Online Dating For Dummies book cover

Online Dating For Dummies

Authors:
Judith Silverstein ,
Michael Lasky
Published: November 21, 2003

Overview

Chances are, you've heard about Internet dating from a friend, or an online banner ad has caught your eye. If you've given online dating a passing consideration, you may have some fears from all those graphic horror stories that jar your senses – and your sensibilities. Or you may think that meeting people via the Internet is only for the disenfranchised or socially unskilled.

From their own experiences, 20 million people can tell you otherwise. Online Dating For Dummies will get you off the fence and on the Internet dating path – with the skill of a seasoned pro. Like your best friend, this fun reference will give you the straight scoop on

  • Gearing up with the right computer hardware
  • Overcoming preconceived notions of who is online
  • Talking the online lingo
  • Enjoying conversation in chat rooms
  • Considering date site options
  • Establishing your screen identity
  • Facing the consequences of not posting a photo

Internet dating is growing at double-digit rates every year, while other forms of finding a connection are flat or falling off. Internet dating, although far from perfect, is becoming the most effective and efficient method of getting introduced to a large number of available singles. Online Dating For Dummies shows you how to get your feet wet and how to dive in, making informed choices and exercising good judgment as you

  • Sign up for a trial run on a dating site
  • Try to describe yourself for your personal profile
  • Initiate your first e-mail contact
  • Make your first in-person meeting memorable
  • Identify frauds and players
  • Figure out what not to do if you really want to meet someone

Jumping into online dating with no preparation at all is possible – but not practical. If you follow the techniques in this friendly guide, your odds of meeting great potential matches will greatly improve, and you'll have far more fun in the process.

Chances are, you've heard about Internet dating from a friend, or an online banner ad has caught your eye. If you've given online dating a passing consideration, you may have some fears from all those graphic horror stories that jar your senses – and your sensibilities. Or you may think that meeting people via the Internet is only for the disenfranchised or socially unskilled.

From their own experiences, 20 million people can tell you otherwise. Online Dating For Dummies will get you off the fence and on the Internet dating path – with the skill of a seasoned pro. Like your best friend, this fun reference will give you the straight scoop on

  • Gearing up with the right computer hardware
  • Overcoming preconceived notions of who is online
  • Talking the online lingo
  • Enjoying conversation in chat rooms
  • Considering date site options
  • Establishing your screen identity
  • Facing the consequences of not posting a photo

Internet

dating is growing at double-digit rates every year, while other forms of finding a connection are flat or falling off. Internet dating, although far from perfect, is becoming the most effective and efficient method of getting introduced to a large number of available singles. Online Dating For Dummies shows you how to get your feet wet and how to dive in, making informed choices and exercising good judgment as you

  • Sign up for a trial run on a dating site
  • Try to describe yourself for your personal profile
  • Initiate your first e-mail contact
  • Make your first in-person meeting memorable
  • Identify frauds and players
  • Figure out what not to do if you really want to meet someone

Jumping into online dating with no preparation at all is possible – but not practical. If you follow the techniques in this friendly guide, your odds of meeting great potential matches will greatly improve, and you'll have far more fun in the process.

Articles From The Book

4 results

Dating Articles

Addressing Sex (or Not) in Your Online Dating Profile

If you subscribe to a mainstream online dating site, the site won't ask you overtly sexual questions for your profile, but that doesn't mean you won't have ample opportunity to lace sexual innuendo into your answers. We aren't just talking about essay questions, like "What do you think is sexy?" or "Define sexy," but multiple-choice questions with available answers that run the gamut from sexually neutral to unmistakably sexually provocative.

All sexual info will be scrutinized

You need to realize that some people can take an honest answer involving a sexually provocative question out of context because such an answer is word-searchable on most systems. For an example of the ramifications, consider this Q&A found on one service:

Question: "What is my favorite indoor activity?"
Available answers: Shopping, table tennis, sitting by the fire, reading, watching TV, movies, bowling, sex.

Selecting sex as your answer, when in the context of a thoughtful essay, may not seem particularly provocative. The problem is, a subscriber can easily run a search for all people who are looking for sex. If that's your favorite indoor activity (and we found many people who said so), would you feel okay if it were taken as your primary indoor activity?

In one experiment, a few women who listed sex as their favorite indoor activity removed that tidbit temporarily from their profile. The number of lewd e-mails they received dropped. In short, what you write may not be what people see.

Be careful about tucking sexual answers into otherwise nonsexual questions. Some of these answers are pretty funny in the context they're placed, but remember that some people doing word searches don't necessarily view your answers in the same context.

