If you're a man who has recently divorced and resurfaced into singledom, you probably think you've landed in a strange new world: meeting potential mates via the Internet -- "cyberdating" -- has become the norm, not the anomaly.
According to the New York Times, 40 million Americans clicked onto at least one online dating site in the month of August, 2003 alone -- representing 27% of all Internet users for that month.
At first, this kind of virtual meet-and-greet can be quite unsettling: what happened to love at first sight? How can you tell anything about a woman if you can't first see her, or hear her voice and her laugh, let alone talk to her?
When online, you can't really do any of these things, of course. Instead, you have to take a chance that what you see online is what you're going to get in person -- at least until you and the women you've emailed set a date to meet.
Even then, as we've all learned through old-fashioned conventional dating, you don't really know someone until you spend a lot of time with them. Aside from physical attraction, trust, honesty, respect, and commitment are also part of the criteria for a loving relationship to exist.
Is it worth it? Of course it is. She's out there, looking for you just as hard as you're looking for her. Sure, it would be great if you bumped into her down at the local grocery store, but the odds are that you won't. Cyberdating just increases your odds, and there's nothing wrong with that, right?
After you've chosen the cyberdating service that works for you (and believe me, there are enough to give you plenty of choice), the next thing to consider is what photo you'll present to other cyber-singles. Just as you respond to a pleasing visual, so will your future dates. So I'll say this as candidly as possible: if you put up a bad photo, you probably won't get a response to any of the online queries you make.
How do I define "bad"? Unfortunately, there are many ways. For example, a photo is bad if it is:
If that describes the photo you have, then it's time to get a new one. My advice: have it taken by a photographer who specializes in color head shots, and be sure to spruce yourself up before you sit down to pose. That means getting a haircut, and putting on a nice shirt or sweater. Believe me, a photo session won't be a waste of your money. Worse-case scenario is that you can always use it for next year's Christmas card. Best-case scenario: it puts your best face forward to several hundred potential partners.
Airbrushing of photos and Glamour Shots not withstanding, cyberdating's initial success is determined by times up to bat with the women who return your e-mail. This depends not only on the picture you post, but the words you use to describe yourself. Regarding those words: women will respond to your photo, but remember, women also read what you say about yourself. More importantly, women are more adept than men at reading between the lines.
That said, be sure to take careful consideration of these three very important points when creating your online description:
Point #1: Don't just put down what you think they want to read. Women are tired of cyber-liars, or men who play on their emotions. Remember, most everyone has experienced at least one unsatisfying relationship. Nobody wants to get their hopes up just to see them crash and burn. Most women aren't expecting Prince Charming: they just want to meet a nice guy. That describes you, right? Then just be yourself, and the women who respond to your needs will do so because you fit their needs as well.
Point #2: Be as honest as possible. If you're 48, say so. Don't fudge your age and say that you're "mid-30s." Worse yet, if your divorce is not final, mention that. Lying only puts you in the position of having to come clean at a later time, and that's not a great way to start a relationship. Besides, if knowing the truth still encourages a woman to respond, then you've cleared the most obvious hurdle that might have stood between you in the first place.
Point #3: Don't sell yourself short. You have a lot going for yourself. Before getting online, go ahead and put together a laundry list of your strengths. Even something as silly as "likes chocolate ice cream" or "has seen every Simpsons episode known to man" may strike a chord with a woman whose one fetish is chocolate, or one who can do a great imitation of Marge Simpson.
Following these points can move you from cyberspace and onto many first (and hopefully second and third) dates. In next month's column, I'll address cyberdating from a woman's perspective.