Online Dating Tips You Should Know

Dating is a minefield in and of itself, and trying to find a partner virtually – especially at the moment – can be really tough. Is it really possible to find true love online?

We spoke to Alix Fox for help. Named ‘Best Sexual Health Ambassador 2020’ in the ETO Awards, Alix Fox is a writer & broadcaster who specialises in ‘decently indecent’ sex, dating and relationships advice. She’s a script consultant for hit Netflix series Sex Education; co-host of BBC Radio 1’s Unexpected Fluids comedy show; the Superdrug in-house sexpert; and resident agony Aunt on The Modern Mann podcast and Channel 4’s The Sex Clinic.

Alix recently partnered with dating app Plenty of Fish to reveal the top signs that you could be dating a timewaster – after the dating app revealed two thirds of Brits (66%) have fallen victim to timewasters. Alix is here to help us out with her online dating tips!



1. “I feel like I can’t open up at all online, or be myself. Then I overthink it and never meet up with anyone because I think they’ll think I’m a fraud. How can I overcome this?”



Alix: Making sure that the impression of yourself you give online tallies up reasonably with what you’re like IRL is great advice for EVERYONE. Yes, you want to present yourself in a good light, but it’s important that you still fundamentally remain true to you in the way you come across…not only so that any dates you meet with aren’t surprised or disappointed but also because you deserve a partner who genuinely adores you for who you really are. 

Ensuring that your dating profile reflects you favourably yet accurately will help start things off on the right foot – that way, people know what you’re offering and you can still be confident that they want to try a piece of your tasty self! If you’re struggling to know where to begin encapsulating your personality in a nutshell, try picking a dating site or app that asks you questions and gives you prompts to help guide you. The dating app Plenty of Fish suggests matches for you based on info you provide, so you know from the off that you’ve got things in common with folks you chat to…and it’s easier to honestly open up.

When you’re listing stuff you’re into, give specific examples. Bookworm? Name the last couple of novels you read, or some favourites. Music fan? Give recommendations for a track to wake up to, and one to wind down to. Into cooking or travel? Tell people what your trademark recipe is, or what you loved about the last place you visited. Not only do those details help your profile stand out from the crowds, but they mean that matches are more likely to ask you questions about distinct elements of your life that you can give authentic responses to.



2. “I’m really scared of matching with someone unsuitable and not being able to get out of it. It’s so hard to tell what someone’s like online, especially at the moment with less face to face dates. How can I ensure I don’t make a mistake?”



Alix: Whilst no-one likes being dumped, and it can be rude to simply mysteriously, inexplicably disappear from a pairing like a sock from a washing machine, let me be clear, superhuman: You Do Not Owe Anyone Your Time. If you think someone is unsuitable for you, or you’re not enjoying chatting or hanging out with them, you have every right to exit. Matches are not fly paper: you do not have to “get stuck” with anyone who kills your buzz.

I do think it’s kind, compassionate, and good online etiquette to try and manage someone’s expectations and respect their time by making it clear that you don’t want to continue any type of romance with them, but telling them something complimentary and encouraging, so that they go forth still feeling positive about the experience and hopeful about their future. Something like: “I really enjoyed your jokes/chat about X/thoughtful ‘Good Morning’ texts and I’m rooting for you to find a brilliant match.”

Video dating helps you get virtually face-to-face even if you can’t be in the same place, so you can get a better gauge on whether someone tickles your pickle or not. And you don’t just have to natter and chatter for hours; you could try activities like an online escape room or virtual museum tour, or bring a touch of the arty to the party by sketching each other during your call.

If you do sadly end up investing ages in someone who turns out to have been a time waster, take solace in the fact that in a survey of Plenty of Fish users, nearly half (44%) said such experiences helped clarify in their minds what they really wanted and needed from a relationship, so they became better at choosing suitable matches going forward.



3. “Online dating always feels like an interview and I don’t know how to come across as authentic. I feel so wooden and worry they will think I’ve got no chat and I’m not worth the bother. How can I get better at this?”



Alix: Again, you’re not alone – especially right now, when lots of us are stuck indoors, haven’t been up to much and consequently don’t feel like we have as much to chat about. You might find it useful to brainstorm some topics of conversation that don’t depend upon having tonnes of exciting news to report: I like “So, while we’re all at home stuck to our screens, what were the last three things you Googled/Internet rabbitholes you fell down?!” It’s original, easy to answer, and can take the conversation in some intriguing, enlightening and revealing directions.

If you’re on a video date, challenge each other to bring 3-5 items from around your respective homes that are linked to a hobby; have a fascinating story or funny anecdote behind them; or in some way represent an aspect of your character, then use them as props for a show ‘n’ tell so you’re not left floundering for things to discuss.



4. “I met someone on a dating app and thought things were going really well. Then they ghosted me out of the blue and I was like ???. It really knocked my confidence and I feel like it could happen again. Why did they do that?”



Alix: Ugh, I’m sorry – but you’re not alone since lockdown began, 76% of online daters admit that, in some way, they’ve abandoned a match they were talking to, and in most cases I think it’s poor form to simply blank someone without diplomatically and compassionately explaining why, or at least respecting them enough to draw a polite close to the exchange. Anyone who ghosts you like this is unlikely to be a good partner, and thus you can safely conclude that they’re not good enough for you.

Some people allow matches to behave poorly towards them – not texting back within a decent time period; cancelling arrangements without good cause or good notice. In fact, only a quarter of people feel able to spot the signs of a time waster. So don’t confuse ‘making reasonable demands’ with ‘being demanding’. You may find it helpful to write a list of behaviours you find acceptable and those you won’t permit, so you’re conscious of what fair treatment looks like to you – then stick to it.

“Does anyone really meet their dream person online? Surely not.”

My mum and wonderful “chosen dad” have been joyfully married for several years now. They met online. It is entirely possible for the World Wide Web to lead to a love story that will change your time on Earth.


Do you enjoy these online dating tips? You can catch up with Alix via her Instagram.

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