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10 tips for internet dating without pain

Four years ago today, I went on an internet date. I was twenty minutes late because I couldn’t find the pub and also announced that I wouldn’t be drinking because I’d given it up for January. Charming. Despite all this he seemed keen to see me again … and we’ve now been married for almost two years.

So you can take it I’m a fan of internet dating. A and I worked around the corner from each other, but we had different commutes, routines and friends: there’s no way we would ever have met each other without our mutual friend the Internet.

Of course, I was doing it in the days before Tinder, which now seems like a quaint Jane Austen-type era. I don’t know, maybe it works for some people but Tinder sounds to me like a sort of brutal dating dystopia. Even ‘traditional’ online dating is scary. But there are some tricks to make it easier and even – sometimes – fun. Here are my hard-won top tips for internet dating without pain.

  1. On a first date, tell the person in advance that you’re only free for an hour – coffee or a drink – as you’re meeting friends later. That way nobody’s feelings will get hurt and you can always leave promptly if it’s painful – or extend it if it’s going well …
  2. If you’re nervous tell yourself it’s a work/networking meeting or that you’re meeting a friend of a friend who’s just moved to your town. Who knows, you might actually make a new friend or a work connection (unlikely, but at least you’ll be less nervous).
  3. Trust your instincts. You might (especially if you’re a girl) want to ‘give people a chance’, but if their emails don’t make you smile and their picture doesn’t appeal, it won’t be any different in real life. So there’s no need to meet them ‘just to see’. Let alone go on a second date.
  4. Don’t have pen pals. Some people just want to send really long emails back and forth for months; pointless. Suggest meeting up, and if there’s no response stop emailing.
  5. If you’re female, this will happen: you will be asked out by a creepy man, turn him down nicely, and then get an angry message accusing you of being ‘stuck up’. Just block him, report him, and forget him. And remember he’s in the minority.
  6. Some people suggest ‘talking on the phone’ is good before a first date. No! Terrible idea. Just rip the plaster off and meet.
  7. Don’t do it if you’re feeling fragile. Post break-up, when Adele still reduces you to tears, or when you’ve been single forever and feeling as alluring as a sack of kitty litter, is not a good time to put yourself on the dating market. Pick a time when you’re feeling strong and happy and up for an adventure. And if you can’t imagine such a time, then maybe work on that before you dabble with the interwebs.
  8. Remember; it’s only the internet. It feels very bad when someone doesn’t ‘wink’ back at you or whatever, but remember they haven’t met you. They don’t exist yet (see 10).
  9. After the date, if you didn’t like them there’s no need to contact them to tell them so. Just don’t get in touch and if they ask you out again a polite no is fine. And if you did like them, there’s no need to text to ‘thank them’ for a great time. Their thanks can be a second date with you …
  10. Until you meet someone in reality, they’re basically imaginary – a photo and a few emails. So don’t worry if they cancel/stop emailing/delete their avatar. Maybe they’re twelve years old or married or live on an oil rig. It doesn’t matter. There are plenty more virtual fish in the internet sea. And you only need to be lucky once. Good luck!!

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