online dating

12 Steps to Get a Good Start in Online Dating

There needs to be love, respect, honesty and communication on both sides of any relationship worth a damn. If you don't get it and give it, don't do it. This goes for one night stands right up to marriage, because this is not about bagging hotties, notching guitars, or finding money. While tempting, these things will in the end hurt you and leave you empty. Have fun, be healthy, and above all, communicate.

I found that a great product of online dating was free counseling. If you put a lot of time into a creating a good profile and narrowing down what you are looking for, you are really working on who you are and want you want. And those are very old and valuable questions to work on, especially for such a limited weekly fee.

Ultimately I found it's a question of being attractive, no matter what the medium. I found out the hard way that the best way of being attractive is to be healthy - mentally, financially, personally, and physically. Unfortunately this also involves the most work, but that's the way it is.

Of course danger, angst, drama, passion, irresponsibility and the like can work wonders for your dating life too, but it always seems to me to be short-lived, destructive, and attractive to the wrong people. I think it's best to use these things as spices to keep things interesting, but not as a core tactic for being attractive.

Here are the twelve steps I wished I'd known before I started. 

  1. Surf the leading services, by entering your zip code and preferences to see if you like the profiles you find and the way the system is set up. Some of the leading services, Yahoo Personals, and Match for example, are big general dating pools. You can also narrow your demographic by picking smaller, specialized dating services like Springstreet Networks (which sites like Salon, The Onion, and Nerve Magazine all share,) or Jdate (For Jewish people).
  2. Pick one service you like. Don't worry, you can try more services later, but it's good to start with just one so you can focus your efforts.
  3. Get to know your competition. Put in search criteria that match who you are in terms of gender, age, zip code, etc (Don't worry, nobody will know). This will give you a sense of what you're up against.
  4. Write a profile but DO NOT MAKE IT PUBLIC (You first need to pick a picture and most importantly, run your profile by friends.) Be honest, unique and confident, but not cocky. Try and get a laugh, or some emotion from the reader, but not by being at all angry or acerbic.
  5. Pick one picture to start. Try to find one where you were caught in a relaxed and happy looking mood, and pretty close up. Don't get fancy or cute just yet, just a flattering head shot will do, because you can add more later. If you don't have a good recent shot, plan to get a friend to shoot a bunch of shots of you fooling around, looking at the camera, and looking away. Use a simple background with lots of light. One of the shots should turn out great.
  6. Get feedback on your profile. Print your profile and give it to at least three friends, friends who know you well and are of the gender or persuasion you're after. Ask them for honest feedback, listen to what they say, especially if more then one of them says the same thing.
  7. Update your profile and go public so the other people in the service can see you.
  8. Search for people like and carefully read their profile.
  9. Make contact. If you don't get a lot of hits, i.e. heterosexual men, tops, etc. You won't get too much email. So you've got to send a lot. But start with just 3-5 of your favorite picks and send a message that says "hi" and shows you've read their profile and put some time into your message. Don't ask for a date, just a response if they are interested. If you do get a lot of hits, i.e. heterosexual women, bottoms, etc. Weed through your emails looking for someone who has taken time to read your profile and seems interesting. If you make first contact, be light and brief. Be careful of putting anything like your first and last name in emails or profiles so that weirdos can't Google you and find where you live and work.
  10. If you get a bite, roll with it for a couple of emails and try to set up a phone call. Then if things still seem cool, set up a brief meeting in person, in public, for lunch, coffee, or something else quick and easy. Have a place and time ready, don't be vague, but be flexible to their suggestions.
  11. Reality check. Before the date, re-read the person's profile and be prepared for a reality check in terms of what they really look and act like.
  12. The end. End the date neutral and open minded, saying something like "this was fun, I'll email you tomorrow." Then sleep on things and the next day craft a simple, honest email. This will likely sound something like one of these two statements. 1. "That was fun, but I didn't feel chemistry. Good luck out there." 2. "That was fun, I'd like to see you again." There is strength in honesty and directness, and people appreciate it because it is rare and highly communicative.

"Dating Online: Getting a Good Start
Caleb John Clark, 2005."

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