By Linda Tamm, Psy.D.
Maybe it was the holidays or that sneaky Valentine’s Day, but you are now thinking “I’m tired of being alone! Why does everyone seem to have someone?” Before you throw yourself back in the dating pool, remember some rules to make it more satisfying and worth your time.
1) Check your references: Remember everything can be faked online- pictures, locations, employment, relationship status- Some people have multiple identities going on at the same time. Learn from the Notre Dame football player, if someone you are talking to will not meet you after several weeks of communicating, won’t let you know exactly where they live after you have met, avoids letting you meet people they know, cancels unexpectantly, and hides their phone excessively- chances are they are not for real. Also if the story is too fantastical (no s/he is not an international spy) beware.
2) Not a magic genie: Online dating is a great invention but it does not do the work for you. Online dating lets you shake out some of the kinks in your approach and build confidence. You can see what you are attracted to and what repels you, in the privacy of scrolling through profiles in your home or with a friend for moral support. It allows you to think before you communicate- and consider how you want to describe yourself. It also lets you disconnect rapidly if you find you have made a mistake. However, lower those expectations- you still need to kiss some frogs before you find your right match.
3) The Ikea effect: A recent study showed that we “love” and value those things we have invested time and effort building- In the study people had more affection and overvalued those Ikea cabinets they built themselves over superior professional craftsmanship. So require the person you are meeting to invest time, money, or effort. If you meet someone who sounds perfect on paper, you enjoy talking to, but the spark is not quite there yet, remember the path to true love comes from two directions: getting struck by lightning and then developing a relationship or the smoldering friend who suddenly sparks into flame.
4) Know your role: Be clear to yourself and others about what you are looking for. If you want some time getting to know what you want sexually, be safe and do that. If you are looking for a long term relationship, don’t send signals that you are casual. If someone is messaging you in the hours around and after midnight, talking about sex early, sending pictures of their body parts, asking you to drop everything and hurry over, inviting you to just hand out in their car after the date, its just about sex. Even if they hang around until the sex comes a few weeks later, chances around you won’t hear from them after that.
5) Pictures catch more fish: We are visual creatures. To increase responses and avoid disappointment post accurate pictures of yourself. No high school prom pictures or sexy bedroom pictures either. There are some professions and life circumstances when you should think twice about posting your picture.
6) Computer glitch: Men tend to date younger. Women tend to want to date around their age. This creates a gap that computer dating software seems to struggle with. So if you are not getting enough hits consider whether there is something in your profile that might have mistakenly not gotten your message to your target group. Sometimes making minor changes in your profile gets you re-sorted where there are more potential matches- Polish your apple- Do not call it an orange.
7) Learn from others’ mistakes: Look at other people’s profiles before writing your own. See what attracts you and what you tend to just skip over. This is a billboard not a private letter. Think resume- what makes you stand out? Let that shine.
8 ) Secret shopper: One study found that people had to see an average of 17 relationships, of varying lengths, before finding the right person. Think how many cars or houses you considered before you made your choice. Why should this be any different? Have you put the same energy and time into you bed-mate as in choosing your furniture or your shoes?
9) You are not going to marry the meter reader: Your next great love will not be delivered to your doorstep. Take the show on the road! Once you get confidence use the internet as a spring board. Tell people you are looking for someone. I know it is embarrassing at first but other people are flattered by you telling them and eager to see you happy. They have been where you are. Practice talking to anyone and everyone- to open your eyes to the possibilities around you.
It also will give you a script so you are not tongue tied when you see someone with potential.
10) Greener Grass: Once married, couples look back whistfully at dating as a time of adventure and romantic exciting possibilities. This is supposed to be fun. So use the computer to meet by following your interests- meetup.com and other sites allow people with similar interest in an area to find each other- new websites allow you to register your likes and if there is someone who matches you in the immediate area you both get a text inviting you to approach each other- Even if the people you are meeting are not your type- remember their friend, cousin, or neighbor might be!