First the disclaimer: This list of online dating tips is compiled from OUR personal experiences and opinions. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive, and by no means meant to be taken as the gospel. We can't be held responsible for anything that might go wrong if you follow our advice or not. We're just hoping you can use some of our experiences to help you in your search for online romance, and we'll update this section as we think of anything else.
Now the tips:
Post a picture!
It's true what all the services say-ads with pictures get three times as many responses. Most of us are to the point in the game where we ONLY look at ads with pictures. Let's all face it: Physical appearance does matter to some degree, to everyone. All of us here have had the experience where you meet someone online, you chat for some time, eventually move to the phone...and never exchange a photo. Then when it comes time to meet, you find that one or both of you are just not attracted to the other. That's just the way life works. It's not shallow to ask someone for a picture to see what they look like. It's just human nature. Get it over with fast, and avoid a lot of awkwardness later!
Don't IM blindly
When someone posts an ad on a service like AOL or Yahoo personals, and you're an AIM or Yahoo Messenger user, you might be tempted to just IM them out of the blue without sending an email first. Don't do it, for several reasons. First of all, some people think it's just plain rude. They may not be into the whole IM thing at all. They might be signed on checking their mail at work and get in trouble if the boss catches them chatting. Or, they might just be overwhelmed with IMs. Women especially seem to run into this trap, where they sign on to AOL and have 7 unknown IMs flying at them at once. If you really want to make an impression on someone, write a nice, well thought-out letter and let him or her get back to you.
Write a good letter
I know that's a cliche, but a really good letter is the only way you're going to get your foot in the door. That doesn't mean you have to go out and take a creative writing class or something. Just be yourself-tell something about who you are, what you like to do, and what you're looking for in a person. Let your sense of humor shine through! Most people enjoy a good laugh, and it makes you seem like a friendly, open person. Take the time to proofread, fix your spelling errors and avoid writing things in internet shorthand like "What R U looking 4?" or "U R kewl." Ugh! You only get one chance to make that first impression and if your initial letter doesn't stand out from the crowd, it's not going to get answered.
Get your timing right
When do you move from email to the phone? When do phone calls translate into a face-to-face meeting? Like just about anything, it all depends on when your gut tells you it's time...but try to keep perspective. No one really wants to spend weeks or months emailing or talking on the phone without any prospect of ever meeting and not knowing where things are headed. On the other hand, people who start trying to set up an in-person meeting within the first email contact are just plain scary! Understand that everyone views this internet-dating thing a little differently and try to find a timeline that each of you is comfortable with.
Not everyone feels 100% comfortable with the online dating environment. It's a new medium to a lot of us, and having a total stranger suddenly ask where you live, where you work, or some other personal detail can be a little scary. For the most part, it's meant totally innocently, in the name of getting to know one another, but just be aware that some people might find it threatening. Try to temper your questions to make the other person feel a bit more comfortable, and also try to understand that the enthusiastic new contact asking you a million questions is probably NOT a stalker, and just sincerely curious.
That said...PLAY IT SAFE!
Revealing too many personal details about yourself when you don't know someone well is a recipe for disaster. You just can't say these things too many times-if you don't feel comfortable trusting someone, or haven't known them long:
Anyone who sincerely wants to know you is going to understand that you have to take these precautions. Anyone who acts as if you're paranoid or showing a lack of trust is not someone you want to be with anyway!