Back when i was single, i had a profile on a few online dating websites. And it was such a learning experience. For one, you see all sorts of profiles, right from the very serious sounding to the ridiculous, or sometimes a bit of both. I remember i used to feel really confused about making a choice because there were so many of them. It truly was a case of paradox of choice. I felt like i needed a blueprint to navigate the tricky world of online dating because frankly, i didn’t have a clue. Which profiles should i shortlist? Which one should i pick? What if i choose the ‘wrong’ one?
Granted there is no clear answer to many of these type of questions. Having said that, much of this confusion can be avoided if you have a clear thought process and are purposeful about the use of online dating. By purposeful, i mean you have to know why you are using it in the first place. Not everyone’s reasons are the same. As we know, there are a variety of dating websites which cater to all sorts of niches, whether you’re looking for a serious relationship or just a casual fling or even one night stands. In India, where i’m from, the concept of matrimonial websites is hugely popular. The dating game is still very much evolving there among the masses. People want to settle down in a relationship leading to marriage, and they are only willing to invest a few months at best to do that. It’s definitely not for everyone!
So what does all this mean?
Well, it means that you have to be careful about the website you choose to have a dating profile on. You can’t go on onenightstand.com and expect to have a loving long term relationship if that’s what you want. It just wouldn’t work. I’m going to assume that you did your homework and chose wisely.
With that said, there are a few things to consider that will help you make up your mind without too much confusion.
1. Accept that there is no ‘best’ match or profile out there. In order to have an easy and authentic online dating experience, you need to be able to accept that you will not have all the answers. You think you do but when you go searching online, you will realize that there are many profiles that are very similar and it can get really confusing very quickly. How many criteria can you compare two profiles on? And how do you even know that you’re making the right decision? On what basis?
For starters, any profile that gives you a good feeling is good enough. Period.
You can keep looking till the end of time, but you will not find that one profile that ticks all your boxes. Which brings me to my next point..
2. Figure out that ONE all important preference. It’s tempting to look for the perfect person who has all of the external qualities that we desire in a partner. Often, these qualities are superficial in nature. A lot of people advice to look beyond the obvious, and see the person for who they are on the inside. And they are absolutely right. The trouble with that is this, unless you are evolved enough, you will find it very difficult to follow this. Especially before you get to know someone. Now i know some of you will be like, “Hang on Aish, are you asking me to weed people out based on some superficial attribute?” I’m not asking you to do that. What i AM saying is, if you know that you have that one quality in mind that is a nice to have for you in a partner, then you better take care of that. Because if you don’t, you’ll make this process harder for yourself. It’s not superficiality, rather it’s honesty as to what you can’t obviously look past. This is more to help you get rid of those doubtful thoughts and feel ‘settled’ about your decision.
Mind you, you can’t have a list that extends to the skies, it can only be one thing that is important to you for some inexplicable reason. For some it’s a physical attribute like height, for others it’s their way of talking and so on. You have to make sure that it’s the only thing that you will consciously look out for. And if that one criteria is met, you will move on and not be tempted to search for ‘better’ options. This is really important, because otherwise you’ll get stuck in a loop of ‘people shopping’ and analysis paralysis.
3. What are your deal breakers? I mentioned looking out for that nice to have partner attributes i.e your preferences. It’s also equally if not more important, to know what are the things you won’t put up with. A lot of people get confused between the two. It’s true that both of them are subject to change. As you change, so does your way of looking at things. But this is not conditional and it happens organically. That’s why you can’t really force it in order to like someone.
So what are the differences between the two?
i) Preferences can be discarded if you’re getting a good feeling about someone whereas deal breakers cannot be changed at such short notice. This is because you need to change at a deeper level in order for it to no longer be a deal breaker.
ii) Deal breakers are not as superficial (note that it’s relative) compared to your preferences. You can have the same personal attribute or quality as preference or a deal breaker. The difference will be in the intention behind it. Deal breakers come from a more sub conscious place within you, can exist due to your direct or indirect experiences, and are usually more serious.
iii) Deal breakers are the more important of the two, because they tap into things which for some reason absolutely repels us. It’s not important that you understand the reasoning behind it, but it is essential that you honor your preference.
Again, you have to restrict your deal breakers to only those things which you feel you cannot overlook at all. Overthinking sometimes causes us to question everything but you have to be honest with yourself. For example, if you can’t stand the smell of cigarettes and want to date a non smoker then in that case smoking would qualify as a deal breaker, but wanting to date only those non smokers above 6 feet tall is not a deal breaker. It’s more of a personal preference. There is only a subtle difference though, one that you need to watch out for.
4. Commit to your reasoning. By this i mean don’t change your must haves and deal breakers to accommodate other people’s wants and needs. This is about you. Don’t question it. Don’t fight with it. It is what it is. Once you’ve accepted that ABC is my must have quality in a partner and XYZ are my deal breakers, then you have to move on and actually start searching for online profiles or respond to the interests you get on yours.
Reinforce to yourself that you are taking the best decision based on your life experience so far, and with the knowledge that you have at this moment. Don’t worry about making the wrong decision.
You cannot back track and start questioning yourself again. You cannot keep adding more things to your nice to have or the deal breaker list. Because then you’ll never to able to make up your mind. In other words, you have to commit to your reasoning why something works or doesn’t work for you. You have to trust yourself enough to accept your reasons for what they are.
