If you are like me, the greatest objections to joining an online dating website will probably be your own. As I said in my first post, I scoffed at my coworker when he initially shared that he was meeting a woman from Plenty of Fish. My perception was that seeking ‘help’ in the form of an online dating site was a concession of sorts, the assumption being that if I am resorting to an online service to make connections with people, I must fail at life.
This, however, is a self-defeating attitude. First, I do not consider myself a failure at life. Quite the opposite—I tend to think far more highly of myself than I ought. And if I do feel consternation with my singlehood, it is the appalled disbelief that far too few datable men have realized what a catch I am. (^~) So, I had to get over the idea of equating online dating with social ineptness or desperation. Second, a mindset equating dating website with personal failure does nothing but perpetuate a no-win scenario. If online dating is only for failures, then joining means a) that I consider myself a failure, and b) that I am resigned to exclusively seeking the company of other failures. L’Oreal commercials have always assured me that “You’re worth it” so I KNOW this is not the case. ^^
If I, a well-educated, deep-thinking, creative, and competent individual, have created a Plenty of Fish profile in hopes of connecting with other well-educated, deep-thinking, creative, and competent individuals, can I not assume that there are others on the site who have done the same? Granted, my first week on Plenty of Fish has revealed that there are a huge number of lonely, ambition-less individuals passive-aggressively looking to find a fan for the underdog or scantily-clad narcissists seeking a string-free hook-up; but in order to gain the full value of my POF experience, I had to let go of the assumption that internet dating catered SOLELY to those types. I had to embrace the idea that I consider myself worth meeting and therefore, through this website, I will encounter other people worth meeting (as well as a whole lot of people who make me despair for the future of humanity—but at least I have a plethora of amusing stories to share with you! ^_^)
Personal mental assumptions can be difficult to release, but assumed social implications are not the only objection that must be dealt with. An even weightier objection is the consideration for personal safety.
As one POF user asked me, “How do I know you’re actually a chic? What if you’re actually a big burly dude named Jamal who wants to stuff me in the trunk of your car?”
Good question, POF dude. And the answer is, you DON’T know. You can’t.
Perhaps this might not be a huge hang-up for a lot of people, but I grew up as the daughter of a safety officer whose wife LOVES crime shows (talk about a double whammy of potential paranoia!). The safety hurdle was a huge obstacle to jump, but I’ve found there are precautions that can be taken, allowing one to take advantage of the opportunity to meet people without completely throwing caution to the wind.
Good News! It IS possible to do internet dating without ending up in an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds!
The key to maintaining safety and a personal level of comfort in the midst of interfacing with complete strangers in a nebulous world of nefarious ne’er-do-wells is to determine your boundaries and know what you are comfortable with before you start. My rules are these:
- Stranger Danger!I never give out my last name or address while talking online. (By Never, I mean NEVER. The website already advertises what city a user lives in. That should be as specific as you get until you really know and trust a person).
- Peruse Profiles— Read profiles thoroughly. I don’t even have to exchange messages with many users to know that I probably don’t want to meet them. (More on this later)
- Communicate— If the profile is acceptable, exchange a few messages to establish if the person who wrote the profile would be meet-able. (The criteria for establishing this will vary from person to person. I will address mine in a later post.)
- MEET–If a person seems to be meet-worthy, schedule a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible. (Engaging in extended online flirtation can allow people to completely misrepresent themselves and lead to foundationless emotional ties. Besides, who wants to fall for a persona? I would much rather get to know a PERSON.) In my opinion, first meetings have nothing to do with romance and everything to do with verification that the person is who they claim to be and that enough like-minded commonality and attraction exists to desire pursuing the acquaintance.
- PUBLIC meetings–Conduct all first meetings in a well-lit, no pressure public place. Coffee shops, cafes, ice-cream shops, well-populated parks, etc are all good ideas. (Although, having seen more than my fair share of crime shows, I will probably avoid parks until at least a third meeting ^_-)
- Accountability person— have a parent, sibling, friend, or coworker to whom you give all the specs of your meeting: Where you are meeting, at what time, any contact information for yourself, contact information for the person you are meeting up with, a picture of yourself immediately before departure for your meeting, a picture of the person you believe yourself to be meeting up with, regular intervals at which you want to be contacted in order to verify that you are still breathing—that sort of thing.
- Specific Personal Comfort Boundaries–It’s ok to have some. Probably my most controversial boundary, I do not give out my phone number to people I haven’t met face-to-face. This has caused quite a bit of consternation with some POF users, but that’s a story for another post. I have no problem handing my phone number to complete strangers on a regular basis (After all, I’ve submitted my resume to at least 50 different establishments since June); but when it comes to online dating, reserving my phone number is a mental security blanket that allows me to feel at least a tad bit safer in this world of computer hacking and scam artistry.
Perhaps not everyone is as methodical about this online dating madness as I am; but these objections were things I had to think through before I could just jump in. I had to know what I wanted and how I planned to get it. (Low expectations help a lot when determining these things ^_-)
(By the way, it might sound a bit complicated, but my mind works a lot faster than the explanation of the thought process. It took FAR LESS time to reach these conclusions than it took to write this post ^_^)
Having established my boundaries, some goals, and an adjusted perspective of the endeavor I was undertaking, I began with a screen name.
Stay tuned to find out exactly what IS in a name.