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Date Club

The rules of online dating

If you’ve found yourself single in the past few years, chances are you’ve considered signing up for one of the many online dating websites. And there are plenty to choose from, be it Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid or one of the million or so others. If you haven’t taken the plunge or are still skirting the “free glances” fringes, allow this e-dating vet to share a little learned wisdom and perhaps ease the nerves.

The first rule of online dating is: Relax. It is so easy to become a bundle of nerves when faced with potential romantic encounters, especially if you’ve either been out of the dating game for a long time or are brand-spanking-new to it to begin with. There is a lot to learn. The great news is, you’ve got time. So breathe deep, don’t panic and respond to a few of the other profiles. Take baby steps at your own speed. After all, at first, it’s just a message or two. Then maybe an email, if things go well. Perhaps a phone call, if the grammar is up to snuff. Or be cagey and hold off on full names and phone numbers until you meet. And that first date? Only do it when you feel ready and are certain that this person is worth your time.

The second rule of online dating is: Know Thy Self. It is virtually impossible for anyone (in cyberspace or not) to determine whether or not he would be a good match for you if even you don’t know what that match would be. Hate hiking? Don’t claim to be “outdoorsy” in your profile. Loathe crowds? Don’t list “rock concerts” as a favorite activity. Be honest with yourself and in your profile about what you want and what you are looking for in a partner and you won’t end up wasting anyone’s time — your own included.

The third rule of online dating is: Read Their Profiles. Just because the website has deemed you two perfect for one another, the ultimate judge is none other than you. Make sure you’ve read through that profile for the chance that the web-bots missed the fact that this guy’s lethal cat allergy doesn’t mesh with your (thus far) life companion Sir Whiskers. And pay close attention to pictures. Not just those amazing blue eyes, or flowing golden locks of hair, but what else is going on in them? What hangs on the wall behind him? Are they sitting atop a freshly climbed mountain or sunken deep into a well-worn sofa? There are always clues in photographs that might help you determine their match-ness.

The fourth rule of online dating is: You Get Out What You Put In. It’s no secret that creating and maintaining an online profile as well as managing all those dates takes time. But if you are only willing to put forth a minimal effort, don’t be surprised if your matches and dates are sub-par. Being thorough in your profile creation as well as in your discernment of potential suitors will pay off in the long run. And remember: Lies and false profiles breed an environment of dishonesty that no one will want to participate in. Karma, kids.

The fifth rule of online dating is: Relax. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating. View any and every date as an opportunity to either meet someone really amazing and find a connection or to meet someone who can help you get back into the swing of dating and talking to new people, but that’s about it. Incompatible dates mean only one thing: You are one step closer to finding someone who is compatible. It’s practice.

You may very well meet the man/woman of your dreams on a website. But you may also meet the man/woman of your dreams in the produce section of Capella, trudging through the mud at the dog park, karaoke night at a random tavern or any other number of adorable Cusack-type ways. Relax, have fun with it and for the good of all humanity, be honest with your e-dating compatriots.