10 tips from Cupid’s keyboard

A still-new, but increasingly common tool in the search for a new partner is the Internet.  If you’re about to take the plunge and check out some personals websites, here are our top 10 tips to help the experience be a good one.

1) Protect your privacy
Before you join any internet service, be certain that your personal information – last name, telephone number, mailing address – will be protected.  If you intend to email any individuals, it’s best to use an alternate email such as those available at www.yahoo.ca or www.hotmail.com.  Do not include your last name as part of your email address.

2) Give the right impression
When you choose an email address or a username on a personals site, consider carefully. If you use a name like hotlips17, it’s likely that people will make different assumptions about you than if you chose granny89 – no matter what your profile says.

3) Be realistic
One of the things you may find about personals sites is that everyone seems to enjoy long romantic walks, trips abroad, and is lookingor the perfect soulmate.  The truth is, everyone that writes a personal ad likely also leaves their dirty mugs on the counter and occasionally wears mismatched socks. 

If your goal is to find a perfect person, you’re likely to be disappointed. But if you are hoping to use the Internet like any other social group to meet real people, there are plenty of those around.

4) Honesty is the best policy
Speaking of perfect people, you may be tempted to shave off a few of your flaws when you create a personal ad.  While being upbeat and positive is always a good strategy for meeting and dating people, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by lying about your age or weight, or anything else you would like to change.  Remember: you are just fine the way you are, and you want to date people who agree!

5) Keep it light
When you do begin to contact people or reply to their inquiries, it’s best to keep it light.  The story of your bitter divorce is better left for later dates.  Sometimes an email composed in one’s own den can become personal and self-reflective. It’s fine to let your communication become more meaningful, but remember that until you’ve met in person, you can’t be sure how personal revelations may come across. Don’t share more than you are willing to have a relative stranger know about you.

If you find that someone is not giving you that special feeling, it can be awkward. Here too, it is important to keep it light. Thank them for their time and interest and explain that you just don’t feel that spark – but you wish them the best. Resist the urge to tell them exactly what it is they did that turned you off – they don’t need to hear it from you.  And remember: tastes vary. The next person they contact may adore that very quality in them.

And if you’re receiving the cold shoulder, take it in stride with grace and humour.  Not everyone is going to like you – and that just gives you more time to concentrate on the people who will. They’re out there!

6) Set your boundaries
But what do you do if you get an email that you feel is too personal, or an invitation to have an explicit conversation about sex when you would prefer not to read such things?  It’s pretty simple: let the other person know that you’re not comfortable, in the politest possible way.  Remember, they are learning what interests you as well.  A good way to phrase a “no thank you” is to say “thank you for your message/invitation – I am flattered that you want to share this with me, but I am not comfortable at this time.” If you would prefer they don’t contact you again, say so clearly – and keep a copy of the email where you did.

If someone persists in contacting you when you have asked them not to, most sites have a “block” feature that will allow you to block any messages from them. Don’t be afraid of using this tool – it’s there for that very reason.  If you have started emailing back and forth already, you can designate that email address as junk email, and it has much the same effect.  If you are worried for your personal safety, you can approach your local police.

7) Don’t assume you know the truth
Unfortunately, the Internet is a very imperfect medium. Not only is it easy to bend the truth a little here and there when communicating online, sometimes the seeming anonymity of the environment can bring out the worst in people.  While you can’t prevent people from lying to you, you can go slow and be pleasant while still keeping your thinking cap on.  Listen to your intuition if someone doesn’t seem to be entirely on the up-and-up. 

8) Don’t rush in too quickly
Another common mistake people make when they first start “dating online” is to mistake the intimacy of email letters for a whole relationship. When you meet someone in a more traditional way, you get a lot of information about them from the “outside in.” This includes dress and speech, and the way they treat people around you – wait staff, cab drivers, people on the cell phone. In a relationship that doesn’t start online, we share that outer self first – and the inner self second.

On the Internet, we learn about people from the “inside out” – we hear their thoughts and desires before we know how they walk or speak or dress.  Because that usually is a second stage of intimacy, this can lead us to think we know more about the person than we really do.  So remember that you don’t have the whole story yet, and go slowly.

9) Stay safe when it’s time to meet
When you are ready to meet for a real, in-person date, consider safety first.  Meet for a shorter date in a public place – a coffee shop, well-travelled park, or a movie are good ideas. Arrange your own transportation.  Let a friend know where you are going and with whom, and arrange for a check-in call at a specified time when you think you will be back.  You may want to meet two or three times before you exchange addresses.  And remember again to trust your intuition.

10) Be your own best friend
Dating in any space – bars, church groups, or the Internet – can be wearying.  Remember, you deserve and can have all the great things in life even if your personal ad languishes in the dusty corners of cyberspace.  If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break – go pursue other hobbies – and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

More information
We now offer a dating service at 50Plus.com: Relationships

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We also do not endorse any particular Internet dating site, but the following are sites you can try:

Lavalife – http://www.lavalife.ca

Yahoo! Personals – http://ca.personals.yahoo.com/

Lifemates Canada – http://www.lifematescanada.com/