Online Dating: Keep It Real

by Michael on November 5, 2010 · 0 comments

Seriously, if you don't want to meet her, you're reading the wrong site. (Photo by Adam Tinworth)

Update: The Tao of Bachelorhood Guide to Online Dating, based on this series but revised and nicely formatted for the Kindle, is available on Other versions to come. For a limited time it’s only $1.99!

There’s one step to go in our series of online dating articles…and it’s a big one. That is, if you want to turn your online fishing into a real live woman you can go out with. But first, this article is about what can happen if you go about it wrong.

A timely article in Psychology Today demonstrates the problems some men can have when they get online and things become more of a video game than a way to find a relationship. The author, Todd Essig, Ph.D., understands why dating is good, but also how it can go sour:

…if people only used online dating sites as the monogamy markets they are often marketed to be, those sites would soon go out of business. A dating site could not survive being efficient at pairing people because they would then go off and trip the light fantastic never to return to the site. …Instead, these sites are really good at harnessing (exploiting?) our psychology by giving some of what they promise—but not too much!—while simultaneously capitalizing on the psychological reality that people are doing much more at online dating sites than just efficiently and rationally trying to meet the perfect mate.

What he means is, a lot of people are playing and window shopping. The Dr. goes on to make some valid points, but he stumbles when he brands online messaging “simulated flirtation”: online flirtation can be (and usually is) very real…it’s just one-dimensional, which makes it easier than in-person flirtation.

Stuck in Tron World

It’s tempting to just back-burner that girl who actually responded to your messages while you see if you can convince that younger model to give you the time of day, or even to just treat it all like a big video game. And Dr. Essig presents the case study of someone who did just that:

Consider a young man I treated who was socially awkward, sexually inexperienced and a self-described nerd…when he did find someone who would meet him for coffee he usually had his feelings hurt. Soon he was crafting increasingly compelling online profiles, so much so that several exciting women sent him flirty messages…He would happily brag that he felt like he was winning at “World of Lovecraft”…(but) since the online identities he created were so radically different from who he actually was he could never even consider trying to meet anyone in person.

That’s the trap: to “play the game” online in such a way that real-life you can’t measure up. What I’ve tried to give you are the tools to project your own personality online, as well as the general tools to make yourself a lot more interesting and more presentable in real life, so that you can truly find the woman of your dreams. Still, there are a few important rules you can use to make sure you aren’t getting stuck in that video game.

5 Rules to Get From Online Meeting to Real-Life Dating

Avoid the “online veterans.” They’re the ones who most likely have fallen into one of the psychological traps of online dating. Instead, contact the newer members who are more likely to interact normally.

  • Take dating breaks. After you’ve had a month or so of contacts, turn your profile off and take a break. Practice your real-world flirting to make sure you don’t get stuck in Tron World.
  • Look for personality. While almost no one approaches the most smoking hot woman at the bar, online she’s guaranteed to find her inbox jammed with messages from almost every man who sees her profile. The vast majority of those men didn’t even bother to find out whether she was intelligent or had a single thing in common with them, she was just hot. Filter out the attractive women who don’t like what you like, and look for the less-attractive (but still pretty) women who can turn you on even when they lose their looks.
  • Move quickly when you get a bite. As I’ll detail in the next article, your goal is not to send message after message, it’s to actually see, talk to and touch a woman in real life. Make sure she’s comfortable, and always meet in a public place, but don’t waste your time sitting on your ass in front of the computer.
  • Don’t troll while dating. If you’re seeing someone exclusively, turn off your profile. No exceptions. Let the real world happen.
  • Make sure your real-life skills are solid. Online dating, as the Dr. says, is actually “online meeting.” It’s a method to meet more single women so that you can date them in real life. Once you’re face-to-face, your mannerisms, grooming and conversational skills are as important as they are if you met at the laundromat. So meet some women in the laundromat. Or the grocery store. Or the bookshop.

If you treat online dating as real dating, you can avoid the problems Dr. Essig noted. I’ll be back soon with the method for getting from first contact to an actual physical date.

From Screen to Fantasy and Back: What People Really Do at Online Dating Sites [Psychology Today]

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