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Online dating has become a popular way for people to meet, or at the very least get a feel for what it would be like to be in a relationship. Unlike bar-hopping (where you have to work on your approach and humor skills) or maybe a speed-dating service (which you have to pay for), online dating is free. You get to message potential dates from your computer instead of through the phone or a conversation, and you can do that from the privacy of your own home. It also allows you to choose your own date and time, and if you’re really conscientious about it, you can narrow your potential matches according to criteria you specify. You don’t have to have a full-time job, or even a regular one. After all, using the time to go after your career instead of a relationship will only make the relationship-hunting part of your life that much harder—which may seem like a good thing, but it’s not. Instead, it’s an ideal opportunity to spend time getting to know yourself, developing your sense of self-worth, and really figuring out what you’re looking for in a partner. Not to mention that if you are looking to settle down, online dating gives you the perfect opportunity to do it without the financial commitment (or the pressure) of a traditional relationship.

The downside, unfortunately, is that there’s a lot of poop to wade through—not to mention a way of looking at life that can get a little shallow.

Online dating is a good idea if you:

Like to be where the action is—being out in the world, sharing your experiences, and meeting new people is a hugely rewarding way to spend your time, but it can be difficult to effectively put yourself out there if you’re not feeling good about yourself (or if you’re not getting many responses). According to the Gallop Poll, 81% of singles surveyed said they want a relationship but have no interest in going on a date to get one. That may be because you’ve all tried dating and have found it a frustrating experience—or maybe you’re just not getting much response. Online dating can be a great way to find the like-minded people who are interested in having the same, or at least similar, interests and goals. Whether it’s going to a concert, seeing a play, or traveling together in the future, if you’re open to it, chances are there are people around you who want to do the same thing you want to do.
You’re about to enter the Wonderful, Horrible World of Online Dating

When it comes to dating, there are a ton of sites and apps out there for you to choose from. There are apps that use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to match you with other singles based on interests and location. There are also traditional dating sites that require meeting up in person before you can get a feel for someone. You can post a profile and browse profiles of all the members of the site. You’ll then have the opportunity to message the people who interest you.

But here’s the thing: Once you’ve found someone you want to meet, you have to communicate with them via text, email, or, if the idea of communicating face-to-face doesn’t sit well with you, via video chat. And in an effort to cut down on spam, some sites cap the number of messages you can send per day. And they won’t even let you know when someone replies to you. It’s almost like you’re on an endless solo safari.

It’s overwhelming, but you can make it simpler if you’re willing to take the first steps. Check out our tips below for making the process a little easier.

1. Make a File of Favorite (Frequently Asked) Questions

One of the first steps in entering the Wonderful, Horrible World of Online Dating is to make a file of frequently asked questions. Think about all the questions you are asking yourself before you start online dating, and just make a file with them. Then, when you get that email from a guy you like or an opportunity to video chat with someone, you won’t have to think as much. Everything will be in your head and you’ll be able to just follow the instructions.

Your favorite questions to ask in a picture?

Do you have a favorite drink?

Are you looking for someone in a serious relationship?

Is this mutual? (If you don’t know, ask. A lot. Asking if someone is interested is a good first step. And, as with all things, if they say “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” to this question, don’t be offended. It’s just part of the job you’ll be doing for yourself and for them when you do the online dating thing.)

What makes a good first message?

What questions about you do I need to ask?

Who do you like to

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