New To Online Dating?

Signing up for for the first time or returning after a hiatus? Avoid these common pitfalls to guarantee you’ll have a great experience.

By Gregory Gilderman

o you remember your mother telling you that too much of a good thing makes it a bad thing? I used to think the idea only applied to the obvious stuff — pizza and the films of Keanu Reeves, for example — but this wisdom also applies to online dating. And this is especially true if you’re fairly new to a site or have re-subscribed again after taking some time off. So, before you dive into this seemingly infinite dating pool, keep these five common pitfalls in mind.

Mistake #1: You’re meeting more than three people per week
Maybe you had a long dry spell before you signed up and are making up for lost time. Or, maybe you feel you should give everyone who emails you a shot. All in all, it can be tempting at first to fill your day-planner with oodles of dates. But doing so can backfire,
Limit yourself to one or two first dates per week.
since you could be cheating yourself out of the chance to really get to know someone you like. “I realized I was going overboard when I was having multiple dates in one day,” says Rebecca, a publicist living in North Carolina. “I’d have to leave one date early to make it to the next date on time. It was exhausting. I felt depleted as a person and I never got to know anyone.” The moral of the story: Better to limit yourself to one or two first dates per week. That way, you can take the time to see whether you get along.

Mistake #2: You’re sending out a form letter
Guys make this error all the time. We figure we’ll get more responses if we cut and paste the same text and send it to 50 different women, but of course every woman reading one of those notes knows she’s been sent a form letter. “If you don’t bond with someone’s profile, why should they respond to you?” says Dave Wygant, author of Always Talk To Strangers: 3 Simple Steps To Find The Love Of Your Life. “A mass email just doesn’t work. It’s way too competitive out there. I tell guys not to waste everyone’s time with it.”

The best thing you can do to increase replies is to make each letter you send as personal as possible. Notice this doesn’t mean “as long as possible.” A short note that calls attention to something specific in someone’s profile shows you’re interested in that person, and not just trying to increase your odds by roping in as many people as possible.

Mistake #3: You expect instant success
A service like can give you the tools to meet many, many more people than you would without it, but it can’t guarantee that you will fall in love right away. The
There’s also your own peace of mind to think about.
shortest path to feeling cynical is to assume that merely belonging to an online dating service will by itself bring you an instant spouse. “I hit a point with online dating where I was like, ‘I’m tired,’” says Alyssa Wodtke, the author of Truth, Lies, and Online Dating: Secrets to Finding Romance on the Internet. “But then I decided I shouldn’t spend too much time doing it. It can almost become work. It should be more of an intense hobby. That means slow it down a bit, maybe take a few days off before you give it another shot.” The key here is to avoid going overboard with your own expectations.

Mistake #4: You obsessively check new profiles
At the office, at home, on your cell phone: If you’re refreshing every ten minutes in search of new members, you need to take a deep breath. The thing to remember is that the first few days a person has his or her profile up may be the worst time to contact them. That’s when he or she could be being flooded with interested suitors, making it more likely your message might fall through the cracks. There’s also your own peace of mind to think about. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” says Marc Evan Katz, dating coach and founder of “It’s not like you only have one month to find someone.” So try to limit checking the site to just once or twice a day.

Mistake #5: You’re going on dates because you like the free dinners
It sounds ridiculous, but more than a few women let guys they’d never get serious with take them out to restaurants because they enjoy… being taken out to restaurants. “I did it,” says Margie, an art-history graduate student in New Jersey. “I got this crazy ten-page letter from some guy. Then he asked me out to dinner and I was like, Free dinner, how bad it could it be? Halfway through he told me he was bi-polar. It was awful. Believe me, even a free dinner has its price.” The bottom line: If you’re tempted the let someone take you out because you want a good meal, say no and order in a pizza. You avoid feeling guilty for taking advantage of someone, and he avoids wasting fifty bucks. That’s just basic kindness. And there’s never too much of that.

Gregory Gilderman is the author of She’s the One: The Surprising Truth of What Makes a Woman a Keeper.
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