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Log-In For Love

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There was a time not long ago when I wondered if I’d ever meet a girl. Not only had I been set up with or rejected by everyone in my extended social circle, but nearly every female I worked with was menopausal, leaving me with fewer viable options than Tiger Woods at a Nordegren family reunion. My only hope for salvation was that somebody new would move to town.

Or I could give online dating a try.

Despite its resounding popularity, I’d always resisted taking the plunge. There was just something a little off to me about trollin’ and scrollin’ for love, like a seedy cross between the local personal ads and Amazon.com. But after months of my mother’s hocking—and 47 cable viewings of You’ve Got Mail—I finally gave in and logged on.

The question was, though, what site should I join? My first instinct was JDate—seemingly the perfect place for a Jewish boy to meet a nice, Jewish girl. But I was also curious to see who eHarmony’s sophisticated compatibility tests would match me up with, so I decided to start there.

Filling out their personality profile, I felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe there was someone out there for me after all.

Well, it turns out there wasn’t.

At least, not according to the site’s matching system, which, after processing my answers, determined I wasn’t compatible…with anyone. So instead of receiving a list of potential soul mates, I got the “Cannot Provide Service” message.

Sitting there in stunned silence, I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened. Had I really gotten rejected by a dating service? Was I such a lost cause that taking my $59.95 a month wasn’t worth this for-profit business’ time?

As I scraped my self esteem off of my keyboard, I remembered that I still had the option of JDate. Surely my own people wouldn’t turn me away, would they?

Thankfully, they didn’t, and over the ensuing months, I took full advantage of my membership, sending out as many emails as possible. And while none of them led to holy matrimony—few resulted in even a second date—I did pick up some wisdom along the way.

So if you’re out there looking for love, armed with a profile and a dream, here are some things to keep in mind that might help you get the most out of your online dating experience…

The K.I.S.S. Principle

I’ve never been swayed much by advertising. I buy what I’m going to buy, regardless of how elaborate a commercial is or who is pushing the product.

In fact, if I’m affected at all, it’s in a negative way. After sitting through a couple of those ridiculous Fandango promos with the annoying spokesman and talking puppets, I vowed I’d never buy my movie tickets from a company that thought that ad campaign was a good idea.

Keeping with that code, I’m almost guaranteed to skip over someone’s dating profile if they have an absurd screen name that reads like a high school freshman’s email address. It’s one thing if it’s a nickname…I can get on board with that. But generally speaking, simplicity is the way to go, and handles like “LaffYourTushiOff” and “ChallahAtYurGirl” are enough of a reason to keep on scrolling.

A Show About Nothing

Too often people put so much of this wasted effort into their screen name that they have nothing left for their profile. Almost all of them read the same way: “I’m a down-to-earth girl who is happy going out on the town, or staying at home with that special someone and a bottle of wine.”

That’s nice and all, but by filling your profile with a bunch of clichés, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. This is your first chance to show people who you are, and what you write can provide great insight. If you talk about how active you are, you’re letting guys know you get the most out of life. If you make a Seinfeld reference, you’re showing that you’d be cool watching its reruns at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. every night. And if you repeatedly refer to how much you enjoy shopping, you’re conveying the (risky) message that you’re more “Material Girl” than “Girl Next Door.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

One of the biggest regrets of my online dating career was the time I had to tell a girl, just an hour before our first meeting, “My hair is a lot longer than you’re expecting it to be.”

Why the need for the last minute warning? Well, I’d been growing my hair out for a while, hoping I’d one day resemble Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights, but I had convinced myself that changing my profile picture wasn’t necessary. After all, my face was the same, my body was the same…what did it matter if I had a new hairstyle?

But the truth was I did look different, and anyone viewing me deserved to know that.

Shallow or not, physical attraction is an integral part of romantic relationships. It’s what separates friend from girlfriend. So don’t be like me and take the “I once looked like this” approach when posting photos.

If it’s from your sophomore year of college, it has no place on your profile.

Conscientious Rejecter

As far as I’m concerned, the Facebook wall post is the lowest form of wishing someone happy birthday. It’s impersonal (everyone else can see it), it takes no thought (“Happy Birthday, ______!” isn’t exactly Shakespeare), and it doesn’t show the person you actually remembered them (the site tells you whose birthday it is each day).

But that’s never stopped me from responding individually to every one of those wishes each year. Regardless of how little effort is required, if my “friends” take the time to write me, the least I can do is acknowledge them.

This spirit of acknowledgement should also be applied to online dating. Sure, a JDate email is the dating equivalent of the aforementioned Facebook post, but that person is still putting themselves out there, and they deserve an answer. If you aren’t interested, why leave them hanging? How hard is it to send a quick reply saying, “Thanks, but no thanks”?

It’s called common courtesy…use it.

Choose Your Own Adventure

I’ve never liked the term “online dating.” To me, it insinuates that you actually carry on a relationship online – sitting at your computer, exchanging emails, locked away in your mother’s basement.

That’s why I’ve always approached the process as more of an online setup, and I want to get things offline as quickly as possible. Two messages, and I’m ready to meet, because regardless of how perfect a girl seems, nothing matters until we’re face to face, when I can hear her laugh and see her smile and experience the energy between us.

But everybody’s different. If you’d rather take the extended email-phone-in person route, that’s fine, too. What’s important is that you find the pace that’s comfortable for you, so that you’ll keep logging in to keep giving love a shot.

Because if life really does imitate art, your Tom Hanks could be just a click away.

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