Though one or two exes might dispute this, I’ve never been one of those crazy girls. Under normal circumstances I don’t snoop, don’t obsess (too much), and am generally fairly sane(ish) in my dealings with the opposite sex. However, while I met my current, long-term boyfriend on Nerve.com, at no time in my life did I ever feel as nutso as when I was online dating on a regular basis.
Now that my profile has been deleted and I have the wisdom that, unfortunately, comes far too late to be helpful to me, I might be able to save you some heartache…
Don’t get sucked in by what you see and read.
On paper he’s got a PhD and lives in a loft in the coolest part of town yet still finds time to spend three weeks a year building schools for Guatemalan orphans. Even if he is telling the truth (which is a big if, since lying is the second most popular internet activity), there’s still a lot you don’t know. And some of that might be ugly.
New-York based writer Twanna Hines is an old hand at online boy-browsing. She sensibly advises, “I go into it thinking, ‘This is how this person is presenting themselves online. That may or may not match up with the person I meet.’”
Keep expectations in check.
Obviously a lot savvier than I, Hines says, “I never go into it thinking I’ll meet a boyfriend.” I wasn’t so clever. Though I eventually did find one that stuck, I can’t even count how many times I thought I’d found the one, only to discover that he was actually the very wrong one. The bass player with the incurable STD he wanted to share. Or the nerdy younger dude who surrounded himself with a coven of dramatic, needy exes. Or the … well, you get the idea. For every nice, sane, normal dude there are approximately 40,000 freaks.
I’m sorry but if you haven’t met him in person you’re not “in love.”
I am always astonished and horrified by couples that announce that they’re “dating” when they’ve only ever “met” online. Exchange a couple emails, graduate to a phone call or two (a bad voice can be a big turnoff) and make plans to meet in person ASAP. Believe me, you do not want to be sharing super-intimate details with someone over IM and then discover he smells like rancid cheese or looks like your grandfather in real life. Awkward!
Banish your inner detective.
This is possibly the most crazy-making aspect of online dating — depending on the site you’re using, it’s possible to see if your date is online, when his profile was last active, and if he’s updated it. Like me, Twanna’s occasionally found herself on the dark side. “I’d sign on in stealth mode so they couldn’t tell I was logged on. I’d check the site several times a week—sometimes more than once a day—just to make sure they weren’t logged on.”
While it may require super-human strength, my suggestion is that you take an hour or two, select a number of prospects, contact them, and then severely limit the time you spend browsing. Whether that’s 15 minutes a day or one set hour a week, you can’t let it eat into your real life. While the sheer number of men available is overwhelming, don’t let it keep you from meeting people the old-fashioned way. You know, through chat lines!