"I find honesty is a rare commodity. It is worth it's weight in gold when it comes to dating, whether in the real or virtual worlds. The only downside is you are going to have to build your credibility to stand out from the droves of liars and fibbers (particularly for men). I speak of honesty, both in your self-assessment and in communicating your intentions and feelings."
First off, when it comes to online dating, it's important to define what your goal is. Are you looking for the love of your life? Do you just want to hook up? Or do you want something else? It's best to just be honest about it and not deceive anyone, because this is often the norm and has bad results. Men often say they want a relationship to get sex and women may claim to be looking for long-term monogamy, but they have to skew their expectations to the extreme to weed out the hordes of players.
I've tried every approach there is and often you find the opposite of what you are looking for initially (for better or worse). My longest relationship ended up being a fuck buddy I met on Craigslist who was much younger than me. Neither of us planned or expected more to come of it, but things sort of spun out of control and the lines changed. Neither of us wanted it to get serious and certainly had no plans on living together and sharing a household and pets, but it happened. It wasn't all regret though. Some wonderful things came of it, but some awful, and life changing things happened too. Se la vie.
On the other hand, I've searched for a long-term relationship and ended up with what was more like a casual dating acquaintance or friend with benefits (FWB) too. I've used Match.com, Matchmaker.com, Nerve.com, E-Harmony, Chemistry, Tickle, OKCupid and even Craigslist to try and meet people. I've even gone to the wild side and tried Adultfriendfinder, alt.com, Fetlife, and swinger type sites, though you will find those are much tougher for a single male, than a couple or female, when it comes to meeting people.
You will want to choose a site that fits what you are looking for. If you want a Jewish partner, you might want to try Jdate.com. If you are seeking a FWB, you probably don't want to go to E-harmony. There is a plethora of dating site options in cyber world, so choose what suits your needs.
Setting Up Your Profile
Once you’ve figured out what you are seeking, be honest. Put your needs and wants in writing and be specific. You won't find your match if you don't spell out exactly what you are looking for. Do you like sports? Be more specific. If it is baseball or hockey, then specify. Do you enjoy playing or just watching? Both? Favorite team? Paint a picture with words. Don't be vague and boring. Some people don’t tell anything specific at the risk of being boring. Jazz it up and list a few of your favorite musicians, movie genres, or specific titles that really resonate with you. A better example might be something like "I love going to independent or classic outdoor movies at the art museum in the summer" adding "It would be really nice to have some witty and romantic company to enjoy it with this year. Want to join me?" You get the idea. Speak to your future mate like a real person, not a shopping list.
On the opposite extreme, I've seen people list EVERY single band/musician and 50 movies they like in their profile. Sure, you want to find someone with common interests, but you don't need to list every movie or band you like. A handful or so of favorites is enough. There are a lot of people on dating sites and you have a limited amount of information to catch someone’s attention, so make the most of it. List what you have to offer someone special, don't just make a laundry list of unrealistic expectations that must be met or you might be over restricting your potential dating list. I've seen some ridiculous and long lists of "requirements" on profiles, as demanding as requiring a specific birth order in their mate. Yes, seriously.
Image Is Almost Everything
Speaking of limited attention spans, a picture is worth a thousand words! Your chance of finding someone compatible and mutually attractive goes up exponentially when you have a picture with your profile. Trying to date online without any pictures is almost futile and seriously outdated. Camera shy? Well that is understandable, but you could, at a minimum, post a photo of you slightly incognito wearing a hat and sunglasses perhaps. I've seen people post even partial photos of themselves, in all sorts of creative ways, that won't necessarily embarrass you or make you easily identifiable in public. At least it gives potential suitors some vague idea of what you look like and even a degree of intrigue.
Going Commando (Well, Almost!)
A few years back, I got frustrated with the traditional approach on a regular dating site and decided to post some photos of myself in some very scanty underwear (no face showing in any of them) just to see what kind of response I got. Well, believe it or not, I got way better results and more emails than using regular G rated photos and met some interesting women. I guess I stood out from the crowd, and frankly, wanted someone more open minded anyway, who wouldn't be freaked out by my taste in underwear or sexual experiences (I answered those questions very honestly). Ultimately, I met the love of my life with the more traditional approach, but it just shows that you can be daring, honest, take chances and still have some success. Don't be afraid to be different. Even when people don't necessarily agree with everything you might say or desire (or wear), they do often acknowledge your honesty.
Without a photo, your profile might even get filtered out of most searches. Most of us check the photos before delving into the meat of the profile. You can always swap more photos after you have made contact with someone who interests you via email or other method. And lastly, we've all heard and seen stories of people using 10-15 year old photos of themselves that no longer resemble their current appearance. By all means, do not do this! You are only setting yourself up for disappointment and being deceitful. Not all of us are photogenic (myself included), but people know this and it's much nicer to meet someone who looks better than you expected in person than showing up on a blind date with them expecting you to look like that Glamour Shots photo from 12 years ago. I can't stress it enough. Photos, photos, photos! It will get you noticed, get your profile read, and ultimately lead to success. A beautiful smile can say more than a wall of text. Additionally, I know it's a touchy subject, but do not lie or disguise your weight, age, marital status or body type. You're not fooling anyone. Nothing good can ultimately come from it. There is someone for everyone, but hiding something isn't going to get you points or win someone over from outside of your potential dating pool.
I have gone on actual blind dates in the past where I did not have a photo with mixed results. This was back when we just had scanners and not digital cameras everywhere and even back in film days before the internet. Nowadays, everybody has a camera phone or a digital camera or at least a friend who does, so there is no excuse for not having a photo online to send or post. It's unfair, as well, to see someone else’s photo and not reciprocate and expect them to meet you.
A general rule of thumb is safety first. Always meet in a public place. Use common sense but don't go overboard and be paranoid. Just because one guy was a Craigslist killer doesn't mean everyone is a Craigslist killer. It's a bit insulting when you come off that paranoid to a potential match. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the old "Are you an axe murderer?" line in jest. It's ok to let your friend, neighbor, or family member know where you are going and even give them a call to say everything is ok when you have arrived safely home or at your destination, but don't bring a chaperone or bodyguard. Use your judgment; speak on the phone first and find out as much as you can about the person and build some trust before you meet. It's amazing what you can tell from a person's voice sometimes. I've had some cases where we met at one or the other's house before, for whatever reason, because we were both already comfortable enough to do so, but that is the exception, not the norm. Speaking of phones, please do not text or check your phone constantly on dates. Nuff said. You know who you are.
It's no fun to slog through dinner and more on a date when you've made up your mind it's not going to work for one or the other. So, just set up something low key for a first date. Just consider it a meet and greet with an open window. Fun, interactive things you can do in public are perfect ice breakers and you can enjoy yourself without worrying about the clock or the outcome. If things click you can continuing the date but you have the option to leave after an hour, too. Pick a place, time, and scenario you both are going to feel safe and comfortable at.
In summary, when it comes to blind dating/online dating, be sure to remember these points. Define what you are looking for in a relationship, whether it is casual dating or looking for a long term partner. Choose an appropriate site for the kind of person you want to meet. Highlight your interests and attributes along with those you are looking for in a mate. Be specific and, most importantly, be honest! Don't be afraid to be yourself or be daring and bold. Include a few pictures (recent ones!). Last, but not least, have fun, be patient, and expect some disappointments along the way. It's just part of the game. If you get frustrated, just step away for a few weeks/months and take a break from it all. Revisit when you feel like it.