Take your time with online dating

17 November 2016

If you’ve never tried online dating before, it can seem like a minefield.

You might be worried about not understanding how it works, or whether you’ll be any ‘good’ at it. It can feel like it’s a strange way to meet people – perhaps unnatural or awkward. You may also have concerns about the kind of people you’ll meet online, and whether it will be safe.

And if you’re a bit older, you may have grown up with the impression that it’s only for people who are shy, or those just looking for sex.

But, as the numbers and variety of people who enjoy online dating indicate, it can be a great way of meeting new people – not just for romance, but for friendship too. For many people, meeting people online is by far the best dating option.

What is online dating?

Online dating is what it sounds like – a way of meeting people online so you can potentially go on dates together.

Different dating sites (and mobile apps) work differently, but the process usually involves creating an online ‘profile’ for yourself, which includes a picture, your age and information about lifestyle, hobbies and interests, and then searching through the profiles of other people on the site to find a ‘match’ – in other words, someone you like. You can then get in touch with your ‘match’ by sending them a message.

How do I choose the right site?

There are various dating sites out there. You may have heard of some of the big ones: OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, EHarmony, Match.com and so on. And then there are apps like Tinder, HappN, Hinge.

You might like to start by ‘shopping around’ and seeing which appeal most to you. In truth, lots are similar, but some have unique quirks. Some, for instance, are aimed primarily at young professionals, whereas others are for retired people, or members of the armed forces. Some match people based on their hobbies or interests, while others go a bit deeper, asking more detailed questions about your values and ideas. But the best way to figure out which work best for you is by reading more about them or even giving them a go. Dating apps are similar but designed for use on mobile devices.

If you think you’ll need help, you might like to talk with someone who has experience with online dating. They may be able to tell you what to expect, what their experiences have been, and recommend a service that would work well for you. Ask yourself whether any of your friends and family have – or are likely to have – given online dating a go.

Setting up a profile

One of the trickier aspects of getting started dating online is setting up a profile. People sometimes find this awkward or difficult.

It might be hard to find the right language – it can be tricky knowing how to describe yourself to someone who doesn’t know you. And it can be hard to figure out what to write. A lot of people get stumped trying to think about themselves from a stranger’s perspective. It can leave them thinking: what kind of person am I? Again, that’s where talking to friends and family can be really useful.

Taking your time

One potential pitfall of online dating – and dating in general – is expecting to meet someone really quickly with whom you can get into a long-term relationship. It can be easier if you think more along the lines of meeting new, interesting people – with the potential for romance maybe later. That way, you won’t be so disappointed if you find someone who isn’t quite right for you, and you’ll be able to build up your confidence in the world of dating slowly, without feeling like it’s ‘not going well’.

Also, doing things this way will give you the chance to consider what it is you’re looking for in a partner. It’s often only after dating different kinds of people that we start to realise what we like – and then can begin to narrow our search more effectively.

What about safety?

Used sensibly, online dating is as safe as any other method of meeting people. However, as with any situation where you’re meeting someone new for the first time, it is a good idea to practise common sense. Let a friend or family member know where and when you’re meeting someone, especially if you haven’t met before. It’s also a good idea to avoid giving away too much personal information, at least until you know someone better – and certainly not before you’ve met them offline.

If you’d like to talk through online dating with one of our relationship counsellors give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

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