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A Comprehensive Guide To Online Dating Success

I have over the course of the last several years tried many different online dating services and met with a significant amount of success. The goal of this article is to summarize all my acquired knowledge about online Dating so that people either considering the pursuit of a relationship via the Internet or those already doing so may benefit from what I have learned. Back in the old days (the late 90s early 00s) finding romance though online Dating was considered to be exclusively the domain of geeks. However, as the Internet increased in usage and popularity the population as a whole is finding itself both willing and able to try and find love through online Dating.

Why has online dating become so popular? I would posit the following. Years ago, during our grandparents generation, society was different. People would grow up on one street, go to one school and work at one job for decades. Everyone knew each other and there were ample opportunities to meet and date through common community organizations that helped bond people together. Today is a completely different world. Society is both more socially mobile and more geographically mobile. If you are a white collar professional then you have probably experienced several location changes in response to your educational and career needs. While this mobility has done wonders for our careers, it hasn't been the best for meeting people. With each new move an individual is confronted with the challenge of rebuilding their social circle anew. Some particularly extroverted people adjust readily, but for those of us with more introverted personalities successfully finding romance in an ever-changing environment can be difficult. Additionally, as career has a nasty habit of taking center stage in our lives, people are finding less and less time to find romance. Enter the Internet and online Dating, a way of meeting new people essentially anywhere anytime. Could a lonely hart ask for more?

How is online dating different from real life dating? It's not really that different. The primary difference in online dating from traditional dating comes in how you meet people, online as opposed to through friends or picking them up at a bar. Once you get to the first date it's pretty much the same.

Who should try online dating? Basically anyone interested in meeting new people should give online dating a try. Online dating is no longer solely the domain of young geeks. People of all ages can take advantage of online dating to add a bit of romance into their life. Any individual who is looking for new avenues through which to meet people should seriously consider giving online dating a try.

Does online dating work? The short answer is yes. As I've mentioned before online dating is just another way to meet people. If you are willing to give it a try and actually put some effort into making online dating work, you can get results.

Advantages of online dating Online dating poses some distinct advantages over other methods of meeting people. With online dating you can meet people semi-anonymously. This is a huge benefit to anyone with even the slightest streak of introvert. You can start with your best foot forward. Because you meet people through the profiles and emails you write online dating gives you a way to start the introduction process with your best foot forward. You can take those opportunities to highlight aspects of yourself that really shine out. You can take your time when meeting someone. If you see a girl or guy that catches your eye at a party or bar, you only have a limited amount of time to get over there and meet them. With online dating you can take your time and actually think about what you want to say rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Able to meet similar people. If you often get the feeling that you are in a minority of some kind then online dating can be the perfect way to connect with people who have similar interests or values as you. Can meet people worldwide. If you want the opportunity to meet people throughout the state, country or even the world then an online dating service would be perfect for you. With online Dating, your personality can drive your initial interactions. Your first online interactions will be driven predominantly by your personality and your ability to communicate, not how hot you are or how good of a dancer you are. You can meet people all the time. No need to wait until Friday night to meet people. Just fire up your browser and you're good to go. Great for people who are new to the area. Don't have a social network. Doesn't matter. You can start meeting people through online dating from the first day you move to a new location.

Disadvantages of online dating It wouldn't be fair to say that online dating is all smiles with no downside. Here are some potential disadvantages to online dating that you should be aware of. You need to have some minimum ability to communicate via the written word. With online dating, from writing your profile to writing that first email, all of your initial interactions are conducted via text. Your attempt at online dating won't bear much fruit if the written word is not your strong point or if you tend to be a dull writer. Similarly, if you are used to attracting the opposite Sex though you're ravishing good looks or ability to be the life of the party, you'll soon find that those traits mean less online. It can cost money. Subscribing to an online dating service will cost you some money. It's not a substantial amount, but if you're hard up for cash this is a serious consideration. The truth may be stretched a bit. On the Internet the truth can be stretched or downright fabricated. Frequently, men will lie about their height or income and women will lie about their appearance. However, from personal experience, most (but not all) of the women I met online were honest with me suggesting that overall people try to be accurate in their descriptions. Limited set of people. At risk of pointing out the obvious, it's worth reminding you that the set of people you'll be able to meet though online dating services is limited to the those people actually signed up for the service. You will need to get offline eventually. Sometimes with online dating it's easy to get caught up in sending flirtatious emails back and forth. But eventually you're going to have to make a move and ask to meet up. If you don't demonstrate real romantic interest, just like in real life, you'll wind up in the dreaded friend zone.

Dealing with a long distance relationship Invariably, when discussing online dating the topic of long distance relationships come up. I have not listed this as a disadvantage because its not, whether you pursue a long distance relationship or not is a choice that will be made by you and your potential boyfriend or girlfriend. Almost all online dating services allow you to limit your search to within a specific geographic radius, so if you aren't interested in a long distance relationship you don't have to pursue one. Truth be told, being involved in a long distance relationship is difficult, but not impossible. A complete discussion of how to succeed in any long distance relationship, whether started online or not, is beyond the scope of this article.

