Surfing for soulmates: A novice’s guide to online datingBy Craig Maloney
Despite it becoming an increasingly popular way to find romance, Internet dating can be a bit of a minefield to the uninitiated. The Student Guide brings you a 5-step survival guide to the online dating game…
When most people think of online dating, images of desperate computer nerds are conjured up, tapping away at their keyboards late into the night playing online poker or World of Warcraft.
At least that’s what I thought until I decided to bite the bullet one day and try it out for myself. Whether you’re working or studying hard at University, there just seems to be so little time to meet someone new in a city as vast as London. I gave this online dating malarkey a shot, here are my top tips for newbies like myself…
1. Find a site that works for you
There are as many dating sites out there as there are David Guetta re-mixes, so you might want to do your research. Are you looking for 'fun (sex)' or to are you hoping to meet ‘the one’? Are you looking for a specific type of person or someone fairly nondescript? Whatever the answer, there is probably a site out there for you.
Zoosk is a bit like Facebook but for singles. I opted for something with familiar layout and social networking feel to it. Once you set up a profile, you can begin scrolling through other members profiles and even send a virtual ‘wink’ to someone you like the look of. You’ll need to pay for a subscription in order to send more than one introductory message to someone though.
It's a good idea to make your profile as detailed as possible. Perhaps even explain (though not in too much painstaking detail) why you’ve joined a dating site to begin with. A well-written profile with a recent photo is likely to get a strong response. After having been signed up for just a couple of days, I got a message from someone (let’s call her ‘Katie’ for anonymity’s sake.) I took a look at her profile and instantly noticed that we have similar taste in films and music.
2. Ask questions and be honest
We spent almost two weeks messaging each other. I asked a lot of questions, trying to get a clearer picture of what Katie is like. I made sure not to divulge any information about where I live or work just in case she turns out to be a closet bunny boiler looking for some poor sap whose life she can infiltrate herself into.
I was bowled over by her witty exchanges and she genuinely made me laugh so hard I almost choked on my coffee at work. Then I spotted the three words sealed with a kiss at the end of one of her emails that’d have me musing over what to do for the next hour or so, ‘should we meet?” I messaged her back and we finally exchanged numbers. I called her that night to arrange when and where to meet, as well as to break the ice before our actual date. I had nothing to lose. Besides, I’d only be spending my Friday night at home watching the Dark Knight Rises with my cat for the umpteenth time anyway.
3. Always meet in a public place
I arranged to meet Katie at a café in Shoreditch in the afternoon. A public place in broad daylight is the safest possible option when meeting someone for the first time. I started to worry that conversation would run dry as I took the bus across town. What if she’s a complete nutcase and greets me with a “Here’s Katie!”, grinning manically as she ploughs an axe through the café door? By this point my mind was frantic with worry, the plausible to the downright ludicrous.
When I finally met Katie though, the first thing I was struck with was just how much prettier she is in person than in the few photos I’d seen on her dating profile. We began to chat over coffee. We talked about our reasons for joining a dating site. Turns out that we’re equally quite bad at approaching people we’re interested in. Fear of rejection is suddenly made a bit more bearable when you’re sat behind a computer screen I guess.
4. Have a scapegoat prepared
I had arranged for a friend to call me about an hour and a half or so into the date, just incase it was going badly. Thankfully though I was enjoying Katie’s company and she was in the middle of telling me a pretty funny story about a Michael Jackson impersonator she once dated, so there was no need to make up an elaborate pretext for getting the hell out of there!
5. Don’t talk about your past relationships
Moonwalking former lovers aside, discussing exes should be unthinkable on any first date. Not to sound too Zen here but it’s important to remember that you’re there to get to know someone new and immediately rehashing the past will only taint what is taking place in the present. If you’ve recently come out of a relationship and feel the need to be honest about that fact then do so. Just ensure you don’t drone on about how great or how awful said relationship was. This is a first date remember so go easy on the gory details if you’re hoping for a second.
Whether or not we see each other again, I actually had fun. I stepped outside of my comfort zone for a change and met someone new. The experience of online dating itself can be nerve-wracking and can even seem like an inorganic way of meeting someone but as my grandma once said, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea, darlin’ ” and the Internet has just become another way of widening your net. Happy fishing folks!