I have been entrenched in the social experiment of online dating for close to two months now, and it’s time to report in with some findings. I definitely gave it my all, I invested money by joining a number of sites, worked hard to develop and fine-tune my profile, answered endless questions about myself, answering what felt like millions of emails, and swiping what felt like a gazillion profiles. If you’ve done online dating, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because I was doing this as a test, not only for my own purposes, but to help others with this as well, I also spent a ton of time trying to figure out algorithms purportedly designed to help users find that ‘perfect’ match. What were the lessons learned from online dating? I learned that online dating is a lot of work. I also learned that there are some nice guys out there and some real schmucks, just like everywhere else. Oh, and I still haven’t been fixed up by anyone so my friends are totally failing me on that front. Let’s take a look at nuggets of inspiration and lessons learned from online dating that I can pass down to you.
Lessons Learned from Online Dating
Commitment. Online dating takes a resolve to commit to it. That means you can’t be an online dating observer, you’ve gotta be a participant. On the sites where I observed rather than participated, I definitely struck out. There were some sites that just weren’t my thing, and I knew I didn’t want to participate, so I realized it was better just to remove myself. Don’t waste your time with online dating if you find you’re not interested in the people who are on that particular site, because online dating is time-consuming. If you’re not committed to it, or can’t commit to a particular site, ditch it.
Just Be You. When it comes to success with online dating, just be you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to put your best foot forward or strive to be anything other than just what you are. I really struggled with what pictures to put on my profile, and frankly thought I had a good representation. I included some close up shots, some photos from the shoulder and up, as well as some full body shots. I included smiling pictures and shots of me with my kids and my dog. They represented me and my life. I even had my hair down and done and put makeup on. But, when I met people in person, every date said the same thing to me” “You look totally different in person. You look better.” So, here’s the thing. Use candid photos that represent how you look in everyday life. Don’t stress over taking and using photos that are what you might mistakenly think are ‘your best self’ because chances are, they are not. I’ve also got to mention here that you can’t fake it when it comes to online dating—or at least you shouldn’t. What I mean by that is that if you use photos that don’t represent what you really look like, today, in real life, as in photos when you were ten years younger or thirty pounds lighter, that’s starting out with a lie. Just don’t don’t do it. This is one of the lessons learned from online dating.
Embrace an Equal Opportunity Dating Mindset. One of the lessons learned from online dating was that it is important to embrace it with what I call an “equal opportunity dating mindset.” An equal opportunity dater looks at the bio of the men and then reaches out or responds based on that, no matter the age, race, education, or looks. Then, when you go and meet them, you can be totally open-minded, leaving any biases at home, where they belong. It could be that you make a new best friend or, like me, represent better in person. Who knows? But, one of the most important lessons learned from online dating was that I never said no to someone whose profile made me laugh or who I connected with in some way before actually meeting in person. Also, there were several men that I was drawn to who ignored me, but I persisted. It turned out my pictures turned them off, but my witticism drew them in, until they saw me in person. I’m not bragging, but they all said they were glad they ignored their inclination to not show due to the pictures, which seriously, weren’t that bad!
Swipe Quickly Past the Dicks. Dick pics are inevitable on online dating sites. Guys, what the hell are you thinking? Oh wait, there’s a reason you’re single. You don’t understand that chicks really aren’t into dick pics. Yours, or anyone else’s. So an early lesson learned from online dating was to swipe quickly past the dick pics. Get over it, swipe past them, laugh about it, send them to your girlfriends and laugh about them together. Write a blog post entirely comprised of the ridiculous dick pics you’ve received via online dating creeps. Do what you have to do but move on and get over it. You don’t have to date those penises and, more importantly, you don’t even have to communicate with them.
Trust the Oldies But Goodies. I quickly learned that the better online dating sites are still the oldies but goodies. Match is hands down the best online dating site for women who are our age. And, ladies, no matter how old any of us get, the reality of dating is that it is still all about sex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of men looking for women to bond with, but the majority of the men I found via online dating sites wanted to bond in the bedroom. And, please remember, post-coital bliss — aka the state of temporarily losing your mind completely as a result of some good sex — does exist, so use caution and protection and try to avoid making hasty decisions or commitments when you’re in that foggy state.
The Rule of ‘Safety First’ Always Applies. Speaking of caution and protection, when it comes to lessons learned from online dating, safety first is still, and always, key. Common sense applies as it relates to online dating more than any other kind of dating, for obvious reasons. The internet (and what people can fake online) is a powerful thing, and a desire to find a nice guy can sometimes overwhelm logic and rational thinking. Keep it real, sister. Maybe you’re lonely and ready to date. Maybe you’re bored. Maybe you just want to experiment and dip your toe into online dating like I did. Bottom line, no matter what got you there, you may have met some guy who has a great online dating profile and you’ve exchanged a few messages with him.
But before you actually agree to share any additional personal information and/or agree to meet for a date, make sure you do some due diligence before diving in. And for that, Google is your friend. Do an image search to make sure Mr. Handsome holding the puppy dog really does look like that and isn’t a stock photo. When you are chatting, get a first and last name. It’s not unusual for online daters to have usernames that aren’t their own, so ask for their names and then hit the interwebs and Google. Google is your friend! LinkedIn is your friend, too, as it’s a gigantic business search engine. You can find out all kinds of things. Also, if it feels like it is too good to be true, I hate to say this, ladies, it probably is. This is one of the most important lessons learned from online dating.
Keep it Simple. One important lesson learned from online dating is that for best results, keep it simple. Opt for coffee, wine, or a cocktail for those first time meetings and keep it short. More importantly, don’t take too long to get to that first meeting. The longer you text back and forth you either kill the momentum or build it up so much that the let down can quite possibly be enormous. You don’t need to send a million messages back and forth. A couple of cute quick messages, then just go for it. If he doesn’t ask, you bite the bullet and do it—it’s not hard. “Would you like to meet for a glass of wine? A cup of joe?” The worst they can say is no, and if they do, you move to the next guy on your list.
Don’t be monogamous. While I’m a fan of monogamy in serious relationships, when it comes to lessons learned from online dating, remember you are at the starting line and that there are plenty of fish in the sea. Really! Don’t limit yourself to just talking with or meeting up with just one guy. Try to always have a couple of guys you’re interested in and keep it low key and non-committal. Success with online dating is all about the volume of ‘prospects’ you allow yourself to meet and get to know. The more guys you have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with, the better you can compare and contrast and play the numbers.
What does ‘play the numbers’ mean? That’s an easy one. Think of it this way: You might look at 50 profiles in one hour but find 10 interesting enough to swipe right (that means yes). Out of those 10 that you swiped, it could be that two of those same guys swiped right for you, too. So, out of the 10 you liked, you might want to shoot five of them messages. Choose something from their bios that caught your eye that shows you read what they have to say and give a sentence or two about that. Say for instance they mentioned they are a big Burning Man fan (they exist, trust me). You could him a message saying something like: “Hey, I went to Burning Man for the first time this last year—what an experience! Wonder if we ever crossed paths? Were you one of the people setting themselves on fire?” It’s all about standing out from the crowd. Now you’ve got the possibility of meeting with five guys. They might not all answer, and you might not like them when they do. So, what do you do? Rinse and repeat until find that one or two or three guys you really like. Then you can narrow it down from there.
Here’s the biggest of the lessons learned from online dating. There is no way to master online dating. It’s a hit or miss game. I spoke to my dates at length about it, because I did view it as a social experiment and many of them had similar experiences as I have had. It’s not easy, but there are decent guys out there. What have I come away with from this experience? Great stories, some new friends, and a new-found love and respect for being single and independent!