online dating

Odds are good that, if not you, someone you know is giving online dating a try. And it makes sense. Although some people meet the love of their life at a bar, it’s not exactly an environment where people’s true colors are on display. In the age of Match.com, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, Tinder and OKCupid, dating via the Internet is quickly becoming the go-to route when trying to find meaningful relationships in this digitized era.

So, perhaps first we should consider the stigmas attached to online dating and whether or not they hold water. Roughly 54 million people have tried online dating, so this isn’t exactly the habit of only those unspeakable fringe groups in society – this is a billion dollar industry and it’s growing. It’s a pressure-free ideology. Since no one is squaring off with total strangers across the table, it’s a chance to consider people and make thoughtful decisions. (With the plethora of options at your fingertips, it can also make choosing a person to contact as difficult as choosing a movie on Netflix when you have no idea what you want to watch, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.) And for those of you who are rational and inclined to using the scientific method in your every day lives, there are algorithms! Mathematical equations designed to render desired results. They seem to work for Netflix and Google, so why not utilize them in the age-old search for that special someone? But like shooting a layup or honing organic chemistry, there must be a strategy. Sure, you can say, “I wouldn’t think twice before being myself at a party or a bar, why hesitate when trying online dating?” Well, because the results can vary enormously depending upon how you go about it. So, consider this short list of ideas when looking for love in cyberspace.

1) Content Is Key – When creating a profile, keep your descriptions brief and positive. No one (including you) reads through a 1,000-word dissertation on someone, no matter how incredible they seem. Also, judgmental, pretentious and negative statements alienate people almost instantly.

2) Spontaneity and Patience – Online dating is bizarre. Sometimes in life, it’s a good idea to play coy, other times call you to be forthright and confident. The same rules apply to online dating. Just like in developing any coveted skill, navigating this world takes some trial and error. Don’t get discouraged and, for the love of Pete, don’t lash out at people if they don’t give you the response you want.

3) Courage! – When considering messaging, nudging, poking and any other euphemism for contacting someone online, simply stop considering and do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember that life is not a lottery and people getting what they want immediately only happens in music videos and movies. This is reality, so be realistic and be patient.

4) Skip Humor – This is a common pitfall. People often lean on humor as a way of alleviating the awkwardness of getting to know someone online. Unfortunately humor can be interpreted in a number of different ways along a broad. Your joke may fall on deaf ears, or it might offend someone, or it might put you in the “aw-he’s-so-funny-he’d-make-a-great-friend-but-nothing-more” category. Like humor in a text message, without a person’s tone and cadence, much of the intent is lost. Being genuine and straightforward, however, is a much more effective way to connect with nice people.

5) That’s Really the Photo You Chose? – Guys, stop sending shirtless photos out into cyberspace! This is a dreadful, terrible idea simply because: A) your body is never jacked in a woman’s eyes as it is in your own, and B) you come off as a massive, shallow douche. Similarly, attempts at humor in photos are precarious and best left to your social media. Use images that are positive, well-framed and (hint hint) communicate who you are.

6) Honesty, Honesty, Honesty – This is by far the most important thing when trying online dating. This isn’t just honesty with people you date, but honesty with yourself. If you don’t know what you want, be forthright about it. It’s the easiest and quickest way to pursue what you’re really after.