Julie Spira is an online dating and netiquette expert. She's the bestselling author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online. LoveToKnow had the opportunity to speak with her regarding how to find a long-term relationship on the Internet.
Find a Dating Site That's Right for You
LoveToKnow (LTK): What are some tips for finding love online that some people may be surprised by?
Julie Spira (JS): Even with all of the television commercials showing online dating success, some couples are still hesitant to try online dating. Twenty percent of couples are meeting online now and the popularity ranges from busy college students to baby boomers.
LTK: What are some of the perks to looking for love online vs. looking for love in other places?
JS: Online dating is available 24 hours a day and affords you the opportunity to meet a larger amount of people if you take the time to make it a priority. The cost ranges from free to $50/month. If you go to an event or your local bar with the hopes of meeting someone, you might come out empty-handed, except for your hefty food and beverage bill.
LTK: Do you think people have better luck in general going to the smaller sites geared toward special preferences (interracial, religion, gay, etc) or going to the larger, well-known sites that attract millions of users and doing the homework themselves?
JS: Online dating is a numbers game. The good news is there are over 122 million people worldwide visiting online dating sites every month, with 25 million in the U.S. alone. With over 1200 sites to choose from, I recommend that you join one mainstream site with a high membership base as well as a smaller niche site. Remember, it only takes one.
LTK: Do you have any tips for choosing the best dating site for your needs if you can't afford memberships on more than one site?
JS: There are so many free online dating sites to choose from, so the biggest investment really is your time. I recommend selecting one site that has a large membership base and then a niche site or two based upon your needs. These days there are over 1200 sites to select from. If you have disabilities, there's Date Disabled. If you're over 50, you can try Senior People Meet. If you're interested in dating someone who is a vegetarian, try Veggie Date.
Creating and Managing Your Eye-Catching Profile
LTK: What advice can you offer someone who's creating an online profile?
JS: I can't stress enough the importance of being authentic in your online dating profile. Sure many women lie about their age and weight while some men lie about their height and income. That doesn't mean it's acceptable. A man loves a confident woman who will feel good about where she is in her life. That usually starts out with being honest. When I coach singles and create their irresistible online dating profiles, these five tips are some of the most important:
- Create a catchy screen name. You'd be surprised that so many just accept a random name originated by the dating site's software. Don't use your first name, but think about something you are passionate about to describe yourself. If it's catchy, he'll not only notice you, but he'll affectionately remember you by your screen name.
- It's all about the photos. Make sure you post three to five photos with pictures of you alone. You shouldn't upload an entire album like you would on Facebook, filled with party shots. He isn't interested in dating your friends and family at this point. Your photos should include a primary close up photo of you smiling and appearing approachable, a full-length shot, and an activity shot. If you have a favorite travel destination, show a photo of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower or the trails where you like to hike on the weekends.
- Leave the novel at home. Your online dating profile is like a snapshot or one-sheet about you and your personality. Some people tend to write paragraph after paragraph of everything about themselves. A man may only read the first paragraph and have no interest in contacting you if you reveal too much. You still need to pique his or her curiosity, so sometimes less is more.
- Leave the baggage behind. Even if your last relationship or marriage ended badly, the last place you want to publish this is on your online dating profile. Make sure you write about things you like to do instead of a long list of things you don't like to do or aren't looking for in a relationship. Your negativity will rise to the top, and you'll be passed over for someone who has a more positive attitude.
- Color your world. It's time to ditch the little black dress and choose a color to wear in your photos that will help you stand out in the crowded digital playing field. I often recommend wearing red as it shows confidence and is known to be the color of love.
LTK: How much should you reveal about yourself in your online dating profile? What about on the first date?
JS: As a matter of online dating safety, you should only reveal in your profile what you'd be willing to reveal to someone you just met in person for the first time. I believe in being forthright in representing who you are, but never give out your last name, your home phone number or address, or financial information.
Starting Connections on an Online Dating Site
LTK: What do you recommend for making the first contact on a dating site? What are some good ways to break the ice?
JS: Your first digital impression is everything. It's important to fill in the subject line of your email. Those that say "hello" or are empty with "No subject" might not even get read. Find something personal in his or her profile and add it to the subject line. If he says he likes fly-fishing, he'll notice an email with that in the header. If she lists her favorite movie, use that in the subject line to get her attention.
