As someone who has spent a lot of time meeting dates online, I’ve developed a set of guidelines that I use for not only my personal safety but to help weed out the guys that may have less than honorable intentions.  I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my guidelines with you and perhaps help others achieve a similar mastery of the online dating experience.

I never contact guys.  An attorney once told me that dating is like fishing.  “You bait the hook, throw it out there, and don’t move and don’t talk.”  I put together my profile, throw it out there, and wait for a bite.

No chatting.  Once I get a bite, I don’t chat online.  I instead ask to set up a coffee date.  Making chit-chat on a first date is hard enough.  When you’ve already discussed everything online, it can lead to awkward silences and a lack of conversation.  In my experience and that of my friends, once a guy starts chatting with you online, gets on a roll, and gets his confidence up, the discussion is going to turn to sex.  In the words of Barney Fife, “Nip it in the bud.”  The guy should meet you in person and be properly intimidated.  Online, men have no boundaries because they can save a bundle on the 1-800-FUNN numbers if you “put out” online.  If he doesn’t want to meet you without chatting first, he probably didn’t have the best intentions towards you in the first place.  Keep shopping.

No numbers.  You will very often come across the guy who just HAS to have your phone number in case he’s running late or can’t make it.  The majority of us get our e-mails and messages through a dating site on our phones, so I always tell them to just message me through the dating site.  Never, ever, never give out your cell phone number to a stranger.  One of my friends did and was appalled when, on their first date, the guy told her that he knew where she lived twenty years ago.  When she didn’t return his follow-up phone call, he showed up at her house.  I don’t care how hot their profile picture is or if you think he’s “the one” before you’ve met him or just don’t have the confidence to say no to someone.  Once they have your cell phone number, they can do a reverse look-up and find out your last name, where you live and have lived, and probably where you work.  Don’t be an easy target.  The dating sites let you message through them for a reason, and it’s not so you can be featured on the next episode of Unsolved Mysteries.  Keep your last name and cell phone number to yourself for at least three dates.

No additional pictures.  My online profile always contains a headshot and a couple of full body shots.  No swimsuit pictures.  Let’s keep it classy, ladies.  You will encounter men who want more pictures than this – as if they need more proof of who you are before they spend an hour of their life and $2.75 on a cup of coffee to meet you in person.  Stop correspondence with these guys right away.  Believe me, they don’t want to see any pictures of you in a business suit; and the pictures that they send you in return won’t be pictures of their face.

Now that we’re done with the safety guidelines, I’ll move on to a few basics to save you some time.  I don’t read their profiles.  Ever.  I’ve streamlined the online dating experience to the point that I only look at a few things about the guy before setting up a coffee date.

First, if his profile picture doesn’t make me throw up a little bit (because he has a snake wrapped around his neck) or match one of the posters at the Post Office, I proceed to see what his height is.  If he’s taller than I am, I proceed to look at his employment status.  This is where you have to learn to read between the lines.  “In between jobs” equals unemployed.  “Self-employed” equals unemployed.  “Entrepreneur” equals unemployed.  “Retired” equals unemployed.  Passity-pass-pass-pass.  If I were to proceed from here to read their profiles, there is a very good chance that I would discover that they either hunt or can’t spell, and that would eliminate too many men from the dating pool in Michigan.  I prefer to cross that bridge later.

It’s the opinion of this layperson that guys that put up more than five pictures have issues.  These pictures can range anywhere from selfies to shirtless selfies in the bathroom mirror with his pants partially unzipped to twenty pictures of him doing everything under the sun to pictures of him twenty years ago to unprotective online pictures of him with his kids.  Passity-pass-pass-pass.  A headshot and two body shots are all you need.  Preferably he’ll have all of his clothes on, the clothes are clean, he’s not wearing sunglasses to make him look younger, he’s not wearing a hat to hide that he’s bald, and there are no dead animal heads on the wall behind him.  But that’s just me.

A tip to the male readers:  I look at the pictures a man puts online, and I think, “Do I want to be a part of that world?”  If your picture looks like a mug shot, I won’t.  If you’re wearing a dirty white T-shirt and a camouflage baseball cap, I won’t.  Not even Brad Pitt can pull off that look.  If you put up a selfie of you taken in the bathroom mirror with your pants unzipped, it kind of sends the message that you’re not a very classy guy, and I doubt that you would treat me respectfully.  I understand that a girl posting a picture of herself like that would make a guy’s day, but you have to consider your target audience and what you’re looking for.  If you post a picture of you with another woman, I will think, “Why is he looking for someone else when he has her?” or “Is that the standard he expects others to meet?”

The kind of pictures that women do like to see would be a nice headshot taken outdoors by a friend.  This tells me that you have friends.  A picture of you at a party in a tux would be another great picture.  This tells me that you can class it up once in a while.  If you want to send the message that you’re sporty, post a picture of you crossing a finish line.  This tells me that you have hobbies and a life of your own, and you won’t be demanding all of my time.

In conclusion, I believe dating sites are meant to be an aid in finding meaningful relationships.  If that’s not what you’re looking for, there are other places like SexRUS.com and 1-800-FUNN that you might want to explore.

My last advice would be, men, treat dating as an interview where you dress appropriately and put your best foot forward.  Ladies, be kind, act like an adult, and always have the confidence to say no.

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