Don't be discouraged — following are some code words that provide generally acceptable ways to express a healthy sexual interest without being lewd or lascivious:

  • Passion
  • Passionate kisser
  • Hugging
  • Affection
  • Intimacy
  • Kissing
  • Warmth and closeness
  • Physical relationship
  • Physical compatibility

On the other hand, the following terms and discussions often turn off people who are seeking a long-term relationship:

  • Sex
  • Sexual ability
  • Names of body parts (anatomically correct names, including Latin and more earthy terms)
  • Names of specific sexual acts
  • Mention of previous sexual conquests

Every sexual response has at least two interpretations

Internet dating is no more sexually provocative than face-to-face dating. After all, a person's clothes, makeup, and tone of voice can be very sexually engaging in person but completely lost on the Internet. Likewise, although you find a photo provocative, without eye contact, you lose much of the sizzle. In addition, the feedback you get from eye contact gives you an immediate idea of whether your message succeeded or whether you really screwed up. Try that in e-mail!

Internet daters must work with mere words to create the sexual tension that's part of regular dating. And they have to craft those words entirely in the dark. Furthermore, although most people have developed a level of skill at nonverbal sexual communication (body language), most of us still need to discover a comparable skill on e-mail.

Considering those challenges, putting sexual info in your profile can be risky because some people may misconstrue the meaning. Consider the following:

  • Anything that can have a sexual meaning is usually taken as such. Take, for example, the question "How you would end a first date?" Answering "anything goes," is fairly obvious as to what you mean, but what if you answer "light petting" (an actual choice) or "I'll introduce you to my parents"? Do those choices mean sex is part of the night's activities? To some people, the answer is certainly yes. Be sure you're okay with that interpretation.
  • Men are especially eager to assume the most sexually provocative meaning to whatever you write. If you want to make sure that they get the message, don't be confusing in your e-mail.
  • Women, you'll get far more lewd and possibly offensive e-mails from men (and some women) if your Q&A answers include sexually provocative choices.
  • If you want to be even a little bit provocative, switch to a casual-sex site. Your moderately provocative posting will seem tame compared to the competition.

Dating Articles

Finding Out How Pay Sites Pay Off in Online Dating

You get what you pay for in life, Internet-dating sites included. Unlike free sites, with pay sites you don't have the headache of endless advertising messages screaming in your face. In addition, the scope of coverage and available features are broad and robust. Solid supervision is provided (to weed out the wackos), and appropriate barriers to entry are in place.

To emphasize that last point, consider how easy it is to be an Internet-dating fraud; so the more hurdles to entry there are, the safer a site is likely to be. The problem is finding balance. A site that keeps everyone out is completely free of fraud but also of available dates!

The most effective way to find balance is to combine fees and other barriers to entry. A site doesn't need much of a barrier to keep out the undesirables or at least make them easy to detect.

Pay sites provide effective barriers against bad folks by

  • Requiring long essays. Some systems require a minimum length for answers to essay questions. If you see a profile in which the person makes no serious attempt to complete the essay, you may as well give that one a pass. Although the person may not be very articulate, he or she could also be a gamer or player (a person on a site for amusement and not really dating).
  • Requiring a photo. Very few sites make this requirement because they fear having fewer participants. However, if you limit yourself to people who post a photo, even though you may eliminate many perfectly good matches, you also eliminate a larger percentage of problem postings that hide behind the anonymity of a no-photo posting. Sorry to say, but if you don't post a photo, you're separating yourself from the class of serious daters.
    Of course, a posted photo may be fake, so somewhere in your correspondence thread, ask for a second photo. Few frauds have a series of related fake photos.
  • Requiring a payment only by credit card. Credit-card payments are highly traceable. After a payment is made, law enforcement can easily access the records. Even if a card is stolen, repeated charges to the card will eventually be cut off when the owner reports the lost card or bogus charges.
  • Requiring approval of all postings. Like a bouncer checking IDs at a bar, most pay sites read your posting and almost all look at your photo. They read your essays electronically to spot those seven dirty words that comedian George Carlin used to do a shtick about — the ones that could never be uttered on TV — as well as a few thousand more that can't be used on vanity license plates. A few sites actually have humans read your essays word for word. All look for embedded e-mail addresses, like "You can reach me at my house dot com if you get my drift," because they don't want you to circumvent their fee system.
    Having the sites read your essays is good for the most part, because they ferret out some seriously inappropriate types who can't hold their tongue (well, fingers).

