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Editorial: Online Dating Wisdom From Readers
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of Online Dating Magazine

(February 2004) The world of online dating presents many unique opportunities and challenges. And some readers love to tackle these challenges, taking the time to share detailed thoughts about online dating and how to improve the process.

This month I want to focus on some wisdom shared by a couple of Online Dating Magazine readers. One deals with how many online daters don't seem serious about finding a true mate and two are specifically on how online dating services can improve the process of truly matching people.

Reader Wisdom 1 - Quantity Over Quality
I was intrigued by a recent online dating experience that one reader submitted. In it, the male reader makes an interesting observation about how many people don't seem to take the online dating process seriously. Here's an excerpt:

On my first dates I am a perfect gentleman. I drive to her area. I hold open doors, I listen to what she has to say and I pay. I try to be a little more creative than a coffee date, since those end up seeming more like interviews than dates. At the very least I opt for coffee and window shopping!

I don't bring up exes, I don't talk about everyone else that we may have dated and I generally have an outgoing, cheerful personality. Women love a guy that can make them laugh and I know I have my bases covered in that department... I'm not looking for one night stands or to serial date... I want to make a connection.

Yet, despite all this, after a year of online dating I have yet to find her.

Given the number of choices a woman has with online dating, she seems less inclined to give a guy even a second date unless he seems to be absolutely perfect. Good guys slip through the cracks and eventually the woman might even get fed up at going on so many dates and still not meeting 'the one.'

Maybe it's not the guys, but the process!

It's not surprising that some of the best experiences I've had have been with women who DIDN'T post a picture. They get far fewer emails and therefore have a much more relaxed time with the whole experience. They know that the guys writing aren't just interested in looks and it's probably a safe bet that none of the guys who do contact them are just looking to get laid.

So, ladies, do yourself a favor - plan ONE date at a time.

I paraphrased the full letter, which can be read here.

This reader makes an extremely valid point. I know because I've been there. In my online dating experience I always try to plan only one date at a time even though I may be communicating with several people. This allows me to put the focus fully on the other person without distractions. On two occasions in my online dating experiences, however, I was put into a position where I had two dates lined up in one week. And in each case, I found this process was extremely unfair to the first person I went on a date with. While the date was great and enjoyable, I found myself distracted with the fact that a few days later I had a date with a completely different person lined up. My focus was distracted and, to be frank, I personally feel it was unfair to the first person I went out with. I have since vowed to keep my open communications limited and to never schedule two close dates with two different people.

If your goal is to just freely date with no worries of settling down, then that's fine. But if you want to truly get to know the person you are going on a date with and give that person a chance, then it might be smart to start putting a focus on one person at a time.

I've been in four wonderful relationships the past couple of years from my online dating experience. And each one of the relationships were able to develop because both the girl and I were focused on each other. Neither of us had future dates with others lined up and it allowed us to get to know each other better and take our experiences to the next level.

But not everyone feels this way. Here's what a different reader had to say after reading this editorial (this comment has been edited in after the original publication of this editorial):

I totally disagree with you and your California reader about dating multiple people at the same time.

I won't go into reasons why I think it's really important to do this, but let's just say, it a not putting all your eggs in one basket philosophy. So long as you know there are other men out there that are interested in you, you don't pin your hopes on every single new date. It's a keeping things in perspective kind of thing.

Reader Wisdom 2 - Paying Does Matter
Last month a reader sent me a person email detailing his experience on how quality has come from services were both men and women have to pay to communicate with each other. He started his email by taking issue with a comment in my eHarmony review where I said that I was annoyed that eHarmony.com forces both people to be paid members before both can communicate with each other. His response to that was:

As a current member of both match.com and eHarmony.com, I found your reviews to be perfectly on target. I would, however like to take issue with one item. You are constantly complaining that services should allow non-paying members to communicate with paying members if the latter initiate the contact. I would rather see things go in exactly the other direction. Non-paying members should not be allowed to even post ads, period. They can browse, but not participate in any way.

Here's my reasoning and experience. I am serious about finding a long term relationship. More importantly than that, my time is valuable and I do not want to waste it. I would like to only spend my time on pursuing women who are serious about starting a relationship and not bother with lookie-loos, or ones who were lonely one night and decided to post and ad with no intention to do something as crazy as actually meet someone from the internet.

I used to belong to a very exclusive (non-internet) dating service while living in CA. I met my wife through it and got married 5 years ago. That service had a fairly steep annual fee to belong and an additional fee to look at a detailed bio and get contact information. An unanswered call/letter/email was unheard of. All the women I met had spent some money to belong and were motivated to find a mate.

After my divorce two years ago, I joined the same service again. I now live in the northwest and there are very few members here. In order to increase membership, the service is waiving the fees for members who live in this region. My experience here has been that most of the women here are not really motivated to date. They signed up because it was free and "what was the harm" but were at a point in their lives where dating was not a high priority. As a result, my experience with that service has been very negative. If they had left a membership fee for this part of the country, there would be a lot fewer members, but I would actually get responses to my calls or e-mails and they would be something other than " I am too busy to date right now".

This reader made some excellent points. And while I still find forcing both people to be paying members a way for online dating services to pad their pockets, I think the reader hit the nail on the head with his assessment that paying members are going to be more serious about the process than non-paying members. He summed up his thoughts by saying the following:

Having only 20 female members locally, as long as all of them are serious about dating, is far better than having 40 serious females hiding among 150 total women.

Reader Wisdom 3 - Race and A New Way to Handle Pictures
This month a gentleman emailed me to talk about a couple of frustrations he's had with online dating services. His first frustration was that some services, which allow you to select what races you are open to dating, leave out African American as one of the results. They list Caucasian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, South Pacific, etc. but don't list African American. I checked into this and found that, indeed, there are a few high profile services that don't list African American as an option of the type of person you want to date. Thus if an African American is interested in finding a Caucasian to date, his/her ability to find a Caucasian that wants to date an African American is greatly inhibited because the option to select African American isn't there.

The second point the reader made is a new idea for handling pictures. First, here is a comment he made in his letter:

Despite the popularity with online dating I have reservations of placing my picture online. I would be much more inclined to do so if only “paying customers” are able to view it.

Many people have reservations, but this gentleman has offered a novel solution:

There is a simple fix to this... Allow me to send my picture along with my written response, as an attachment for example.

Most services allow you to either show a picture or not show one. Only a handful of services, like eHarmony.com, allow you to decide at what point you want to show your picture. But for the other services, this gentleman's idea could be a good addition. Think about it... you sign up for a service and you're allowed to upload "hidden" photos. And when you communicate with a person, the service allows you to select what hidden photos to reveal to the person along with your message. Nice. It's similar to LavaLife, which allows you to have pictures online but only show them to people you select to see them.

Conclusion
Many executives from online dating services regularly read Online Dating Magazine. And by sharing wisdom from readers, hopefully some of these services will take good ideas and improve their service as a result.

Keep your letters coming as I look forward to sharing more reader wisdom in the future. And hopefully this wisdom, from you, will spark improvements and ideas that make the experience of online daters that much better.

Wishing you great success,

Joe Tracy
jtracy@onlinedatingmagazine.com



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