2 March 2012
Online love: 5 rules to remember
Getting to know someone online is different from the way we conventionally start relationships and therefore some of the rules are different. It is important to be aware of them so your online experience is a fun and successful one.
In day to day life we meet and conduct relationships with people all the time. From being very young children we quickly learn the rules for social interaction e.g. that we mustn’t monopolise conversations; we should not invade someone’s personal space when talking to them; we should be kind and share what we have with our friends etc. How well we learn these rules will determine how rich our experience of friendships and relationships will be. Developing relationships online requires a different set of rules which most people won’t be aware of until they have broken them.
1. Do cast your net wide
There are literally hundreds of potential matches online and it is completely acceptable to make contact with lots of people at the same time. Some you might send an icebreaker to because you liked their profile, or their photograph attracted you – others will contact you and even though you may not have picked them out yourself their interest in you encourages you to get to know them a little better. Online it is far better to be exploring lots of different avenues than to fixate on one and then feel disappointed if it doesn’t work out.
It is also a really good idea to go on lots of dates. Although some people do fall for the first person they go on a date with it is rare and the more dates you go on the more confident you will become. It can be useful to think of it like going to a party and chatting to lots of people – some you will want to keep in touch with and you might meet one that you are really attracted to. In the online dating world you have to go on dates to meet people face to face as they aren’t all going to be at the same party!
2. Don’t let your imagination run away with you
One of the most common mistakes people make with online dating is that as soon as they develop a rapport with someone they allow their romantic imaginings to run wild – planning the first kiss or even the wedding! Until you have met someone face to face don’t get too attached to the idea that this is going to be your happily ever after. We all have a natural inclination to build a mental picture of someone – eg. if you have a work colleague who talks about their partner a lot, you will build a mental image of them but when you finally meet the person they are usually nothing like you imagined. If you have a very active imagination it is probably better to move from online chat to face to face communication as soon as possible.
3. Don’t get addicted to your computer
This can become a very real problem for some people – the love affair they develop is the one with their computer rather than with a person. They check their messages hundreds of times a day; send icebreakers to dozens of people because they get hooked on the thrill of getting a response and the more admirers they have the better they feel because it has become like a highly addictive online game. Online communication is simply meant to be a stepping stone to real life relationships, not a substitute for them. If you feel this has become a problem for you try selecting just three people from all the ones you are communicating with and make dates with them. It can also help to limit your time online to just a couple of hours a day rather than having it on all the time.
4. Do treat people as you would like to be treated
This is true in all areas of life but most especially online. Sometimes because we are communicating in a virtual way we can forget that the people we are talking to are real people and we may behave in uncharacteristically uncaring ways. It is just as important online to be civil, polite and respectful as it is anywhere else in society.
5. Don’t lose heart
You may follow all of these rules but that doesn’t mean that everyone else online will and you may have a bad experience or two. Don’t let it put you off online dating. Sometimes we get hurt because we invested too much too soon – bearing our heart to someone who we didn’t really know. Following these rules will hopefully help to ensure that you stay safe while also getting to meet some really great people and eventually someone special.