Get Busy Online, Then Quickly Take It Offline
Ask Demetria: Finding your mate may be a click away, but meeting in person is key.
Once you get a response from someone you're interested in, or you get a message from someone who sparks your interest, trade a few emails. (Note: Writing back and forth isn't dating; it's having a technology-savvy pen pal.) Then quickly take the "conversation" offline within a week. (If you're squeamish about giving out your number, get a dedicated line for online dating via Google voice.)
After a couple of phone conversations to gauge if there's chemistry or common interests, suggest that you meet in person in a safe, open public space, of course. If he can't meet up soon for any reason, move on.
This timeline may seem fast for some, but what I'm trying to help you avoid is getting caught up in some of the mind games that come with online dating. I've been privy to horror stories where hopeful women head online for companionship, get stuck in the instant messaging or phone-talking phase and become emotionally caught up in guys who are figments of an imagination at best, or straight-up liars at worst. Of course, people can pretend to be someone they aren't in person, too, but it's by far easier to create a charming persona or hide a wife when you're operating behind the anonymity of a screen or phone line.
In the best-case scenarios of online dating gone wrong, women meet someone who has a great personality via instant messaging or on the phone, then in person realize that his personality is a little dry or he was less than forthcoming about his age, height or income -- the top three things men misrepresent online. Unfortunately, this is sometimes par for the course in online "dating."
Don't let that discourage you, though. I know plenty of women who have had bad dates with people they've met online, just as they would if they'd met a date at work or school or through a friend. There's not any place, online or off, that guarantees a perfect match and can back it up. It will take trial and error -- and a little luck -- to meet a great match, but if you're up for the challenge, there's an exciting new world of dating options waiting for you.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at email@example.com.