Internet dating, what's it all about?
Internet dating is a way of meeting people online who may be compatible for either friendship or romantic dates, without having to meet them face to face first.
It is used by people all over the world and thousands of couples who have met in this way have gone on to fall in love and even get married.
Some people choose internet dating because they have very busy lives and don't have the time or opportunities to meet new people.
Some use it because they tend to be shy and find it easier than conventional dating procedures. Others use it because they are newly divorced or have recently come out of a relationship and are looking for companionship.
But whatever the reason, you should always be aware that like everything in life there are some risks. If you are aware of the risks beforehand then you are less likely to get caught out.
The good thing is that you can meet people from all over the world, and you can find out about them first. You decide how much you want to communicate with them and how well you want to get to know them.
You can then make contact via email before deciding if you want to meet them in person.
On the other hand, you should always be aware that the person you are talking to on the net may not be who they say they are. Some people give misleading information about themselves such as their appearance, personal details and marital status and some people have been the victim of scams. There has been no shortage of publicity for cheating partners who have been caught internet dating!
If you are desperate for companionship this makes you more vulnerable, because you want to believe what you read and see about this person, especially if you find them very interesting and attractive.
This is when you should be most vigilant and realise that you could easily be taken advantage of.
To avoid getting caught out you can take some simple precautions.
Don't give out your phone number, full name or address before you meet, and if you do arrange to meet, make sure you have told someone where you are going and make sure your meeting is in a public place.
It is much safer to tread with caution, especially in the early stages.
Don't ever submit to them any of your financial assets or possessions until you know them well enough to trust them implicitly.
The process usually begins with joining a dating site and many charge a one off registration fee. On some sites you may be able to browse the profiles for free, but once you choose to contact someone then you usually have to pay.
Begin by submitting a profile of yourself. This contains details about yourself such as your interests, your lifestyle and career and perhaps things that you want or don't want in a potential date.
For example you might want a non smoker who enjoys travelling.
It is usual to also submit a photo of yourself as many dating sites claim that more people will look at your profile if there's a photo. Browse the profiles of potential matches to find someone you would like to know more about
Send an email to anyone you want to know more about telling them a little about yourself and why you want to communicate with them. Whatever you write, just be yourself and be honest.
If they don't reply it's probably best to move on to someone else. It is very common to contact several people by email, even 20 or 30 before you get a response from someone you feel could be suited to you enough to move to the next stage.
If you find someone who replies and appeals to you, then continue communicating until you feel you want to move to the next stage, or try and talk to them online using a webcam so that you can see and talk to each other in real time.
When you feel you have got to know each other enough, you can arrange to meet. As a precaution, it makes sense to arrange this in a public place and always tell someone where you are going. The first meeting is best kept relatively short, say no more than a couple of hours, but it will help you decide if you would like to meet up again.
Once you have met, then it's much the same as the start of any potential relationship.
It's a process of getting to know each other and deciding whether or not you want to continue seeing each other. It can go well or you can decide that you're not really suited, which is the same for any couple, regardless of how they were introduced.
From this point, it's up to the two of you to decide what happens next.