What to Know Before Going Online

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Originally published online under Zoosk: The Date Mix

  • Are you fifty or older, your long-term marriage or relationship has ended, but you’re not ready to close the door on love?

  • Does all that left and right swiping to find a romantic partner make you feel like a dinosaur?

  • Are you doubtful you can fall in love again?

If you’ve been around the block as far as life goes, but the idea of online dating strikes panic and fear into your heart, here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Don’t use dating sites that rely mostly on photos. Yes, yes, everybody looks at photos first and you still have to pass that threshold, but since those of us over fifty aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, you’re going to do better on sites geared towards the over-fifty crowd and/or those that include profiles as a big feature. Most of us can’t get away with posting a quick selfie and having the masses start messaging us.

Your main photo is the one that people will see first, so make it a good one. But don’t be tempted to use photoshopping and stay away from professional photos. If you’ve got wrinkles, wear ‘em with pride. You don’t want a photo so fabulous that when the 3D you shows up on that first date, it’s a disappointment.

2. Write a killer profile. With online dating, pics and profiles are pretty much all you’ve got to go on until you meet someone in person. And given that pics aren’t a strong point for most of us (unless you’ve aged incredibly well), your profile is your best bet for getting noticed online.

Having said that, don’t sweat the whole “essay” thing too much. The online world is one big ADD fest (Attention Deficit Disorder, if you were wondering), so make sure the first line of your profile is your best. Something distinctly “you,” your best shot. Something specific, personal and/or unique. Catch their attention. There’s a whole lot of “same” out there, and you’ll do better if you spend some time getting this part right.

Be specific; use details. For example, instead of saying you like gardening, tell us about the recent crop of cherry tomatoes gracing your patio. Or, instead of saying you like to “curl up with a partner for a night of Netflix” (there’s way too much of that out there online), tell us which series you’re addicted to.

If you’re stumped, read other profiles and see which ones catch your attention.

3. Be prepared to pursue; don’t wait around for others to find you. It’s a jungle and a circus and a huge ocean of smiling faces out there. It can be overwhelming at first. But even if you have a lot of people messaging you, reach out to the ones whose profiles and pics appeal to you.

And then steel yourself; you’ll probably never hear back from most of them. Here’s a well-known secret: some people whose profiles you see have long since left the site, if that person didn’t know how to erase their information (Word to the wise: letting your membership lapse does not erase your profile) so you might be writing to someone who doesn’t even exist in cyberspace anymore.

Other times, the person you wrote to is “just not that into you.” It can be demoralizing not to hear back, when you stayed up til 3am composing an earnest and thoughtful message, which included your most witty banter. But we all need to develop a “c’est la vie” attitude about it. It’s all part of the dating game these days and besides, rejection makes us stronger---right?

The other phenomenon that frequently happens is known as “ghosting.” You may strike up a good exchange with one person who promptly disappears, never to be heard from again. Don’t waste time wondering where they went and what you did wrong. There are a million reasons why people stop corresponding, many of which have nothing to do with you.

One guy I dated told me he stopped corresponding online whenever life got too busy, but he soon came to realize that this was a failing strategy, because when he bothered to check back in, the women either didn’t respond or they said, “Oh, I thought you weren’t interested, and I’ve moved on.”

Karen Haddigan is the author of Secrets of Dating After Fifty: An Insider’s Guide to Finding Love Again.

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