Navigating the dating scene can be tricky for an FOF, navigating the online dating scene can be downright terrifying. Whether you’ve tried online dating before, or are taking the plunge for the first time, getting started can be overwhelming and confusing. What kind of photos should you upload? How should you describe yourself? Where should you meet on your first date? Is it okay to message him first? FOF Lisa (name changed for the purpose of this story) has tried dating sites in the past, but never had much luck. “The matches were not right for me,” Lisa says, “Sometimes they would like me and I didn’t care for them. This happened vice versa as well.” FabOverFifty moderated a tutorial with Lisa, relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch and the tech experts at OurTime.com to help Lisa get her bearings in the world of online dating, since OurTime caters specifically to single FOF men and women. Many of Lisa’s questions and fears about online dating were ones we could all relate to. So, here, we excerpted our FOFavorite tips from from Dr. Orbach during the session. Read on…
Choose an intriguing username.
Dr. Orbuch recommends FOFs don’t use their real names. “Instead use something that describes you and is upbeat and appropriate,” she says. “Remember that you are advertising yourself, so make it something interesting and memorable.”
Examples: FloridaGal, IceSkaterLady, GolferInTexas.
Lisa used the color of her hair coupled with a fun nickname as her username.
Honesty is the best policy.
Lisa has always been honest when filling out her online dating profile, but has found that some potential matches are sometimes untruthful. “Even if other people aren’t being honest, still tell the truth,” says Dr. Orbuch. “Be as honest as possible. You don’t want to start a relationship with a lie.” Another bonus to being honest? “You won’t have to always remember what height or weight or occupation you listed on your profile when you’re speaking with a potential match,” Dr Orbuch says.
When filling out your profile, be specific and positive.
“Instead of saying I like to read books, say which books are your favorites,” says Dr. Orbuch. “Studies show that the more positive things you can put into your personal description, the more appealing you will be to others.” Lisa is a writer who loves to ski and bicycle, and just became a grandmother for the first time, all things that Dr. Orbuch recommended she include.
Hash out your relationship deal breakers.
“Write down the qualities of the partner that you want,” says Dr. Orbuch. “You’ll need to decide what qualities are important to you, and what are the dealbreakers. Knowing what you want out of a relationship gives you a better chance of identifying that person when their profile comes up in front of you.” Lisa wants a partner who is open to trying new things, who is active like she is, and who doesn’t smoke, all traits she listed in OurTime’s “about the one I’m looking for” section.
Choose a great photo.
According to Dr. Orbuch the first photo that shows up on your profile is most critical. “The first photo should be a great photo of your face–not one where people have to pick you out of a crowd,” she says. “Then add three or four more photos that really flesh out who you are — photos of you on vacation, traveling, and doing the things that you love.” Lisa chose to include photos of her at a Chinese garden, and at a celebration with her friends.
Be upfront about your past relationships
When Lisa had some hesitation about revealing her past relationships, Dr. Orbuch discussed the pros and cons with her. “An advantage of putting past relationships on your profile is that right off the bat potential partners know and understand your relationship status,” says Dr. Orbuch. “The disadvantage of putting this in your profile is that some people may not look at you or your profile seriously given your past. But then again, you probably aren’t compatible with that person anyway. You don’t need to write details about your ex-relationship or your ex-partner–just that you divorced or have been married before.”
Political affiliations and religion aren’t off limits.
While many dating experts recommend that you avoid touchy subjects like religion or politics on a first date, Dr. Orbuch encourages you to include this on your online dating profile under certain circumstances. “If it is a strong identity of yours and affects things like what money you spend or what shows you watch, then it’s an important factor of your life, and you should put it down,” Dr. Orbuch says. “However, if you feel like it’s something that’s going to alienate people, I would leave it blank.” Lisa opted to keep her religious and political affiliations private.
Don’t wait for him to contact you!
Lisa said she’s “old-fashioned” and waits for a potential match to contact her, instead of messaging someone whose profile sparks her interests. Dr. Orbuch explained that with online dating gender conventions don’t necessarily apply. “Look for yourself, and send emails to those who spark your interests,” says Dr. Orbuch. “Remember, just because he’s coming up in your search doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re coming up in his, so if you see someone you like, send a message!”
Keep your first message simple.
“Short and simple is fine,” says Dr. Orbuch. To make the first exchange easier, Ourtime.com asks that each user selects three conversation starters that their potential matches can ask them. Lisa chose: Describe your relationship with your family; Describe four of your main goals; and Tell me your strange or hidden talents.
Wait at least a week before meeting a potential match.
“Intimacy develops faster when you’re online,” says Dr. Orbuch. “When you’re on a computer you feel more free, and are likely to say more about yourself than you ever would face to face. Wait at least a week before you actually call or meet face to face.” Lisa said she always follows this rule, since her busy work schedule doesn’t allow for spur of the moment meetups.
Use a cellphone when talking to someone you met online.
“I encourage people to use cell phones rather than work or home phones when talking with a match, just in case you don’t want that person to call you again,” says Dr. Orbuch. “It’s much more difficult to change a home or work phone number than a cell phone number.” Lisa takes an extra precaution by having her cell phone ID blocked for privacy.
Meet in a public place on your first date.
Dr. Orbuch suggests meeting in a neutral spot such as a coffee shop, miniature golf, ice-skating, a concert in a park, biking, a visit to the local farmer’s market, etc. “Don’t let them pick you up or drop you off,” says Dr. Orbuch. “This allows you to be more in control of the situation, and minimizes unknown elements of the date as much as possible. It should make you feel more comfortable. This is also a good idea for safety reasons. Only after you’ve gotten to know them better, do you share where you live and more personal information.” She also recommends meeting for a short period of time on your first date, two and a half hours maximum.
Tell a FOFriend where you’re going
“If you have any concern at all about your first date with a match you met online, tell a friend where you’re going, and have her call you during the date,” Dr. Orbuch says.
“I hope to use what I learned,” says Lisa. “If a relationship blossoms because of this, I will let you know!”
*UPDATE* Lisa is going out on a date with someone she met on OurTime.com this Valentine’s Day.