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Online Dating: Dante’s Inferno in Cyberspace?

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After numerous “romantic” adventures online and off over the past year or two, I've recovered sufficiently from my PTSD to report on what I've discovered thus far. Here’s a quick evaluation from a jaundiced ex-prisoner of online love:

Don't play like a girl.
Despite "equality," we women are still vulnerable creatures, due in equal part to our naivete and our unrealistic, girlish dreams of the perfect romance. Many online Lotharios are not even interested in a “love connection,” but are definitely phishing for emails to ravage or a quick “bite to eat." Don't be his Chicken McNugget.

No photo, no way.
Not because you’re shallow, but nine times out of eight the "invisible men" are married, from another land, and/or trolling for email addys to attack with spyware and other online “venereal” diseases of the new millennium. It’s a dirty world out there!

Be honest.
Try to put up flattering but realistic photos, and be as honest as you can about your assets. If you’re heavy or curvy or voluptuous, state it up front, as about half of the guys out there prefer slim women – though the tide has begun to turn. The other half apparently crave someone they can grab onto at night. Plus it’s incentive to hit the gym and eschew the Haagen Daaz – you’ve got men to meet, and the dating pool is larger when you get smaller.

Try meetup.com.
Not a dating site, but a great way to meet people who share your interests, whatever they may be. If your Prince Charming just happens to be out there, so much the better – at least you know you have something in common other than, er, sex.

If it seems too good to be true, it always is.
Caveat emptor indeed…'nuff said. He has a villa in Italy; he thinks you're the most beautiful woman he's ever laid eyes on; he's in love; he's a world traveler. And I'm Michelle Obama.

Always let the guy make the first move.
Don’t even send an icebreaker. Yahoo Personal's MO is to track every profile you visit and “squeal” to the recipient of your gaze, and vice versa. Peeking at a profile is about as far as you should go. If love is a game, the old rules still apply: men like the chase. Deprive them of their hunting instincts at your own risk. If they like what they see, wild horses won't drag them away from contacting you.

Use your sixth sense.
Be hyper-aware of any inconsistencies in a profile, along with egregious syntax errors and typos. Many foreign scammers use the site for ill, and let’s face it, if a guy can’t even bother to hit spell check or master the art of a complete sentence, it ain’t gonna get any better.

Honesty cuts both ways.
Women lie about their age (I don't; nowadays it‘s not “necessary” anyway); men lie about income and profession. The irony being, of course, that the men who insist that all women are interested in is the size of their wallet are the very ones likely to lie about their monetary avoirdupois – thus attracting the golddiggers they rightfully deserve. Dishonesty is a deal-breaker; it will only get worse.

Avoid those who are phishers of women.
Don't be rushed into giving out your regular email addy til you are very comfortable – or, as many advise, create a special one just for online dating purposes. No reason to hurry, though. Many scammers collect emails which they then proceed to inject with spyware, which could lead to an assault on your credit card and other information. Get his number rather than give yours. If you do give your number, give a cell number – that’s what the boyz do, and when in Rome…

Anyone who says he is not into “games” very likely is.
Playas like women who are guileless and clueless about the mating game. Their goal? Checkmate from the first move on, with you as their love pawn. Game over.

Try IM chats.
As a screening device, IM’ing can reveal volumes and save you precious time.
You can quickly weed out the bores, the leches, the creeps, the fakes, the fetishists, the illiterati, the un- and underemployed, and the un- and under-intelligent. That’s what women’s intuition is about. But be careful whom you let into your IM world. Best to have an alias that's not similar to your email address. I've yet to figure out how to erase an unwanted contact.

Be selfish, but not snobbish, in your search criteria.
Women tend to be people pleasers, but when it comes to dating it’s best to be selective. Men can be very cold and calculating in this regard, and it’s not all about the looks either. They're generally quite practical about whether someone will fit into their lifestyle (and this may include married men looking for a little on the side – not a good territory to dive into: bad karma all around).

But since it's only dating, a casual approach is good.
You can meet someone for a drink or coffee even if they don't look like "the one." You can never really know a person until you meet them in the flesh, which is the whole point of dating in the first place.

Anyone who stands you up or otherwise disses you in any way is no good, period.
If he’s a no-show from the get-go, get out before you even get on board that love train. If they won't leave a message on your machine to let you know they can't make it, there's a reason why – like a wife, perhaps, or just a power/headgame trip at your expense. Make it a one-way exit.

Don’t expect true love, or even true like.
If you find it, it’ll be when you least expect it. Best thing to do is aim for friendship, with similar rules: no abusive behavior on either side; honesty; and the good old golden rule.

Desperation is a buzz kill.
I’m in quite a sweet spot, since my ex-boyfriend and I are the best of friends. He’s spoiled me for anyone else, thus far. Desperation will lead to desperate measures. And men and women alike can smell desperation – the stink of it penetrates into the darkest depths of cyberspace – despite the fact that we don’t yet have the means to scratch and sniff our potential partner online (pheromone download, anyone?)

