I’ve been online dating for a while now, and I’ve seen guys make all kinds of rookie mistakes in the process of asking me out. Like the time one guy asked for my phone number after we’d been chatting, and I gave it to him thinking we could continue our conversation over text. Nope. He called me, and I dropped my phone like it was a spider crawling up my arm. If you’re new to online dating, you might not know that there aren’t many universal rules about online dating, but one is never calling someone without asking permission first is definitely one of them.
But it’s easy to make these kinds of rookie mistakes while online dating. Especially if you’re new to it or if you’re used to more traditional forms of dating.
Here are 10 smart online dating tips for men:
1. Choose the right site(s).
Singles today have so many options to help them meet people online. There are literally thousands of dating websites and apps available for every type of person. All you have to do is figure out which one is right for you. You can read articles, forums, and reviews or ask your single friends about their favorite dating websites to help you choose the best dating app or site. Most platforms offer a free signup, download, or trial period so you can get the lay of the land pretty quickly and affordably.
2. Add personality.
Creating a dating profile is an important part of online dating because it’s how you introduce yourself to potential love interests. It’s your résumé. This isn’t something you should breeze through without thinking about. Your dating profile should offer a good representation of who you are, what you like, and what you’re looking for. Not sure how it’s done? You can look up online dating profile examples to give you an idea of what to say to stand out.
3. Be specific.
Sure, it’s easy to copy/paste the same, “you have a lovely smile” message to every woman you match with, but that’s not going to yield many responses. Because online daters, especially women, see that sort of thing all the time, and it’s not very flattering to receive a generic flirty message.
If you can’t take two seconds to read the person’s profile, then why should he or she take the time to answer you? What reason have you given them to believe you’re worth it? You don’t have to spend forever memorizing the profile and crafting a perfect message—something simple like, “I love horror movies too, what’s your favorite?” or “Hey, cute dog, is it yours?” will do just fine.
4. Respect boundaries.
Everyone sets different boundaries to keep themselves safe and sane as they meet people online. Some people are more lenient, and others are more strict. It depends on what they’re comfortable with, and that’s naturally going to differ. One person may be happy to chat for a couple minutes and then get drinks that night, but another may need some more time before agreeing to go out.
There’s no set rule for when it’s OK to ask for a phone number or a date, so just tread carefully and don’t take your crush’s consent for granted. She doesn’t know you yet and vise versa.
5. Ask questions.
If you’ve explored online dating at all, then you know that people sometimes disappear on you. You think everything is going splendidly, and then the conversation just stops without warning or apology. Ghosting has become so commonplace that Merriam Webster added it to its dictionary. If you want to keep someone from losing interest in your conversation, then you’d better make sure you’re giving the other person plenty of things to say.
This is pretty basic, but it needs to be said. You have to ask questions to keep a conversation going. After you’ve talked about your job, your hobbies, your goals, and all that good stuff, you should throw the ball back in your crush’s court by saying, “How about you?” or asking a good personal question. If they still disappear on you, at least you’ll know you did everything you could to keep them engaged.
6. Focus on the positive.
When you’re just getting to know someone, you should keep the conversation light, if you can. Stick to feel-good topics and give a wide berth to anything that could be considered a downer. That means no disparaging an ex, talking down about yourself, or ranting about politics. Saying pessimistic or mean-spirited things isn’t going to endear you to very many people. Singles want to be around people who make them feel good (don’t you?) so try to accentuate the positive, at least for the first few days, as you establish a rapport with your crush.
7. Make a move.
No, men don’t have to make the first move. But, if you’re ready to take things up a notch, then you should go for it rather than wait around. It’s going to save time in the long run.
Once you’ve flirted enough to establish that there’s something there, you should come right out and see if that person is interested in going on a date. It’s always great if you can give a reason why you’re attracted to that person in particular, so they know they’re not just another date in your calendar. And make sure you give a timeframe, as in, “Would you like to go on a date this weekend?”
8. Have a plan.
I’ve seen a lot of guys mess up in the planning stages of a first date. We’ve both agreed to meet up, and maybe we’ve even picked out a day, but then it can all fall apart with a single phrase: What should we do?
If you’ve asked someone out, the burden is on you to plan the date. Suggest coffee, drinks, or dinner. Ask what your date’s favorite food is and then recommend a restaurant. It isn’t hard to come up with first date ideas, and it’s going to make you look prepared, thoughtful, and competent, which is pretty attractive.
9. Exchange numbers.
Make sure you’ve exchanged numbers with your love interest before going on your first date together. This is mainly for logistical reasons. That way, you can text when you arrive at the date spot and have a way to get in touch quickly if you need to cancel or you can’t find each other Exchanging numbers beforehand also takes the some of the pressure off you at the end of the date, so the only thing you have to ask is, “Would you like to do this again sometime?”
10. Get offline.
Finally, the best advice I can give online daters is to remember to get offline as soon as you’ve established a connection with someone. Getting to know someone in person is the only way to know for sure if you have chemistry and can make a relationship work.
Spending months talking to someone online may feel comfortable and safe, but you can’t be pen pals forever. The point of online dating is to date in real life. Otherwise you’re just playing pretend. So get out there and make something happen!
Hayley Matthews is editor-in-chief at DatingAdvice.com, a popular site featuring advice from more than 250 dating coaches, matchmakers, and other relationship experts. In addition to expert tips and guides, the site also publishes reviews of online dating sites. When Hayley isn’t writing about dating and relationships, she’s listening to The Beatles or watching Harry Potter.