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Online dating: A user's guide

Looking for love online
Looking for love online
Photog: Elena Buetler (c) 2006, courtesy of Stock Xchng

PERSONAL ads and matchmaking sites are a great opportunity to meet people online, especially if you’re a busy professional who doesn’t have time to wait for Mr. Right (or Ms. Right) in a singles’ bar or on a moonlit street corner.

Essentially, the services provided by these sites are the same: Sign up, complete a few compatibility surveys, upload a photo and then sit back and let the “intuitive” matchmaking software do the work for you.

While meeting someone online and going through the website’s guided communication is not the same as seeing an attractive person, pitching a one-liner at them and seeing if there’s a connection, there is still a chance that it can pan out for you.

Scan through the site carefully and look at a few profiles (most of the time, this is free) and decide if the people the site matches you with are truly right for you.

Before you pay for a service, be sure to read the fine print. Some sites may automatically renew (and assess payment) to your account if you do not cancel your subscription by the end of your trial.

Ready to take the plunge?

Include fun facts about yourself. Be honest, but keep it short and sweet. Say only enough to bait your reader and make them want to contact you. There will be plenty of time to exchange life stories later on, over a cup of coffee or even dinner. 

Do not include personal info or contact numbers. Most sites will not allow you to include phone numbers or email addresses in your profile, and for good reason. (Think "identity theft.")  Share them only when you are ready to get to take things offline.

Be upfront about what you want from a relationship. Be careful with words. If you want a stable commitment, then be cautious around statements like “looking to make new friends.” “Looking for a meaningful connection” or means that you are ready for something serious.

Put your best face forward. Avoid letting emotional baggage or work-related stress creep into your profile. Highlight strengths to tell your potential matches what makes you unique and special, and share any long-term goals.

Be honest when answering the questions, even if they seem tedious. The more candid you are with your responses, the greater your chances of a compatible match.

Open yourself to new experiences. This may include finding new hobbies with your prospective match, trying new restaurants or even scoping out new scenes and neighborhoods. The more open your standards, the greater your chances of meeting someone special.

Happy hunting!

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