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The Protocol of Online Dating



Okay, so it’s hardly rocket science. But the socio-technological revolution in how we meet our romantic partners has turned the dating scene upside down – and getting our head around the new code of dating ethics can be tough going at times!

Do As You Would Be Done By


Due to the anonymity it offers, on-line dating can cause us to kiss goodbye to our usual moral standards and start behaving in ways we normally wouldn’t dream of. Because we know that ultimately there’s no real come-back, our sense of responsibility can quickly fly out of the window. The outcome is that we may end up treating others in ways we’d hate to be treated ourselves.


In the absence of any set guidelines as to how to handle things, we could do worse than fall back on the old maxim of “do as you would be done by”. By showing others the same level of integrity we’d like them to show to us, we can at least keep a clear conscience – and of course, there’s always the hope that they will return the favor.  


Honesty is the Best Policy


Whichever way you look at it, honesty is important when we’re dating, and it’s always a mistake to pretend we’re something we’re not. The internet may well be awash with cyber liars – but deception is a bad starting point for any kind of relationship. Quite apart from the risk of appearing deceitful, it’s hard not to look extremely silly when we’re eventually found out.


The problem with any sort of untruthfulness is that maintaining it is very hard work! One lie generally leads to another, and it’s only too easy to trip ourselves up by contradicting ourselves or failing to stick consistently to the same story. So don’t be tempted into bigging up your financial, professional, or any other kind of, status. Unless you’re an expert in the art of guile, you’ll quickly arouse others’ suspicions.   


The Pros and Cons of Cyber Courage


When you’re communicating exclusively on-line, there’s really no excuse for not being totally straight with the other person. The good thing about emailing is that it’s far easier to say potentially embarrassing things than it is face to face, or even on the telephone. Turning someone down isn’t a big deal – nor is letting them know we have the hots for them. Most of us are far bolder in cyber space than we could ever hope to be in the real world!


But although cyber courage has its uses, it can also bring out the worst in us. Freed up from our usual social inhibitions, sometimes we can discover an outrageous side to ourselves we never knew existed. Just because we’re only talking to somebody on-line, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t show them the same level of good manners we would do if we were speaking face to face. Failing to respond promptly to their emails, being blatantly rude, or leading them on unfairly is just as mean-spirited in cyber space as it is in real life.  


Don't be a Cyber Jerk!

If you aren’t interested in taking things further, cut to the chase and say so, politely but very firmly. It only takes a minute, then both of you can move on. There are plenty of time-wasters out there who have no intention of pursuing a genuine relationship and use on-line dating sites simply as a form of diversion at our expense. Don’t be a cyber jerk!


You’re most likely to encounter time-wasters on free dating sites where no financial commitment is required. They’re easy to spot by their reluctance to move the relationship on to the next stage after a suitable length of time has passed. It’s general practice not to exceed a dozen or so email exchanges before swapping phone numbers. More than that, and the odds are that someone is messing you around.   


Exploring Our Options is Okay


Stringing lots of people along just for the fun of it is unacceptable behavior, both on-line and off-line. But if we’re a serious player, there’s no reason why we can’t be in cyber contact with multiple people at the same time, while deciding which of these is likely to materialize into a real-life relationship.


Exploring our options before taking the plunge is an integral part of the ethos of on-line dating. This isn’t about being a cyber tart, nor does it mean we’re being dishonest. Because internet dating is a numbers game, we’re inevitably going to have several email relationships on the go at once. This is common practice – and something everybody understands.


Once we’ve moved things on to the next level though, and have started telephoning or meeting face to face, the cyber rules no longer apply. Now we’re back to the protocol of ‘conventional’ dating – and that, of course, is a different game entirely!

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