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5 tips for online dating

The internet and smart phones have transformed the way we meet each other. It’s never been easier to hook up with someone who’s into the same things as you, or who’s handy and horny. Gaydar and Grindr have become brands that straight people recognise. Thanks to Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear, even our dad knows what Grindr is. We don’t think he’s used it though. Yet.

For so many, the experience of internet dating is a big let-down: your new online best friend suddenly goes quiet on you; you meet the man you’ve been chatting to so easily online and don’t know what to say; you discover that handsome photo of your online beau was 15 years old. You realise that the quick fix of instant hook-ups doesn’t really satisfy.

But if it doesn’t work out, there’s no point in throwing all the toys out of the pram, deleting all your apps and profiles to prove that you can never find what you’re looking for online. Just as in bars and clubs, it’s really a matter of getting it right. Then the online gay universe can be a fruitful place to meet your mate, find a friend, or just stumble upon someone who also likes to collect model planes, student debt, or, as one scary blogger wrote on a gay collectors’ site recently, “weapons and karate gear”.

Online dating sites and hook-up media can widen your contacts and allow you to develop relationships with men from different backgrounds, who live in different places and even time zones. If you’ve got a particular interest, fetish or have specific needs, the web could be the place to find suitable men.

Here are our five top tips to improve your chances of finding the right man online.

1. Look in the right place
We know some long-lasting relationships start as sexual encounters, but the reality is that if you’re looking for love, a hook-up site isn’t likely to be the best place to find it. If you’re serious about finding a long-term boyfriend, for example, spend time creating a profile on a website that is dedicated to such relationships. Switch off your quick-fix hook-up sites.

2. Get your nickname right
Think about what you’re looking for and ask yourself how appropriate your nickname is. For example, if you want to use the internet to find friends, or to meet a life-partner, using a nickname with no sexual overtones is more likely to draw the right sort of contacts than one which is overtly sexual. Come up with a nickname that reflects who you are, and which is likely to catch the eye of the guy you’re looking for. If you’re after long-life love, “BigBoy69” probably isn’t the best choice.

3. Get your profile right
When you’re writing your profile, think about the sort of man you’d like to meet: which bits of you and your personality is he likely to be drawn to? You need to be as upbeat as possible about who you are. Write down a list of your positive attributes before you start, this helps to get you in the right mood. Yes, we know it’s hard to be positive about yourself, but you can do it! You can. Make it clear in your profile what you’re looking for. Maybe weave in humour, but don’t put yourself down: this gives others the message that you don’t really like yourself. When you’ve drafted it, consider showing it to a trusted friend; they might be able to help you to sell yourself even better than you can.

4. Reality check
The internet allows us to recreate ourselves. We’ve all come across pictures or profiles that stretch the limits of belief. If you’ve met someone online that you like and things are going well, then meet his friends. This helps to get a more rounded picture of your new beau, as well as checking that he is who he says he is. If your online boyf won’t let this happen, the alarm bells should start to clang.

5. Develop your other interests
One of the biggest traps looking for a boyfriend is dedicating too much time and energy to the search. When you do meet someone, what are you going to have to talk about if all of your social time was spent sitting at a computer, dating at a distance? Every week, do something that takes you out of yourself, something that involves you being with other people. Join a sports team, a book club, go to an evening class. You don’t have to be in a gay environment; just doing a regular gym class every week gives you the opportunity to get to know people, to widen your social circle. Be open to meeting people – any people, everywhere.

As you press the keys or run your fingers lovingly across that smart phone screen, you can seek sex, find a friend and look for love online. But use the internet as a means to an end, not an end itself. Remember that real human relationships thrive up close and personal, face-to-face, eye-to-eye. It’s easy online, but it’s not as sexy, juicy and alive. There’s a rich world of other people out there. Get up and out, and enjoy them to the full. Just hope you don’t bump into Jeremy Clarkson…

Tony Dines and Adam Clark are gay life coaches, whose gaylife app helps with online dating, as well as other relationship, mind & body and work-related concerns.

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