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Love & Sex

Considering Looking for Love Online? 6 Tips to Get Started

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I was an early adopter of online dating. I went on my first “internet date,” as it was known, around 2005, when there was still a stigma around meeting people via the computer.

I was nervous, but the date went fine. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t a serial killer, and it gave me courage to continue dipping my toe into online dating right up until 2009, when I met the man who would become my husband, thanks to an online dating site. 

Today, that stigma is long gone. Countless marriages (and, surely, divorces) have transpired since online dating has picked up steam. In fact, a study by Pew Research Center, published in 2016, found that 15 percent of American adults had used an online dating site or app, and the ages of the daters skew higher than you might guess. While the 18- to 24-year-old group showed the most growth in online dating usage, the number of 55- to 64-year-olds dating online doubled between 2013 and 2015. Lately, a number of dating sites have arisen that cater specifically to older adults.

If you’re considering dipping your toe into the cyber pool of potential love and companionship, I invite you to learn from my lessons. Here’s my advice for online dating newbies of all ages.

Put time, thought, and personality into your profile. This is your chance to really show your colors. Even for professional writers like me, it’s not easy! Don’t feel as though you need to write an autobiography. One easy way to approach this task is to write out different sections as pithy lists, rather than paragraphs, such as, “Five things you should know about me;” “The last three things that made me laugh;” “My ideal partner has these four traits;” “10 adjectives people have used to describe me.” Be as authentic and positive as you can, and, remember, you can always edit the text later on. 

Be honest. It seems like an obvious one, but people do, indeed, lie in their profile. I went out with a man who said he was three inches taller than he actually was. Did he think I wasn’t going to notice? If someone isn’t honest about something like that, it can make you question everything they say.

Ask a friend or relative to help you. Your friends and family know you best, so if your mind goes blank on what to say about yourself, they’re a great resource to help get you going. They can also help you edit your profile for any spelling or grammatical errors (you want to start out on the right foot, don’t you?) and choose photos (or even take the photos – see next tip) that best represent the real you. I’ve helped friends write their online dating profiles, and we had a blast doing it.

Select quality photos. Photos are the focal point when it comes to online dating, so you want to make sure you have ones that you’re happy with. Post a variety of pictures that show you doing things you enjoy (maybe you’re on a boat, riding a bike, traveling, or gardening). At all costs, avoid bathroom mirror selfies and photos with another person who could be perceived as an ex. Also, make sure the photos were taken in the last year so there are no surprises when you meet.

Meet sooner than later. Early in my online dating days, I had a tendency to strike up what felt like an epistolary relationship. I’d exchange long, personal messages with a guy for weeks on end before meeting. When we finally did meet or talk on the phone, it was awkward and disappointing because, in my head, I’d created an entirely different person based solely on the writing. My husband took the opposite approach. We had exchanged three brief messages when he asked me out. I later learned that was his rule: three messages and then a date to see if there’s a reason to keep writing. Thankfully, for us, there was.

Be safe and trust your instincts. Remember that whomever you meet online is still a stranger, and you shouldn’t trust him or her until they’ve earned that trust. Never share any financial information, and limit the personal information you divulge early on. When you do meet, be sure it’s in a public place, drive yourself there, and let a friend know where you’re going, just to be safe.

It’s never too late to find love and companionship. By dedicating time and focus to your dating life, you could soon meet the person of your dreams. I know I did. 

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