Safety concerns It's best to come out and say it; there are con artists and stalkers online. You will have to watch out for them. That being said it should be pointed out that these people are a small minority, a very small minority. Despite what the occasional story produced by the sensationalist media says, online dating services are not in fact populated with creepy stalkers and rapists. If you use your common sense and trust your gut you'll be able to avoid most problems. Here are a few tips to help keep you safe. You should always be careful about sharing personal information (name, address, telephone number, where you work, etc) online. Most online dating services provide their own anonymous emailing services to help you maintain your privacy. If anyone pressures you for information, it's time to cut and run. It's one thing to ask for a phone number in order to arrange a meet up; it's just creepy if someone demands your phone number after you've denied him or her. If you don't feel comfortable meeting yet, then let the person know. Most will be understanding. If they aren't this could be a warning sign and you should consider moving on to someone else. Watch for behavioral differences. For example, is there a significant difference between how they word their online dating profiles and how they talk in emails? Consider asking for two or three recent photos (especially if they don't have one up). If they constantly make excuses why they can't something might be fishy. When you do meet up, do so in a public place during normal business hours. Lunch and coffee are great first dates. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the lady in the picture looks like she just walked off a photo shoot, there's a good chance that she isn't the person writing the ad. Finally, trust your gut. If something seems amiss, there is a good chance that it is.

Types of online dating services available Now that we've covered all that, you're probably wondering just what kinds of online dating services are available and how do they work. Numerous online dating services are available, but they can generally be grouped into two different kinds, profile based and personality based.

Profile based online dating services characteristics: You create a profile that consists essentially of a photograph of yourself and a brief description of yourself. Easy to browse though other's profiles. Excellent choice for people interested in casual Dating. Can also be effective for those interested in serious long-term relationships. Works well for both small and large communities and geographic regions. Examples: Match.com, Yahoo Personals, Lavalife

Personality based online dating services characteristics: You complete an extensive personality questionnaire. You are then alerted of suggested matches. Can be slow. Depending on your personality it may be a while before the program can match you with someone. Excellent choice for people who are serious about beginning a long-term relationship. Poor choice for individuals interested in casual dating. Works best if you have a large geographic range or live in a major metropolitan area. Examples: eHarmony.com, Chemistry.com

These online dating sites (mainly the profile based ones) have spawned a large variety of specialty online dating services targeted to almost any specific characteristic. There are sites for Christian dating, Jewish Dating dating based on almost any religion, gay dating, military dating, ethnic dating, dating based on common hobbies, dating for seniors, dating in specific cities, and even dating for people already in relationships. The list is in fact far more exhaustive than this. Just type 'any characteristic' and 'dating' into Google and you'll probably get a match.

While most online dating services require payment in order to actually meet people a number of new free sites have popped up. One such site, OkCupid.com recruits its audience though a battery of often-hilarious user created tests, provides space to make a profile and even allows users to write blog posts. It pays for itself through banner advertising and donations. While free online dating sites like this are fun, they do come with a downside. Most of the people who sign up are there for the social networking aspect of the site rather than the dating aspect. This is not to say that love cannot be found on a free online dating site, but personally I feel that you get what you pay for when it comes to online dating. The simple fact is that once people are willing to throw down money for something they tend to treat it as a much more serious endeavor.

Making online dating work (aka: the secrets of success) If you decided that online dating is something you wish to pursue, these are some tips to get the most out of your experience. Assembling a good personal ad is critical and extensive advice on this is given below. Be sure to post a photo. Most people like to have some idea of what the person they are talking to looks like. Don't be afraid to initiate contact. Ladies, this includes you. In the online dating world you can't sit around and hope that interesting people will come to you. If you see someone you like don't be afraid to contact them. Confidence counts. Just like in real life, confidence counts with online dating. If your profile and emails convey confidence you're going to be much more likely to succeed. Dating is a numbers game. Its true in the real world and it's true of online dating as well. You will get rejections, possibly many of them. Don't give up. Keep realistic expectations. At its core, online dating is just another way of meeting people. Online dating is not some kind of magical system that guarantees that you'll meet the guy or girl of your dreams. Few people ever have that opportunity in their life. Don't forget about the real world. Life can be funny sometimes. Just because you're putting a lot of effort into finding love though online dating doesn't mean that there aren't great people in the offline world as well.

Assembling a good personal ad A good personal ad is the foundation of online dating success. It's what gets people interested in you and motivates them to contact you. An online dating profile consists of two main parts, the pictures and the biography. Profiles may also include less important parts such as short answer questions (Describe your education? Job? Religious belifes? etc) and survey questions (select your hair color, height, pets, etc.) Guidelines for winning personal ads are broken down by segment.

