How To Overcome the Fear of Internet Dating

(Today’s guest post is by Cherie Burbach, author of Internet Dating is not Like Ordering a Pizza.)

Have you tried online dating yet?

When I ask singles that question, I usually get a horrified look in return.  I’ll tell you a secret, before I started Internet dating I was pretty unsure about it, too.  I can tell you this, however:  Once you do try Internet dating you will realize there is no need to be afraid.

I know what some of you are saying… you hear the “horror stories” and the negative comments and you think that no self-respecting human being would ever put up a picture on an Internet site.

Well, I’ve got news for you.  All those folks who you might think are “so desperate”?  They’re just like you.  Are you desperate?  No way.

Know what you are?  Someone who simply has not found the right person yet.  The majority of people on Internet dating sites are genuinely nice people who just want to find someone great to have a relationship with.  They aren’t looking for one-night stands and they aren’t out to scam you.  That’s the majority.

Are there spooky people on the web?  Sure.  Are there spooky people “in real life” (IRL)?  You betcha!  You can meet them anywhere.  In fact, the more people you come in contact with the more people you will meet who are a little nutty.  So it would stand to reason that in joining an Internet dating service you might meet a person or two with less than honest intentions.

If you came across these folks in real life, you’d have a better time spotting them.  Something about them would creep you out, and you’d likely listen to your gut instinct and get the heck out of Dodge as soon as they wanted to chat with you.

With Internet dating, however, you don’t meet someone via the “conventional” means so your radar doesn’t get to ignite until you’ve already emailed someone or spoke to them on the phone.  So you’ve got to be extra careful.  Cautious is good – scared out of your mind isn’t.

Like any other fear, in order to stop your Internet dating apprehensions you’ve got to meet them head on.  Here’s how to do it.

Use Your Site’s Built In Safety Measures

Any major online dating site you use will have some measures in place to help you navigate the Internet dating waters more safely.  For example, if your site has a “double blind” email system (where your email address is hidden from people you may contact) make use of it.  Never just hit “respond” to an email you get and risk exposing your real email address before you are ready.

If your site has a “block” feature, don’t be afraid to use it.  Some Internet daters put up with harassment from people they have no interest in dating simply because they don’t want to “be mean” and block the person.  Here’s a tip:  your safety comes first.  If someone creeps you out, go ahead and block.  Don’t think twice about it.

Opt for Coffee Dates for Every First Meeting

Regardless of how long you have been emailing someone, you don’t know them.  Let me repeat:  they are a stranger!  So while it’s a great thing to email a match ahead of time, you still need to use precaution when meeting him or her in real life.

For first meetings, always go for a “coffee date.”  Coffee dates are usually a one-hour meeting in a very public place (which is usually a coffee shop – hence the name.)  Coffee dates are great because you can set up the expectation in advance that you only have time to meet for an hour.  Then when the hour is up, thank your date for meeting you out and leave.  (Even if you are enjoying yourself.)  Leave separately (you should have arrived separately too, by the way) and don’t let your date walk with you to your car.

Then, go back home and reflect back on the date.  If you liked the guy or guy, email then and set up a second date.  If you weren’t sure, set up another coffee date.  (It’s perfectly acceptable.)  If you didn’t dig the person you met, move on to the next profile.

Watch Out For People Who Don’t Want to Follow Online Dating Rules

Despite the speed of Internet dating, there are always a few folks who are going to want to push things to move a little bit faster.  These people will ask for your real email address (as opposed to the double blind email address your website will use), they’ll want your phone number from the first moment they email you, and they will want to come to your door and pick you up.  In short, they want to bypass all those safety measures that are already in place when it comes to Internet dating.

If you come across someone like this, take pause.  It doesn’t mean he or she is out to do you harm, but it does mean there is something up with them.  After all, the majority of people are perfectly fine to email someone and get to know them.  They don’t need a phone number now, today, THIS INSTANT in order to feel as if they are heading in the right dating direction.

Advice:  Put the brakes on.  Tell this person you want to take the time to email, you will not give out your phone number, and you will only meet him or her at a coffee shop.  If they balk, block them.  Don’t return their emails.  Move on.

Internet dating is a fabulous way to meet someone special.  But remember that until you’ve met someone in person, you don’t know them!  That doesn’t mean you should shy away from getting to know them, it simply means that you’ve got to be smart about it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cherie Burbach used her experience with meeting her husband online to pen At the Coffee Shop, a humorous look at the world of Internet dating. Cherie went on over 60 coffee dates in just six months. She met lots of great people and one of those turned out to be the guy she would marry just one year later.

She is the Dating Feature Writer for Suite101, an online magazine with over 10 million views monthly, and also the author of three poetry books, including A New Dish and The Difference Now. Her latest, Father’s Eyes, has received the 2008 Editor’s Choice Award by Allbooks Review.  Cherie blogs at Jennifer Lopez, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Career and Kids, Celebrity Apprentice, Gossip on Sports, and Diabetes Notes.

For poets looking for a review of their book, check out Cherie’s new site Bonjour Poetry Reviews.

Readers have resonated with Cherie’s honest and inspirational “This I Believe” essay, which is the second-most popular out of over 32,000 entries on the NPR website. For more information, please visit Cherie’s website.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Have you become frustrated with Internet dating?

If you’ve tried online dating and given up, or even if you thought the Internet wasn’t right for you, this book will give you the courage to try again, this time armed with specific illustrations on what really works – from the profile through the dating stage. Don’t waste another minute wondering why some people seem to have Internet dating success while you’re still waiting for a response to your online ad.  Through dozens of concrete examples, dating expert Cherie Burbach will show you how to write an eye-catching profile, search for, and meet the right person online.

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