It feels like the days of singles meeting other singles in person are done. Between work and other responsibilities, the odds of meeting someone in real life seem slimmer and slimmer.
Online dating has become the norm, but even the most seasoned online daters may need an assist when it comes to finding love on the internet. Online dating sites are varied. They can offer wide umbrellas to all sorts of daters, or they can be specialized by things like politics, hobbies, or religion.
No matter which site you choose, some advice is universal in the online dating world. We’ve compiled a handy set of tips to help you navigate the waters of finding a relationship online.
Know what you’re looking for…
First things first: Know what your relationship goals are, and don’t settle. No matter how attractive, funny, or charming someone is, if you’re looking for long-term and they’re not, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
If your date has no interest in settling down, they’re unlikely to change their mind, no matter how much chemistry there is. Nearly every online dating profile has a “looking for” question. If your goals don’t match, keep moving.
…And make sure they do, too
It’s likely you’ll come across dating profiles where someone has checked all of those “looking for” boxes: hook-ups, casual, long-term or marriage-minded. While there is something to be said for not going in with too many expectations, be on the lookout for those with hazy goals. If a dater’s profile runs the gamut from being open for one night or a lifetime, it’s a sign of someone who doesn’t really know what they’re looking for.
Take it as a red flag: if they’re open to anything, they’re not ready to get serious, no matter what they say. That said, you may be open to a wide range of dating possibilities as well. That’s fine too. Just make sure your potential date knows the score.
Keep your guard up…
Unfortunately, some online daters want to portray themselves as something they’re not. They may be married, or just out of a relationship and not as ready to date as they’d like to think they are. As you begin to get to know someone you’ve met online, make note of anything that doesn’t seem to add up.
It’s uncommon for someone to outright lie, but some online daters will use a bit of creative license in their profile. And while it’s extra rare, it can be possible that someone is online to catfish, whether they’re in a fantasy world or have less noble goals. Get to know a potential date through a little online conversation before agreeing to meet in person.
…But don’t over-snoop
It can be tempting to search online and dig up everything from your potential interest’s current workplace to their middle school little league photos. Keep yourself from digging in too deep before you get to know someone. While there’s something to be said for a little fact-checking before agreeing to a date, leave a little mystery.
Dating isn’t supposed to be clinical. Besides, how comfortable would you be knowing your date had done that same level of searching? It’s also good idea not to swap social media profiles beforehand. Is it really so appealing to wade through pictures of their exes or your mom’s comments on your posts? Just because you’ve met online doesn’t mean you need to live online.
A picture really is worth a thousand words
Put your best foot forward in your online dating profile, and look for potential matches who do the same. No one imagines their Prince Charming in a bathroom selfie. Having a million perfect profile pics isn’t a necessity, but five to seven recent pictures showing off your smile and your interests will make you stand out.
While you may be a serious person day to day and you reserve your smiles for authentic moments, it’s those moments you want to capture and share with others. It’s fine to be serious, but sifting through a series of mugshot-worthy photos is a serious turn-off.
If someone can’t get it together to put together a thoughtful, engaging profile, it’s possible they’re willing to cut corners in other parts of their lives, too.
The beauty of the written word
Online dating sites and apps will give you anywhere from a sentence or two to a novel’s length of text to express yourself. While your life story may be taking it too far, you should definitely take advantage of any opportunity to set yourself apart from the pack.
Unless you’re fine with matching with someone based on looks alone, you’ll probably find that you’re most interested in someone who’s put the same amount of care in your profile as you have. Avoid listing your dealbreakers and “don’t contact me ifs.” You’re wasting valuable online real estate, and you risk coming off as difficult. You can make those “thanks, but no thanks” lists on your own without devoting a chunk of your dating profile to listing dislikes.
In many cases, it’s possible to signal what you’re looking for by flipping those no-gos into statements about things you do like.
Quiz and be quizzed
Many online dating sites offer compatibility questions that will help match you with singles who have similar values and interests. It may seem like a lot of hassle to answer endless questions about yourself, but knowing how a potential match feels about dealbreakers like politics, kids, and religion can save both of you the hassle of hitting it off and then discovering a huge non-negotiable issue.
Buyer beware, though: percentage-based matches only go so far; it’s based on how many commonalities each of you have based on the questions answered. You could still have a high-ranking match even if you’ve answered one hundred questions and another online dater has only answered ten. It’s a good practice to answer the questions for the issues you care about most and leave the Batman or Superman style questions for conversation later down the line.