My sympathies were aroused the first time I met Abby, a friend-of-a-friend who had recently moved to my neighbourhood after a divorce. Aged 47, she had made the move in order to seek a different life for herself and her fifteen-year-old son.
However, two years later, after regular meet-ups at which I offered coffee, a supportive chat and sometimes – literally – a shoulder to cry on, Abby was still bemoaning her inability to meet a new man.
That’s when my sympathy began to wear a little thin. Each time, after attending a local fundraising event, pub quiz night or social gathering, she would turn up at my house with a woeful tale of dashed expectations. The men she met were either ‘too old’, ‘too young’ or ‘too married’. On every occasion I would remind her that online dating was her best option for meeting a new partner, but she remained stubbornly unmoved, even when I pointed out that nowadays around one in four relationships begins online.
The process of online dating is very simple: just create a profile, check out potential matches, communicate with your chosen date through direct messages and then arrange to meet. Given the scare stories we hear about fake profiles, romance frauds and stalking, Abby was right to be cautious, but probably not to the point of spoiling her best statistical chances of finding love.
Staying safe online
It’s natural to feel a little nervous about meeting a stranger for the first time, but there are certain common sense precautions you can take to stay safe.
- Check if the dating site you are using is a member of the Online Dating Association (ODA) by looking for the ODA’s logo on the site.
- Choose a username that doesn’t reveal who you are and don’t give away your surname, contact information, home address or place of work when first setting up your profile.
- Don’t give away too much information about yourself right away. Take things slowly, sharing more information when you feel comfortable to do so.
- Never release financial information or give in to pressure to lend money.
- Meet in public and stay in public on your first couple of dates and always let a friend know where you are, and who you’re meeting.
Setting up a successful online dating profile
The UK dating site Match.com says that when registering with a site it’s important to answer questions accurately for the best possible chance of finding your ideal match. When writing about your personality they recommend that you should “avoid clichés and overused phrases such as ‘looking for love’. Instead, consider what makes you different from everybody else … above all, be sure to inject humour to show people how friendly, fun and approachable you are.”
Match.com recommends reading other profiles for inspiration or asking a friend to describe your personality. People tend to scan profiles rather than read them in depth, so an eye-catching opening paragraph, using key words that relate to your passions and interests, will capture more interest.
As you can imagine, a profile with a photo attracts more attention than one without, but there are a few factors to bear in mind when choosing an image. The dating site Zoosk found that women get 60% more attention if their photo is taken indoors, while men get 19% more attention if theirs is taken outside, particularly if the photo includes other friends or involves an active pursuit.
Are there alternatives to one-to-one meetings?
Many dating websites hold singles events where you can get together with other single people in your area and test out the chemistry face-to-face. Some websites, such as the London-based DoingSomething.co.uk, are set up so members can suggest fun activities that other members can join in with, taking the awkwardness out of meeting for the first time.
What do I have to pay?
Some sites are free to join, whereas an average paid-for site might cost between £13 and £50 per month. Some online services charge considerably higher membership fees.
Are there sites specifically for mature people?
You don’t have to restrict yourself to age-specific sites unless you feel more comfortable in doing so. Two of the most popular sites for UK dating are ukmaturedating.com and maturefreeandsingle.com.
The popularity of online sites has boomed recently with the addition of mobile apps, with 37% of people surveyed by smartphone manufacturer HTC saying they had met a partner via a dating app.
The message has finally got through to Abby, who went on her first date through an online site last week. Unfortunately he wasn’t the man of her dreams, but she nevertheless enjoyed the date. Thanks to that experience, she’s confident that it’s now only a matter of time before she meets Mr Right.
By Kate McLelland
Knaresborough, Knaresborough now, knaresboroughnow, Knaresborough online