AskAnnie Question of the Week

“Hi Annie, I am a 45 year old, newly single mother of 2 teenagers. I want to get back in the dating scene, but I’m trying to find a good balance between work, time with my kids, and dating. Do you have any tips on how much time I should spend online and how many dates I should try per month? I want to start dating but it seems like the whole online process is longer than dating used to be when I was younger. Lisa”

It’s easy to get engaged with fun possibilities and distractions, then lose track of time whenever you are on a computer. Online dating is no different. On top of that, the sheer number of potential dates on a dating site may make you feel like you’re looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Online dating often feels more manageable if you break it down into component pieces. Creating a profile, along with choosing and uploading photos is a crucial one-time investment. Once you’re set up, you can budget time for ongoing interactions with others on the dating site. You can also set time boundaries around your in-person dates.

Investing time to create a profile

Plan to take some time creating your online profile. After all, it’s an advertisement for you! Your profile determines what people know about you and who will pass you by. Think about the questions that the site poses and answer them with short, specific once-sentence stories.

For example “I like hiking” means different things when you say, “I love hiking around Tilden Park,” or “I love hiking in the Sierras.” While writing this kind of profile takes a little longer, it’s a great investment of your time because people are more likely to respond to it than to one that sounds just like everyone else’s.

Find great, current photos that clearly show your face. Post at least one that shows your whole body––from head to toe. If you don’t have good photos, ask a friend or professional photographer to take them.

Budgeting time for ongoing dating site use

Think about what is important to you before you go online. Be realistic about the kind of people you want to date. For example, if you know that you don’t have time to commute out of town, don’t waste time engaging with anyone who doesn’t live nearby.

To most effectively use an online dating site, I suggest that you use a timer to help keep track of your time. Most of my clients are online every day for twenty to thirty minutes. This takes discipline—you must prioritize your actions:

  1. Read and respond to your emails and other contacts.
  2. Check out your daily matches. Favorite anyone who interests you.
  3. Check to see who has viewed you. Since your profile has piqued their interest, you’re more likely to get a reply if you send them an email.
  4. If no one has contacted you, send one or two short (two to three sentence) emails to someone who you’ve Favorited, who has viewed you, or to members who are seeking someone with your general description. Your chance of response will be greatest if you:
    1. Compliment something specific in their profile.
    2. Ask a question
    3. Sign your name
  5. Since the goal of online dating is to introduce you to someone in order to meet in-person, I suggest that you say yes to opportunities to meet as quickly as possible.

Setting time constraints around first date meetings

Since online dating is a great way to meet people who you wouldn’t ordinarily encounter, view any first date as an introductory meeting. Keep it fun, upbeat and short—no more than an hour.

Feel free to leave earlier if you’re sure that there is no possible way you’ll ever be interested. Just say, “Thanks so much for taking the time to meet me. I need to get going. I wish you the best.”

Save longer dates, such as going to dinner until you have already met in-person. As you’re getting to know someone, discuss your time constraints, so that your date better understands how he can fit into your life.

In today’s busy world, time management is crucial to making the most of online dating.

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