Most advice you’ll hear as you take advantage of online dating websites is similar to the advice you might get when you’re dating someone you met in person. But meeting people online carries its own special risks. If you use your instincts, you should be just fine, but here are ten common “red flags” you should look out for and avoid.
1. No photograph
Everybody on an online dating site should have a photograph showing potential dating partners what they look like. Wanting to see the face behind the words doesn’t make you superficial; it makes you human. You might hear lots of plausible reasons not to post a picture, but a profile without a picture is a danger sign. Don’t accept excuses like “I’m a private person” or “I have an important job.” The sad truth is that people who don’t post a photo are likely married or hiding something else. A clear photo of the person should always be included in a profile. That goes for you, too! Worried about your appearance? It’s better to show your cards up front, than fall for someone via e-mail only to have the person reject you later when they see you.
Online dating is no venue in which to be shy or uncertain. Remember that you are marketing a product – yourself – so statements like “I just thought I’d try this,” or “This probably won’t work, but here goes!” undermine your confidence and send others running. Avoid negativity when sharing what you want, too. Headlines like “no cheaters” or “no fat chicks” are offensive and show your baggage. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.
3. Sex, sex, sex
If you’re looking for a romantic relationship, online dating can speed up the timeline by letting you get to know a few things before you interact. However, etiquette and rules still apply. Sharing too much too soon is a turnoff and a red flag. If someone requests your phone number with hardly any online flirting, chances are that person is looking for sex, not love. Even if you’re looking for casual encounters, some introductory back-and-forth is still a good idea. Compare it to meeting someone in a club. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and say, “Hey baby, wanna do it?” (Well, not without getting a drink thrown in your face.)
Someone whose profile says he owns his own business, travels a lot, and drives an Acura Legend sounds like a great catch. But if he mentions in another section that he lives with his mother, he’s either lying or weird. Either way, it’s a red flag. It’s a good idea to connect on a social networking site. That way you can compare the person’s social networking profile to the online dating site profile and check for anything that doesn’t jive. Along the same lines, if you have a lot of trouble meeting potential mates because of constantly changing plans or stringent times of day, they might be trying to hide something – their marital status, for instance.
5. Too picky
Everyone has preferences, and it’s certainly fine to state them in your profile. But if someone seems extremely narrow in his or her focus, that person is going to be just as demanding and bossy in a relationship. Height/Weight requirements, salary expectations, or desires for a clone of some celebrity are unrealistic. Stay open-minded in your own profile, too. You might be pleasantly surprised!
6. Form letters
When you get a message from a potential dating partner, you want to learn about that person, but you also want to make sure that person wants you – not just anyone. Some people send the same message to dozens or even hundreds of online dating site members, just hoping to get a “hit.” Scan messages to make sure they contain specific information that you posted on your profile. Beware of generic compliments that could apply to anyone, like, “Hi there, hotty!” If you are really intrigued and you absolutely must respond, keep it brief and request specifics. Ask questions like, “Do you think we have anything in common?”
7. Looking for friends
Online dating sites exist for romantic encounters, not for friendship. A person who says he’s just looking for friends, she’s too busy for a relationship, etc., is likely not being truthful. People don’t look for friends on an online dating site. Such statements are probably code for seeking a brief sexual fling.
8. Atrocious spelling and grammar mistakes
Even if spelling and grammar aren’t particularly important to you, a profile full of sloppy sentences and bad spelling often indicates that the person just doesn’t care very much about this process. If people don’t take the few minutes and small effort of proofreading their profiles (or having a friend proofread them), they are likely to be lazy during the dating phase as well. Spelling errors don’t always mean someone is stupid. Some brilliant folks just aren’t good at spelling. But you want someone who cares enough about connecting with you to check for errors.
9. The long hello
There’s no set number of messages to be exchanged before telephone or in-person contact. But, a suitor shouldn’t keep asking questions and more questions without indicating a desire to actually meet you. If more than ten or fifteen messages get sent to you without a request for your phone number, move on. You deserve someone who is eager and excited to meet you.
10. Don’t drink and date
There’s nothing wrong with drinking or partying, but if that seems to be his main topic of conversation, that’s a definite red flag. If the person is drunk during your first phone conversation, move on. Maybe you just caught him or her at a bad time…or, maybe that person is usually drunk and you’d be asking for trouble on a date. Wait for someone who cares enough to get to know you while sober. Likewise, you should never drink on a first date with an online partner – both because you want to make a sound assessment of the possibilities, and of course, for safety’s sake.
What other “red flags” have you encountered in your online dating experiences? Leave your comments and let us know!