In the past, the process of meeting someone was a very different experience. There was no other way to meet people than to leave home. Perhaps one would go to a bar or bump into their special one in the supermarket, and talk in person. In those days, anyone actively looking for a date had to appear available, hoping that someone would approach them to start a conversation. Luckily, dating today doesn’t have to involve any face-to-face confrontation at the outset. The rise of online dating websites has removed many complications and obstacles of finding love and companionship, making the whole process easier in terms of offering access to a larger number of single people in one hit. However, that is not to say that finding a date online is straightforward. Unfortunately, not everyone who is looking for someone online is ‘available’, and some are just wanting casual sex. If you happen to get involved with someone who is sending mixed messages about their intentions, you can always read my article at this link about the issue of want versus need: how does your partner truly feel about you.

However, for those who are truly legitimate in their online motives, there can still be lots of mistakes to make which could pose problems for finding a suitable match. So this article highlights some top tips to make searching for love or companionship online a lot simpler.

A picture tells a thousand words

Don’t post a selfie

The selfie appears everywhere, from songs about them to Facebook posts, but you shouldn't choose one as an online profile picture. What is a selfie potentially telling the world? It's suggesting that you couldn’t be bothered to get someone to take a shot of you in a normal position and at a normal angle, that you may not have any friends, and worse, that you are vain and self-obsessed. Don't make this common mistake. Instead, choose a picture of yourself taken by another person, but ensure you're looking happy and above all, tasteful, without attempting to look sexy. You should also avoid photos that are taken of you at a faraway distance, as well as pictures where you're scowling, pouting, wearing sunglasses, or looking otherwise unnatural. And ladies, a little makeup is ok, but honestly, don’t go overboard. Your potential dates want to see what you really look like. Think about it this way: If you have covered up anything about your appearance that you don’t like, you will be more anxious about meeting up with someone who you know has a different impression of you to what you gave them online.

Take full length pictures

Just as your potential dates need to know what you really look like, do not shy away from including full length photographs. If you are worried about being judged on your physique, then unfortunately, the types of people who will actually judge you will walk away quickly upon meeting you in person on the first date, so the time you took to prepare yourself and travel to the meeting place will be wasted. In my counselling experience, I have heard multiple clients express actual anger around being misled by someone’s appearance, and the disappointment for both parties involved when the first date quickly disintegrates as a result, can be devastating and discouraging to continue the online search for love. So maybe some people will decide that you're not their type, but it's better to miss out on these dates than to go out with someone who thought you were different to the image represented in your photos.

Ensure your profile picture is just about you

This may sound odd, but you'd be surprised about how many people include their pets, cars and possessions in their profile shots. Nobody is going on a date with your stuffed toy collection or your motorbike – they are only interested in YOU! Any expensive possessions might also give the impression that you don’t feel confident enough in yourself, and so you need to sell yourself through your assets. When flicking through all individual pics online to see who you might like to make contact with, any extra distractions can detract from the focus on you, and maybe even lead potential dates to overlook you altogether.

Talk about yourself

Often, people can feel too embarrassed or self-conscious to talk about themselves on their online profile. If you refrain from telling potential dates about the things you excel at and what you enjoy, you could give the wrong impression through absence of information. It's possible that they may even make negative assumptions about you. For example, perhaps you have no motivation, you're lazy, you are uninteresting, and you don’t really care about finding a partner, or all of the above. If they, in the meantime, find someone else who specifically loves going to the theatre or sky diving in the same way they do, you will be bypassed pretty quickly. So if you come across as reserved, wary, closed and private, these are not inviting qualities when the whole purpose of online dating is people to get to know one another. So you should make sure to sell yourself with key details about the type of person you are. If you want to attract a quality date, you should give an insight into your personality and life, keeping it positive all the way.

Avoid disclosing negative issues

Whatever issues you may have had in your life, from a troublesome childhood to a messy divorce, your new date doesn't need to hear about these matters straight away. It's important that new partners can meet you and get acquainted with the person you are first, without the bias of previous problems. Such problems flag your new partner about troubling implications for your future together. If you find a connection with someone and think you may be able to build a life together, wait for the appropriate time and place to slowly introduce information about the past if you wish, but never allow the past to be the initial conversation topic.

Always be polite

Everyone has been there and will testify that there is no fun to be had when someone is rude to you. No matter what you feel when you meet a potential date, even if they seem strange, unattractive or boring, being respectful and polite is essential. Remember that rejection is harmful to the self-esteem, so be kind when you communicate with them.  

