I got this email last week. I actually get asked a lot about how to navigate the murky world of online dating. So here’s what I told her.

So, I’m 32 and I live in Bangalore and I’ve been following your blog religiously. And I love it! Big thumbs up to you. It really gave me hope and I crawled out from the rock I’ve been living under and signed up for OKC.
Now, the reason I’m writing to you is because I wanted a few tips/advice/insight on how to go about the whole thing. I realised as soon as I filled out a near decent profile and put up a pic, out came the creepies and pushy men in hoards! It freaked me out so much that I just disabled my account! hahaha… I know a bit drastic and overly dramatic!
Having never tried online dating (or even regular dating for that matter) before, I just wanted to know how you manage to be so chilled out and calm about the whole thing. And does it get better and easier after a few interactions?

Okay so the way to deal with OKC assholes is block delete. occasionally report. But really, you can’t take them seriously. I mean the numbers are horribly stacked–for every guy who writes to me that I consider replying to something like 50 shits write! I’ve received all sorts of nonsense on this account too, telling me I have a mental illness, that I’m lucky to be India where the gender ratio is skewed; one charming Pakistani guy told me I’m so ugly I should kill myself (I reported him). I think the larger point is that there are nutjobs EVERYWHERE! It’s true that with a profile yes online you give them easier access to you but then you also have the power to dismiss them as nutjob strangers. If a friend’s friend you met at a party starts badmouthing you, which they are also wont to do (see point about nutjobs everywhere), it’s more painful because it’s right there, and also they can then talk to other people. the shitfest that will come from THAT aspect must never be underestimated. A ranting or creepy stranger online is still just online, unless of course you have given away where you live or what you do or anything in detail.

I have found that the method that works is to actually write to guys yourself. I used to try and read their profiles and give them a pithy hello email that references something they do and come off as cool and all but it’s too much work. Because the good guys on OKC know they’re the good guys, and know they have the power, and the reason they’re on OKC is that they’re slightly nervous about dates and dating, so any whiff is excessive enthusiasm will scare them off. These days I just say something simple, like ‘hi, you seem interesting, would you like to talk?’ I’ve had excellent results with this. Sometimes they reply with if you insist, and then I just say no no I don’t insist, no wish to force conversation on anyone, and then move on.

I suppose on some level it’s working for me right now because I’m not too invested. I’m not hoping to find Love or the One or anything like that. To be quite honest my dating philosophy is very simple–the goal of any date is to secure the next one. And honestly, what does it mean when you want a second date? Does it mean you know you want to spend your life with this person? No. it just means they haven’t triggered any of your own particular neuroses, and probably showcased some things about them that appeal to you. With #2, it was just how relaxed he was, loud and expansive and fun. With #6, it was how efforty he was and how much he made his interest clear. (This btw is ridiculously rare. never happens, and  has been followed by snatched phone calls and random midnight texts and no sign of seeing him again, so it is important not to invest too much into effort too. Not to say he doesn’t want to see me again, but the intensity created by the effort might not hold up.) Of course sometimes it’s inexplicable: with #8 I just want to see him more. Heh. But the larger thing holds true–take it as it comes and don’t be planning the future one way or another. Then you see what happens. Of course this is FAR easier said than done. I still get fidgety about not being able to talk to #6 sometimes…What to do. We are human only. But this too shall pass!

As for your profile, it’s very tempting to go into great detail, but, think about it. When you read someone’s profile and they’ve got like 5000 words in there do you actually read it? You don’t. Well, I don’t! Try to limit the bits about what you like to brief detail–maybe 5 authors not all of them, etc. Even if you do like things like travel and cooking and photography, find something specific about that too because these days everyone does these things, you know?

OKC says to put photos that show your personality. I’ve always done close up face ones because I’m worried the whole body will scare them, but now I’ve got one up where I’m being silly, and apparently it appeals, OKC tells me. Also it really does showcase a part of who I am, randomly stopping in the street to point at things and look shocked dramatically. This does not mean I’m holding my profile out as some great thing; its still too long. They say limit to 1000 words all told. But then I’m a textual person, what to do. I do try and fill out as many fields as possible, because when its showing snippets OKC randomly picks a section and if its blank well then it’s blank.

And yes, it gets easier. You learn to listen yo your instincts and trust them. You have a couple of not so nice experiences and you’re fine and you realise that it’s not so extreme after all.

I have no idea if this will help anyone much, but hey at least it’s out there.