Starting Out or Starting Over: A Newbie’s Guide to Online Dating

guide to online dating
By Nissa Hallquist

So, you’re ready to get out there and start online dating, but need some sort of guide. Great! We have all kinds of advice from finding the right person to nailing the first date.

Technology touches just about everyone’s life these days, including how to pursue relationships. You endlessly scroll through pictures on your phone and swipe right or left to express interest or not. If you’re a newbie, such an approach may sound intimidating at first.

But using technology to find the right person definitely has its benefits. Here’s your all-inclusive guide to online dating:

Where to Start

To make the online dating experience worth your while, you first need to start with a little soul-searching. Also do a little research before you decide to dive in with one dating site or the other.

  • Be Honest About Where You Are and What You Want

Really, what do you want to get out of this experience? Right now, are you looking for a long-term commitment or just a casual fling?

Apart from the level of commitment you are seeking, consider other things that are important to you. For example, if you are religious, really love dogs or have kids, those are things which can affect the type of person and relationship you’re looking for.

Your feelings may certainly change as you go along. But it’s smart to start out with at least some idea of your expectations.

  • Choose Your Online Dating Site(s)

This guide is here here to help you choose from the multitude of online dating sites out there like eHarmony, Tinder, Match, Zoosk, Bumble, etc.. Some are broader (making it great for when you want to browse), while other “niche” sites are also available. These offer you a more tailored selection of potential dates from the outset. Some are free, but others require a membership fee.

You can simply do a global “online dating” search and look for sites that feel good to you. Or you can also research what others feel are the best dating sites.

Our advice? Start out by joining just one site. You can, of course, choose others down the line. But start small until you feel you have the hang of things.

guide to online dating
To get people’s attention, you want to add just the most important and interesting facts about yourself in the biography.

Creating a Profile

Once you know what you want, and where you think you’ll be able to find it, it’s time to figure out how to best present yourself.

  • Profile Pic

You want the profile picture you select to be as good as possible (the image itself is high quality, you have a good smile, etc.), but also accurate. By all means, make sure it’s all current.

Yes, your high school cheerleading photo may be great, but it is probably not reflective of who you are now. If you ever do decide to meet someone, you don’t want them feeling mislead by a years-old picture.

  • The Biography

Again, put your best foot forward while still being honest. Also try to get straight to the point. There are lots of people on dating sites these days, which means many of your potential dates are likely scanning for vital info, and do not want to read your full biography. So, to get people’s attention, you want to add just the most important and interesting facts about yourself first.

If you’re an outgoing, career-minded person who likes to work out, that’s good to know. You can’t eat peanuts? Not as interesting. Unless it’s important for someone to know upfront, you should save the smaller details about yourself for when you move onto actually communicating with someone.

Communicating Online

With your profile up and running, you can soon expect to get matches and requests to communicate from others on the dating site. In other words, it’s go-time!

  • Swiping Right or Left (or, Saying Yes or No)

It’s up to you whether or not you want to accept or deny communication requests. If a person with whom you’ve matched is attractive to you, wants the same level of commitment and seems to share at least some of your interests, go ahead and let them know you’re interested in moving forward.

At this point, you’re still not necessarily making a firm commitment. You’re just putting out feelers and expressing a willingness to communicate.

  • Chatting

Here’s where you get to know the person a little bit better before agreeing to do anything with them in person. Start by chatting via instant messaging and then, when you’re comfortable, perhaps agree to video chatting.

While text chats are a good start, video chats can give you a sense of real face-to-face interaction. So you still have a final technological buffer to protect yourself if you wind up not feeling that confident about the other person, after all. It’s kind of the tech version of a first date.

guide to online dating
For your first date in-person, make sure to go out somewhere in public.

Meeting in Person

After you’ve already spent some time together via online chatting, you may feel yourself and the other person really clicking. So, you and/or the other person could decide it’s time to meet in real life.

  • Make Sure You’re Being as Safe as Possible

Online messaging and video chats can tell you a lot about a person. But if you still have concerns that you’re not hearing the whole truth, you can do a little digging to find out more before going out for drinks or dinner.

The guide will help you be aware of scams, which are an unfortunate reality of online dating. So, consider an online public records search to try and verify a person’s identity and find more details about them.

  • Where to Go, What to Do

For at least the first in-person meetup, going somewhere public is best. A bar, coffee shop or restaurant can provide you with whatever level of intimacy you want, while still offering you the sense of safety that comes from having other people nearby.

Most important of all? Have fun with online dating! Where things will go from that first swipe right is totally up to you. So try to have a good time getting there.

Need another guide for online dating? Read some more tips from the queen of online dating makeovers.


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