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I get so many reactions when I tell people that I’m internet dating. These reactions range from: “good for you, that’s how I met my husband” to “I cannot believe you are admitting this to me without guilt or shame” and/or “are you insane?”
I am happy to say I am not insane. I would recommend not leading with this on an internet dating profile, however. Especially because if you enter into the heady world of online courtship, you will, at times, doubt your sanity. With this in mind, I have put together a short guide to navigating these treacherous waters. So whether or not you’re set on a engagement ringor just a more interesting Friday night, you’ll find something of help and comfort contained within the following bullet points:
If you want meaningless sex:
Say so. But not too bluntly. This may sound counter-intuitive but understand that you are addressing the internet. The internet is going to want to have sex with you regardless of your intent. This obviously goes into overdrive if you are a reasonably attractive young woman (if so, kudos). If you are a woman, a thousand sex trolls will roar into life the moment you put your profile online.
Be provocative without auditioning for one of those late nite adverts on Freeview.
This means two/three pictures maximum, one face and one full body. Put the full body as your main picture. Highlight your best features without making it a close-up cleavage festival. Like I say, the internet doesn’t need much. The internet intuits. You will be overwhelmed by responses if you give them everything. Maybe that’s what you want, in which case proceed. However, understand that you’ll only attract the most extroverted and confident individuals and these people can be careless.
Protect yourself in all the necessary ways
You know this: carry contraception no matter what your intent, text a friend to let them know where you are if you switch location. Meet your dates in a public place for the first time rather then at your house or theirs. be your own mum on this one.
If you want a long term relationship
Again, say so but not bluntly. Nobody likes to feel like an projection of someone’s need for companionship.
This means: establishing a sense of honesty and curiosity.
Be funny but not a non-stop comedy machine. Having a sense of humour is key and it’s important to highlight who you are and what you find funny. However, layering your profile with gag after gag, particularly when they’re of the meta ‘oh my, this online dating malarkey, eh?’ comes across as defensive as the “I have been hurt before and this is what I hate about men/women” line of discourse.
– Tell the truth.
Give something of yourself, but only a little. Tell people what you’re passionate about and what you believe in. Basically, give as much away as you would to a stranger in the kitchen of a really fun party. Whilst sober. You know your limits. Listen to them.
– Think carefully about whether or not to use Instant Messaging/multiple emails before meeting
The key thing to understand about internet dating is that projection is inevitable. It is deeply unlikely that you will meet the person of your dreams in the first few dates. If you choose to use IM and email as a way of getting to know someone it can work brilliantly or it can create a false sense of intimacy that destabilises your relationship with that person the moment you actually meet them. It is easy to grow deeply fond of an edited persona and it is equally problematic when judging potential chemistry. A person with whom you spark instantly in text form may be the most disappointing dinner date you’ve ever had. It’s often possible to have chemistry in one medium and not another, so be wary of a lengthy correspondence what you actually want is a relationship with someone who is physically present.
Be strong. Be a lion, be a pirate!
This quote, from Brenda Ueland’s 1938 book ‘If You Want To Write’ applies equally If You Want To Date. It can be exhilirating. It can be utterly brutal. You have to accept both eventualities with equanimity. The bravery I speak doesn’t pertain to the act of repeatedly putting yourself out there, even in the face of rejection (though this certainly requires courage and a fairly solid sense of self worth) it more closely concerns your ability to retain a sense of hope, of trust, of decency. It is very easy to become cynical, especially when one too many dates go wrong. Take the opportunity to learn from your intuition, to listen to the small voice inside of you that insists on what it is that you really want. Cynicism is a kind of learned behaviour and while it may feel like armour, it will end up dragging you down. People do find love on the internet. They find it in line at the post office. Take heart. And good luck.
Greta Hooper is not yet picking out wedding rings, but she’s getting closer, faster, stronger. She has written on relationships for various blogs and print publications