More of us than ever before are looking for love online, but while digital dating can be a great way to meet that someone special, it can also be an emotional rollercoaster. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly possessed you to swipe right, or you can’t seem to find your soulmate in a sea of catfish, this post is for you. We’ve put together seven online dating rules that you should know. Following them might not guarantee you trouble-free romance, but it should help you to navigate this sometimes tricky world.
1. Be honest about yourself
When you’re creating your dating profile or chatting with someone online, it might be tempting to stretch the truth. According to a University of Oregon study, men tend to exaggerate their height and lie about their occupation on these apps, while women are more likely to post less accurate photos. But while styling an online image that isn’t an accurate reflection of who you really are might give you more confidence when you’re trying to find a match, it could set you up for a fall when you actually meet dates in real life.
Being honest starts with creating an accurate profile, including photos that are clear and recent. Forget your favourite snap from five years ago, or those blurry pictures taken on a night out with a bright flash. Successful relationships are built on honesty and, when it comes to online dating, it’s important to bear this in mind from the very beginning.
2. Work on your bio
Exaggeration might be a big no-no, but it’s important that your dating bio does you justice. Most of us cringe at the thought of having to distil our passions and personalities into a few neat bullet points to sit on an online dating profile, but the more information you can give, the clearer a picture you can create for potential matches. On the other hand, if you’re too brief or vague in your description, you could find it difficult to stand out.
It might not come naturally, but it really is worth spending some time crafting your profile to make sure it encapsulates who you are. If you’re struggling, why not ask a close friend or family member to help?
3. Mirror your date’s messaging habits
To text or not to text? When you think you’ve found someone you like, is it best to show you’re keen or does the whole ‘treat them mean’ approach tend to work better? Knowing how quickly to respond to messages and when to reach out to someone can feel like a minefield. You don’t want a match to think you’re playing games, but at the same time you don’t want to appear too keen and potentially put them off. As a general rule, it’s best to mirror your date’s messaging habits. Try to think of communication as a set of scales; you should only add as much to your side as your potential date does to theirs. Also, don’t overthink your timings. Just reply to messages in the same way you would to a friend - which would tend to be when you have time and an answer.
4. Resist the temptation to social media stalk
We’ve all done it. When you want to know more about a person, it can be tempting to take a look at their photos and posts on social media. But what might start out as a quick browse can quickly descend into an in-depth fact-finding session covering everything from previous relationships to distant family members.
While a brief pre-date search is fine, and a good way to check that the person you’re meeting actually exists, it’s best to steer clear of social media stalking. You want to be able to get to know the person in front of you on their own merits, rather than creating some fantasy version that you’ve pieced together from snippets on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And let’s face it, accidentally letting slip information that you’ve unearthed on your social media deep dive when you first meet your date is just plain embarrassing.
5. Choose somewhere public for your first date
When you’re choosing the setting for your first date, make sure it’s public. This is just a common sense safety precaution. Even if you’re sure the person is as honest and wonderful as they seem to be online, it’s important not to take risks. Whether it’s a café, pub or busy park, your first date should be in a location where there are lots of other people around. It’s also a good idea to let a friend or family member know you’re going on a date and to agree to contact them afterwards.
Bear in mind that it’s best to be cautious when dealing with people who seem overly pushy to meet you before you have had a chance to chat with them properly, and people who suggest that you meet at their place or yours.
6. Have an exit strategy planned
Hopefully the chat will flow on your first date and the time will just seem to disappear, but there’s always a chance that the opposite will happen. If you’ve experienced that sinking feeling when you discover that you have hardly anything in common with a match and even less to say to each other, yet you can’t find a way to excuse yourself and leave early, it’s probably not a situation you’d like to repeat.
So that you don’t end up spending what feels like an age clockwatching in awkward silence, it’s handy to have an exit strategy planned. For example, a simple line like ‘this was great, but my taxi’s waiting outside’ is all you need to say. This is polite and to the point, and the chances are if the date has been going badly, the other person will be relieved it’s coming to an end too. There’s no need for elaborate lies, or to simply leave without letting them know.
7. Enjoy the experience
There may be highs and lows when you’re looking for romance online, but try to remember to enjoy the experience as a whole. After all, if it’s making you miserable, what’s the point in doing it? Also, if you’re more relaxed about online dating and are in a positive frame of mind for it, it might be easier for you to find a good match.