By Barbara Katz
Online dating is a lot like air travel – everyone complains about the experience, but in the end, if you obey a few common-sense guidelines, it usually gets you where you want to go. Today, close to 50% of couples meet through dating sites.
Finding your true love online may take longer than you wish and involve some frustrations and set-backs. But if you navigate with the right attitude, you’ll get where you're going a lot more smoothly.
Dating starts with authenticity and self-discovery. If you truly know who you are and what you’re looking for in a new partner, you’ll simplify the process. You will filter out less compatible matches from the start and recognize “The One” sooner when he or she responds to your profile.
Singles who are wishy-washy and haven’t put much thought into defining who they are and what they're looking for typically attract the same. Confident online daters whose profiles and attitudes show they mean business usually have more serious daters respond to their profile.
The key is to send a more focused, personal and authentic message. It should align with who you are, how you want to be perceived, and who you want to meet. Your online profile, your photo, even your headline and profile name, should all support that consistent message.
How do you pull this off? Three steps.
Start by discovering who you are. Take your time. Sit down with a pen and paper, and interview yourself.
Ask yourself: What kind of relationship are you looking for? What are your “must-haves” and “must-not-haves” in your next relationship? How do you want to feel when you’re with the person? (Examples: relaxed and at ease, accepted for who you are, like you have a soft place to land at the end of a trying day).
Be specific: What are the passions, hobbies, interests and ambitions that define you? What are your best qualities? What makes you different, endearing, quirky? (If possible, ask friends or family members for their input. They may help you see some things more clearly about yourself.)
Next, focus on who you're looking for. Sure, you'll make exceptions for anyone who’s rich, gorgeous and fun, but try to nail down your “target market.” How old should they be, how close to you should they live, how active should they be? Is his or her level of education and income important to you?
The point of these questions is not to commit yourself to one single specific type of person, but to establish a baseline profile of who you’re looking for. This provides a model for evaluating the people you are about to meet in your dating adventure. How close do they come to what you’re looking for? This step helps you avoid many false starts, and helps you recognize more fitting partners sooner when your paths cross.
Be similarly specific about what you're looking for. Not just someone who likes long walks on a beach – 95% of the world loves that. Maybe you're looking for someone who will walk on the beach after a Hawaiian pig roast to which you hang-glided from the summit of a volcano. Use expressive details to help your One and Only recognize themselves more clearly. (If you don't know what you want, how will they know?)
Remember to use language that more accurately describes what you mean, rather than using catch-all phases. For example, what a “down-to-earth” person means for you may not be the same definition that others have.
Finally, make sure your headline and photos support the authentic you. Get professional photos taken, if necessary. And don't settle for me-too headlines like “Looking for Love.” Go for something creative and enticing, geared not to the bland mass audience, but to just the right person: “Willing to meet you on a lonely moor near Pemberley.” The right person will get your message.
Be authentic. Be proud of who you are. And you’re more likely to attract someone who already respects who you are and where you're going.