The online dating world has come a long way since a handful of websites gave hope to singles tired of the real-life dating scene. Now everyone from Christians to farmers to sugar daddies has a place to find a cyber beau.
And while the convenience of browsing prospective dates from the comfort of your computer can be very enticing, sorting through endless embellished profiles and misleading pictures can be a daunting task at best.
AttractiveBlackSingles.com is a new site for those looking for love online, promising to make users' soulmate searches a bit easier.
Perhaps the site's creators have found the sweet spot. Through a seemingly rigorous screening process, prospective members must submit a picture and profile for existing members to decide whether or not they are attractive enough to join the site.
"Anyone can apply for a membership, but gaining acceptance is tough," says founder JC Dixon, in a release. "For every 10 applicants that apply for a membership, only two make the cut."
The site is the latest of a handful of online dating sites targeted specifically at African Americans, tapping into a growing market. While the U.S. census reports that African Americans are the ethnic group least likely to marry, experts maintain non-traditional dating methods are increasingly gaining acceptance.
"African-American penetration in the online personals category has more than doubled in the last four to five years," according to Ron Worthy, who helped revamp the site BlackPeopleMeet.com, an affiliate of Match.com.
BlackPeopleMeet is the number one personals site among blacks, according to Nielsen, and African Americans account for 12 percent of Match's audience.
But will an increase in access to "attractive" potential suitors make the online dating game easier? We're not sure we're ready to risk another awkward first date to find out.
Sometimes we embellish the truth, particularly when we want to impress a possible mate. But <a href="http://www.eflirtexpert.com/about-laurie" target="_hplink">Laurie Davis from eFlirt</a> warns us against exaggerating. "Overplaying your lifestyle will attract different matches who, ultimately, won't be the best fit for who you really are," she says. And <a href="http://cyberdatingexpert.com/" target="_hplink">cyber dating expert Julie Spira</a> agrees, also noting there is a huge difference between fibbing about your height vs. your martial status. "Single is single, and divorced is divorced," she says.
Don't Answer All Of OkCupid's 'Questions'
One of OkCupid's features is a "Questions" section that allows users to reveal a few more facts about themselves. These factoids are then matched via an algorithm with other people who answered similarly. Questions can be answered publicly or privately, meaning your answers can be seen or hidden. But Spira thinks some questions are best left unanswered. She tells users to be careful with those that seem too political or sexual in nature because this data is all over the Internet: "You need to think every time you push the send button." She also says for public answers, you should "only pick the questions you would tell your mother [the answer to]."
Don't Assume The Right Person Will Magically Appear
Davis says her biggest online dating no-no is complacency. "If you're not utilizing all the functionality a site offers, you miss out on the experience. Rather than complaining that you're receiving messages from matches you'd rather not meet, search and message some on your own," she advises. While this is true of all online dating sites, Davis stresses the importance of reaching out on OkCupid. "[It's]one of the fastest-growing sites, which is an advantage, but make sure you're not being lost in someone's search results by being proactive on your own as well."
Don't Use Old Profile Pictures
If you're thinking of putting up a profile pic from 2004 -- reconsider. "They are going to look you up on Google; they are going to look you up on Facebook," says Spira of potential dates. "I think it's really important to have recent profile pictures. You're thanked a lot for being recognizable and having truth in the advertising." So skip out on that glamour shot from the '90s. And men -- most of us agree that the muscle shot in front of the bathroom mirror is an automatic "skip."
Don't Be A Rude Rejector
Just like in real life, there are right and wrong ways to reject someone in the virtual world. "I don't believe in burning digital bridges," Spira says. "Why should you have to email someone and say, 'Hey you're not my type.' Dont say you're not my type -- you haven't met yet!" But if you really aren't attracted, Spira says just move on. Don't message them back, or simply thank them for the communication and wish them luck in their search.
Don't Check Your Profile Obsessively
OkCupid's popular free edition of its dating service comes with a few catches, one of which includes people knowing when you check into the site. While possible soulmates won't know how long you've been online, they can view the time you last logged on. "It can be very obsessive and dangerous to your emotional health," Spira says about online daters who get addicted to flipping through OkCupid. For example, what if you go on a great date only to realize that 30 minutes after you parted ways, your date accessed the site two more times that night? Spira reminds users to "take a deep breath and don't jump to a digital conclusion."
Don't Withhold Too Much
It's important to fill out OkCupid's "About" section to receive matches with similar interests. "Skimping on details will hurt you instead of help," Davis says. "The ultimate goal of your profile is to give someone a quick snapshot of your life. The more details you include, the more interactive your profile becomes, encouraging matches to message you because they enjoy the same activities." By adding a few facts about yourself, it's easier for possible dates to start conversation -- both virtually and in the real world.
Don't Come Off As Desperate
Nobody wants to read on your profile that you've "tried this once before, but you're back one last time for more!" Forgo fishing for compliments or talking yourself down throughout OkCupid's "About" section, and let digital relationships run their course. Share information concisely and positively with people who match your interests ... unless you happen to be in the market for the desperate sort.
Don't Use The '3-Day Rule' Online
"There is no digital equivalent of the 3-day rule," Davis says, noting our connected society has pretty much destroyed the idea of an ideal timeframe for response. "Today, responding quick doesn't necessarily mean you're pining away in front of your laptop all night. The OkCupid app sends notifications in real time, allowing you to compose a response quickly and easily, even when you're on the go." Both Spira and Davis agree responding in a timely manner is usually the best method to snatching up the right guy or girl.
Don't Obscure Your Intentions
If you don't want to just hook up, and are looking for a little bit more in the relationship department, how do you present yourself? "What can seem sleazy to one person might be flirty to another. Make sure you stay on the right side of the gray line by keeping your intentions in check and acting according to what you're looking for," Davis says.
Don't Forget About The Buddy System
There are a few instances where your friends should be involved in the online dating process. First, Spira suggest you have a buddy proofread your profile for spelling errors and accuracy. When you finally find a match, make sure a friend has the lowdown on where you're going for the evening. Online meetups in public places are common, but it doesn't hurt to have a friend know you went to see the latest movie, or that you plan on being out for a certain amount of time.