Online Dating: How & When To Make The First Contact

Online dating should always be premeditated – that’s the beauty of online dating! You can have the communication well thought out in advance. Here’s how.

In online dating, the first move is unlike any “in real life” first meeting you’ve ever had.

The Hunt

The first move in online dating is entirely premeditated. There’s no striking up a natural conversation at the water cooler, or meeting at a bar. You came to the site looking for a date, and anyone that responds to your messages or profile is looking for the same thing. Sure, you may both be looking for different types of romance, but at least the core is the same.

This can make online dating feel like a bit of a hunt. Both parties are looking for certain traits that they will use to filter out potential candidates. These might be age, looks or location. Some people focus on the “attitude” or “tone” of the profile, or the level of commitment they think the profile conveys. Because of these filters, when the first move is made, it carries a certain feeling of excitement, especially for the person being contacted. Out of all these choices, you chose them. You looked at tons of profile pictures and while you could have gone with the flirty girl or the shirtless guy, you chose them, despite being unable to crop out that random guy’s arm from their profile picture.

When you finally do find someone you’d like to “meet”, you can make the process seem like less of a hunt by actually tailoring your message to him or her. Your first message should say more than “I saw your profile and you look interesting. We should talk.” They’ve received spam emails with more personality than that. Try to refer to at least one unique thing in their profile or picture. Try something like “That’s an awesome view in your profile picture. Where was it taken?” or “I had a friend who went to that college! They raved about this restaurant downtown.”

The Catch

Striking a conversation with someone online can be scary. When the Internet was in its infancy, many people held misinformed ideas of what it was. The cliche was finding that perfect profile of a 6 foot 4 inch tall, blond, muscular, polo-playing firefighter who happens to be the heir to an empire but risks his life because he’s so courageous, only to learn that he’s a 5 foot 2 inch tall unemployed couch surfer who took 30 seconds to find a good profile picture. Or falling in love with emails from a leggy super-model who shared your passion for old movies and football, only to learn that she’s also that same 5 foot 2 inch couch surfer.

Now, the risks remain, but there’s a certain level of honesty expected from all involved. Make sure that your first move is a genuine one, even if it’s not necessarily full disclosure. They don’t need to know about your unpaid parking tickets yet. Or that you love trash TV late at night. But you should still be honest. When you make the first move, avoid the temptation to send an inaccurate photo or to fake a passion for college lacrosse. As soon as you meet, they’ll know how accurate the photo was, and if the relationship becomes serious, you don’t want to risk old “fibs” coming back to bite you.

The Bait

Every online dating site or social networking site has their own twist on the non-verbal, and non-committal, first move. Depending on what site you are on, you can poke, wink, cruise, smile, nod, give a flower or do any number of other ice-breaking actions.

Before you click that button, ask yourself if this is really the way you want your initial meeting to happen. It’s literally the modern day equivalent of walking into a bar, winking at someone and walking away.

To some people, it’s off-putting. They think you only like them enough to click a button, but not enough to say “hello, I saw your profile and noticed that we both like traveling.” They can’t tell whether you’re actually interested, or just quickly hitting as many people as you can.

Consider making your first move a little more meaningful by actually sending a message, particularly one that includes a reference to something in the person’s profile. If you share a common interest, use that as an icebreaker, not a “wink.”

The Release

The initial contact can be the end of the road for many online relationships. Accept it. There’s no obligation that either party has to go on at least one date with every person that talks to them online, or even that they have to respond to your first message. Or your second, third or fourth. It’s possible that you’ve contacted an inactive profile, or your target just found the love of his or her life minutes before you sent your message.

If you’re absolutely convinced that the person was a match, then a follow-up message may be appropriate. They may legitimately have forgotten to respond to you, or unable to get to a computer. Be ready to call a time of death on this potential relationship if you still don’t receive a response though.

Making the first move in online dating can be nerve-wracking and unusual, but every relationship has to begin somewhere. If you can avoid certain behaviors and you are willing to start a conversation, you can find easily handle the world of online dating.


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