There are certain universally-accepted rules when it comes to real-world dating – show up on time, dress to impress and above all else, do not go on a ten minute rant about your ex (as tempting as that may be).
As in the real world, there are certain principles we generally adhere to when it comes to attempting to have a successful online dating experience. These principles exist for good reason – they’re successful in attracting people to the highly curated versions of ourselves that exist pre-first-date.
While some common online dating rules can be valuable, others can actually negatively impact your love life when it comes to the expectations you create in the eyes of the other person and for yourself. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your internet dating experience, here are some commonly followed rules of online dating — and why you should break them on purpose.
Rule 1: Be Picture Perfect
Have you ever ordered something on Amazon expecting to get exactly what you saw on the product page images but when it shows up it looks nothing like the picture?
How’d you feel? Deceived? Maybe even cheated?
Some of us have felt similar emotions when meeting up with someone from a dating site for the first time. There’s a sinking feeling that happens when you realize the person looks nothing like the pictures on their profile.
While first impressions can be lasting impressions, putting your best face forward on your profile may seem like a good idea to attract more matches. Don’t blow it by creating an unrealistic expectation that will make the person sitting across the table from you wonder if you’re the real deal. Honesty and trust are valuable qualities that in most studies rate higher in the eyes of a potential long-term mate than how attractive a person is.
To avoid this common early dating mistake remember: you don’t have to be picture perfect.
Try to avoid featuring only pictures of yourself that you’ve applied the most flattering filters to. Don’t just include pictures of yourself at your best angles. Feel free to include some of those of course, but make sure to include some natural images of yourself as well.
Give them the chance to see the real you from the get-go, starting with how you actually look in everyday life.
Rule 2: Don’t Scare Them Off
People use online dating apps and sites for different reasons. Some of us are looking for long-term relationships while others are just hoping to meet new people or have some casual fun.
There’s nothing worse than going out with someone and getting along fabulously only to discover that you’re looking for different things. One person wants to settle down and have a family while the other has too many commitments between work, school or other interests to make time for a relationship.
While it may work out if one person is open to something outside of their original intent, in general these scenarios are ultimately tremendously disappointing for both parties.
To avoid this, be sure that you’re both open and honest about why you’re dating online in the first place. Just come out and say it. While it may scare off some potential dates, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure you’re on the same page before you get together.
You won’t be wasting your time, you’ll be protecting yourself from emotional letdown and you’ll save a few dollars that you would have wasted on a first date that was never going anywhere in the first place.
Rule 3: Stick to Text
When it comes to communicating with people we’ve met online, many of us struggle with analysis paralysis. We scrutinize every message sending it in an attempt to make sure we’re being funny, interesting and engaging at all times.
This can be a set up for disaster when it comes to actually meeting the person…in person. We work so hard to establish ourselves as all of the above, only to psych ourselves out when we actually sit down across from the person.
How did people connect to set up dates before the Internet? They talked on the telephone. In this day and age, we avoid potential awkwardness at all costs by keeping communication confined to apps, dating sites or text messages.
Take a chance to show that you’re bold, daring, different – give someone you’ve met online a call to ask them out rather than doing it via text. We know it may seem like the last dating rule you want to break. But the odds are good that it’ll be a first for them and they’ll remember and appreciate you for it.
It will also take the pressure off when you actually do meet in person. It won’t feel like the first conversation you’ve had if you’ve already spoken once or twice over the phone.
Rule 4: Don’t Reveal Too Much
Most of us want to avoid long texting or in-app conversations before actually going out with someone they’ve met online. This occurs in large part because we want to avoid having nothing left to talk about on the first date.
One of the many beauties of online dating is that it’s totally acceptable to pre-screen your dates before you even agree to go out with them. The best way to do this it to actually find out what makes them tick. And while it’s not always a foolproof method, it definitely helps establish chemistry prior to a date if you make an effort to get a feel for the person.
Take advantage of this post-match, pre-date period to converse with them a bit before meeting in person. Taking mental note of personality traits, common hobbies or anything else you think is relevant to the type of relationship you’re looking for.
Try not to be too tough on them; but if you determine the two of you are fundamentally incompatible in some way, move on to the next one.
After all, it’s only natural to want to make sure that you aren’t total opposites with nothing to talk about besides the weather.
Rule 5: Keep Your Friends Close
The phrase “strength in numbers” rings true in most scenarios. Not so much when it comes to meeting someone for the first time.
In recent years, online daters have begun bringing friends to watch their date from a distance for safety or moral support.
Even if you aren’t consciously aware of it, the presence of friends will affect how you act on your date. Knowing your friends are there and keeping lookout could be a real distraction that affects anything from your behavior to your ability to hold a conversation.
That being said, it’s always a great idea to be as safe as possible and there are ways to do that without bringing your whole crew along for the ride.
Try to meet up with your date in a public space, be sure to drive yourself home, keep a friend or two on call.
For those who really want to err on the side of caution, try running a background check on them using Spokeo. You may be able to determine whether or not they’ve told the truth about their identity before actually meeting up and, if available (and for an additional fee) you could gain access to criminal or marital records.