If you're new to online or internet dating, the concept might feel odd. A bit like window shopping for a new car, house or electrical appliance. But the fact is, it can be a highly efficient and effective way to screen potential dates and mates by getting a generally idea of who they are and how compatible you might be together, before you ever meet in person.
As someone who has been on no less than five different internet dating sites and have had literally over two hundred first time meetings with guys over the course of three years, I've learned a few things about how to apply common sense to online dating. In the 200+ guys that I've raced go karts, shot pool, played miniature golf and had ice cream cones or lunch with, there were only three times the person was not who I thought or things went badly, and ALL three times I broke my own basic rules.
I believe the majority of people who online date are well intentioned people who are simply not finding love in the conventional ways. I'm sure there are a few psychopaths on the sites as well, but by following a few simple rules you can typically avoid them.
1. Don't talk to anyone who won't reveal basic stats and info about themselves, and doesn't have a picture. NEVER give out your phone number, email address or meet in person anyone who doesn't have or won't post clear, recent, full body pictures of themselves first!
2. Don't talk to anyone who openly admits they're already in a relationship or married, or doesn't want any kind of relationship ever. Unless you'd like to be part of a pointless love triangle.
3. Don't continue to talk to anyone who seems to have issues involving:
drugs/ substance abuse
frequent drama filled breakups/ chronic relationships
emotional or mental instability
unable to keep a job
stuck in high school/ college party mode
wants an "instant" relationship
seems to have an ulterior motive for meeting people off this site
4. Don't talk to anyone who's stories don't add up. Who doesn't have a car, or a cell phone/ home phone, or any income, or any future plans or won't talk about their past.
5. Don't talk to anyone who asks you for money, wants you to fly out of the country to meet them, wants you to pay for their plane ticket to come meet you.
6. Don't talk to anyone who is desperate to become a couple instantly, talks about you two getting married before meeting (or after the first date), move in together right away or who otherwise seems desperate to get into a relationship immediately.
7. Don't meet in person anyone you haven't had at least one decent length, normal, enjoyable conversation with over a phone.
8. Never agree to things you may not be able or willing to do once you've met. This include everything from making out/having sex with them, to allowing them to stay at your house, to being a couple, to going on a trip/vacation together, etc. If after you've met in person and they've lied about who they are, you don't feel comfortable around them or just aren't interested in them romantically, you don't want to have promises and obligations you'll want to bail on.
9. Always meet in a public location you feel comfortable with, where there will be other people, good lighting and a way out if you need one. Never meet at someone's house, or let them know exactly where you live until you've met them and decided they're trustworthy. (That's why I always drive myself so I have my own wheels and if they turn out to be a stalker, they don't know where I live!)
10. If either of you have kids, do NOT bring them to a first time meeting with someone you yourself do not know. (Remember stranger danger?)
11. Be honest and upfront about who you are, what you want and have to offer. Don't stick around if they aren't honest and upfront about those things.
12. Meet everyone with low expectations but high standards. Like a job interview, if it's not going to be a good fit you don't want to force it and you don't want to settle. If you anticipate too much before hand and it doesn't pan out, you (or the other person) are going to be really disappointed. Better to not expect much and possibly be pleasantly surprised.