I was privileged to write for the Brant Advocate once again; check it!
Once upon a time, I was a single man hopelessly looking for love. Casually, of course. They say you can never find love, but that love finds you when you least expect it. In a sense, that can be true. However, if you’ve completely shut the door to love, then magical opportunities will pass you over, so make sure you leave a window open.
But then, how does one search for love in this day and age? Blind dates set up by friends? College sweethearts for life? Getting someone’s number at the grocery store? Sure, but what about digital dating? Based on our extensive exposure to technology, it might not be surprising that a growing number of couples are meeting online nowadays. And I’m talking all forms of couples: queers, straights, lesbians, bis, and everybody in between. Having been involved with digital dating myself, I wanted to share some of my own experiences that could maybe help someone – maybe you – navigating the romantic interwebs.
For those of you who are utterly opposed to online dating, yes, yes, I used to frown upon it, too, thinking that there was no way in hell you could meet someone decent on there. As with most things in life, you won’t know until you try! What led me, personally, to try out virtual courting were rather simple reasons: my friends knew a limited amount of men of which they could “pair me up” with; I didn’t attend any post-secondary school long enough to meet dateable peers; I don’t pick up randoms from bars or clubs; plus, there aren’t any gay bars or clubs in town. Also, there weren’t any potential mates within my current circle of friends, and I wasn’t going to join the gym or a community club on the off chance of exchanging numbers with a cutie. Not to say joining a club is a bad way to inadvertently meet dates, but it wasn’t for me.
With my reasons in tow, and my curiosity peaked, I joined a couple sites – free sites that is! If you’re especially trepidatious like I was, definitely do not sign up for a website that requires a credit card. I used Plenty of Fish and a handful of gay-specific sites, but I’m not browsing sites anymore, so ask your friends if they know what’s up-and-coming. My digital dating days, however grueling, resulted in an absolute perfect match, and I’m happily head over heels with my knight in shining armour. But finding him wasn’t easy; there were a lot of frogs and toads that came before.
So, where to start? Obviously, you have to make an account by picking a user name, adding some info about yourself, and uploading a decent photo or two. I’d advise to keep your informational tidbits brief; list only a few of your interests, favourite movies, or books to spark conversation starters. Excessive lists become overwhelming and a deterrent. Also, don’t expect everyone to read everything on your bio, if it all. There were a couple times I had asked someone’s favourite colour and they replied back with, “Didn’t you read my profile? I shouldn’t have to tell you.” Is it so wrong to ask these questions during the art of conversation rather than memorize portfolios as if expecting an exam? The bulk of your personality will show through once you’re actually communicating with someone, so never bank on your profile’s bio to do all the talking.
The next biggest thing on your profile will be your display photos! These are the first digital impressions potential heartthrobs will see of you, so it’s kind of important you make them count. Photos that show your face or depict you having fun with friends are much better than an image of a beloved pet or favourite superhero. People want to see the real you, and happy pictures with smiles are much more likely to get attention than a mug shot that screams serial killer. If you’re only allowed one display photo, alternate it every week or month to keep your profile fresh and lively. Switch up your surroundings, too, because selfies in the bathroom get boring fast, so stop holding your phone up to a mirror. Oh, yes, and let me call attention to those half naked scandalous shots! Use your judgement on posting these because once something goes online, it’s free game and people are apt to save copies. Also keep in mind what your goal is when you pick your pics: do you simply want meaningless hookups or are you looking for someone who wants to take you seriously? You can always send snapshots of your washboard abs privately once you’re comfortable with someone, so don’t be pressured to have them plastered on your profile from the get-go.
