain times of day.
6. You catch him or her in a lie about where (s)he was or what (s)he was doing at a certain time.
7. You get a gut feeling that he or she is dodging questions, making up stories, or otherwise behaving in a shady way.

I agree that one of the advantages of online dating is that it gives you a much wider selection of potential partners than you might encounter in the real world. Don't know about "flexibility to understand your partner," though. I'm not even sure what that means.

Although I couldn't publish your link, there are several links to online dating safety tips in the post above. I hope readers who are interested will make use of them.