Internet dating is an amazing phenomenon. Nowadays, Internet dating sites in the U.S. are getting over 60 million visitors a month. There are now many hundreds of dating sites on the Web. Why such tremendous growth in this business? Simply because it's an easy, efficient way to meet members of the opposite sex. Anyway, it certainly has to beat the old-style singles services, bar scenes, etc.
However, before you get too involved in Internet dating - a world of its own - take ten minutes to read over this article. I have a some important suggestions for you that may save you a lot of frustration. I also have a few important warnings to keep you out of trouble.
There are now two main types of online dating sites, the so-called megasites, like AmericanSingles.com, Match.com, and eHarmony.com, and then there are the specialized sites.
These megasites cater to everybody, old and young, nationwide, and have hundreds of thousands of members. The specialized sites, on the other hand, focus on narrower niche markets - like Jewish singles, Christian singles, black singles, thirty-plus singles, senior singles, etc. It's really just a matter of preference whether to join the huge megasites or a small niche site, or both. One thing they all have in common is that they will charge you a membership fee - soon after your "free" sign-up.
You probably know how these sites all work. To get started, you complete a profile (some call it an "essay" but please don't write an essay) about yourself and your interests, etc., and then you upload your absurdly-flattering photo of yourself. Then you wait for some fish to bite the hook, or else you can play the role of the fish yourself and send emails to members you pick who you think look and sound interesting.
The sites almost invariably let you "search" for members who meet your specifications regarding age, education, location, religion, and other factors.
Women rule in online dating. Reportedly, women who send out emails to men get upwards of 96% responses. Men who email women get only about 20% responses. However, it's important to realize that cyberspace can be much more dangerous territory for women than for men. First, men tend to lie more than women, particularly about their marital status. A man may completely misrepresent himself on a dating site, even to the point of uploading a picture of somebody else. Women rarely do that sort of thing. (Women do, however, tend to post pictures of their younger thinner selves, which is much more forgivable.) A man may oftentimes describe himself simply in terms he thinks women want to hear - lying about his education, profession, age, the works, even about the fact he has three kids who are teenagers.
Why do men do this when the truth will sooner or later be found out? The answer is, many men who use dating sites are not necessarily looking for long-term relationships.
But the worst danger to a woman is to get involved with a man who's violent or unbalanced, and yes, there are some of those out there, too. Thus, ladies, it's extremely important to avoid giving men you correspond with through dating sites any information which will enable them to identify you until you are sure who you're dealing with. Though you may not be aware of it, you can now be identified via the Internet very quickly by someone who knows very little about you - maybe as little as your first and last names. And you can certainly be identified by your telephone number.
Conversely, it is very important that you insist that the man does identify himself. He should not resist giving you his full name and address. If he does resist, something is probably wrong - like he's already married. Once you have his name and address you can run a quick online background check on him for only about $50, using a service like Intelius. This will include a criminal records search and also give you some idea of his economic status because it will tell you if he owns a house and if so what its value is.
Unfortunately, it probably won't tell you if he's married or divorced, or if it does, its coverage will be limited to only be a few states, like Florida and Texas, that make this type of information easily available through databases.
However, if you haven't done so already, you can download our free ebook, Marriage & Divorce Records, USA (MarriageDivorceUSA.com). This eBook provides URL's and government phone numbers for nearly all counties and states in the USA. Using it, you can check his marital status out reasonably thoroughly (though never with 100% certainty, since someone can get married or divorced anywhere).
Assuming you meet someone online you find interesting, you'll probably agree to a date. Always make it in a public place where there are other people around. A cocktail lounge is good, or a restaurant. (Not a bagel shop early in the morning, please. I often sit next to online daters at 8:30 A.M. in the bagel shop I go to, and I hate it. Pick somewhere there's reasonable privacy.)
I used to wonder why so few dating sites offer their members background checks. So I called up a couple and asked. They both said the same thing, because they're afraid it would "alarm" their members. They're afraid of giving the impression that there's something to fear from online dating. Of course, from a woman's standpoint especially, there really is something to fear. What if the person you're agreeing to meet and possibly enter into a relationship with is a convicted felon? So, again, I recommend you seriously consider doing an online background check before the first date. (Our first report in our Web Search Guides series covers the topic of online background checks in detail.)
Online Dating: A Few Tips
- Men need to be very cautious in emailing women on dating sites. Why? The reason is that they may inadvertently enter into a conversation with a minor, even to the point of arranging a date, and this can result in very serious consequences you don't even want to think about.
- From a woman's standpoint, the big question is, Is he telling me the truth? Especially regarding his marital status. Here are a few indications he's married: he fails to provide a photo (so his wife or one of her friends won't spot it online); he won't provide a home address or phone number, or only his cell number; he is never available on weekends or Saturday night, only during the business day. But although a man you're exchanging emails with should not hesitate to provide some personal information to you, you should never give out your full name, address or phone number until you're certain he's on the level.
- For more tips on safe online dating, visit saferdating.com
- Most online dating sites allow you to block emails from people you find obnoxious. Visit haltabuse.org for help in dealing with someone who harassed you. If you've got a really serious situation, try cyberlawenforcement.org.
- You should recognize that it's easy to lift somebody's photo from a dating site. So the photo you submit could conceivably turn up anywhere. It's unlikely anyone will lift it; even so, it's not impossible.
- Almost 85% of women embellish their online photos, so, men, don't be too shocked if she doesn't look like you expect. Be decent.
- Seven out of ten online dating participants are men. Unfortunately, a large proportion of these are married and are just looking for affairs or maybe cybersex. On the other hand a significant proportion of the women online are not looking for relationships, either. They're running online scams, trying to extract money from lonely men. For both men and women an excellent rule for online dating is: Never send money to anybody unless you're buying something.
- Did you know that, on most of the major online dating sites, you can easily check out someone's search activity by viewing their profile? You can also check to see exactly who has looked at your profile.
Most experts agree on the following guidelines when doing Internet dating: (1) Beware of people who start telling you their problems right away; (2) Watch out for minors who are posing as adults; (3) Never give out information about your personal finances - like how much money you make, whether you own a home, etc.; (4) Don't give your home address/phone number out right away and don't have the other person meet you for a first date at your home; (5) Don't send anyone money: (6) Don't take rejections personally - just move on. And if you need to reject someone yourself, do it tactfully ("I've decided to get back with my boyfriend," etc.); (7) Try to find out all you can about someone before agreeing to a first date; the Internet can help.