How to Really Approach Online Dating Etiquette

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Let’s be honest: Part of the beauty of online dating is that it’s a way to meet people without having to shell out for drinks or wear heels, at least for a while. But that doesn’t mean you can get away with no effort or polish at all. Just as there as some very clear rules about dating in person, there are also guidelines for polite behavior on an online dating site. There may not be a universally ratified code but there are still a few rules that we will judge you for not following. Here are the top 10:

  1. Be honest- Just like with a resume, if you can’t back up what you write in an online dating profile, it will only waste everyone’s time and make you look bad down the road. Even if you’ve managed to get some attention by saying you’re a rock star, it isn’t going to help you when they find out that you’re actually a computer programmer who once played Guitar Hero.
  2. Use an accurate photo- This is a continuation of #1. Your photo should be an up-to-date picture that shows your face. Choosing a picture that shows your best side is recommended. Choosing a picture that was created in Photoshop is not. Once again, your date is going to have to see the real you eventually so posting photo from your sorority days is just going to come back to bite you.
  3. Don’t write in CAPS- This one is self-explanatory.  It’s the online equivalent of being a really close talker.
  4. Use spell check- Ok, this one may not be a manners thing, it just makes a bad vibe. Too many spelling and grammar mistakes can give the impression that you’re either ignorant, childish or just don’t care. None of which are turn-ons.
  5. Personalize- Once you decide to get in touch with someone, don’t send a form letter. Although some dating sites send you through “guided correspondence”, make sure to reference something in your contact’s profile as soon as you have the opportunity. This shows you’re sincere and actually paying some attention.
  6. Always respond- I’ll add a caveat here: If you’ve been contacted sent a flirt/wink/poke/smile or what is obviously a form letter then you’re off the hook. But if someone took the effort to write a personalized message then old fashioned good manners requires you to write back in a timely way even if it’s to “Not interested, but thanks.”
  7. Don’t push it- It doesn’t matter how eager you are to meet face-to-face, don’t rush others. Online dating can be uncomfortable and there are plenty of creeps out there. If your contact is exercising some caution, respect that.
  8. Don’t wait forever- On the other hand, don’t drag things on. Your potential date didn’t sign up for a pen-pal, so if you’re never going to get the guts to commit to a simple first date, drop the correspondence or get off the site entirely.
  9. Don’t stare- Once you’re on the first date, try not to act too shocked if you spot differences between your date’s online persona and real life. You may have been imagining something very different but if you don’t make the effort to hide confusion or disappointment, your date will know. And that can hurt.
  10. Remove your profile- Once you’re dating someone seriously, don’t let your online dating profile sit there. First of all, it’s rude to the person you’re dating since its sends the message that you’re just in it until something better comes along. However, it also wastes the time of online daters still trying to sift through profiles. Not sure when is the right time to take down your profile? Try talking to your new date about it. Since you met on a dating site, you’re probably both wondering the same thing.

Some of these may be harder for you than others, so take some time to get used to a dating site before you commit. Take advantage of free trials, and check out online dating reviews to help find sites that use communication methods that you’re most comfortable with. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines for good manners of online dating. There are plenty of other tips you’ll want to keep in mind to make the process safe and effective, but we’ll leave those for another post.

Eva Forman is a researcher and blogger for Consumer-Rankings.com

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