3:04 pm
Tue February 10, 2004

Web of Love

Tips on navigating the online dating scene.

Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Wally's commentary.]

It wasn't that long ago that I found myself uncoupled and back in the dating pool at age fifty-seven. That's not be the most comfortable situation in the world but online matchmaking services helped make it better.

In this Postcard from the Digital Age, I'll share a few of the things I've learned about using those online dating services, just in time for Valentine's Day.

These services work because other options are so limited. Without going online I would have been limited to the folks I met at church, at the gym and doing business.

And then there would be those single friends and relatives of my coupled friends, that they just knew would be perfect. Online dating gave me lots more options.

Let's clear one thing up right away. They're not online dating services at all. They're really matchmaking services that combine what computers do well (searching, sorting and matching) with a database of information entered by wannabe daters like me.

There are lots of these services with more coming online every day. Not all of them have profiles for many people in your area.

Most services will let you check to see how many people are in their database who meet your basic age and location criteria. The higher the number, the better your chance of finding a match.

The services will ask you for information for a profile, so understand how profiles work. One part of your profile is mostly for the computer. It includes limited choice questions that the computer will use to find your match. That won't really work, but it sounds good.

The other part of your profile is the text that humans read. An interesting and honest profile is one of your most important tools for meeting a compatible person. Some folks get help from friends to come up with the best profile possible.

Add a picture to your profile. A picture dramatically increases the likelihood that someone who's interested will contact you. The services make it easy to do.

Subscribe. You don't get all the benefits without subscribing. The rates are reasonable.

Understand the process. There's usually a simple way to let someone know you're interested. On match.com it's called a "wink." Then the progression usually is to email, phone conversations, a short meeting, and serious dating.

Be active and proactive. Like with other things in life, you get more out if you put more in. Scan other profiles for ones that seem like a match. Wink. Respond when others contact you.

Use the security features that the service provides. They allow you to contact folks and keep your actual identity and location secret. But they only work if you use them.

Pay attention to security in other ways. Make sure your phone number is locked from caller ID if you call someone else. Schedule your first meeting for someplace public. If you travel out of town to meet someone, make your own travel arrangements and keep them private.

Take the time to learn about the folks you contact. Spending time on email and phone communication can save you a lot of grief later. Ask any questions you want answered. If you don't get answers, move on.

Screen quickly. This may sound like a contradiction of my last point, but it's not. You'll usually know right away if someone isn't a match for you. Move on so you can spend your time learning about someone who might be right.

Be honest in your profile and all your communications. You're looking for a good relationship and you don't build those on lies.

Can it work? You bet. I discovered that there were far more attractive, interesting and uncoupled women who lived nearby than I'd ever imagined. And I discovered someone that I'm now dating seriously, just in time for Valentine's Day.