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How to handle the awkward adventures of online dating

Andrea Syrtash

It’s nearly impossible to be a member of an online dating site without having some “memorable” (euphemism!) experiences. I recently interviewed someone who was matched with a man who had died. Another dater I spoke with realized the woman he was corresponding with was at least a decade older than she indicated. There are countless other stories of the odd and unexpected.

Even though over 40 million Americans are looking for love through online dating services; there are times that you wonder if anyone out there in the dating ether is… well… normal. This strange reality of online dating is captured in the FXX show, Man Seeking Woman, in which the newly single lead character, Josh, goes on some truly bizarre online dates. As you watch, you may find that Josh’s surreal and awkward experiences look a little too familiar. So that you don’t feel like you’re also starring on the show, perhaps it’s worth sharing three common uncomfortable realities of online dating and a few ways to manage these scenarios.

Awkward reality #1: People don’t match their online profile

The biggest complaint I hear from men is that the women online lie about their age, while women complain that the men exaggerate their height. It’s amazing that almost all of us have access to digital cameras and are still posting pictures that poorly represent how we look today. (Also, we are masters at angles!) Since setting expectations is a big part of the dating process, representing yourself accurately and honestly is a smart way to kick off a first meeting; but somehow, people still wildly misrepresent themselves in their online dating profiles.

Solution: Skip dinner and go for a drink

Assuming not everyone is reading this article or taking the advice to heart, my suggestion would be to skip the involved dinner or full afternoon date and opt for something simple like meeting for a happy hour drink after work. This way you’re not investing too much time in someone who may actually be a troll. (This scenario actually happened to the lead character on Man Seeking Woman.)

Awkward reality #2: You think you know your date and forget that you are virtual strangers

While it’s true that you can get a sense of someone’s personality through typed words, it’s important to remember that you and your online date are still strangers until you meet “in real life.”

These days some online daters even hire services to write and edit their profiles or emails, so that really funny guy you corresponded with may turn out to be pretty dull. Or have an annoying voice. Or remind you of your dad. Or 101 other things that you won’t pick up about him until you meet.

Solution: Book the date!

If you’re intrigued by your online connection, book the date! In general, you should know if it’s worth taking an hour out of your life to meet in person after about 3 communications. If it’s not possible to meet that soon because of distance or schedules, book a video chat. It’s 2015! A video chat shouldn’t seem bizarre or futuristic anymore. It’s good way to gauge if you want to book a real date.

Awkward reality #3: Online dating can be exhausting

When it comes to dating online, there are too many options and too few options at the same time. How is this even possible? It’s because dating sites are built to spit out a revolving door of seemingly endless choices; but the catch is that you’ll lose track of some of these options, or not all of the choices will appeal, or the ones who do appeal may not respond to you. (They’re missing out, I agree.) This happens because the stakes are low when strangers meet online. They have no history with you or frame-of-reference and know that they have 50 more “matches” waiting for them.

Solution: Keep boundaries, balance and perspective

To avoid online dating burnout, create boundaries and balance. Decide that online dating won’t be your only option and remember that you can still meet folks the old-fashioned way, through friends, activities, in the fruit section at the grocery store.

When you do log online, dedicate a focused amount of time to perusing profiles or responding to messages rather than scrolling every hour of the day. Keep your perspective. Online dating is not the only way to meet a suitable match; but it’s certainly a viable one. We all know someone who has met someone significant through an online dating service. Have a little patience and you are likely to meet at least a few solid connections. I always say that even a bad date makes a good story. Set your expectations, meet sooner than later, and find balance. And when possible, have a sense of humor about your online dating “adventures” (euphemism!) and you’ll be able to handle the sometimes absurd and surreal twists and turns even better.

Man Seeking Woman premieres Jan. 14 at 10:30 p.m. on FXX.

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