You find that some pay sites put great emphasis on barriers to entry. For example, some sites charge relatively high fees in an attempt to create an aura of exclusivity. And some sites add other criteria, such as allowing only Ivy League graduates, plus fees to create greater selectivity.

Figuring out online dating site fees

Assuming that you're convinced that you get what you pay for, how much should you pay? Most sites are pretty close in their fees for the initial month, usually $20 to $30.

Dating site fees have risen a lot. Just a few years ago, many sites charged about 50 percent less. But the fact that people are still willing to pay means they feel the value is sufficient to justify the cost.

Most sites now use a monthly payment plan. Basically, you get unlimited use of the features for a fixed fee per month. In general, this system is better because you don't feel inhibited about making contact unlike a token system where you weigh each contact you make very carefully.

In a token system, you buy a certain number of tokens and you use one every time you write. Token systems are nice if you're a dabbler in the online dating scene or if you travel a lot and wouldn't benefit from a time-limited engagement. However, the disadvantage of this method is that you become very judicious about using your eTokens and may become annoyed when you don't get a reply from someone (consequently, a wasted token).

Determining length of your Internet dating site subscription

If you want to venture into the online dating world, know that you need to remain patient. For you instant-gratification types, you probably won't find your life partner after paying for one month on an Internet dating site. Remember that online dating takes time.

Even paying for less than six months is probably too short of a time, and it'll rush you into being an urgent dater, which isn't a good dater to be. If you pay for six months (or even a year) and find your dream mate on Day 2, consider yourself the luckiest person on earth and money very well spent. Think of all the bad dates you missed.

Even if you pay for an entire year, don't expect to use the site every week or every month. You'll hopefully get into a relationship or two along the way and need to suspend (not cancel!) your account. Or you may just need a rest from time to time.

Beware the auto-debit monster! When you give a credit-card authorization for payment for your first subscription period, you'll probably be authorizing the site to automatically renew your subscription in perpetuity, possibly well beyond your eventual marriage and death. So if you sign up for six months, at some point you may be debited another six-month charge without warning. This feature is nasty, it's legal, it's stated in the small print, and all sites do it.

If you pay by credit card, after you sign up for a long-term contact (three months to one year) on most systems, you may immediately resign. Doing so doesn't mean you lose your contract term. It just means that you've quashed the auto-debit monster. (If by chance you accidentally cancel your subscription, just send the site an e-mail to explain the problem.)

Dating Articles

Online Dating Dilemma: Dishing Out Rejection

The Internet is a strange place, and what seems abnormal for in-person experiences is completely common on the Internet. Notice that the word is common, not polite or considerate.

You need to know how to dish out rejection in an appropriate way. As with real life, you must do it quickly — and with a modicum of kindness, if possible. Granted, for some people, a more heavy-handed approach is necessary. In general, give a rejection firmly. Polite is good, but if it doesn't work, try sterner and firmer. Anger doesn't help. If you need further coaching, go to your local electric company's customer service department and see how it handles you when you try to dispute a bill by saying, "I never used that electricity."

Many appropriate ways are available to encourage someone to move along. Each one requires its own special finesse. This article points out the major ways to do so in specific situations.

After receiving the very first e-mail from someone

Say that you get an e-mail from someone, and you can tell immediately that you have no interest in communicating with that person. Here are the Internet-appropriate ways to say no:

  • Don't reply at all, ever. Just delete the message. In Internet-speak, this tactic is completely understood to mean "Not interested at all, ever."
    Note that Internet dating sites vary in the sophistication of their features. On some sites, the person knowsthat you received his or her e-mail and read it. On some sites, the person also knows that you deleted it.
  • Send a short reply saying, "Thanks for writing, but I'm not interested." Then delete the person's e-mail. If the person continues to write, don't answer. If the person persists, use the blocking feature on your e-mail system.

And for the record, the inappropriate ways to say no include

  • Deleting without opening. Again if this e-mail is the first communication from a prospect, read it. The person spent the time to write it, so take the few seconds to read it. If your online system informs the user that their e-mail was deleted unopened, that is a big, and unnecessary, rebuff.
  • Sending an e-mail saying "Not on your life, you loser."
  • Using the block feature immediately. If the first inquiry was polite, you have no reason to take out the big guns so early. Even if you don't want any further e-mails from that person, why slap him or her in the face because that is what it feels like to be blocked.

