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The do’s & don’ts of online dating

So this might be stating the obvious, but dating is not easy. Especially when you've decided to try the online dating thing. I quickly learned this lesson after my first experience, which I recently chronicled.

I now have a few meet-ups under my belt (using two different websites), so I have developed my own list of the “do’s and don’ts” of navigating online dating services. I share these insights with NolaVie readers in the hope of helping others avoid some of the common pitfalls one inevitably experiences as a newcomer to this dating method.

Disclaimer: Many of these suggestions are based on my personal experience and observations. I am, by no means, a dating expert, but hopefully these pointers will prove to be entertaining and (somewhat?) perceptive. I’m always looking for other viewpoints, so feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]. 

Do: Spend the time to properly craft your profile.

Yes, filling out your online profile can feel lame, but taking the time to describe yourself and what you are looking for will be worth the effort. Including your likes and dislikes will help you determine common interests, which you can use as an excuse to email anyone interesting (and will help fill those awkward pauses that will come up during your first meet-up). There is also a fine line between writing a novel for your self-summary and including a short description that simply fulfills the minimum characters requirement. If you write too much, you will seem a bit self-obsessed, but writing too little could make you appear uninteresting or uncaring. Crafting a 350- to 500-word summary will allow you to adequately describe yourself without overdoing it.

Don’t: Publish profile content that has not been edited.

I am immediately turned off by guys who seem like they did not care enough to make the effort to at least avoid common grammatical mistakes when writing up their “about me” section. Think of it like a resume; would you ever submit your CV without thoroughly editing it first? Such carelessness can give the impression that you are just looking for a quick hookup (and if you are, please ignore this advice because I would like to avoid your kind, as I do Falcons fan).

Do: Post photos of yourself that express your interests.

Posting current photos of yourself is a great way to express your personality (after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?). The most attractive profiles feature different types of pics (i.e. close-ups, full body, candid) as well as those that show off your interests. For instance, I am a travel addict, so I was sure to include a few photos taken during recent trips. Additionally, while it’s not necessary to post 20 photos, I would suggest including at least three or four to provide the necessary amount of variety. And if you do not post any photos at all, you will be automatically dismissed by anyone you contact.

Don’t: Post cheesy/obnoxious/old photos of yourself.

You might have a great body that you want to show off, but including a shirtless photo as your primary profile pic conveys egotism (and if you include a selfie shirtless photo, you might be beyond help). Possibly the only thing worse than posting unappealing photos is meeting up with someone who is, in person, 10 years older or 30 pounds heavier than his/her profile photos. I am convinced that everyone who tries online dating will experience this phenomenon at least once. While it might be impossible to dodge the “oh-crap-he’s-not-at-all-like-I-imagined” bullet, at least you can avoid participating in this maddening trend.

Do: Be proactive.

Online dating sometimes makes me feel like I’m a kid in a candy store. You can filter based on a number of factors, such as height, education or religious views. It’s an online catalog of possible mates; therefore, you should be proactive in communicating with people who spark your interest. If someone doesn’t respond, simply move on to the next candidate. Online dating is not a time to sit back and wait for someone to contact you. Some of the best dates I’ve been on have been with guys who I contacted first.

Don’t: Be overly compromising.

If you are going to take the time to search through profiles, do not compromise on factors that you know are your personal deal breakers. I learned this lesson after agreeing to meet up with a guy who claimed he was 5’10’’ on his profile. I’m also 5’10,’’ so height is very important to me (yes, I might have deep-rooted psychological issues about this, but that’s another subject in itself). When I showed up for our date I discovered that he was at least 2 inches shorter than advertised. He was nice, but the attraction level was zero. I then determined to stick to a “6-foot-and-above” rule to avoid this situation in the future. Everyone has certain preferences that are sticking points, so figure out yours prior to agreeing to any in-person meet-ups.

Do: Send a message that communicates your interest.

If you happen upon someone you find attractive, go ahead and send a message that conveys this fact. For instance, highlighting common interests is a great way to make your case and convince that person that you are worth meeting.

Don’t: Do any of the following when sending a message.

  • Send poetry (it’s creepy).
  • Just say “hey” or “hi” (really, is that all you have to say? Not impressive).
  • Make common grammar mistakes like mixing up “there,” “their,” and “they’re” (once or twice is understandable, but repeated mistakes are a big turnoff).
  • Send an insulting message in an attempt to flirt (for example, if the girl is a ginger, don’t comment on the fact that she doesn’t have a soul). 

Do: Choose a casual experience for your first date.

If it appears that a mutual interest has been established, make a plan to meet in person as soon as possible (you aren’t on the site to find a cyber pen pal). For the first date, choose a casual encounter on a weeknight, such as meeting up for a drink or coffee. This strategy will provide you with an easy escape plan if you just aren’t feeling it. And knowing that you will only lose an hour of your life if things go horribly wrong will reduce any pre-date anxiety.

Don’t: Act too available, even if you are interested.

One of the hardest parts about dating is playing it cool when you actually meet someone you like. Even if you want to hang out all the time, human nature ensures that you will be unappealing if you make yourself too available; after all, coming off as a stalker is never an attractive quality. Keep it casual for as long as possible, until you determine that the other person feels similarly. (On that note, also avoid giving out your number too quickly. I did once, then decided I wasn’t interested in meeting up with the guy, but he still called and texted me constantly).

Do: Keep your options open.

Online dating provides you with an array of possibilities; however, it is likely that the people you are meeting are also exploring those possibilities. Keep your options open at the beginning in order to help you figure out exactly what you want. However, if you do get serious with one candidate, be honest with any others who might still be interested in you.

Don’t: Lead someone on if you’re not interested.

It might be a cliché, but honesty really is the best policy. It does not feel good to be led on, so be honest and open about your feelings whenever possible. While this can be uncomfortable, avoiding the tough conversations might seriously impact your date karma. If you fail to listen to such sage advice, you might just find yourself on a date with a self-obsessed jerk, someone with awful body odor, or, even worse, a Falcons fan. (Am I repeating myself here?)

Ms. Match NOLA writes about dating and relationships in New Orleans for NolaVie -- and wants your input. Send thoughts, suggestions, questions, observations and anecdotes on dating to [email protected]

Ms. Match NOLA writes about dating and relationships in New Orleans for NolaVie — and wants your input. Send thoughts, suggestions, questions, observations and anecdotes on dating to [email protected].