Sometimes, online dating can seem like "spouse shopping," not because those who go online to date go through men and women like cartons of milk and toilet paper. But, instead, because those who sign up for online dating are—in general—extremely serious about finding the one. They are often done with the casually dating phase of their life and are, instead, looking for someone they could see themselves marrying.
In recent years, online dating has become increasingly popular. It has gone from something that was once done in secret, to something everyone is doing. You're on it, your doctor's on it, your neighbor's on it—even your cat has an account! With this increase in popularity, online daters are seeing a larger pool from which to fish, typically resulting in many more dates.
Yet, an increase in quantity doesn't necessarily correlate with an increase in quality. Online dating can still come with an element of deceit not always evident in traditional dating. However, there are ways to protect yourself from the crazies. So, next time you log on, consider the following:
1. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
An online profile that doesn't have a photo should be considered one that is waving a red flag. This is because, in this day and age, it's almost impossible to not be able to find a camera — they practically come as the prizes in boxes of Cracker Jacks. A red flag may also be waving if the photo posted is grossly outdated. For instance, if your "recent" picture involves a letter jacket, has a "Mondale Ferraro 1984" poster hanging in the background, or is actually an oil painting, there's a good chance it's a tad old. A profile that has a photo skewing what a person looks like in present day is one where you kind of got to wonder about other areas where the online dater might not be presenting themselves in a completely honest light.
2. Listen To Your Gut
When it comes to romance, many people allow their heart to lead, but letting your gut play a major role may be the smarter decision. Your gut has a wonderful ability to detect when someone is lying, when someone is playing you, or when something just seems a bit off. So, listen to it. If your gut is telling you that there is something fishy about the person you've been talking to—for instance, they said they've never been married but then complain about alimony—it's probably right.
3. Cut Off Communication With Those Who Won't Meet
It's true that the concept of online dating may be different for different people — who knows, some may even think that online dating involves inserting something other than a disc into the computer's hard drive. But, for most people, the whole point of online dating is to meet someone who you might not come across in the typical happenings of life: the key word in this is "meet." Engaging in a relationship that only involves online messaging, or the occasional text and phone call, isn't much of a relationship at all (and it certianly isn't real). So, unless you are looking for a pen pal, consider cutting off communication with those who always have an excuse as to why they are unable to meet in person. If they refuse to meet, the chances are, they are doing one of two things: They are either hiding something or they are waiting to see if their present relationship fizzles out before they move forward with you. Either way, they are wasting your time.
4. Ask Them Why They've Gone Online
Asking a person why they've decided to go online for dating can actually help you learn a lot about them. If they say something like, "I'm just not really sure where to meet people these days and I'm looking for something real," that's a good sign. If they say something like, "I've already dated everyone I work with, everyone from my yoga class, and everyone in my apartment complex and there's a restraining order keeping me from going to the local bar," that's probably a sign things are a bit less rosy.
5. Be Positive
Meeting a person online can seem like it comes with a life lesson that practically screams: "Next week, on a very special Blossom." There is just something about the Internet that makes people assume it is filled with con artists, liars, and the occasional tech-savvy ax murderer. But, it's important to remember that most people who engage in online dating have good intentions: they are just like you, using technology to search for the love of their life. So, be positive, but also be cognizant when red flags are being waved. Approach online dating like you approach regular dating—know that it always involves the good, the bad, and the crazy.
More online dating advice on YourTango: