Fill out your profile to provide plenty of information about yourself (without compromising your safety -- see below). If you have only a few pictures online, create an album containing flattering photos of yourself that are candid rather than posed. Taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror is a bad idea; posting your pictures from your trip to Europe is a good one.
If you have met your crush "in real life," then you probably know something about him. If the object of your affection is someone with whom you've crossed paths only online, however, it's time to do your research. Read more than just his profiles; scan through his tweets and updates from recent weeks to learn more about him and what he likes to do. Knowing a little about his job, his family and his hobbies will provide you with some subjects to talk about.
A passive way to gauge his interest is to direct a message to him that doesn't require a response. If he responds, then you have the green light to continue the conversation.
If he leaves a message on your Facebook wall or sends you a direct message on Twitter, don't rush to respond. If you answer within a minute or two, he'll wonder what's so wrong with you that you are online 24/7.
Generally, people don't like others who talk on and on. So don't update your Facebook status every five minutes. Stay visible online but avoid oversharing or seeming desperate. If you find yourself "talking" too much, use Twitter. That 140-character limit will force you to be choosy with your words.
Flirting is a big ego boost to both parties involved -- but only if it's light and fun. Don't get into heavy conversations about religion or politics from the get-go. Don't talk incessantly about your ex-boyfriends or childhood traumas. After flirting for a few weeks through Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, exchange email addresses if you have any real interest in each other. Once you are comfortable, you can throw out a hook and see if he takes the bait. "Have you been to that new Chinese place that opened up on Main? I've heard it's great."
Don't reveal too much about yourself online -- such as your phone number or place you work. Be sure to check the security options in your social media profiles to keep these things hidden. If you decide to take the next step -- from an online flirtation to an actual date -- do it safely. As with all first dates (particularly those that originate online), meet in a public place rather than at home, preferably during the day. Let a friend know where and when you are going so she can check up on you.
TechCrunch columnist Paul Carr describes how the Internet affects the way we meet and date. He tells of an interesting Virgin Airlines flight that involved a hot flight attendant, Twitter and in-flight wireless.
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