Here are some tips to navigate the space while making the best of what it provides.
So you met this seemingly perfect guy online – his profile photo seems nice enough and he has completed his profile where he says he is a ‘super successful banker’ with a ‘fat bonus’. The irony of the online world is that usually two kinds of people put in the effort to create a good profile with a lot of care and attention – those with serious intent and those who are lying. You won’t know whether the person you are interested in is genuine or not, until you invest more time and effort.
Once you like someone’s profile, do not make a hasty decision and connect or express interest. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are your best friends here. If the profile has the full name, then it is best to look them up online. Many times, just the name might not be enough especially if it is not unique. Search for the name along with their educational institute or work place or work industry. Also scroll through the first four to five pages of Google search results so as not to miss any news report buried somewhere about his/her past. Many new generation matrimony and dating sites now have a mandatory registration using the Facebook or LinkedIn ID, while also providing the number of friends a person has and whether the profile seems genuine.
The idiom ‘fortune favors the brave’ is very apt while looking for your potential partner or even a simple date online. Now that you have liked someone’s profile and also found that his social profile seems genuine, the only way to really know the person is to initiate contact. Most websites have both the ‘express interest’ and ‘connect’ options. While the former is good to subtly show your intent and see what comes back, the latter is much better at expressing seriousness of intent. So go ahead and show that you are interested in having some connect with the person.
There are two kinds of people when it comes to online interactions. The extroverts who prefer the spoken word and very quickly insist that it is best to connect on a phone call and the introverts who prefer to chat / SMS for a while before speaking or meeting. It does not matter what the other person says, do what makes you comfortable. If your instinct says that you would want to know more about how he/she behaves before taking it to the next level, then choose to chat. This is a great opportunity to ask more questions, get to know their interests, education history, work history and basic compatibility before connecting at a deeper level. This information can now be used on social networks to verify what you already know.
It is best not to drop your guard until the person’s work profile / education can be confirmed on Facebook or LinkedIn. While this does not provide any guarantee that it is true, it gives a higher degree of comfort to see a large professional network or large friends circle, with recommendations or testimonials, all indicating that the profile is genuine. It is also best not to talk about your family’s wealth or the seniority of your parent’s job profile or your own income, as proud as you may be of these things. Speak on the phone and then meet the person for coffee a few times before going out for a longer outing such as dinner. This provides the opportunity to observe the person in different environments and contexts.
One thing to remember is that despite reaching this stage, you never know where this is headed until more formal discussions happen. While finding a partner to date or marry is a highly emotional decision that forms a significant part of your life, don’t go ‘all in’ until both of you are clear about your intentions and about where the relationship is headed. Setting yourself up with the right kind of expectations is going to hold you in good stead. Of course, be emotionally invested – but control the extent to which you are willing to go for this person, until you are formally in a relationship.
Lastly, while the online world opens up these options, it also means hundreds of useless profiles to go through. It is not for those who are not willing to put in the time or the money to find the right person. There are the new matrimony and dating sites tailored for the urban, busy professionals, which take the effort to curate and provide a smaller list of profiles. Despite that, you need to put in the time to connect, chat, meet and then make the decision yourself.