Now you’ve got a rocking profile, and you’ve struck up some conversations. But how do you know who’s the real deal and who’s all talk? Ultimately, you test the waters, always follow your gut, and learn from your mistakes. I’ve discovered that some people can be deceivingly excellent at chatting you up online within minutes of talking. It’s not always a bad thing, however, don’t fall for every piece of flattery. Learn more about the person, and see for yourself if they obtain the same values or qualities that you desire. Make note if they are genuinely interested in you too, or if they keep referring to your body; that should tell you what their priority is. Perhaps there are certain habits you know you can’t tolerate? For myself, I tended to keep away from smokers and drug users because I knew I didn’t want to deal with the consequences of either. That said, I did try dating a couple smokers, much to my annoyance of having to stop every activity in order for them to have a cigarette. There were also a couple addicts I encountered and only discovered afterwards how heavily they relied on their drugs, so I quickly moved on. Handmade paraphernalia made from two-litre pop bottles sitting on the dining room table screams red flag to me.
If there are no immediate red flags and things are really hitting it off, give it a couple days of casual chatting before deciding to go on a date in person. Here are two reasons. First, if they are serious about meeting you, they won’t lose interest within that time, and if anything, they’ll become more excited and possibly plan a more creative date. Second, it helps weed out the desperate crazies. You know who I’m talking about. They are the ones that message you and, without responding, they message you within ten minutes again, and again, and then dare ask if you died or why you hate them. This is a major red flag and you need to abort mission. If you haven’t encountered this type of person, you’ve been blessed. Everyone has busy lives, so once a message is sent, they should be able to politely await a response – even if it is hours later – without sending tons more pleading for your attention.
Once you deem the coast is clear and you’re ready to meet your admirer, agree on a time and place to get together that’s in a safe, public location. I strongly encourage digital daters to meet their digital suitors in person before investing weeks or months of time merely chatting online. By going on a simple date, you get to see if they actually look like their display photo and not a catfish. As well, for those who are curious, you’ll find out how tall they are, if they lied about their weight, and you’ll finally get to hear their real voice! Be mindful if they put in the effort to dress appropriately when meeting you. If they show up in their grubs, then they clearly don’t care enough and most likely won’t care about you anytime soon. You’re worth better.
Going for non-alcoholic drinks of some sort is always a safe and affordable bet; it allows for small talk to grow into random, deeper conversations. Go for coffee, smoothies, milkshakes, tea, soda pops, protein shakes, whatever works. Planning to go to a lovely restaurant is nice, too – it just gets expensive if you find yourself going on lots of first dates, unless your wooer is paying for everything! I was lucky enough to be spoiled this way a few times; eating lavishly, drinking many fancy drinks, and having my bill graciously paid for. For other ideas, going to see a movie is a rather horrible option when you’re meeting someone for the very first time; it leaves no room for talking to each other. Verbal communication during your first few dates is vital; you already know they can woo you from behind a keyboard, but can they carry a conversation in the flesh? Talking is what leads you to discover more about this person, such as: are your likes and dislikes similar; do they seem polite and well-educated; are they strongly opinionated to the point of shooting your ideas down; do they use hyperboles to trump your tales; or can they listen to you without appearing bored? You won’t learn everything in one go, but you might learn enough that you’ll want to attempt a date number two! Hopefully you do, because I think the second or third dates are the most fun; the majority of the nerves are out of the way, you’ve established a baseline with each other, and these sequential dates force you to be more creative. I’ve been cooked a home meal followed by Mario Kart racing, went hiking in a forest, watched a roller derby game, and even helped someone move into their apartment while meeting their parents!
Don’t be afraid to try new things and go on adventures. At the same time, play safe and be smart, especially if you allow yourself to be sexually active. Know your STI and HIV status, as well as your partner’s before the heat of the moment. There are no rules for how long you should wait to have sex, nor should you expect anything sexual on the first date; simply do what is most comfortable for the both of you.
Not everyone you meet will become Prince Charming or Cinderella, but it doesn’t mean you guys won’t share some laughs or teach each other something new. It goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway: be considerate while cruising online. In our day and age, digital interactions can be just as encouraging or disparaging as any other interaction, so we need to maintain the Golden Rule of, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” By being polite and nice to others, you never know where things will lead. Besides, Karma is watching you!
When all’s said and done, have fun with your dating while it lasts! So go forth and be frolicsome! Use your noggin to make smart choices, follow your gut instincts, and allow your heart to let some love in. Be safe everyone! 🙂
Thanks for reading!
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