Friday evening, February 27, is the third Ignite Tucson, and I'm going to give one of the presentations. My topic-- Lover's I've Never Met-- focuses on men whom I've met online but have never met in person. For the most part, I've never even seen pictures of them, but, based upon common interests, we have formed friendships in cyberspace.
During the past year, I have met dozens of men and women online and have dated several-- men, that is. What did I learn from my year of online dating? Here are some random thoughts on cyber love...
You Don't Have to Pay to Play. There are many ways to meet interesting people online (eg, blogging, listservs, social networking) without joining a dating site with a monthly fee. Investigate before you offer your credit card number.
Profiles. You really don't have to write much of a profile to get dates. In fact, a great picture or two and a few, well-chosen words is all you need. Depending upon what type of person you are seeking, you should carefully choose a screen name and a headline for your profile. I found that leaving everything else the same, I got different responses by playing around with these seemingly minor profile components.
Lies. Both men and women lie on their profiles. I read a research article in the New York Times about a study of social networking and online dating websites. It said that men lie about their height and age, while women lie about their weight. Being the naive and trusting person that I am, when I first started participating in online dating (again) a year ago, I was surprised how many younger men were corresponding with me. Eventually, I found out they weren't younger at all; they were just lying about their ages. One guy I dated even lied about his astrological sign. Now I study the photos and don't pay any attention to the listed age. A hint to the guys: if the woman has big '80s hair in her profile photo, it's most likely a photo from the '80s.
Chemistry. What is that little sparkle that you see in one person's eyes but not in another's? Chemistry goes beyond the physical and the intellectual, in my opinion, and into the primal realm. There is some hidden attraction that I feel for some men (or women) but not others. It is inexplicable but real. Unfortunately, online chemistry doesn't always translate to in-person chemistry.
Compatibility. Chemistry may get you into bed with someone, but for anything more than a few dates, a basic compatibility in lifestyles is necessary. Being an old hippie, I try to be accepting of others-- regardless of their social class, education, religion, race, sexual orientation, or ice cream flavor, BUT accepting them for who they are doesn't mean I want to have an intimate relationship with them.
Alternative Lifestyles. For years, social conservatives have been wringing their hands about gay marriage and trying to demonize gays and Lesbians and separate them from the mainstream as "different from us". Well, I'm here to tell the Bible-thumpers in Kansas that there are LOTS of other lifestyles that are "different" from yours! I was married for 18 years, so I figured I had some things to learn about dating when I emerged back on the scene, but I had no idea there were so many combinations of relationships out there.
Emotional Unavailability. This is a concept that I have experienced many times in my dating life but didn't have a label for until recently. During the past year, I've met (online and in person) a number of men who are available to just about anyone physically but emotionally available to no one. By the time one reaches my age, you know many people -- both men and women-- who have had unhappy relationships and/or marriages that have taken psychological tolls on them, leaving them very wary of involvement. It is my hope that these people continue to grow past their hurt.
Be Realistic and Be Yourself. Often people jump into relationships with the first person who pays attention to them, they latch onto that person, and they pretend they are someone else to gain acceptance. Not a good idea. One of the most important lessons I have learned is to be myself. I accept myself and my body, and I believe I project this self-confidence. I don't hide my true self, and I hope the people whom I meet are not hiding their true selves either.
The Four Agreements. This is a great book, and I think the basic agreements are helpful in developing any type of relationship: be true to your word; don't take anything personally; assume nothing; and always do your best.