Less is more.
Brevity is a virtue; don’t be in a rush; don't reveal too much too soon; engage as many as you can and politely weed out all but the ones who seem worth a gander. With any luck, this will leave enough contenders to keep you busy.

I could go on, but for now I’d treasure some feedback and maybe even some pointers. What say you all?

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About Elvira Black

  • Elvira,

    Back in the days when the computers were young and on-line dating was new, I kept looking for the socket for my er well, you know, and couldn’t ever seem to find it. Now that I’m happily married (I met my wife the old fashioned way) and don’t need on-line dating services, I still can’t seem to find that magic socket on the computer for my er, well you know.

    Is that what the G-spot is on the CPU? I mean, how else can a guy get on-line sex?

    That was a great read, by the way….

  • By the way, there is this soft porn site pretending to be a dating site advertising on my computer. On one side of the computer is this pretty girl, with a name, allegedly from the UK, who is 25. On the top of the computer, is a photo of this same girl, with a different name, different age – also allegedly from the UK.

    So much for photos at internet dating sites, eh?

  • mrdockellis

    Seems easier to join a monastery or a nunnery than jump through all those hoops.

    Somewhat more seriously though, this is our techno-glorious version of blind dates. Everyone knows blind dates suck.

  • Thanks Ruvy:

    Herman the Mac, my cyber-soulmate, was stolen last year. After a suitable Jewish mourning period of a year, I bought a Dell, which I think is metrosexual. We’re still getting to know each other, but I think he plays around–he tends to pick up spyware and attracts other computers that my elicit a daily warning of “do not trust.” Maybe he is a she…

  • Mr. Dock:

    As Ruvy can attest to, Orthodox Jews say prayers every morning and evening. In the morning, they thank the Higher Power for not making them a woman.

    Being female is, well, a bitch. You guys don’t even pay attention to those ubiquitous commercials (I know you zone out, don’t deny it) for the perfect hair conditioner, mascara, lipstick, clothing, shoes, weight loss program, birth control device, pills and “software” for “that time of the month,” and so on, ad nauseum…

    Though I was a bit of a tomboy, the message for us girls was always heard loud and clear: someday my Prince will come: if I’m pretty enough, charming enough, perfect enough, thin enough–and wear the perfect shade of lipgloss. C’est la vie…

  • As for blind dates, well, everyone knows love is blind (and often deaf and dumb as well). Over a decade ago when I was in between (very) long term relationships, I did some online dating, but at that time it truly was a “flying blind” sort of endeavor since most did not have the software available to post photos, with the inevitable “tragic” results.

    Lots of emails back and forth; online compatibility galore; secrets (even fantasies) shared; hopes built up. And then, the day (or evening) of reckoning arrives and…

    Let’s face it, esp with men, if the “chemistry” isn’t there, all the “compatibility” in the world usually won’t matter. And just being “friends?” Hah.

    Here at least anyone halfway serious will post a photo or five. Of course, with the scammers the photo will be of some anonymous model, or perhaps a picture from more youthful days.

    Dating is hell, period, blind or with “eyes wide shut.” I met some guys offline and found that “chemistry” can prove to be a toxic brew.

  • Ruvy:

    At the rate we’re going, I’m fairly sure that one day soon there will truly be no need to leave the house. We’ll have virtual partners that emerge from the screen as holograms. Wait and see…

    And yes, I’ve seen ads that show women dancing in profile that are selling…er…mortgages. Anything to grab your attention, including, er, pop ups…

  • lara

    meetup has too many dorks. i prefer passionsearch.com. so many cute, eligible guys!

  • Mark Buckingham

    Good read, and glad to see you back on the site. After a handful of long-term relationships based on in-person meetings, all with tragic endings, it just so happened that I found someone who surpassed them all, connecting via a random comment on MySpace. We inadvertently followed the formula here, with a few months of IMing, a no-strings-attached in-person rendezvous, and hit it off.

    Having been getting to know people largely via the Internet for years, I can endorse what you’re saying here, having developed some thicker skin myself, but I’ve also met some really great people online, so there is hope.

  • Er, “Lara,” I smell an advertisement/endorsement there…meetup is not a dating site, and I couldn’t possibly say that they are all dorks, since they have thousands of different groups based on group activities (though some are singles-oriented, many many others are not).

  • Hey Mark:

    Thanks, and yes, sometimes meeting online, esp in an inadvertent way, can arguably be “better” because there’s no strings, no pressure, and the most important ingredient of all–friendship–will hopefully prevail regardless of whether a romantic attachment develops. IMO, friendship is a vital requisite for any relationship to stand a chance. Otherwise, one can wind up hating with the same intensity and fervor as one once “loved.”

    Again, that’s why the idea of meetup.com is so great…using the internet to meet like minded people. The only drawback that esp in NYC there’s a “party” or event (or ten) every day and night, so I wind up feeling like a fool if I wind up staying home…lol…

  • I think that the profile pictures are indeed the most important part of your profile if you are trying to achieve success. I think that every dating site out there should make it mandatory to upload a photo.