With Valentine's Day coming up, it's time to talk about dating! Whether you've been single but haven't yet dived into the world of online dating, or you've gone through a difficult transition like a divorce or death of a spouse, online dating can seem very intimidating to venture into. We’re going to break it down so if that's something you've thought about trying, you're equipped with the basics.
Why Online Dating?
There are many other ways to meet people, so why do online dating? Well, sheer numbers. So many people are on the apps, and you'll meet people you'd likely never meet otherwise. Does quantity mean quality? Not exactly. But your chances of meeting a great match is higher, simply because there are more options.
You can also see filters you wouldn't see in person. How old are they? What type of relationship are they looking for? What are their interests? What is their religion? Do they have or want kids? These are details you won't find chatting with Mr. Potentially Right in the frozen foods section at the grocery store. But do chat with him, that would make a perfect romcom movie moment!
Online dating is convenient. Most of us don't have a lot of time to go to bars or clubs, and picking people up in those settings can be awkward, especially if you're shy. But dating apps are in your phone all day, you can swipe while in line at the grocery store, assuming you haven't already met Prince Charming on this mythical grocery shopping trip.
Which Apps to Try
There are lots of apps out there, and if you're drawn to one or a friend recommended it, go for it, but two popular ones are Bumble and Hinge. If you want to choose just one, that's fine, but a lot of people are on a couple.
Bumble's premise is that the woman messages first. This is to give women the power and control. When you match with someone, you have 24 hours to message, and then they have 24 hours to respond. If either party lapses, you lose that match (I believe you can get it back if you pay for a premium account). The benefit of this is that it forces you to make contact, instead of getting matches which languish in your inbox indefinitely.
Hinge is just... cool. It has prompts and questions which help you write an interesting profile.
Building Your Profile
Your profile should give a good idea of who you are, without being TMI. When it comes to photos, while it's okay to have some pictures of you with friends, make sure the majority have only you, especially your main photo. Include photos that show you doing what you love. Are you a mini-golf fiend? Show a funny pic of you getting a high point score. Love to cook? Take some shots of you chopping veggies. Your photos should look nice, but not too perfect or professional, it's not LinkedIn. You can include some professional photos with perfect hair and makeup, but also use some pics of the real you, just having fun and being yourself.
As for your bio, give a flavor of your personality, what you're looking for, but keep it light and fun. You can go more in-depth when you match with people. It's good to reference specific things; TV shows you love, hobbies you have, something they can use to start a conversation.
Basic Online Dating Etiquette
When you message someone, use their name and mention something in their profile as a starting point for the conversation. This shows you're paying attention and they're not just one of many.
If they don't respond right away, or at all, don't take it personally. Sometimes people delete the app from their phone without pausing their profile, or they have notifications turned off, or they have a lot of matches and got overwhelmed, whatever. We want to approach all this with as easy-breezy an attitude as we can.
Women tend to be very picky when they're swiping. They will spend 7 minutes analyzing a profile, deciding if they're 'the one'. Don't do that. Swiping right on someone is just an invitation to a possible conversation. Some people aren't great at making profiles, but they turn out to be great people! And vice versa. Unless it's a hard no, swipe yes. It's not a big commitment. You can always unmatch someone later, if you want.
Keep in mind that many men play a numbers game and swipe right on almost everyone, then decide later if they match whether they want to pursue something.
For the first date, try something light like getting a drink, a coffee, or going for a walk. You don't want to get stuck with someone you don't like for a whole meal, then have to deal with a higher priced tab.
Talking about paying, typically a man will pay for the first date. Whether you want to offer to contribute is up to you. Some women like to split the bill, and that's fine.
Dating Other People
Because of the situation, people will often be dating other people, or at least have some conversations going in the early stages of your dynamic. Unless you've had an explicit conversation about monogamy, you can assume they have other threads going, and you may want to behave accordingly.
You can date other people too, in fact it can be a good idea at the beginning and help you not fixate on one person. If someone asks you out for a night when you have a date with someone else, just say you "have plans" or you're seeing a friend. Being a little mysterious, a little out of reach, it's not a bad thing.
Pacing and Timelines
Everyone has their own comfort level with pacing and timelines, but here are some things you may want to consider.
Some people will be happy to text with you for weeks and never ask you out, or will make up excuses when you suggest a date. Don't waste time with them, they are likely either married, emotionally unavailable, or they're lying on their profile. You can set a timeline of what works for you, generally a week or so of texting is enough. Don't unmatch them immediately, everyone has different timelines and comfort zones, but you can let them know that you don't like texting for too long without meeting and leave it in their court.