Picking a username and a tagline The very first things you are going to have to do as you assemble your online dating profile are to select a username and write a tagline. Whether you chose a mundane or witty username is up to you, but do try to avoid picking names that are too esoteric or weird. Also avoid alternating capital and lower case letters, those are irritating to look at and do not make you look cool. The tagline is a several word description of your profile, such as 'seeking a great girl for fun and adventure' or 'just a lady looking for love.' If you can come up with a witty tagline to draw people in, more power to you, otherwise I would recommend a combination of honesty and brevity.

Using pictures in online dating profiles Posting a picture is an absolute must. Online dating ads with pictures get many more responses than those without them. In fact, most online dating services have an option that allows users to filter out any ads that don't have a picture posted. Often sites allow you to post multiple pictures with one functioning as your main profile picture and the others as supplementary pictures for viewers to browse through. The main picture is the most important one, because it's usually the first part of the online dating profile that anyone bothers to look at. In fact people will often make snap judgments based solely on the main picture. Does that mean you should get your photos taken professionally or have no hope if you don't look like a model. Certainly not, but you should follow the advice I've listed below.

A main picture should: Be a good portrait shot of your smiling face. Smiles are important as people respond better to a smiling individual than to a deadpan or frowning person. Be recent. Photos of how you looked a decade ago just won't cut it. Should be a picture of only you. Try to cut out as many distracters as you can. Friends, family and landscapes don't belong in the main picture.

A main picture should NOT: Be a landscape shot. The focus should be on you, not your cool vacation spot. Be a group shot. Once again the reader is interested in you, not your friends or family. Be a close up on your eye or other body part. This isn't artistic, its creepy looking. Be a photo of something other than you. This means no pictures of flowers, anime girls, avatars of any kind, famous landmarks or arcane symbols. Some of these sound silly, but I've seen them all.

Supplementary pictures (those that aren't used for the main profile picture) can be a great way to showcase your style and personality. Here are a few pointers on choosing the appropriate pictures for your online dating profile. Avoid group shots. There is nothing inherently wrong with a group photo of you surrounded by your friends or family, however posting pictures of other people online without their consent is a bit disrespectful to them. Show yourself in different attire or settings. Consider posting pictures that show how do you look at work, out for a night on the town, or lounging around at home. If you've got a cut pet, show it here. Everyone loves cute animals. Bait shots. These are pictures, not necessarily of you but definitely about you, that are designed to spark conversation. You could post pictures related to a cool vacation spot (Aztec ruins in Mexico, St. Mark's in Venice) you went to or one that showcases a hobby or talent of yours (anything from cooking to skydiving works).

Writing a good biography for online dating The biography is an opportunity for you to write several paragraphs of text about yourself. After the picture, this is the next most important part of your personal ad. Different online dating services provide different amounts of space for you to write about yourself. For example, Match.com provides ample space while eHarmony.com provides just a few lines. The biography is your chance to shine. It's your chance to let your personality come out while you talk a bit about who you are and describe what you are looking for in a potential date.

Don't be afraid to browse other users biographies to get a feel for what is good and what isn't. How can you spot a bad biography? That's easy. If you read it and have no idea how to respond to it in an email short of "I think you're interesting" then it's a bad biography.

Make sure you try and do the following when writing up your online dating biography: Be humorous and witty. Getting people to laugh is a great way to get them interested in you. If you aren't normally a funny individual don't force it. Be civil. Be polite and refrain from using profanity. If you act crass on an online dating ad, people will assume that's how you are in real life. Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you write like a 13-year-old AOLer people will think you have a maturity level to match it. When people write something seriously, such as an rsum or essay they put effort into it. If your online dating ad conveys a decided lack of effort then you can expect readers to consider that you will put the same lack of effort into the relationship. Be truthful. At first thought, it may seem like lying will get you more responses, however consider the downside. With online dating, people begin to build a mental image of you based on your profile. When they finally meet you they will compare you to that mental image. If those two don't match up, there won't be a second date. People don't like being lied to. Focus on your strengths. This is a major advantage to online dating; make sure you use it to its fullest. Use your profile to highlight what you are good at and what people should find interesting about you. Mention your passions. Passions bring out excitement and confidence in the person discussing them. And we know that excitement and confidence are keys to triggering attraction. Be selective. A personal ad is not the place for you to write up your complete memoirs. Briefly hit the highlights you want a potential date to know about you. Update your profile frequently. While your profile isn't a blog and doesn't need to be updated daily, you should revisit it every two or three weeks. These are great opportunities to tweak your online dating profile by taking out things that may not be helping you, rewording clunky sentences and adding new material.

