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Find love now! The online dating 101

If you are single and looking for love, chances are that you made a resolution to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right this year. But where can you find this elusive partner? At the grocery store? At church? Or on a dating Web site?

Statistics show that there are currently 40 million Americans using online dating services (about 40 percent of the single population!). So if you are single and ready to mingle, it might not be a bad idea to take advantage of this pool of hopeful lovers. However, many people are hesitant to look for love online, and there certainly are some cyber dangers of which you should be aware. But don’t write off online dating just yet — as long as you follow a few simple dos and don’ts of online dating, you might just find your soul mate on the World Wide Web!

When dating online, DO:

  • Be honest. Post clear and recent photographs of yourself, no matter how much you are tempted to post a younger, thinner version. You might attract more interest with an outdated or Photoshopped picture, but the interest will fade when the person finds out you were misrepresenting yourself. Be honest about who you are so that you can find someone who loves you for who you really are.

  • Be safe. Never post personal information like your home address or work address. Keep your company name and personal phone numbers private. When you are ready to speak with daters on the phone, give out your cell phone number instead of a landline number. Cell numbers are hard to track and easy to change if necessary.

  • Be open. Online daters can sometimes be harsh when reviewing other daters’ profiles. For instance, if you see that he likes rock ’n’ roll and you are more into country, you might be tempted to pass up that opportunity. Instead, be open to new ideas and different interests. So what if he loves to be active and you aren’t exactly athletic? Push your boundaries and be open to love in unexpected places.

  • Tell your friends: Online dating has a certain stigma that makes some people afraid to admit to their cyber search for love. However, there is nothing embarrassing about looking for love online, and most people have tried it at some point or another. So ditch the embarrassment and tell your family and friends what you are up to. This way, when you meet Mr. Right, you won’t have to make up an awkward lie to hide how you really met!

  • Be realistic: You might not find someone you want to date on your first, second or even third try. But don’t get discouraged! After all, you are trying to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with — that is bound to take a little effort and determination!

When dating online, DON’T:

  • Expect Brad Pitt: No matter what their photograph looks like online, be prepared for someone a little different when you meet in person. Photos are easily modified, and your potential date might have altered their profile picture a little. Instead of basing your search on looks alone, try to base on it personality and interests … this way, you won’t be disappointed when you meet a slightly heavier version of the person you met online.

  • Use your profile to rant: Even if you are feeling a little bitter about dating and love, don’t let it show on your profile. For instance, comments like “All the good ones are taken” or “I have been cheated on more times than I can count” do not make you seem like a happy or confident person. Instead, be upbeat and positive when describing yourself online — people like happy people, so you will be sure to get more interest with a positive profile. Moreover, research has found that when you act confident and happy, you actually feel more confident and happy!

  • Take chances: No matter how much you think you know someone from online chats, you need to take precautions when meeting them in person. Meet in safe, public places and tell your friends your location. Have a time when you call and check in with a trusted family member or friend, and if you don’t call, they should know to alert the police. It sounds alarmist, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!

  • Forget about your non-cyber self: Online dating is a great resource, but you shouldn’t abandon your life in favor of the Internet. Stay active in your interests outside of the Internet. Keep connected to your social circle so that you can continue to meet potential dates in the real world.

And, finally, never give up! Real love is out there, and it is available to anyone who is open and ready to search for it. Good luck in your quest for true love!

Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.

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