The same goes for frequency of contact. Some people will want to text you all day long. It can be fun, but it can also lead to disappointment. You'll get attached early on and things may not end up as you expected. It's okay to say, "hey, I like texting with you, but I don't like texting too much throughout the day early on". If they can't respect this, they're not the one for you anyway.
When it comes to physical intimacy, this is obviously a very personal question which is affected by your comfort zone, religion, past experiences. Consider taking the first few weeks (or longer) to get to know them as friends, to make sure they're genuine and that they have good intentions. Set that expectation early, before or on the first date, so they don't take it as a rejection. If you lose them because of this, good, that means they have no patience and are likely not looking for a genuine and lasting connection anyway.
Physical and Emotional Safety
It's important to remember that you're dealing with strangers. When you meet someone online, you have no context or history for who they are. They can seem familiar, they can seem nice, but a healthy dose of skepticism is not a bad thing. People can put up a very convincing front.
Never give personal details about yourself, your workplace, your home or work address, basically anything where they could find you until you've met them in person. Even then, be cautious.
If you give your last name, be aware of what people could find out about you online. Is your Facebook profile set to public? What comes up in a Google search of your full name? Stalkers, manipulators, creeps, they don't wear signs and can come off really charming at first.
Of course, only meet in public, well-populated places like a restaurant or bar. Don't get in a car with anyone until you know them a bit.
Don't leave your drink unattended on a first date. This goes for any public setting, actually. It's awful to think that someone may drug you, but it does happen.
Men will often push to get your phone number, Facebook messenger, Instagram etc. early on, which doesn't mean they have bad intentions, but you may want to wait to give that information until you meet them and only use the app to chat. Then you can unmatch them if necessary and have no ties to them. It's also an energetic boundary, not letting them into your phone, your personal sphere. This is a personal choice, but it's something you may want to consider.
Do not give them money, do not give them credit cards, anything like that, regardless of whatever story they tell you. Have you seen the Tinder Swindler? Yeah.
Always listen to your intuition and don't let your silly brain try to talk you out of your gut feeling. If something feels off, listen to that instinct and act accordingly.
Red Flags to Watch For
If their profile picture looks extremely good-looking, you may want to do a google image search and see if it's actually a popular Brazilian football player (or the like). Yes, people catfish! So you can ask them to send a specific photo that they couldn't find on google. You can do this in a covert way, you just want to make sure they actually are the person in their photos.
Be conscious that some people may use the apps to cheat. Creepy, I know, but it happens. So if he's canceling last-minute, you never go to his house (after dating a while), he's taking phone calls privately or hides his phone, be cautious.
If you're not familiar with the term 'love-bombing', it's a technique used by those with narcissistic personality disorder, or those who have the intention of manipulating, controlling or abusing someone. It's where a person acts as if they are madly in love with you, they make you feel so special, they compliment you all day and shower you with attention and gifts. It's like the honeymoon phase on steroids, and it happens early.
If someone is trying to rush the early stages of a relationship, if they say things like "I love you" or "I never thought I would find someone like you" right away, it can be genuine, but be wary. Being love-bombed is an intoxicating feeling, but remember; it takes time to truly know (and love) someone. Unlike what we see in fairy-tales, healthy love is built slowly over seasons.
Please don't let the warnings above scare you, these situations are rare, but it's good to be conscious of them in case they do happen. Mostly, online dating is... fun! Yes, it's fun, and can be a major confidence boost. Try your best to enjoy it, take it lightly. If something doesn't work out, it's okay and normal to be disappointed, but that means it's not meant to be. Move on to the next and enjoy being your fabulous self.
Finally, remember that you're in control. Work on your self-esteem and start seeing yourself as the prize. It's okay to not be too accommodating or available to them all the time, make them work for it a bit. Men like a challenge anyway.
How you see yourself is what you'll attract. Check out our blog post on manifesting for more about that. Go to therapy, journal, read self-help books. Dating can be a wonderful vehicle for personal growth.
Assess your life. Are you lonely? Bored? Unfulfilled? This may make you settle for less than you're worth in dating. Fill up your life with friends, activities and classes, so your new beau is just the cherry on top of your already happy and balanced life. This approach is the most fertile ground for a healthy, meaningful and lasting relationship.
Online dating can seem intimidating, but you've got this! Give it a try and see what happens. Remember, it's a numbers game. You likely won't find a soulmate on your first date out, so just keep going and have faith. Enjoy yourself, have fun, and hopefully you'll find exactly what you're looking for soon. ♥