5. Understand that your preferences and deal breakers are exclusive of the minimum aka ‘baseline’ qualities someone should possess. You want to be with someone who is nice and decent. No sleazy, shady, pretensive, pompous person is going to cut it. Certain qualities are non negotiable. We all know what they are. They include treating everyone with respect, sticking to their word, having at least a basic amount of personal security, no violent behavior.. you get the drift. Goes without saying, but under no circumstances, should you ever be ok with such a person. Even if they meet ALL of your other criteria.
6. Narrow down as much as possible. Now that you’ve figured out your must haves and deal breakers, filter it down as much as possible. Go reallyyy deep. I’m going to give it to you straight, it helps to be sure about as many factors as possible. Like location, what kind of family they’re from, whether they want kids etc.. Sure, you can’t know everything from the beginning, but every single factor you’re sure about will filter out more profiles, and it will become easier to make a choice among them. I’m going to tell you an easy way to filter out profiles.
Envision the kind of life you want to lead. Take decisions accordingly.
You can work out other things around it. For example, if you want to live in the same city you grew up in, then you can’t look for people in other cities. Sure, there is a chance that down the line they could move for you but why complicate it right from the beginning? Search for someone in the same city as you first and take it from there.
Be clear right from the very beginning. At least about those things which have a simple yes or no answer. Take time out to think about it first. If you’re wishy washy and unsure about the specifics now, then it’ll be harder for you down the line. You’ll literally have thousands of profiles to choose from and you will get overwhelmed.
7. Set a time limit. You need to also be clear about how much time you are really willing to invest into going through dating profiles and choosing one among them. The truth is, you can go on searching for a long time and still have doubts at the end of it. Ideally, looking for the right dating profile should not take more than a week. You see people who are on these websites for months and even years. You wonder if they are really serious about meeting someone or if it’s a form of entertainment for them. I mean, seriously! You really don’t want to end up being one of them.
8. Don’t collect interests/profiles. Don’t fall into the trap of going through and shortlisting a number of profiles. Exercise restraint when making a choice in the first place. Accept that you cannot follow up with many people at once, so why shortlist more than one or maybe a couple in the first place? This also applies to interests you respond to. It can be flattering when so many people express interest in your dating profile, but if you ‘accept’ every interest that comes your way then pretty soon you’ll get overwhelmed. You have to consciously make an effort to avoid attention seeking.
After a while, fatigue starts to set in. And this is where people start to get frustrated about online dating. It only works if you use it in a way that’s beneficial to you. Don’t use it to flatter yourself. Those ‘interests’ that you get by the way, are not real. They are just an indication that someone wants to communicate with you. You don’t have to expend so much brain energy into deciding who to message. Just pick any profile which appeals to you and go for it. Don’t take a lot of time for this. You’re better off taking time to get to know them instead.
9. Make the effort and take action. It’s very easy to dismiss the online dating world as being full of weirdos or people who just aren’t serious. Sometimes we forget to watch our own behavior. It takes effort to not just reach out but to follow up with someone as well. If you like their profile, what are you doing about it? Do you respond back on time? Do you then try to establish communication offline? If you sit there waiting for things to happen on their own, then you’ll be waiting forever. Until you actually do something about it, NOTHING will change. You have to search for the right profile, send them a message. See if they are also interested or alternatively accept their interest. You have to keep doing this till you find someone you want to get to know and vice versa.
10. If someone doesn’t respond, move on. Don’t message them back. You have to keep moving forward. Yes it’s disappointing when you find a great profile, you get in touch and nothing happens. But it’s worse when you keep waiting or hoping. This is not something a lot of people openly talk about but it’s important. I know many people check someone’s ‘last online’ status (as in the time they were last online on the website) and get disappointed. It’s obvious that the other person isn’t interested, but they just won’t let it go. They’ll keep revisiting their profile and hoping and wishing. It’s really demeaning to yourself when you do message someone who hasn’t responded the first time. If they don’t respond, it means that they are not interested. When you really like a profile, your mind will tell you that maybe they haven’t seen your profile or your message. But its very unlikely. In fact, you’re safer assuming that’s not the case.
There are plenty of fish in the dating sea. You have to be able to forget about it and start the process again. Every single time. Remember that it’s nothing personal. It’s just the way the online dating system works.
11. Remember these are just dating profiles not actual people. You can’t possibly compare two let alone a hundred profiles objectively. And it’s only their profile! Anyone can say anything on their profile, so take everything with a pinch of salt. It’s all about which profiles stands out for you. Just take a pick. Similarly, if you get an interest from someone, it doesn’t actually mean anything until you meet them in person and get to know them.
12. Don’t ask for others’ opinions. Don’t discuss your dating options with others before you actually go on a date. They’ll only be able to give input from their perspective. Everyone’s priorities and needs are different. Since this is solely about you, chances are that it’ll backfire. Also, never compare your choices with others. This goes without saying, but often we sub consciously compete with our peers and look for their approval. This has to be avoided. Don’t be unsure of what you want. If you are, take a break and run through the previous pointers before you get started.
Online dating can be tricky, it’s not the most straightforward medium to meet people. But it needn’t be confusing or frustrating. You just have to go in with a clear mind and make the right move. That’s not always going to be easy, but it’s a must in order to have a good experience. You can deliberate all you want, but in the end there are no guarantees. You may as well choose the profile you find most attractive based on your needs and requirements. Once you have the basics figured out, don’t overthink it. Just do what needs to be done.
What do you think? How has online dating worked out for you so far?