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Online Dating Tips, Part One

by Deborah Gray

In 1999, after a long dry spell, datewise, I explored a new dating frontier - online personal ads. I posted my own ads, answered others, and met and dated men I met online. I learned that, while some of the same commonsense guidelines that have always applied to dating still work, there are a lot of new guidelines that come with the territory. 

Dating Sites
Some sites are better than others, generally in term of the features they offer. The following is a rundown of the sites I have personal experience with. 

  • Love at AOL (AOL Keyword: Love at AOL). I had generally good results with this site. It is of course restricted to America Online members, so right away your pool of possibilities is cut down. However, I had mostly positive experiences with people I met through Love at AOL. I also found AOL features like Instant Messenger, Member Profile and some email features to be very helpful in getting to know someone. One drawback is that you are somewhat limited in what you post when you write an ad, in that you're really answering a set of questions. Many people end up putting additional information in their member profiles. I also found a problem with Love at AOL in that it seems to be down often, perhaps when they're posting new listings. 
  • Matchmaker Sites (Silver Connection); also other special-interest and age groups). The Matchmaker sites have an excellent set of features that make the experience easy and fun. Search for someone using different criteria, or browse the listings. You can view who is online and chat with them if you like. They provide your own mailbox on the site to receive mail, and allow you to see when someone has read your response, and even if they kept or deleted it. The ability to block email from someone, which can come in handy, is provided.  Instead of simply answering questions, there is  latitude in filling out your profile. The ability to post more than one picture of yourself is an advantage: even  if you have a great headshot of yourself you might want to post a full-length photograph. You do pay a membership fee for all those features, but there is a trial period first in which you can take the service for a test-drive. 
  • allows you to search for someone as a friend or a date. The site also provides a personality test and a physical attraction test.
  • Yahoo also has a very busy Personals section. You can search or browse by Metro area. Unfortunately they don't allow for posting of pictures, so you're evaluating the other person without that advantage. I found the whole system a little confusing, and it really is a bare bones area in terms of features. However, it is free, and is the most popular site on the web, so sheer numbers help to balance out the shortcomings. 
Placing an Ad
  • Post a picture if possible - it will generate more responses. We all wish looks weren't important, but people are more comfortable answering if they know what you look like. You can get a photo scanned at your local copy shop. 
  • Be upfront about what you're looking for. If you just want to date casually, say so. If you hope to find something more serious, that's important to make clear too. Remember, you're trying to meet someone who wants the same thing you do. 
  • Learn how to block people on your chat or instant message program before placing your ad. You will probably run into at least a couple of persistent suitors who try to contact you constantly when you're online. I had to block everyone on America Online Instant Messenger using the screen name I posted the ad under, and just allowed certain people to see me. 
Next:  Getting to Know You - what you should keep in mind once you get the ball rolling. 

Online Dating Links:

  • Silver Connection
  • Yahoo Personals
  • Tips for Safe Online Dating
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