I am a marketing and communications consultant and freelance writer. Living on the Gold Coast in Australia. Check out my website www.sarahsays.com.au or follow on Twitter @WENGoldCoast
Published July 7th 2012
Okay, so this is a difficult question to answer but hopefully my top tips below will help you decide. Now this is based on my personal experiences and those of my friends, not people I vaguely know or friends of friends or stories I have heard, but real life experiences.
So I have tried online dating three times in the last ten years, each time has been when I have moved to somewhere new, or returned home after being a way for a while (and to find most of my mates married with babies). My most recent time has been in the last six months, since arriving in Australia and living on the Gold Coast. Not really knowing anyone I felt it was a good way to meet new people, to have some social experiences and see more of the Gold Coast (although after one date I did see much more than I was expecting, read on for details!).
Number 1:Get with the program – in this online world of forums and social networks there really isn't the stigma of online dating anymore (when I first did it 10 years ago and I dated someone, I lied to my mates that I had met him elsewhere, odd I know, but I did). It is perfectly feasible nowadays to try it (and millions do), especially for many people who are busy with "life" and don't have the time or money to be trawling bars, coffee shops and supermarkets looking for "the one". Meeting people online is perfectly respectable (obviously done the right way), for instance I have recently made a business contact through Twitter and there is no shame in that, yet for dating I know some friends, especially those my age, still feel negative towards it. My advice is to forget the myths surrounding it, its not just full of desperate mad people (although admittedly there are a few), treat it for what it is - an online forum to meet people locally, us online savvy people do that every day with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest etc, and we think nothing of it, lets look at dating sites the same way.
Number 2:Be ready – setting up a profile and meeting new people is a daunting prospect and you have to have a certain amount of confidence to see it through (a guy I know told me that recently he met a lady for coffee and when they sat down she burst out crying, eek, just out of a relationship it all got too much). Now I am not shy as such but I do find meeting new people, especially in a blind date situation, slightly scary. So you have to mentally prepare yourself and for me the way to do this is to simply go into it with no expectations, it's just a drink, or just coffee and when you can get in that headspace then it doesn't seem so bad. When I first started, I did go into it thinking will he become by boyfriend and I think it completely worked against me. So my attitude now is that it may work or it may not, and either way that's totally okay, my only expectation is to meet new people and then who knows. If you go into it with high expectations and build it up to be something it's not, then you may be disappointed. An example: When I first started online dating I started speaking to a guy instantly, we emailed, spoke on the phone and sent text messages daily, then we met three weeks later and it simply just wasn't there and we were both disappointed (although we still had a good time on the date). Never underestimate "the spark", what looks ideal on paper truly can be nothing in person, so my advice is to meet as soon as possible, that way its just an online introduction and the rest is up to you.
Number 3: Be honest – now I have always been the honest sort, I really don't understand lying on something like this (but so many do) as you are so easily found out and are just setting yourself up to disappoint (no one likes being lied to right? and boys, seriously, we can tell the difference between 5'11 and 5'6). Be honest about what you like and don't like, don't create a profile that you think will attract someone, or what you think men or women will want, be honest about you, what you look like, what you like and what you want. That way you will get the right people coming to you. I have in the past, after lying to impress a guy, sat listening to an album on repeat of an artist I loathed because I said that I loved them. I will never get those hours back and really what's the point. We want someone to like us for who we are not who we create. Be truly happy in yourself, believe you are worth knowing and be confident in what you have to say and offer. Remember, as you make quick decisions and assumptions about people they will about you too. Someone may not reply to your message, they may not text you or they may not call you for date 2 and you have to just accept and move on because at the end of the day, you don't know them. They are just not right for you; it's as simple as that.
Number 4: Don't take it too seriously but be safe – this is very important as you will encounter some people who are bonkers (one guy on a date, before we sat down, wanted to inspect my hands and nails as he would only date women with manicured nails! *alarm bells*) and you will get some odd messages and requests, but take it for what it is, harmless and funny and delete and move on. For example, I recently went on a date with a guy for coffee, then a few days later he sent me some, um, photos (ahem), another coffee date told me he wasn't interested but would like to use me for sex (thanks). Now I am no prude or easily shocked, yet I find this very strange. I am not sure how either of them got from a simple coffee to that, but each to their own I guess, a simple never contact me again put a stop to it, but be wary these things are very likely to happen. So with that in mind *shudders* be safe, meet in neutral busy places, don't accept lifts or tell people where you live. You obviously have to give out numbers or email but just be a little bit vigilant on what information you give to people, it's just common sense really. I don't know anyone who has felt unsafe using online dating but you do have to look after yourself. When and if these odd things happen, don't take it personally or worry about it, laugh (block if needs be) and move on. I wouldn't be writing this article if it wasn't for my experiences and I certainly wouldn't be giving my mates such a laugh with all my "dating" stories.
Number 5: Have fun and make it work for you – since signing up in Jan to a couple of sites (zoosk via Facebook and RSVP are good sites, its approx $40-50 for a month, that's what I recommend, just sign up for a month and give it a try) I have met some fascinating people and seen some great places. I love meeting new people, learning about life, places and culture and doing online dating has allowed me to meet people I simply wouldn't have come into contact with otherwise. I have dated a couple of guys and through them visited places, learnt about their life and most importantly learnt about what I want and what I am looking for. Now they didn't go anywhere romantically and they certainly were not the "one" but that doesn't matter to me, I joined to meet people and meet people I have. I have had some fun dates, met some lovely people and I am creating memories and experiences all the time. Plus each time I meet someone new it increases my confidence, develops my people skills and it is helping to forge a clear picture of what I want. It has also shown me that there are tonnes of people out there all in the same boat and looking for someone (sometimes it can feel like you are the only one left). Plus it's opening my mind to not judge and place expectations on people.
So in conclusion, yes, I think it is worth trying; if you are new to an area, want to get back on the dating scene or if you are looking to increase your social activity I would certainly sign up to a local site that works for you. Just be ready, have realistic expectations and have an open mind. I have four friends who have met someone online, who years later are either married, with children or living together, so it really can work. Whether it's my story, I don't know, I have no expectations, but for the moment it's a great way of meeting people in a place where I don't really know anyone, its teaching me about myself and other people, plus I am amusing my mates at the same time.