Some things to avoid when writing an online dating biography: Don't be boring. Don't exclusively use phrases such as "I like to sleep, listen to music and go out with friends." Almost everyone on the planet likes to do these things. These really don't set you apart from anyone else. Don't write exhaustively long lists. Some people are prone to filling up their profile with lists describing every band, TV show, or other thing that they love. Don't do this; you want your profile to convey your personality not an itemized list of your CD collection. Don't be crude or crass. If you act like an uncultured jackass when writing an ad for online dating, one can only begin to imagine what you act like normally. And it isn't good. Don't be obsessive about your passions. While being passionate about something can attract people too you, being obsessive about it can turn them away. For example if you like horses you should write about that that. However, you should not write paragraph after paragraph about horses. Once your potential date starts to realize that they have to compete with your obsession they'll start thinking twice about you. Leave your baggage at home. Everyone has baggage. That crazy ex, a messed up family life, whatever. Don't let those get anywhere near your online dating profile. Nothing says 'stay away' in the world of online dating like displaying your emotional baggage.

What if you really are a dull person who only likes to sleep and listen to CDs? Or you really are obsessed with something? That doesn't mean you're out of luck in the world of online dating. No. Writing a good profile is akin to knowing which cards to play and how to play them. Consider writing your bio humorously or including funny anecdotes or personal stories. If you are at a complete loss for creativity, ask a friend to help you out.

So just how big should a bio section be? It's better for your online dating personal ad to be longer rather than shorter. You don't want your bio to be so terse that it borders on non-existent. Two to three paragraphs should be sufficient. If you happen to be a particularly adept wordsmith, don't be afraid to go longer. So long as the reader isn't bored to tears by the end, you're fine. Lastly, don't ramble on endlessly about anything in your online dating profile. Make each point clearly and move onto the next.

Using deal breaker statements in online dating profiles The use of deal breaker statements in your online dating profile can be a helpful way to limit the number of people who respond to your ad. However, using them is not without risks. Think of deal breaker statements as anything you purposefully say that may have the effect of instantaneously making someone uninterested in you. Most statements are not deal breakers. For example, "I like Counting Crows" is unlikely to turn anyone off. What will turn people off are statements involving religion, politics, children, pets, smoking, alcohol and drugs.

You can write a deal breaker in either a positive or negative way. An example of a positively worded deal breaker in an online dating ad would be "I'm looking to date a good Christian man with a strong sense of faith." A negatively worded statement would be something like "Don't bother contacting me if you're a Democrat." If you don't have strong feelings about religion or politics I would refrain from using these in your profile. On the other hand I would recommend being upfront in your online dating profile about the presence of children, pets, smoking and drugs. I also recommend phrasing any potential deal breaker in a positive light because readers overall are turned off by negative statements. Yes, even readers who may otherwise be interested in you can be turned off by negativity.

Deal breakers should only be use to exclude people you absolutely know you won't be compatible with. They should not be used to eliminate everyone other than your ideal dream date. For example, stating, "I'm looking for 5'7" blond haired athletic female with a large chest who is a good cook and has a passion for the arts" pretty much excludes everyone who may ever come across your personal ad and guarantees failure in the online dating world.

Short answer questions and survey items on online dating ads Many online dating services include short answer questions and survey items for you to fill out. Here are a few guidelines for these items. Be truthful. Nothing is more important than being truthful in a relationship. If you can't even get through your online dating personal without lying, one can only imagine what you'll be like in a relationship. And seriously, if you could stand to lose a few (40) pounds don't select 'about average' on the body type question. Don't be afraid to be redundant. It's okay if your short answer questions repeat some of the info stated in your online dating biography. Select broad ranges for any questions in the 'about my match' area. This area is for you to mention what you would find acceptable in a date, it's not for you to describe the guy or girl who exists only in your imagination. If say you only want to meet men who are 6' tall or greater, you'd better have a really good reason for saying this because you are excluding lots of great guys.

Responding to online dating ads All online dating services allow you to respond to ads. Personality based online dating services often employ guided communication at first where you and your potential date first evaluate each other based on answers to a series of short answer questions. After this you move onto open communication, which is just a fancy way of saying email. Profile based online dating services employ two different communication methods. The first is just a simple 'I'm interested in you' email. These go by the different names depending on the online dating service, some of which are winks, woos, nudges and flirts. You can do these for free. In order to be able to send emails (usually receiving is free) online dating services require you to pay membership dues. Keep in mind that all the guidelines mentioned above for writing a good online dating profile apply to email as well.

Meeting for the first time Once you get to the first meet up you're crossing over from the world of online dating to the world of real life dating. You should consider setting up your first date at a public place during normal business hours for safety reasons. Lunches or coffee together are great ideas. Also keep your first date brief, light and fun. That's it, from this point on the rest is up to you.

By SBL - Just an average guy with a couple of doctorates and an unquenchable desire to learn as much about everything as possible.  

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