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'Online Dating for Dummies'     Send a link to a friend

[FEB. 18, 2004]  "Online Dating for Dummies." Judith Silverstein, M.D., and Michael Lasky, J.D. Wiley Publishing Inc., 2004, 288 pages.

Review by Richard Sumrall

Having a hard time meeting that special person? One way to meet Mr. or Ms. Right is through a new Internet service called "online dating." In their new book, "Online Dating for Dummies," co-authors Judith Silverstein and Michael Lasky write that their guide "provides practical, proven strategies for selecting the right dating site, establishing your Internet profile identity and protecting your privacy." Readers will learn how to choose an online dating service, write a honest (and flattering) personal description, respond to potential dates, recognize potential fraudulent services, cultivate their online relationship and maintain a level of safety during the initial face-to-face encounter.

Making online dating work for you

There are many advantages to online dating. There are an almost limitless number of potential suitors online, it's more convenient than traditional dating, and you eliminate those awkward moments that are a part of first introductions.

To participate in the Internet dating experience you must first gain access to a computer, the Internet and a printer. Establishing your own e-mail account is also a necessity. It is especially helpful when using e-mail to become familiar with Internet-specific dating terminology and "emoticons." These keyboard-created faces allow participants to convey thoughts, feelings and emotions in their message. Two of the more popular emoticons are :) for happy person and :( for sad person.

So many online dating sites, so little time

Selecting an online dating service involves making several decisions. The authors make the distinction between "free vs. fee" services. Although you may be tempted to try a free site it's important to remember that these sites may be inundated with advertisements, have a limited scope of coverage, lack site supervision and post no barriers to entry. Pay sites generally avoid these pitfalls and do a better job of protecting your privacy and personal client information. Pay sites are not without their problems.

First-time users should be choosy since some dating websites can have different personalities. The authors explain, "Internet dating sites are a lot like theme parks… When you first arrive, you don't know where to begin, and everything seems overwhelming. But after you get your bearings … you begin navigating with ease and confidence."

Jumping aboard for the online time of your life

There's a difference between taking a guided tour of an online dating site and signing up for a trial run. Many site tours are nothing more than a sales pitch and fail to give you a true impression of its value. If you choose to sign up for a trial run, remember these tips:

--Answer most of your mail (excluding inappropriate messages).

--Assess whether the site fits your age and geographic category.

--Browse hundreds of the profiles of the gender you're seeking.

--Take charge by initiating a few e-mail contacts.

--Make a serious attempt at writing answers to the essay questions (practice makes perfect).


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Others issues to consider when setting up your account include establishing your screen identity (to make that great first impression); answering the Q&A about yourself (marital status, age, body type, income, education, etc.); dealing with matters of sex (addressing sex or not in your profile and deciding the right time to talk about sex); and selecting the all-important photograph (to post or not to post, how to avoid photo blunders, and dealing with the "attractiveness" issue).

Initiating contact and skirting the hazards of online dating

When you make that decision to initiate contact with someone online, it's always wise to maintain a certain level of anonymity and compose an effective e-mail. An e-mail message can indulge the recipient with a flattering compliment, gain information by asking an innocent question or ask for a clarification of something in a previous e-mail. Central to all of these communications is a good understanding of e-mail etiquette.

When your results yield the possibility of a real contact with the person, you should be aware of more than what you're going to wear or say. Planning how to ID your contact, adjusting for the inevitable "picture shock," preparing a course of action in case of extreme disappointment and ending the date on a positive note are essential to your planning.

Safety first is always advisable when planning your first date. Develop your safety net by telling friends what you're doing; be mindful of the presence of drugs, alcohol or guns; and bring enough money for emergencies or identity protection (you may not be ready to flash your credit card).

Sometimes people use online dating service to perpetuate frauds on unsuspecting contacts -- frauds by married people, people posing as members of the opposite sex, the older posing as the younger, criminals and porn site purveyors. You can uncover these frauds by carefully checking the available information on your prospect, asking plenty of questions and verifying the prospect's home telephone number.

"Online Dating for Dummies" a wonderfully informative guide for people interested in trying this revolutionary approach to meeting the right person. The book addresses virtually every topic imaginable on the subject and includes two informative lists: 10 ways to screw up online dating and 10 ways to succeed at online dating. Since the authors themselves met through the online dating experience, they write, "We're proof that Internet dating works. As a result, we offer our advice based on our own experiences as well as the help of many other Internet daters." This book is recommended to anyone who is considering using the Internet for online dating opportunities.

[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public Library District]

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