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Put on your Shirt ... Please! FINDING LOVE ONLINE

By Pz Hopkins

No longer is the phrase, “We met online,” foreign to my ears. Chances are the majority of you have either used it yourself or have friends or acquaintances that have. We’re talking the business of online dating. As a writer, whose work involves all levels of relationships, I’ve been following the evolution of this enterprise for almost fifteen years. I’ve devoted a number of columns to the practice and have always been vocal and honest with my opinions on the topic. Since we’re entering into a brand new year, I deemed it the perfect time to revisit the subject and see how the industry and my attitude toward it had or had not changed.


Last weekend my sister and her husband attended a lovely wedding. They knew the couple, but had an especially long standing friendship with the groom. It was the second marriage for both and they seemed especially happy to be taking the plunge again. As it turns out, my sister found, the couple had not met at work, like she had supposed, but, instead, online. The site that made their match go from casual chat to a more serious walk down the aisle of matrimony was eHarmony. I guess you might say the 29-Dimensions of compatibility must have done the trick!

The biggest change I see in the online dating business is the variety of sites available to meet every possible need or wish or quirk under the internet sun. I’ve got to say it’s a little bit crazy. While many are still paying sites, the online dating landscape is now littered with free sites largely due to region, area of interest, and type of relationship sought. The expansion takes into account every targeted market imaginable. From old to young, from taste in music to taste in books, from sexual hook-ups and preferences, to getting to know you because you know Jesus…there is a site claiming to cover every person’s belief or whim or wild desire.


Of course, when it comes to human nature, we believe more is better, and the proliferation and onslaught of so many sites definitely lives up to that credo. But just because we have more are we benefitting from them? Are we finding more love matches or just looking in too many new, wrong places? The market is a tough and saturated one, and the bottom line is most of these sites will fail. There are a few sites, however, that have a track record of being the standard among the rest according to popularity and traffic. These are the sites that will probably prevail for as long as the public is drawn to them or until we find a fresh or more compelling replacement. In the meantime, I’ll weigh in on a few pointers that may help should you find yourself in the distinct position of looking for love.


PZ’S POINTERS FOR FINDING LOVE ONLINE

Passed over by first impression ---

You have to start with a first impression. You have to look at a person’s profile picture and decide if you like the image you see. If you don’t you’re done and will move on. That person will never get to know you or chat with you or even meet you if you aren’t feeling something half way decent about the picture they post. So, please tell me, what’s with the guys without their shirts on? I’m not talking bodybuilders either…although even guys with gorgeous or perfect bodies need not advertise it as their introductory profile offer. Save that for later. Do these men think for one second they’re putting their most attractive foot (chest) forward? Do they think that’s the best first impression they can make? Do they think showing more skin is alluring or sexy and it will make you trip over your fingers trying to respond to them? It’s too much information too soon. The same goes for women trying too hard to be the glamour girl or major cleavage babe. There is a time and place for pics of that sort. Choose a photo with some class that puts you in a good light. Unless you’re on a site where it’s expected, and not a traditional singles site like Match, use common sense and resist temptation to come across as shallow or egotistical. Put your shirt on. Oh, and how can someone see your eyes covered up? Lose the sunglasses, too!


Mind-boggling numbers—

There is an estimate of more than 2,500 online dating services in the U.S. alone, with 1,000 new online dating services opening every year. Some estimates say there are 8.000 competitors worldwide. How is one expected to negotiate those sites in any meaningful way? Who has the time to check them out and be a part of their community of followers? Remember if you are giving this potential dating route a shot, you might be better off doing some research first, then zeroing in on those sites that have a track record of reliability. It’s your life. Don’t be so quick to share your story and all your particulars with strangers in a strange land…the land of technology.


Perfect place to troll and fool---

One of the unfortunate changes is online fraud is clearly on the rise. It has shot up some 150% where scammers prey upon the naïve or hucksters hustle the vulnerable or desperate. When a person is looking for someone to fill their lives with promises and roses they are quickly and easily charmed and cajoled. These sites have become the perfect place for an unscrupulous Romeo or Delilah to strike at the heart of susceptible folks who are, sadly, so easy to fool. Sometimes by the time the charmer is done, the charmed is left feeling mighty foolish, not to mention poorer in pocket and broken in spirit.


