Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Guide To Online Dating

CC image courtesy of MattysFlicks on Flickr
I hate to spout the whole "new year, new you" cliche, but one good thing about the impending New Year is the chance to start afresh and wipe the slate clean. And if the past year for you has been marred by a bad breakup or heartbreak, this sentiment can be even more poignant.

With that in mind, online dating is the most logical solution for those looking to kick-start their love life. Because honestly, what do you have to lose?

I was always really averse to online dating, seeing it as a last ditch option if I was still single years down the line. But spurred on by a bad breakup, as well as the difficulty I had in meeting decent guys, not to mention knowing guys as acquaintances who preferred to use social media to express an interest, I figured is there really much difference?

Because once you’ve filtered through the weirdos (online dating will inevitably attract certain types of oddballs, but hey, even they deserve love :P), the odds of finding a guy who is actually relationship material is probably a lot higher than if you try to meet a guy in a club or a bar.

I do think the stigma attached to online dating is slowly disappearing, especially with social networking where we frequently interact with strangers, even if it’s just sharing opinions.

Now, I’ve only met up with three guys via online dating, and I think I actually got really lucky as, despite not feeling much chemistry, the guys were nice and more importantly, normal! (Well, the second guy was a bit of an acquired taste, but that’s another story for another time).

While perhaps it wasn’t wise to start dating so soon after a break up, it was all added experience in meeting new people, reassuring me that it is possible to have fun with new people. The guys making it clear they found me attractive also gave me a much needed confidence boost at a time when my self-esteem was in tatters.

Not that you should use another person for an ego-boost, but it’s nice to be appreciated sometimes and to know you’re desirable to other men, who seem like lovely, decent people and are likely to treat you a million times better than your douche of an ex ever did. It’s reassuring in its own way and something a girl needs sometimes.

So here are my tips if you’re thinking about giving online dating a go, which may make the process seem less daunting:

1) Don’t view the first "date" as an actual date, but more of a "getting to know each other". Therefore, I would actually advise that all parties pay for themselves. If you’re a serial dater too, this seems fair. If you guys hit it off and go on an official “date”, then by all means allow yourself to be wined and dined.

I know men have to be wary of those girls who will use guys for the wrong reasons, so prior to meeting up I always made it very clear to guys that this was not a date, more of a casual conversation. I think it took the pressure off massively.
CC image courtesy of Rahim Packir Saibo on Flickr
2) Keep it simple – Have a great date idea? Save it for follow-up dates. A lot of people disagree with this, and argue that an interesting activity can be a great icebreaker – I hired a guy to help me move recently, and perhaps the whole process was a bonding exercise as he asked me out afterwards; an element of teamwork can be a great way to see if there’s any chemistry.

However, I believe chemistry and intimacy are more likely to flourish if you allow yourself to actually sit down, chat to someone and get to know them properly. Hence, I always keep the first meet up simple and casual, like a coffee-shop date.

3) Get there first - The concept of online dating was so foreign and strange to me, I knew there was going to be an element of awkwardness I would feel with the whole meeting-a-stranger-from-the-internet element, regardless of how confident and friendly I was feeling. So I made it a point to arrive earlier than the agreed time, just to settle down and avoid all that awkwardness at the start when you’re meeting someone, e.g. greeting, coat off, ordering. It’s probably unfair to the person you’re meeting, having a head start to get your composure, but it has to be done; I can get clumsy/ramble on and make an arse out of myself when I’m nervous.

I would add more tips, such as what to wear, topics to talk about when meeting someone new etc, but I honestly do think that if you over-plan certain things, especially conversation, it can come across as forced or too planned. Plus, there are already a million resources online if you’re shy, nervous or perhaps aren’t the best conversationalist.

At the risk of ending on a downer, I should add that online dating does have a high rate of failure, so be realistic and see online dating for its potential, rather than a guaranteed way to meet Prince Charming, and try not to be too disappointed if you meet a few duds. I knew a girl who dedicated a year to finding a man, met up with 50 guys she met online, before eventually meeting the guy she ended up marrying.

Now, I admire her dedication to finding a man, but unless you take the intensive approach, it can take a while to meet a guy you spark with. But on the optimistic side, you could also meet a decent, trustworthy and fanciable guy early on. You just never know until you give it a go.

I would also advise that you don’t depend solely on online dating to meet a new romantic partner: still go out, enjoy life and make dating an active part of your life, but not a priority.

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