LTK: How many people do you recommend chatting with (or just contacting) at one time before you start narrowing it down, meeting in person, and maybe even choosing one of them for a serious relationship?
JS: In order to avoid the overwhelming amount of responses you may receive, it's important to be organized. I work with singles to create an organizational system to keep their dates straight. There's nothing worse than going on a date and asking someone about what it was like to live in New York when they're from San Francisco, or calling Billy Bobby instead. You'll appear like a serial dater or someone who isn't that interested in them. More often than not, the men need to contact a larger list of women.
Keep in mind that although someone's profile is on the site, he might be starting to date someone and the timing might not be right to respond to you. As a result, create a list of who you'd like to contact every week. Make sure it's manageable. If it's five people, you might not get a response. If you increase it to ten or 15, perhaps you'll hear back from three of them.
Realize that you're on the site and you'll be dating. That means the person you're having lunch with will likely have a dinner date that night as well. It's critical that you take your relationship from online to offline as soon as possible, after an email exchange or two and a phone call. If someone repeatedly calls you, but never sets up a date, they aren't available, so it's time to move on to someone who really wants to meet you. If you find a strong connection, chemistry, and common values, perhaps it's time to focus on this one relationship to see where it goes.
LTK: What are some of the perils of looking for any type of relationship online?
JS: I coach singles solely on how to find love and long-term relationships. What I encourage singles to do is to find someone with similar values who will not rush into the instant relationship. If you fall in love with someone from behind the computer screen, you may end up with the false illusion that you're in a relationship. It does take time to get to know someone, so you need to move your relationship from online to offline as soon as possible. Keep in mind, the Internet allows many to exaggerate. It goes beyond the age and weight misrepresentations as some are truly not single, or are "separated" with their divorce pending. Knowing they won't have a great response to their status of "separated," they will often post "divorced," which is not the case.
Transitioning from Online to Offline Dating
LTK: How long should you wait to take an online flirtation to a real date?
JS: The sooner you take your relationship from online to offline, the better. Otherwise you run the risk of having a false illusion that you're in a relationship. You can't really fall in love with someone from behind his or her keyboard until you have a chance to meet in real life.
LTK: How can people deal with the first date jitters once they've agreed to take their online relationship to a meeting in person?
JS: It's natural to feel nervous about going on a first date. Remember, it's just a meet-and-greet.
- I recommend to my coaching clients that they print out the profile of who they are going to meet so they remember the specifics and don't confuse them with someone else they've been communicating with.
- It's also important to keep the conversation light. Don't make it a deposition. It's just a conversation. Keep past relationships out of first date conversations, so your date knows he is the priority.
What to Do When You Aren't Interested
LTK: What's the best way to let someone down if you've been chatting online or even met in person for one or two dates?
JS: Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately, more often, people don't let you know after two dates that they aren't going to call you again. Both men disappear, and women simply won't return phone calls if they feel there isn't any chemistry. I think ignoring is plain rude and cowardly. A recent poll by social dating site Zoosk showed that 25% of their female members have dumped a man in a text message, where only 15% of men have taken that route.
I've also known some men and women that will walk out in the middle of a date while telling their date they just didn't have any chemistry with them. I believe in casting a wide net. Just because there isn't a love connection, doesn't mean you need to toss your online date away. Perhaps you've made a new friend, a business contact, or even he or she might have someone else to introduce you. If he calls you and you aren't interested, let him know that you think he's a terrific guy, but that you just don't have enough in common with him to pursue a relationship, but that you wish him the best.
LTK: What are your tips for staying hopeful if you've met a string of not-so-great dates or the "matches" suggested for you don't excite you at all?
JS: I'm a hopeful romantic so I encourage singles to realize that online dating is truly a numbers game. More people have bad dates than good ones. Try not to get discouraged and give up. You never know who's going to appear next in your inbox.
Will You Find Love Online?
Boost your chances of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right online by creating an eye-catching profile, contacting several different people once you sign up, taking your potential relationships from online to in person as soon as you can, and keeping your options open. Go into online dating with an open mind and you may be surprised by your results. Cast a wide net with an optimistic attitude and you may find people you're compatible with in romance and in friendship.
For more information, visit Julie at CyberDatingExpert.com where you can learn how to create an irresistible online dating profile. Follow her on Twitter @Juliespira and like her at Facebook.com/CyberDatingExpert.