Here’s a handful of important things to keep in mind when you’re answering or placing a personal’s ad. If you’re involved in any kind of internet dating, you’ll want to read this!
Get an anonymous email account. You don’t want every person to whom you write to know your full name, and possibly where you work. There’s tons of free web-based email accounts, like Yahoo! or Hotmail. Make sure you don’t have your real full name visible in the outgoing name (for example, “John Doe” <email@example.com>). If you’re not sure, send yourself an email and take a look. You can usually change this in “options” or “preferences.” I usually just use my first, or first and middle name. Also, for you AOL folks, it’s good to use a non-AOL account to avoid pesky Instant Messengers:
Pest: “Hey, wanna chat?”
Me: “Am I in a chat room?”
I hope it goes without saying to not add them on Facebook right away. Not without being really details about your privacy settings. Heck, I have my runkeeper account linked to Facebook. If I wasn’t careful, any schmuck can see my favorite running routes.
Be wary of those “blowing sunshine up your ass.” This is the people who have ALL the right answers, who tell you what you want to hear, and seem exactly what you’ve always wanted. The doctors, lawyers, and independently weathy. The poetic Romeos. The intellectuals with the body of Adonis. It’s probably bulls–t. This is why it’s important to know what you want and stick to your guns. It helps here to have an odd enough personality that the typical moonlight and roses crap doesn’t sway you.
You don’t have to respond to everyone! (When posting an ad.) Lots of people are going to respond to your ad, especially if you’re a woman. When I first placed an ad, I tried writing back to everyone who wrote to me. It’s impossible! There were times I’d gotten 30 or more e-mails a day, and trying to keep track of them all… sheesh! You’ll get people who write you saying, “Please respond, even if it’s to tell me you’re not interested.” Don’t. Don’t do it for the same reason you’re not supposed to feed stray cats. They don’t go away! I *still* get stupid forwarded e-mails from people I wrote to ONCE six months ago!
Don’t expect a response from everyone! (When replying to an ad. Especially after they read my advice.) Don’t hold it against someone if they don’t reply to your response to an ad. Don’t take it personally. There’s many reasons for people not to respond; they could be busy, they could have met someone else, they could be out of town, they could be looking for someone who is just not you. That doesn’t mean they are bad, or that you are bad. People are not like cattle… we won’t hook up with someone just because they are in the same pasture as us!
Don’t let too much time pass between e-mails. If you really are interested in someone, don’t drop the ball by not writing for more than a week at a time. Really, how long does it take to jot off a quick e-mail to someone? As Cindy has said, “I’d rather someone write me a little ‘Hey, I’m really busy right now, but I’ll get back to you soon’ after a day or so, than wait over a week for a full-length e-mail. If too much time passes, fah-getta-bout-it.” By the time you might write back, another person might have taken your place.
Be specific! So many ads and responses generalize too much. “I like reading, music, and going to the movies.” Reading what? What kind of music? Which movies? There’s a big difference between the kind of people who liked “The Notebook” and those who liked “Saw.” Is a guy who thinks Kanye really is Jesus going to get along with a girl who “Thinks His Tractor’s Sexy?” Reading? You can read the Bible, and you can read Penthouse Letters. It’s not the same thing.
Don’t send form mail! Really, this is the kiss of death. It’s pretty easy to spot these all-occasion e-mails, and it’s a big turn-off. Ooh, baby! I know I really like it when a guy doesn’t take five minutes to read my ad and write a response to me! I want a guy who will go out with ANYbody! This big old fishnet approach works with catching Tuna, not with finding a date. Even if you write a really good form letter, it’s gonna be pretty obvious when she gets the same letter a week later, or when her friend gets the same letter. If you must copy and paste, be sure to include a little paragraph or so that is written personally.
NEVER say “I love you” before you’ve met! This may seem like a silly thing to say, but I’ve seen supposed “internet dating success stories” that read something like “I have found the love of my life. We are planning on getting married. I am going to meet him next week…” Sure, you may think that person you’re writing to is the coolest thing since sliced bread, but REALLY… you don’t know someone until you really meet them. Everything they’re saying could be a lie. That picture could be fake. One of my male buddies met a girl who had been sending pictures of her sister.