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The Dating Game

January 15, 2003 13:20 IST

Anita Bora

It's time consuming. Sometimes complex. And there are no guarantees you will emerge living 'happily ever after'. We're talking here about the process of finding a date online.

For today's single person, the ways of finding a date online has increased significantly. From dating sites, chatrooms, instant messengers and email, the chances of not bumping into someone suitable seem almost impossible. Or perhaps, not!

Online it's a different ball game altogether. Many want to know if there are any rules of the game or guidelines to make the process easier. Others are unsure as to when to make the first move and how to handle intimacy over the electronic communication like email and messenger.

Parikshit Kumar, a 21-year-old, says that each time he enters a chatroom and tries to chat up a woman, he gets spurned. "They show interest for a while, but I guess there are too many men out there trying to get the same woman," says the young but confused collegian.

To help matters, the authors of the recently published book, The Rules for Online Dating, have devised this quiz to assess how well a woman knows the rules for finding Mr. Right.

'What is the best way of finding men online?' asks the quiz. The correct answer: 'Post a short ad, including a smiling headshot and wait for men to email you'. According to the authors, 'It's important to never respond to a man's ad because that equals chasing men. It's the equivalent of walking up to a man at a bar and introducing yourself, which doesn't work. Why not? Men love a challenge, and love works best when man pursues woman -- online and off'.

Another piece of advise is to reply to an email only after 24 hours so that he does not feel you are desperate and anxious. Then there are others who disagree with this method to snare a man!

'Be careful, be honest' offers sex educator Suzi Landolphi in this feature on online dating. Her advise in a nutshell: Protect your identity, learn the technology, guard your email and be honest and beware of high expectations. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on the online dating game.

Writing and responding to a personal ad

There are hundreds of ads out there vying for attention. Creating a free member profile on a dating site would be the first step. Then, put some thought into writing your personal ad.

Vandana D, a freelance writer, who posted her profile says that initial response to her ad was low. She realised her description was just not enough to catch someone's attention. It was only on changing her pitch and adding her image that she began receiving email propositions. "Some are hesitant to add a picture, but I once your looks are out of the way, it's easier. At least, you don't have any pre-fixed notions about how someone will look like and draw your own conclusions."

Vandana also turned lucky when she met one of her suitors. They hit it off and have been going around for a year now. She does not believe there are any rules as such, since "different things work for different people" but says that some broad guidelines are helpful to those seeking love online.

Writing a profile:
  • Make sure to jot down your thoughts before actually posting them online.
  • Organise your words and check your spellings. You don't want to be hasty and careless if you're looking to attract your potential soul mate!
  • Be relaxed when you write the profile. Try not to lie, but don't reveal anything that you don't want to.
  • Try to be yourself. If you are not a person who drops witty online liners in conversations, then don't try it in the ad.
  • Be honest and straightforward about who you are and what you're looking for
  • Be sincere. Your goal is to make someone sit up and take notice, not to make them run in the opposite direction.

Reading a profile:

  • Instead of focusing on the vital statistics of the person, pay attention the tone of the profile. A person can look great on paper, but can leave a lot to be desired in person.
  • What is the general feeling you get from the ad and how do you feel? Does he/she sound modest, pompous, funny, witty, genuine, caring?
  • Does she/he sounds negative, concentrating only on aspects that he/she does not possess?
  • Is the information that is provided enough for you to take the next step? If it's too sketchy, you might want to move on.

Interesting links: Safety tips | Three attributes you should include in a personal ad 

Art of the email exchange

We all want to be like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail but
this article includes useful tips on keeping your perspective on online romance.

    It informs that pick-up lines rarely work over email and conversational style works best. Says Vandana, "It's best when you write like you talk and don't put on affectations. Use emoticons once in a while to keep the exchange light and friendly."

    There's more advise on how you can test the waters and move forward if your relationship seems to be progressing to something more meaningful.

    Rushing the other person might prove costly. When Parikshit thought he found the 'right person' he began flooding her with 2-3 emails a day telling her how wonderful she was. He confesses, in hindsight, that he was probably a little desperate since he had been rejected a few times. "Take your time to develop your friendship over email and messenger. Remember, you can't hurry love," advises this young man.

    Interesting links:
    Love at first site
    | Flirting via email | The flirting thing | How to succeed with women | Flirting Online

    The all important meeting

    You've selected the person you want to date, chatted with him/her, exchanged emails and now it's time for that all important first face-to-face encounter.

    Keeping expectations grounded is important, feels Parikshit: "On email and chat you do not get a true picture and tend to blow up someone's good points." So much, that you start projecting your own expectations onto the person. This will probably result in disappointment when you meet, warns Parikshit.

    There are some simple guidelines that you should keep in mind. 28-year-old Prakash Sinha, who has gone on two dates so far, speaks from experience: "Don't have too many expectations on your first date. It's better to keep it in a coffee shop or a restaurant, and not go in for any place too cozy as the intimacy on the first date might scare off the girl!"

    Vandana agrees that first meeting should be in a public place, for a coffee or a casual meal. She also says one should keep an open mind and maybe even take someone along. "Just make sure that you convey to your date that you intend to come with someone so that he is also prepared." Once this meeting is over, it will pave the way for a second meeting, if the shared attraction is mutual.

    And how does one know there is shared attraction? Replies Vandana: "It's like chemistry, you'll just know when it clicks!"

    Dating Resources:

    - Online dating thrives
    - Dating in the 21st century
    - Breaking all the rules
    - Dating tips
    - Cosmo's guide to online dating
    - Interview with Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, authors of 'The Rules for Online Dating'

    (Some names in the feature have been changed on request)