There for lust not love---

Some people go online to meet people for the sole purpose of hooking up or having sex. They are not there to fall in love, nor do they pretend to be. Statistics do show that forty percent of frequent users are already married…so what does that tell you? Those people are mostly hiding their true status and presenting themselves as single and looking to hook-up among all the other singles. That isn’t fair and is a major misrepresentation. It should be no secret that there are a percentage of liars and cheats on these sites and you have no method, initially, of distinguishing one from the other. Whatever your reason for being there, be honest about it. Whatever your status, be honest about it. Is that asking too much? Don’t jerk people around by being a jerk. Don’t waste their time. Believe me, there is someone for everyone’s wants and wishes online. If you speak your truth upfront maybe you’ll strike an accord with someone right up your alley.


A little less browsing, a little more meeting---

A trend taking hold are sites that encourage the member to browse, choose an interesting hit, then, go quicker for the meet. Especially if you’re dealing with locals, the logistics are such you can meet the person who piqued your fancy thus eliminating a lot of valuable time running up to what usually is a dead end. And who knows, you could click, and the relationship becomes something real. Taking yourself from the browsing and chatting phase quicker to the meeting and living phase might be a better use of the site and your time. The site that’s growing in recognition, HowAboutWe, is a site that is built on this philosophy.

In contrast, that strategy doesn’t work for everybody. Some folks want to take it slow or are afraid to move hastily, and would prefer to jump through many more ‘getting to know you’ hoops before they agree to get together. Some folks have misrepresented themselves and realize if they go right for the meet, their true identity or height or weight or flaws will be uncovered too early in the process. I actually think this is a better use of a dating site if you opt to use it. Use good judgment always if you’re meeting someone for the first or second or third time. Don’t assume anything about them until they show you more of who they are. Even then, you must not give yourself, your money, or your heart over to a stranger. Be patient as you see how things unfold. If they are the one for you, they won’t push, and will be there for as long as it takes. Love is worth the wait.


Chemistry is a face to face occurrence—

There are those who would say you can fall in love with someone you only met online. I think it’s not as simple as that. It’s more falling in love with the idea of love that seems to be what happens to those who have never met. That’s not to say a love can’t grow from that arrangement, but chemistry doesn’t mix on a flat surface. Chemistry is the catalyst, the igniter of a relationship when emotions collide. The chemistry that is felt between two people together in the same place and same space is triggered by forces of that exchange. A relationship based strictly online is one dimensional in nature. If it never graduates to the next level it lacks the personal intimacy one human brings to another through our other senses and our personal being. Imagination serves a helpful purpose, but nothing takes the place of a tender touch or a passionate kiss or a torrid love making session when one body comes together with another. Skyping has, in some respect, changed the game in that it does allow you to round more of the dating bases to see if the person is legit. It also gives you some idea how you would interact should you ever make it all the way around to home plate and encounter the real face to face deal. Remember, online chemistry is limited in progress and no guarantee of real world chemistry. And isn’t the real world the one that matters?

After another hard glimpse into the world of online dating a few things remain clear. While in many respects the business has changed, and its growing pains continue to run their painful course, much of the basic premise remains the same. Dress it up any way you like. Call it by a cooler name or attach a hipper dot com premise all you want. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s still a duck. Human beings are still human beings. That part hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. In the end, we’re all looking for some form of commitment or communication or compatibility or caring. Human beings are looking for love. They always have been. They always will be. They are weird like that. Love can be illusive or fleeting or daunting to find. The places to find it are not as clearly marked as they once were. Some have diminished or disappeared. Some are poised for a comeback waiting to be rediscovered. Life is weird like that. For now, though, looking online has taken their place. I’m not going to suggest that we should or should not look there. Frankly, we should look anywhere and everywhere, leaving no love stone unturned. Where we look and where we find it is not as important as THAT we find it. So, for all of you out there still believing and looking for love, put your shirts on, and good luck in your search wherever it may lead.

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