6 Tips On Taking Your Online Date Offline

I read a rather scathing article yesterday in the UK's Guardian newspaper on the pitfalls of online dating. As a long-term professional in the industry - and as someone who met their current SO online - I really wanted to write a positive post today about finding love on the 'net.

Interestingly, the crux of this piece was the assertion that you can fall for the 'details' of someone's online persona - their interests, their physical apperance, their political beliefs - but those details don't tell you anything about the man/woman behind the profile.

This is something I utterly agree with - though I do think, in the digital age, online daters are not so naiive when it comes to this issue. We hear enough horror stories about people lying about their height (and their income, their baldness.. ) that we enter the online dating world at best skeptical and at worst disillusioned. But should the possibiity of mild deception put us off dating online all together?

No, it shouldn't. Instead, I feel we should recognise the online dating platform for what it is - a great opportunity to meet new people outside of your typical social enviroment. We know from statistics that people do find love online, but the online dating site should be the catalyst that starts potential relationships, rather than the place where those relationships are played out. By taking things offline sooner, we avoid being sucked in by someone's constrcution of themselves, and get straight to evaluating the real them. In person. Over a coffee.

Here are my 6 tips for taking your online crush offline - from conception to the actual date -

1) Keep your messages friendly, but don't go OTT - If you start with "I seriously fancy you", there's not much room to backtrack if you realise you don't. That's why it's best to keep thing platonic online when chatting to a potential date. Try not to romanticise things early on; rather focus on your mutual interests and chat like you would with a new friend. After all - that's all they are, for now at least...

2) Don't say too much - and think about what you write - Online, people read into everything we type. The absense of body-language and voice mean other humans will try hard to gauge 'who you are' from what you write. As we all know, this is impossible, but it does mean that your words are massively open to interpretation. That's why facts, rather than feelings, are better communicated online. The safest way to protect yourself against misinterpreation is to keep things short and sweet and focus on mutual likes rather than more emotive topics.

3) Don't wait too long to suggest meeting up - Once you've introduced yourselves and chatted casually, don't wait too long to ask them out. You don't want an online conversation to go on for weeks and weeks, only to find you don't get on in real life. Also, there is always the possibility that they don't want to meet up at all. A considerable proportion of online daters chat to boost their ego and procrasinate at work - don't waste your time with time wasters.

4) Avoid the D-Word - This might sound odd, but it's unhelpful to frame your date as a "date". Seriously. It puts pressure on both of you. The potential romance of the situation is implied, since you met on a dating site. Suggest 'meeting up', 'going for coffee' or a similar euphemism to not put too fine a point on it.

5) Choose the right time and place - If you want to keep things super-platonic to start, it might be worth meeting in the daytime. If you meet in the evening, avoid a schmaltzy restaurant in favour of a cosy bar or venue. Activity dates, such as visiting the cinema, are best left until you know each other a little better. Wherever you meet, agree on a public space where you can get out safely if you feel uncomfortable...

6) Have a way out - OK, let's be real. Some dates can go really badly. Sleazy, boring or just plain dodgy, sometimes you'll need to get outta there in a hurry. That's why it's useful to have an 'appointment' after the meeting that only allows you a few hours with your date. If things go well, you can of course let your 'appointment' slide. If things aren't great, you can stick to it. If you want to take this to the next level, you can get a friend to drop-call you with a reason to leave sudenly - though hopefully saying you need to go should be enough. And finally, remember to always let a friend know where you are going.

Why are your tips for a first offline date? Any stories of online dating disasters? Tell us below.