I get a lot of questions about dating sites. Second to “is he cheating?” questions, it’s the most frequent topic that comes up, usually my opinion of them.
Dating sites can be great…or they can be a total nightmare. Pretty much every terrible thing you’ve heard is true. But it’s possible to find people. Yours truly has been with his current girlfriend for nearly four years, and we met via OKCupid. On the other hand, that was after sending a lot of messages and trying to avoid letting down a twenty-year-old who called herself PoisonedThorn who was way too into me and obviously not my type.
So, with that experience, here’s what you need to do.
Go With a Brand Name, But Do Your Research
While I can understand the appeal of a site like NoCheatersDate.com, run by the same people who bring us that syndication classic “Cheaters”, it’s really not a place you want to go. At the same time, even the biggest sites can be kind of vile: Match.com has a bad reputation on the Internet for excellent, excellent reason.
The dating site game is generally about exploitation. Most sites aren’t designed for you to actually meet people: they’re designed to wring as much money out of people, usually men, as possible. That’s why women can enroll free on most sites: the more women that are actually on there, the more men will show up.
As a rule of thumb, a site that is free for everybody, not just women, to enroll in is a site worth using. Similarly, a site popular in one area may not be popular elsewhere. Talk to your friends and ask on websites dedicated to local issues what sites people use and how effective they are.
Honesty Is The Only Option
Once you find a site, you have the hell of filling out a profile.
Right down to your username, you need to be upfront about who you are. I don’t recommend using your real name, not even your first name, for obvious reasons, but really think about who you are and what you really want out of a relationship. Lay out your personality clearly and concisely so any guy who messages you knows what he’s getting into.
Similarly, with the photo: yes, choose a flattering one, but don’t resort to any tricks, Photoshop or in-camera. Tricks attract douchebags who use terms like SIF (Secret Internet Fatty). Honesty, on the Internet and in real life, is a douchebag repellent, so use liberally. There is no reason to post your high-school photo on the Internet, especially not a dating site.
And remember: they include the “edit” button for a reason. If things change, let people know.
Google, Google, Google
So, you open your inbox and are faced with, most likely, a whole bunch of messages. You winnow out the guys with messages like “ur b00bs r awsum!”, and are left with the guys you want to hear from. What’s your first step?
Google his username.
It would amaze you how many jerks use the same or similar username across any number of websites, and, with the Internet’s relentless culture of shaming, calling guys out by their username is a pretty common thing. There’s a scumbag in the metro area where I live (and who I won’t name because he may actually appear) who is literally infamous on the Internet for his behavior on dating websites. And, amazingly, he uses the same username (and same pathetic threats of getting a lawyer) everywhere he goes.
So, look them up and see what they’ve done, if anything. It might surprise you.
Part of the reason dating sites have such a crappy reputation is that, even with the Internet, people default into old habits and gender roles, with the most crippling one being expecting the man to make the first move.
Well, don’t. First of all, there are plenty of guys on the site who may be ignoring you because the prostitute in the tube top (and yes, there are prostitutes even on legitimate sites) is pinging them constantly, and they want to see where that goes. Secondly, a lot of guys who enroll just can’t get up the nerve.
So, do what the guys do: search profiles, put them in order of activity, and send out a few messages. Read their profile and say hi. The worst that’ll happen is they don’t say hi back.
Stick to Messaging At First
Playing hard to get isn’t generally a good strategy…except on the Internet. Most sites will offer you messaging tools that let you retain your (relative) anonymity, and you should use them.
This isn’t due to “stranger danger”; it’s all about keeping away weasels. There are people who use dating sites to get into women’s pants, then delete their profiles, block their numbers, and move on to the next target (yep, women do this too). So, keep messaging and take your time. There’s no rush.
Once you trust the guy, give him your phone number and go from there.
Good luck on your search. And, remember, public places, and bring protection: Mace and condoms. Just don’t mix up the two.