Holiday Dating & Relationships

Online Dating: How to Meet That Special Someone Online This Holiday Season

They are everywhere: happy people who have found love online. You see them on TV commercials for or PerfectMatch. Your cousin tells you how she met Mr. Wonderful on Lava Life. Your co-worker's niece is marrying a man she met on Millions of people have found romance online, and it's an activity that is more popular than ever.

It seems like a great new boyfriend or girlfriend is just waiting out there for you to find. But which site is best for you, and how do you present yourself in an online profile?

Pros and Cons

The many advantages of meeting people online are why these singles sites are so popular. Online dating allows you to survey many prospective dates in the privacy and comfort of your own home and in just a few sittings in front of your computer.

One of the complaints singles have, especially singles over 30, is that it's hard to meet like-minded people in loud and crowded barrooms and night clubs. Many people would rather not set foot in a bar where overindulgence is common, alcohol flows freely, and having a conversation over the din of loud music is difficult, if not impossible. Online dating is a viable alternative to the traditional meet market.

Meeting new people in the course of your daily life whom you might want to date can be awkward and stressful. Most singles don't wear badges that say "I'm available: date me!" How many times have you met someone you found interesting only to notice a few minutes later that wedding ring? Online dating sites eliminate that awkwardness. Nearly everyone on these sites is single and available.

With online dating, there's no pressure to act fast or without due consideration of the consequences. You can browse many singles at your leisure. No one is looking over your shoulder, sizing you up. The best dating sites have features such as chat rooms or guided communication tools that help take away some of the stress and pressure people naturally feel when trying to break the ice.

Of course, online dating has its drawbacks, too, and you have to be careful. People sometimes stretch the truth in their online profiles. Some people do misrepresent themselves. As always when dealing with people, if someone seems too good to be true, they probably aren't true.

Meeting people online removes millions of years of human evolution from the equation. We are hard wired to read important information about people from their appearance, demeanor, and body language, details that are missing from online profiles.

Naturally, everyone is trying hard to present themselves in the best possible light, which can sometimes be deceiving. Some people post only old photos of themselves from their younger, thinner days. Some people don't mention their live-in children or three-pack-a-day smoking habits. But every dating site provides tips and suggestions about how to get the most out of their websites.

With online dating, you don't have to meet anyone you don't want to meet. And because so many people are meeting this way, there must be something going on here.

The First Step Is Choosing a Site

Three Months for the Price of One!

Online dating sites are everywhere. Many exist for the sole purpose of bringing singles together. Some general purpose websites, such as Yahoo!, have personals sections. Some sites are free; some charge fees. Some sites specialize in specific age, religious, or ethnic groups, and some are focused on specific cities and communities. Finding the best site for you is often a question of trying a few out until you find one that you are most comfortable with.

Many singles maintain profiles on several dating sites. This method seems to offer the most chances for finding that special someone. But it could be expensive. Many sites allow you to set up a profile for free, but you have to pay a fee if you want to communicate with other singles. Many online singles like such features because they offer protection from unwanted contacts or spam. Fee sites also tend to screen out singles who may be lacking in financial stability. No one wants to date a bum!

Every online dating site tries to protect its members. You should never post personal information on a website, including your real name, phone number, personal e-mail address, or home address. Read the site's terms of service carefully before signing on.

Creating Your Online Profile

The heart of the online dating experience is the online profile. On almost every dating site, you must create a profile before you can contact another profile. The more information about yourself that you put in your online profile, including recent photographs, the better your results likely will be.

For best results, honesty is the best policy. But at the same time, you should temper your honesty with prudence. You should mention your minor children living at home. But ranting about how you "hate men" or how you have never had a good date with anybody would be a turn off to most visitors.

Lavalife: Where Singles Click!

Your personality should come out in your profile. One common approach is to describe who you are, what your interests are, and what you're looking for in a date. It's okay to be nervous - nearly everyone on the site is nervous about meeting someone new.

But avoid some of the cliches often found in online profiles. Don't type in ALL CAPS! Most people who have any online experience know that typing in all caps is a sign of an Internet newbie. It is the equivalent of yelling across a quiet room.

