You're ready to meet someone new. But heading to the local bar doesn't appeal, and friends have no one to suggest. So what do you do? For many who are dissatisfied with the old-fashioned way of meeting new people, online dating has become an acceptable and popular alternative.
Relationship therapist Terri Orbuch says one of the advantages of online dating is it offers access to a large pool of people you can meet while staying comfortable in your own home. "It's really convenient," she says. "And it opens you up to a wide-open world of potential matches."
According to Online Dating Magazine, 20% of Americans have gone out on a date with someone they met on line. And every year, more than 280,000 marry someone they met that way.
Online dating has also become big business. One survey found that Americans are spending nearly a billion dollars for online dating services.
Finally, it's not just for the young and tech savvy. Research shows it may be just as popular with older adults.
What to Know First
Online dating requires some courage and thoughtful planning. Use these tips to help navigate the realm of online dating. The reward at the end could very well be meeting that someone special you've been looking for.
Decide how much control you want. Some sites, such as eHarmony, will suggest potential partners for you. Others, such as Match, let you decide. "It's more a personal preference," Orbuch says. "A site that gives you matches might be good for someone consistently attracted to the wrong person." If you prefer having control over your choices or know which qualities will or won't suit you, you might prefer sites that let you choose whom to contact.
Check the costs. Some sites, like OKCupid and PlentyofFish, are free. But others might cost as much as $60 a month.
Don't ignore the smaller sites. "Smaller niches with your interests are usually better because they don't have quite as much of the 'meat market' feel," says psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again Tina B. Tessina. "If you're in a niche that focuses on common interests, you're more likely to get people you can actually relate to."
Create a compelling but honest profile. As tempting as it may be, don't lie about your background or personality when you write your profile. "Honesty shows confidence and integrity," Orbuch says. "Those are qualities all people are looking for. Somewhere down the line, the lie will come back to hurt you."
Avoid disclosing too much at once. Gradually reveal details as you get to know someone. And don't post photos that are overly sexy.
Guard your privacy. Never give out personal information or send money to anyone, Orbuch says. Follow your instincts. If you get a bad vibe, steer clear.
Expect some dishonesty. "Online dating is advertising, rather than making a connection. And advertising is full of falsehood and exaggeration," Tessina says. "You can expect them to present the best picture they can and to shave years off their age and pounds off their weight."
Be prepared to reject and be rejected. "Don't take a 'No' response from others personally," Orbuch says. "It probably doesn't have anything to do with you. They could want someone who is a different age or lives in a different region. At the same time, feel free to say no to people you don't want to meet."
Narrow your focus. Online dating can be a real time-saver if you know exactly what you want, psychotherapist Fran Walfish says. For instance, if you don't want a ready-made family, then you can immediately remove someone with children from consideration. "It helps you sift through the overwhelming numbers and narrow it down to the few you'd like to meet," Walfish says.
Google your potential dates. Don't hesitate to search someone's name on Google or social media such as Facebook or Twitter. "You can learn a lot," Tessina says. "Often, people will put pictures on Facebook that look a lot different from the online dating photo. You'll also learn about what interests them and who their friends are."
Play it safe. Use your first name only and give personal details only after you've gotten to know each other well, Orbuch says. Always drive yourself, and meet in a public place like a coffee shop or bookstore. "If your date hasn't met any of your friends or family, you shouldn't meet him in a private location," Orbuch says. "Tell a friend where you are going, with whom, and when you expect to be back." And make sure to stay sober.