The DOs and DON’Ts of Online Dating

The Matrix online dating service surprised Neo. Photo Courtesy: Don Hankins
The Matrix online dating service surprised Neo. Photo Courtesy: Don Hankins

By Karina Manlove

Last year, I did an online dating no-no: I sabotaged my date.

I thought it would go well, as we had a lot in common. We had the same college major, liked to travel, and had a similar sense of humor. Everyone at work knew I had a date with him at the end of the week and how pumped I was to meet him, especially since I had left a stressful and unhealthy relationship three months before. I was ready to move on.

After communicating via a dating site for a few weeks, we decided to finally meet for dinner after work on a Friday night. We met at Starbucks. It was the perfect place to meet, so I could quickly leave in case his pictures weren’t accurate or if he creeped me out.

Thankfully, his pictures were quite accurate, and he was polite and well-groomed. I was glad he wore actual clothes and not a sports jersey, pajama pants, and Crocs. All aren’t acceptable first-date attire, unless you are going to a sporting event, having a sleepover (I suppose if your first date is a sleepover then you probably put up an ad in the “casual encounters” section of the personals on Craigslist), or really are trying to woo your date with plastic footwear. I waited  outside for him and after we exchanged the awkward “Are you…?” and “Hi, yes, I am he/she from,” we walked to the restaurant, where I suggested we go after we discovered a mutual appreciation for Thai food.

However, none of the mutual interests we shared mattered because I spent the entire date on my iPhone which I had just obtained. I told him excitedly that when I went to the store to upgrade my old phone, the sales associate told me he hadn’t seen my phone model in four years. True, upgrading a phone manufactured in 2007 with little features to a  smartphone was a big deal – at least for me – but it had nothing to do with getting to know each other!

I swiped from app to app, showed him videos I thought were funny on YouTube, and chattered about all the gross guys on dating sites. Yes people, I actually talked about a couple of trolls who sent me messages and I showed him pictures. In hindsight, I did everything I could to turn him off, and it showed then because he told me after dinner that it was great to meet me but he didn’t foresee things working out between us. I was appalled, and I didn’t understand what I’d done until much, much later. I didn’t realize that I was the jerk.

So, here are a few rules for when you meet someone for a date so your experience is better than mine:

1) Put your phone away. If you are obsessively tapping away, nodding “yes” and shaking your head “no” while your date talks to you, they’re going to think you’re not interested. Put it on silent and keep it in your pocket, or simply turn it off. If you have to leave your phone in your car so you won’t be pulling up Internet memes and cat videos, please do. Using your cell phone at the table is rude. Learn from my example.

2) Avoid the awkward “who’s paying?” conversation by agreeing before the date to split the bill. This is particularly convenient if you don’t think the date is going anywhere. It happened to me during my date last year and it wasn’t pleasant to discuss payment after he told me we weren’t going to have a second date.

3) Don’t talk about who’s messaged you on the dating site, and certainly don’t show your date pictures! It’s like  presenting your date with their competitors: “So these are the people who didn’t make the cut! Look, this person obviously doesn’t shower!” I cringe thinking about that mistake. Don’t let it be yours.

My mistake was embarrassing, and as a result, I lost out on a second date. It’s taken me months to realize that the reason he didn’t think things were going to work out was because I didn’t present myself as someone interested in him. The date wasn’t spent getting to know each other at all, which is what first dates are all about. At the end, knowing nothing more than I’d been on a dating site for a while and had basically chosen to talk to him because he was the least threatening and the most attractive out of the bunch, he most likely had no problem telling me “no thanks.” Lesson learned.