In the middle of an IM exchange

Say that you're in the middle of an Instant Messaging (IM) exchange, and you realize that the prospect just isn't a match. The Internet-appropriate action to take is to simply say
"I need to stop now. I've enjoyed chatting with you, but I don't think we're a match. I don't want to waste any more of your time. Best of luck in your search."

Wait for a reply. If it's an argument telling you why you are a match, simply sign off. Don't engage in further IMs. Block him or her if necessary.

And for the record, the inappropriate actions are

  • Poofing — just breaking off the conversation in mid-stream and logging off. Would you hang up the phone in mid-conversation if you got bored?
  • Saying "Gotta go" and logging off.
  • Responding with anger or obscenities, even if some were directed at you.
  • Sending a pornographic photo for shock value.

Regarding those first two actions, your prospect would probably think you had computer problems and keep trying to reach you, which isn't what you want. Regarding the third action, no stranger is worth any emotional investment on your part, especially negative ones. Don't go away mad. Just go away. And regarding the porno action, sending pornographic material can be construed as harassment and get you into a heap of legal trouble.

If someone has really incensed you, avoid further trouble even though you're anonymous. Resist the urge to "flame" people. They are unlikely to go postal on you, but some people are sufficiently sick to do some serious libel and slander. Some people flame others by sending e-mails, warning people of a person's supposed bad character. ("Don't date this guy. He is [insert issue here].") Although you could sue them for defamation, who needs the grief? The best way to avoid this sort of thing is to kill people with kindness, even if they don't deserve it.

In the midst of a phone call

Say that you're in the midst of a phone call with a prospect (after some e-mail exchanges), and you realize that he or she just isn't a match. The appropriate actions to take include

  • End the phone conversation noncommittally. Then send an e-mail saying that you have thought over the exchanges of the past weeks and don't think you're a match. This method has the advantage of moving your correspondent to e-mail and away from the phone, as a method of contact. Gradually, he/she will give up.
  • Tell the truth and end the conversation, saying that you don't think you're a match and thanking the person for taking the time.

And for the record, avoid these inappropriate actions:

  • Ending the conversation on a positive note, with no intention of continuing the exchanges.
  • Hanging up the phone in mid-sentence. (Those darn squirrels. They chewed through the line again.) He or she will just call you back.

When people are clueless

Occasionally, you'll run into people who just won't stop contacting you even after you've rejected them. Most often, people don't let go because they've developed fantasies from your photo and essay. When you start exchanging messages, the fantasies grow. If you're still anonymous, the situation probably isn't dangerous, but you may still feel uncomfortable.

Spotting these people is tough because they seem so genuine and enthusiastic. So what's your No.1 warning sign? They express assumptions about the depth of your relationship with them long before it's appropriate.

Avoid arguments

When your goal is to make a clean break from the person who won't let go (or any prospect, for that matter), never argue or defend yourself. You have to accept the bad guy or girl role unless you want to create an even angrier person out of your former prospect.

Realize that many people forget how little time they actually have invested in their exchanges and that they don't have a good perspective on their circumstances.

If all else fails, let them down hard

When someone just won't quit bothering you and all else fails, you have to dispense with being polite. Just as dogs get only one bite (actually, they don't get any free bites), your discouraged suitor gets only one "apology" from you. Then it's over, babe.

The following line is pretty darn effective but only use it as a last resort:
"You need to know that if you attempt to contact me again, I'll report your activities as an abuse to the dating site. The site will then begin to monitor all your e-mail messages and kick you off the system if it doesn't like what you're writing."

Afterward, break off the communication. From then on, your approach is no reply, no comment, no nothing.

Your safety is paramount. If you think you have a problem prospect, even if you're anonymous, don't feel uncomfortable reporting the situation to the site operator (usually under abuse or Webmaster). The pay sites have a serious interest in protecting their customers and maintaining good public relations. If you do call for help, supply actual e-mails or other data giving the supporting facts.

Reporting abuse to the site is far more effective than just blocking a person's messages (a feature offered on most sites). However, if you're a drama king or queen, don't practice your art of "the sky is falling." If you fabricate e-mails and try to damage someone's reputation, you'll run foul of several civil and criminal laws — maybe even antiterrorism federal law. Remember that nothing is ever completely erased on the Internet, so made-up abuse is pretty easy to expose. And if you report inappropriately, the site will monitor your mail.

If a former prospect is dogging you, but not seriously enough to report him or her as an abuse, on some sites, you can search in Invisible or Stealth mode. Doing so prevents you from being seen on the Who's Online feature. Note that at Match.com, you need to turn your invisible status on each time you log in.