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Of course, it’s possible to meet people the old-fashioned way — through an introduction, interest group, and plain old luck. If used properly, online dating tools can also be a fun and effective way to meet new people. In fact, according to a recent statistic, approximately 1 in 10 U.S. adults have utilized an online dating service or dating app at some point.
As impersonal as it may appear to someone who’s never used technology to find a partner and as daunting as the idea may sound, rest assured it’s nothing you can’t get used to. The best part is it’s something you can do yourself as frequently or infrequently and as seriously or casually as you like without the assistance of a matchmaker or dating coach to help you, though you may want to enlist the services of these professionals sometime down the road.
In the meantime, if you’re considering taking the plunge into the online dating pool, here are five things you should consider first.
- Am I ready? Just because everyone’s telling you it’s time to start dating online doesn’t mean you are. Dating online is different from traditional dating methods in that you’re more exposed than you would be, say, taking a ballroom dancing class or joining a hiking group. When you create an online dating profile, you’re essentially putting yourself out there for the world to see and scrutinize. The sad truth is the world isn’t always such a nice place. So ask yourself, “Am I strong enough to withstand rejection? Criticism? The occasional ‘crazy’ person?” Anyone who’s created an online dating profile will tell you this is par for the course. The veil of an anonymous online dating profile doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Make sure you’re prepared.
- What type of relationship am I looking for? Before sitting down to write your online dating profile, ask yourself what kind of relationship you’re looking for. Are you looking for something casual like a hookup? An activity partner? A serious relationship? Something casual with the possibility of becoming more serious later? Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for because, as the saying goes, ‘seek and you shall find’. Your feelings may change over time so be sure to update your profile if they do.
- What kind of research should I do? The research involved in online dating is twofold, the first part beginning prior to getting started, the second after being assigned matches. But before that happens, you need to first figure out which site or app is best suited to your needs now. More than ever before, online daters have a buffet of options to choose from, including more mainstream sites such as Match, OkCupid, and eHarmony that include a wide range of members from all age groups and denominations to niche sites such as JDate, Christian Mingle, and Our Time which speak to specific religious denominations and age groups, though membership is open to anyone meaning you’ll find those not fitting the stated criteria on these sites.If you aren’t as keen on creating the long dating profiles online dating sites usually encourage, quick swipe apps such as Tinder, Hinge, JSwipe, and Bumble (where it’s ladies choice first) that utilize GPS and Facebook friends and interests to populate your matches may be a better fit for you. These apps, first arising from the hookup culture created by predecessors such as Grindr, have evolved (or, as some say, devolved) to include a wider range of users with varied preferences, including those looking for long-term relationships. The important thing to remember is you can always change your mind and switch if you don’t like the platform you’re using.
- How much money do I need to spend? The answer is none at all. Today, you can join many online dating sites or utilize dating apps without paying a dime. Some platforms require paid membership while others offer free baseline membership with optional upgrades granting greater access for an additional charge. The benefits and detriments associated with paid versus free sites and apps are debatable and, in my opinion, negligible. Success largely depends on how much time and care you take creating your online dating profile as well as how thoroughly you vet and manage your matches afterward (step two in your research).
- How much time do I need to devote to online dating? The unscientific answer is some. If you’re serious about finding your match, understand you’ll need to invest time and effort in the process. Searching for matches, writing texts and emails, and vetting your prospects are investments that, made at the outset, will increase your chances of reaping the payouts later. Because you want to be conscientious and thorough in your efforts, it’s important not to spread yourself too thin. Though choice abounds, enrolling in more than two or three dating sites or apps at a time will be unproductive. Think quality over quantity, not only in the matches you seek but in the interactions you’re able to offer others. That being said, if you’re spending more than one hour per day online and letting thoughts of it consume you while offline, you’re not using your time wisely. Approach online dating systematically while remembering to not take yourself so seriously. Until you find your match, dating multiple people is not only socially acceptable but also encouraged. The idea is to meet new people and have fun!
Regardless of whether you choose to create a profile on an online dating site or on an app, the most important thing you can do is stay positive! At times, the process will become frustrating. It’s to be expected. But if you cancel your membership or hide your profile, no one will be able to find you. Not only do you need to believe online dating sites and apps can work but you also need to believe in yourself so someone else can believe in you.