Online, you're presenting yourself in a textual environment, so spelling and grammar is important. Knowing the difference between "you're" and "your" could mean the difference between another lonely year or a year of exciting new encounters. Spelling is a big deal to a lot of folks.

You want to be specific in your profile. Unless you really want a man dressed in metal armor to sweep you off your feet and carry you away on his huge white steed, you should probably avoid the cliche "I'm looking for my knight in shining armor." And no one likes people who play psychological games with others, so writing in your profile, "I don't like women who play games" is meaningless and offers no new information about you. And, what does "keeping it real" really mean?

Your profile should be positive by avoiding negative words and phrases. Write about what you want, not what you don't want. Write about what you like to do, not what you don't like to do.

Most people on dating sites are in the same situation you are in. They all want to meet someone new and exciting. And most people don't like writing about themselves, so saying so reveals nothing about what you really like to do.

Every dating site encourages members to post photographs of themselves. In fact, online profiles without photographs are usually passed over, and those people rarely meet anyone online. So ideally, your profile should include more than one recent photograph.

Naturally, you don't want to present a photo of you standing next to your ex. Some online daters are cheaters, but chances are, you aren't one of them. But at the same time, you shouldn't present only web cam pictures of yourself sitting in front of your computer. One or two of those is fine, but you should have at least one photograph of yourself that was taken by another person. Pictures of you in a social setting are also good. They tell any visitors that you are not an anti-social hermit.

If you don't have any recent digital photos of yourself, you should have some made. Many businesses such as Walgreens and Kinko's provide the means and assistance you need to make good digital photo files. And every online dating site offers help in how to post a photo. Most are easy point-and-click operations that require no specialized computer knowledge.

In short, your online dating profile should be something you have carefully considered, not something you just threw together quickly without much thought. Most sites make you choose a screen name and prevent you from disclosing any personal information, such as your phone number or address.

Online Dating Etiquette

Online dating is a revolutionary way to meet people. But men and women have been meeting one way or another for a long time. The traditional gender roles are often still in play at many dating sites. Women expect men to "make the first contact."

But these traditional roles are often blurred in the online world. Some women report that they are bombarded with pointless messages from men, such as "You're so hot!" Men need to realize that such superficial approaches are even less likely to work online than they do in real life.

First contact online can be made by either party. Sure, some men might be turned off if a woman initiates contact, but certainly not all men. Many non-traditional types are attracted to dating online, so you should consider making the first contact if you see a profile that interests you, regardless of your gender. If no one is contacting you, you should start contacting others.

Initial contact messages should also be specific. Show the person that you've studied more than his or her photograph. Point out the things you like about and have in common with the profile. Don't use throwaway pick-up lines that rarely work in a barroom. In short, use the tools that online dating sites provide: the words and images people use to describe themselves.

After all, what have you got to lose? An online rejection stings much less than a face-to-face rejection, which is yet another advantage to online dating. If you receive a message from someone through an online dating site, you should respond to it honestly. If you're interested, say so, and make arrangements to exchange more messages. If you're not interested in the person who contacts you, you should respond in kind. A simple "Thanks for your note, but you're just not my type" is far better than just ignoring the message.

Moving from Online to Real Life

Before you meet anyone form an online dating site, you should exchange several e-mail messages with that person. If you can, you should also use the site's chat feature to spend time interacting with that person. If there is anything about your prospective date that you don't feel comfortable with, you should not meet that person. Don't be quick to give out personal information to anyone, but you should have at least one phone conversation with your prospective date before the first meeting.

Always arrange the first meeting with that person in a public place such as a restaurant or coffee shop. It's also a good idea to tell someone you know what you are doing. Millions of people have met through the online medium, and very rarely does something bad happen. But it's always better to be safe than sorry. It's better to assume the worst than to trust any stranger before you get to know that person.

Above All, Have Fun!

Online dating is popular because it's fun. You can meet a wide variety of people without much effort and in a short period of time. Many people have met that special someone online. Will this be the year for you to find love?

Sign Up for Cyber Monday Central's Free Daily Deal Email Alerts!