Don't Do It Yourself: Online Dating Services
In this chapter
- Turning to websites, discussion areas, and mailing lists for dating advice
- Receiving editing help and advice from experienced dating counselors
- Approaching professional counselors for advice on starting or ending relationships
- Getting help with writing positive, engaging profiles
- Enlisting the help of real-world matchmakers
Everyone needs a jump-start once in a while. You can't always repair your own car; and for some reason, the web pages you create from scratch seldom look as attractive as those made by professionals. The same is true of online dating. In many respects, it's far easier to jump into the dating pool in cyberspace than it is in "real" space. For many, though, joining a dating site, committing to a subscription, and creating a personal profile are all daunting prospects. They needn't beyou can find plenty of matchmakers and consultants who will help you come up with a good first impression or kick your existing dating activities up a notch.
If you need help and support in setting up dates, there are many sources online to which you can turn. Because you're looking for that special someone online, it only makes sense to look for a "romance coach" online, too: a consultant who can increase your chances of success even further. In the same way that the Internet can help you meet the love of your life, it can also help you find friends or advisers who can help you through the online dating experience.
Turning Online for Dating Advice
This book will get you started with choosing a dating service, preparing a compelling online profile, and meeting people either online or in person. I don't pretend to be the only resource on the subject, and I would be short-changing you if I didn't point you to some of the many websites, discussion groups, and other resources that you can turn to when you need personal support.
The Web abounds with ads and websites that proclaim they can solve all of your dating problems and consolidate your debts too. The problem, in fact, is not finding websites that claim they'll improve your love life, but in being selective about ones that can really deliver and ignoring those that are all about talking the talk and then taking your money.
Don't take any of these grandiose claims at face value. Read for yourself and determine which resources can be of use to you. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of a deal. Shop around until you find what feels right to you. It's also okay to switch horses in the middle of the stream. Like working with a real estate agent who keeps showing you dumps, find another one who will pay more attention to what will be a dream come true for you.
If you're in high school or college, you'll find an excellent set of articles at the Teen Advice Online's Dating page (http://www.teenadviceonline.org/dating). Counselors who contribute articles and answer questions submitted by visitors run the site.
People traditionally discuss their love interests in the locker room, aerobics class, or any number of venues. Now, you can kiss and tell without leaving the privacy of your own home. The nice thing about discussion groups is the freedom that comes with anonymity: Discussion groups let you discuss people and situations without actually naming names. "Does anyone else think that dating site stinks?" or "Why are all the guys I meet such jerks?" are common types of inquiries.
AskMen.com has a great set of message boards (http://www.askmen.com/message_boards/index.html) with thousands of participants. The Love & Relationships section occasionally has threads centering on dating services or dating online. At this writing, there was a long set of posts complaining about Match.com and the difficulty with finding people there.
The Dating & Relationships Discussion Forum on the Network54 website (http://www.network54.com/Forum/84890) is excellent, and it's oriented toward both men and women. You'll find "worst date ever posts" along with posts congratulating online daters on their upcoming marriagesand everything in between.
GetRomantic.com (shown in Figure 3.1) has separate forums for men, women, teens, and those interested in long-distance relationships (http://www.getromantic.com/forum). One of the most active discussion areas is the one focusing on sexuality.
Figure 3.1 Dating websites run many discussion forums and cover a wide range of interpersonal topics.
A mailing list is a group of individuals who communicate by email. All mailing lists are not created equal, however, and you should be careful about which ones you join. Some mailing lists are announcement liststhat is, communication isn't interactive, it's a one-way street from an organization to the people who have signed up to receive messages from it. Others are discussion lists: The individuals on the list can post messages to all the other members, who then have the opportunity to post replies and initiate lively and fruitful exchanges.
You'll find well-traveled discussion groups on Usenet as well as on dating-related websites. (See Chapter 24 for some suggestions of groups on Usenet.) Depending on the selection of newsgroups provided by your ISP, you can also find groups within America Online, and groups centered on metropolitan areas such as Las Vegas, Sacramento, or New York.
Before you subscribe to any mailing list, make sure you want what is being provided. Plenty of dating sites invite visitors to join their mailing lists to "discover the secrets of hot dating success and find love online," or something similar. These are announcement lists. Essentially, you are signing up to receive unsolicited email from the site. I strongly recommend you make sure that any mailing list you join is a true discussion medium where members can help one another.
Mailing lists can quickly take up a lot of space in your inbox. Make sure you really want to be on the list, and that it's easy to get off the list if you don't want to participate any more.