Looking for love online? You’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, it’s on the rise.
The numbers tell all: one in 10 Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app; 66 percent of online daters have gone on a date with someone they met virtually and 23 percent met their spouse or long-term partner through these sites.
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Julie Spira, online dating expert and founder, CyberDatingExpert.com, explains the stigma of online dating is “clearly dissipating.”
Since it’s gone mainstream, there are a few reasons for its popularity “First of all, everyone has a mobile phone now. With mobile dating apps, it's simple and easy to connect with your digital crush. Second, everyone is very busy. Where online dating used to be associated for those who were socially challenged, now you'll find celebrities, CEOs and everyday people logging on for love. There are also a large variety of dating sites to choose [from], so there's no longer a one-size fits all dating strategy.”
Considering the plethora of sites ranging from Match.com to eHarmony to niche sites like CatholicSingles, Spira views online dating as similar to job hunting. “If you're looking for your dream job, you don't just view job postings on one job site or work with one recruiter. If you take that same formula and use it for your love life, you'll be more successful if you don't put all of your eggs into one digital basket.”
Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a.k.a. Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again, recommends beginning your quest for cupid by shopping around for sites first. “Check out the dating site and see what suits your style and character. Look for online reviews of various dating sites to see what will work for you.” She adds, “Understand what you’re looking for. If it’s important to have a Jewish date, then JDate is for you.”
She warns that once you decide upon your sites and apps, and you log on, it’s important to log off, too. “Definitely limit surfing. You’re not living while you’re surfing.”
In fact, Spira recommends setting boundaries of one hour per day. “This way you can view, search, and respond efficiently without running the risk of suffering from online dating fatigue.”
After responding to messages within 24 hours, chatting and then going on dates, she says that, “online chemistry doesn't always transfer to offline chemistry. You're just a digital pen pal until you've met in person and have taken the time to get to know someone after a few dates.”
If you don't feel a connection when you meet in person, be polite. Spira says, “Your online date just might have a friend they could introduce you to, so I always believe in casting a wide net.”
Online dating safety tips:
1. Take your time and trust your intuition. “If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, then just politely leave,” Spiro says.
2. Dig the digital dirt. She adds, “I believe in doing a little digital homework.” Look at your potential date's social networking sites to see if the photos and stories match up.
3. Always meet in a public place and let a friend know who you are meeting. Send a quick text to let them know you're fine.
4. Be realistic, not romantic. Tessina advises, “Don't develop a fantasy about the date until you know the facts. It's a tough world out there.”