How to make online dating work for you

Special to The TribuneJuly 8, 2014 

LONG BEACH PRESS TELEGRAM ILLUSTRATION

First there was the matchmaker. Then there was the bar scene. Now’s there’s online dating. In the 15 years or so since its inception, online dating has displaced family, school and the office as the most common way to meet other singles.

Internet dating services boast an enviable track record. They’re used by more than 40 million Americans, according to the Statistic Brain website. Seventeen percent of last year’s brides and grooms met each other online.

A 2005 British study of online dating site members reported at http://ScienceDaily.com found that 94 percent of couples who spent time chatting and emailing before meeting for the first time went on to see each other again. Those relationships lasted an average of seven months, with 18 percent of them continuing for more than a year.

Each dating service comes with a hook. One service, eHarmony, claims to take a bold, scientific approach to helping couples find their soul mates. Cougar Life purports to be the place where sophisticated, mature women meet younger men. Christian Dating for Free pretty much defines itself.

Not all Internet dating sites are equal. Consumer-Rankings.com ranks Zoosk, Match.com, OurTime, eHarmony and Mate1 as its top choices based on features such as integrated chat systems, understanding members’ preferences and online dating via cellphones.

Regardless of the site, the ultimate success of online dating rests with the user. When daters take the process seriously and do their best to identify and connect with potential candidates, they’re more likely to make meaningful connections. If not, they’ll continue to be single.

HOW TO MAKE ONLINE DATING WORK FOR YOU

Decide what you want. Give the process some thought. Set specific criteria about the characteristics you’d like in a mate. (For example, “No one over 35.”) This helps you narrow your search.

Select an appropriate site. Not all online dating sites are the same. Zero in on the market you want to choose from.

Be truthful in your profile. Use current photos that depict the real you. Update the pictures every few months. Make sure your profile is honest. Avoid too many adjectives, such as “romantic,” “spontaneous” or “adventurous.” Instead, describe your passions and recent achievements so others get a sense of who you are.

Project optimism. Desperation is a real turnoff. So are long, bitter stories about the jerks you’ve dated in the past. Keep the mood light and breezy.

Be realistic. If you’re looking for Prince or Princess Charming, you’re going to be disappointed. The goal is to find a compatible partner, not the next American Idol.

Be safe. Use extreme caution when you’re ready to meet face to face. Always get together in a very public space for the first few dates. Let friends and family members know exactly where you are and who you’re planning to meet. Consider double- or group-dating so you have safety in numbers.

Trust your instincts. While it’s hard to tell truth from fiction online, the least little whiff of dishonesty is enough reason to hit the immediate eject button.

Keep your options open. Regardless of what happens in the online dating world, you’ll want to develop a stimulating personal life. Who knows? The right person may be swimming laps next to you at the gym or volunteering at the local food bank.

Don’t take rejection personally. Finding your soul mate is a numbers game. For every home run, you’ll strike out many times. Dating online takes a thick skin. But in the end, it’s worth it.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

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