Treat your early emails as a first date

Even though you haven't met in the flesh, you can find out plenty about each other in those first few emails. So in those early messages, you should always pay attention not just to what your potential date is revealing about themselves, but what they're not saying too. Reading between the lines is a great way to work out if they're hiding something. By paying attention to their form of expression, you can glean a lot about personality too. Is their tone arrogant and selfish, or genuine and friendly?

Avoid listing the qualities you are not looking for

We are all aware of the qualities that we'd rather not find in our potential partners, but you shouldn't list them in your profile. Avoid listing those negative qualities. If you tell potential partners all the things you don't want instead of what you do, you may look like you are hard to please and non-accepting of human flaws. You will certainly reduce your chances of being approached or receiving any replies.   

Look for red flags

Everyone has issues, but there are some that are more visible than others. Looking through the profile of your potential date may reveal more than what they provide. You should look deeper, between the lines, to see what is being hidden. Someone whose profile shots are full of flashy cars, expensive possessions, and exotic locations could be a materialistic person who is shallow and greedy, and places an emphasis on lavish birthdays presents or anniversary gifts, rather than meaningful gifts. Also, if someone demands a profile picture from you after you have adequately described yourself, they may well be less interested in who you are and more interested in looks. Also, if someone goes on and on about fidelity and loyalty, it is likely they have issues with trusting others.

Never lie

While you may be tempted to big note yourself to sound or appear more impressive than you are, such as pretending that you're taller, thinner, richer or more accomplished in your career than you truly area, your new partner may perceive you to be untrustworthy when the facts are unveiled. With that in mind, remember that the truth may get stretched somewhat when you read other profiles, so don't bank on everything you're reading as the full truth.

Perform background checks

In the world of online dating, people unfortunately aren't always who they appear to be. Even if you had a wonderful first date together, it doesn't mean they won't let you down or bitterly disappoint you. And worse, you could find out something pretty horrific, such as a violent side to their nature, or the fact that they are still married. You are not at all being paranoid if you perform background checks on any potential date to be certain that all is fine – because keep in mind, people present what you want to see to gain your trust. If you have a tendency to be unlucky in love, you might want to read on and find out about why bad relationships are repeating on you in this article

Don’t get disheartened: Online dating IS NOT for the desperate or a less successful way of finding love

Following on from the above section in regards to performing background checks, many believe that online dating is not a ‘safe’ or ‘successful’ way of meeting someone. Some also believe that online dating is only for the 'desperate who can't find anyone'. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I often hear clients talking about how there seem to be “so many more unsuitable people” in the online dating world than in the real world. This is statistically incorrect, and is a common misperception. For example, in the “real world” so to speak, if it were deemed that 7/10 people you met were unsuitable or unsavoury, then 7/10 people you met online would  also be unsuitable or unsavoury, and not a percentage more or less than what you observe in the real world. The problem is, when you sign up with an online dating site, you could potentially meet 10 people in a month, as opposed to 10 (or less) available people per year in the real world. So within one month alone, you would meet 7 people who are just not your cup of tea, and this would quickly taint your opinion about the prospects of online dating. So keep in mind that with online dating, you are simply meeting up with many more people in a shorter period of time, so naturally, you are going to meet many more unsavoury and unappealing characters in a shorter space of time.

Also, online dating is just another forum in which to meet someone, just as you would at a bar or supermarket. So there is no way you could ever rationally conclude that online dating is for the desperate. Everyone is busy and preoccupied in the real world, so they are not always going to be thinking about the availability of someone potentially suitable they encounter at any given time. The beauty of online dating is that you could potentially meet someone special who you would never have stumbled across in your real world, because of factors such as geographical distance and job industry. So always keep these statistical and other facts in mind when you start to become disheartened by “unappealing date number 7” for the month, and remember that the odds of finding compatibility will be the same in whichever forum you visit. You will just end up churning through dates a lot more quickly with online dating, than by hanging around the pub.              

In conclusion

Online dating websites are a great way to find a date, and many people do indeed discover the love of their life through them every year. If you consider the tips and points outlined in this article, you could end up finding love faster than you imagined! You just need to grin and bear and move past the many disappointments that may come your way through the process, before finally meeting that fantastic person who is also looking for someone like you. And when you think you've found that special someone, you could read my article here on the qualities you should search for in an ideal partner, just to make sure you are on the right track.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   

Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS