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Dating has undergone a wholesale change in recent years. This is thanks to the arrival of the smartphone, social media, and the dating websites and apps.  The internet dating site was once seen as the uncool territory of the over 40’s. Whereas it has now been kicked into touch by the advent of the dating apps that showcase simplicity at its finest. When even my manicurist, a vibrant young thing in her 20’s, is meeting her matches on ‘Plenty of Fish’ or ‘POF’ as she calls it, I realise there is no stigma any more to using digital tools to access a potential dating pool.

The rules of this new game however, are vast, and this is intended to be an idiot’s guide for those new to the scene, highlighting some simple guidelines so that you can navigate your way through.

Think that you’re too old for tech?

For those that are wary of smartphones, social media and the digital world, the advantages can far outweigh the time needed to invest in getting up to speed. It does not have to take over your life, and you certainly don’t have to become glued to your device. It’s more about accepting that that’s how people communicate these days, and if you want to meet new people then this can open up your opportunities exponentially. So if you’re not on FB or social media, and need help getting up to speed with the protocol of messaging, have a chat with your kids….

If at first you don’t succeed…

With nearly 1 million people swiping on tinder every minute, its easy to see why the apps are working. It’s not all about tinder either, there’s a range of dating sites and apps, each appealing to slightly different demographics. So do your research, try a few, and if they don’t work for you, ditch them and move on! I came across one app called Bumble, which has the ease of use of tinder, but with one difference, only women can send the first message, meaning you won’t get inundated with messages from anyone you haven’t already identified. The main advantage of the apps over the traditional dating sites is there’s no subscription fee, unless you use the extra services, The set-up is much quicker as they use less details, and can import those from Facebook if you choose. On the traditional dating sites you can usually create a profile and search for free, but to send a message to people you have to subscribe.

This recent article gives a rundown of the latest dating sites and apps….

 It’s a numbers game

All the experts advise to date as many people as possible to help you find the ‘one’. The old style model of dating one person at a time has been replaced, it is now socially acceptable to date multiple people at once, reducing the chance of becoming emotionally invested in the ‘wrong’ person and enhancing the chances of you working out what type of person is the best match for you. Internet dating is a great way to help find your ‘pool’ of dates, something that just wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Power of the Profile

This is the most important thing with online dating. There is an art to creating a profile, so it’s worth taking your time over. There’s lots of information online about writing a good profile, and even coming up with a profile name, so read up before you set up! One tip to focus the mind is to check out the competition and see what other males/females you are up against. Make sure you have good photos too, you can always ask a friend to take some of you, as there’s nothing worse than selfies as profile pics.

 Tips for staying safe 

The whole point of the dating sites is that they are designed to protect your anonymity until you are ready to share details and/or meet someone. You can continue messaging through the dating site even after you have met someone if you don’t want to give out your email or mobile phone number. Its strongly recommended that you use a different email address to your regular one for communicating with new dates however, and it’s a definite no-no to give out your home address to anyone whilst in the early stages of dating. In terms of meeting up for a date, take a common sense approach such as always meet in a public place, and take your own vehicle so you can leave if you want to.

Different dynamics

 Smartphones and the instant messaging culture have added a new dimension to how we interact with our dates and potential dates. It is expected to have a bit of chat via message with someone that you have first met online, so you will need to make time for that, however the 24/7 accessibility of messaging can be overwhelming, so make sure you set your own boundaries. I’ve learnt to always switch my phone off when I go to bed, so any late night messages pinging in don’t disturb me. Don’t feel you have to reply to anything straight away, just because it’s called instant messaging it doesn’t mean you have to instantly reply.

In general it’s best to move away from messaging as soon as possible, so aim to set up a time for a phone call as a good way to get to know the potential date better before you decide if you want to meet up.

A virtual relationship is not a real relationship

Beware of investing too much time on a ‘digital’ relationship without a balance of ‘real’ time spent together. Someone that may be a laugh a minute over text may not be so charismatic in person. Meeting up in person, or if a long-distance situation, having a skype call, as soon as possible, is a critical stage before you become emotionally invested.

Dating Danger zones

Beware of catfishing (someone who pretends to be someone else online). These people are very clever and will know how to play you, and if they’re after your money (or anything else), they will think nothing of investing lots of time ‘seemingly’ wanting to get to know you and feigning interest. If something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t. Remember you are in control, you don’t owe anyone else anything, especially if someone is a ‘virtual’ contact.

Any other strange behaviour such as ‘love-bombing’ – this phrase was used chillingly in the recent case of murdered author Helen Bailey. Love-bombing can be used in any medium but lends itself well to the digital world with use of constant messaging. If you meet someone online and they seem to good to be true – they probably are. If in doubt ask a friend for a second opinion.  It may feel gratifying to receive lots of attention this way, but again common sense needs to prevail.

Pace yourself 

Just because you have access to a potential pool of dates doesn’t mean you have to become a slave to your device and spend ages messaging people you’re not really interested in.  Maybe just try out one site at a time, and realistically think about what you want to get out of the process. If you just want to meet one new person a month, then contact/respond to people accordingly. When things aren’t working out with someone and you don’t want to stay in contact with them, move on.

Have you had any experiences you want to share? Let us know!! It’s only through sharing our stories that we can help each other, and I’ve a few more things to share on this topic…

My other blogs on dating:

The seven deadly fears of a 40-something singleton…

Things I’ve learnt about dating the second time around

In Demand: the importance of post-divorce dating

Take your broken heart, make it into art