Online Dating

They’re becoming difficult to avoid. With the growing popularity of social networking sites, more and more singles are letting the internet into their love life. If you’re thinking of adding dating to friends and networking, read on.

The good
When you shop online, you learn a lot more about the product before you take it for a test drive. It’s probably the most substantial advantage online dating has over the in-person variety. At a party, you’re lucky if you get a last name before the number exchange, let alone carefully compiled details on dating preferences, personal philosophies and religious beliefs. But when you’re looking for love on the information super highway, you’re hardly short on data. Social networking sites – which might facilitate dating but aren’t expressly designed for romantic connections – let you in on even more.

You’re likely to find information your date’s friends and contacts read, rather than a profile designed exclusively to lure the opposite sex. That includes accurate self-description, pictures that are likely to look like the real deal and links to real-life friends and their comments. If the profile is oriented to professional networking, you’ll learn a lot about career goals and skills. You might even get a taste of how talented an artist or a comedian they are. Sure, you’ll feel like a stalker, but you’ll definitely be well-informed about your potential social investment.

The convenience factor is another major selling point. Imagine how many blind dates you’d have to suffer before you’d meet all the people you’ll browse in an hour. Dating online while you’re keeping up with other social and professional contacts is a great social solution for a crowded schedule. And while you’re at it, you might make a friend or two. Dating on social sites, rather than dating sites, makes it easier to contact people when you don’t have an agenda – and less intimidating to chat them up when you do.

The bad… the ugly
While the information you do have is considerable, there’s a lot you can’t tell from a profile. Everyone who’s ever dated from a profile has been surprised by a picture that is ten years old, remarkably um… flattering, or taken of someone else entirely. Physical descriptions are notoriously misleading. Even well-meaning folk will choose to put their best side forward, so look before you leap.

Check for pictures of your date on their friend’s sites. And because people tend to represent themselves more accurately to their friends and colleagues than to blind dates, you might want to pay close attention to their messages and friend base. Make sure they’re using that profile for more than finding love.

That’s not to say that looks are everything. As long as your date wasn’t blatantly deceptive (which should be a gigantic blinking red cursor), it can be exciting to compare your expectation to the real thing. But chemistry is important, and if you’ve gotten yourself into a first date that’s also your last, you may have wasted a lot of time on a connection that was already missed.

Whatever your online dating experiences, bear in mind that in some ways it’s no different from the face-to-face. There will always be long searches and bad dates. That doesn’t mean the next connection won’t be just what you’re looking for. Keep your sense of humor close and your outlook positive. Let’s face it. You have to IM a lot of frogs.

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