Tinder and its GPS-based sister apps have taken the dating world by storm. While some have dubbed them as “hook-up” apps, there’s at least some anecdotal evidence that these digital tools are leading to marriages and meaningful relationships. For example, Brigham Young University’s student newspaper1 reported last year that several students in the campus got hitched through Tinder. But on the flipside, a number of people have had less-than-stellar experiences with the app and other online dating Web sites.
But it’s also true that people are finding love online – and there’s enough scientific evidence to prove that. For example, a study published2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 by Harvard University reported that one-third of married couples in the study first met online.
Single and confused? Don’t despair. Here are some useful suggestions to avoid online dating pitfalls and find love.
- Don’t give up: Most people who dabble in online dating expect instant results – that’s a mistake. “Those who meet their mate online are different from those who don’t,” says Wendy Newman, author of the forthcoming book 121 First Dates – A Survival Guide for the Single Girl (Beyond Words). “What sets them apart is their willingness to go out there time and again to meet a person until the two click.” Just because you had a bad experience or two doesn’t mean that you should write online dating off. “Can you imagine quitting food the first time you tasted something unpleasant?” says Newman. “How about never exercising again the moment there’s discomfort?”
- Act quick: Most people wait too long before meeting people they connect with online. In order to size up a potential date, some people like having several e-mail conversations and four to five phone chats. “We do this thinking we’re being efficient, and this is a mistake,” says Newman. If you take into account the time taken to compose three long e-mails, a couple of phone calls, and all the time in between that you spend thinking about the other fellow, it easily adds up to about eight hours. “During those eight hours you have built your potential fantasy future with them – it’s not for real,” warns Newman. Lesson: if you find someone interesting, get to work quickly and ask them out for coffee or a drink.
- Do your investigating: Going through a potential date’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles isn’t enough homework. Maria Coder, a New York City-based dating safety coach who offers workshops on investigating dates, says that people should look up their dates on sites like familywatchdog.us, a criminal sex offender database that provides a lot of information and photos for free. Another useful tool could be www.spydialer.com. If you know a person’s cell phone number, you can feed that into the site and hear the person’s voice mail. “It can help you gauge age, dialect, etc., of your prospective date to check if it matches the person you’re expecting to meet,” she says. If you and your date have common friends on social media sites, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and shoot a few “investigative” calls.
- Spruce up your profile: Online dating simply doesn’t work for some because they do not put enough effort into their profiles. Rule number one: make your profile stand out from the crowd. “If there is something unique about you, throw it out there instead of generic statements, such as ‘I love working out’ or ‘I love going for romantic walks’”, says Los Angeles-based relationship therapist Allen Wagner. He suggests mentioning things you’re really interested in, not what you think others might like. Make sure your profile is authentic. “Remember what your third grade teacher taught you about writing essays? Show, don’t tell,” says Trish McDermott, former Vice President of Public Relations at Match.com “So instead of telling a potential romantic interest you are smart, or quick-witted, just be who you are in your profile and they’ll figure it out.”
- Be on guard: People you find online are basically strangers, so take the usual precautions when meeting someone. “Never give out your last name before meeting or do anything that would reveal your identity, like Facebook friend them,” says Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt and author of Love @ First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating (Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.). “And of course, always meet in a public place the first time you’re meeting a new match”. If possible, give a friend or a family member a heads–up about the date, and ask them to check up on you after a few hours.
1. Kennedy, Bailey. “‘Swiped’ Right off Her Feet: Marriage by Tinder at BYU.” U N I V E R S E. The Digital Universe, 15 Oct. 2013. Web.
2. Department of Psychology, Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637; b Gestalt Research, Santa Monica, CA 90403; and c Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University, Boston, MA 02115