Online dating sites are steadily becoming a more popular way to meet someone new.  Instead of dressing up and heading out to a bar, many folks are opting to stay at home in their PJs while they look for the next Mr. or Mrs. Right.  There are many advantages to these online “singles mixers”.  Being matched up to other singles with similar interests gives you a jump start on who to talk to.  You can go through more people in a shorter amount of time without as much of an emotional risk.  Online dating services are also a great option for single parents:  no babysitter required!  Worried that online dating will turn into a digital disaster?  Here are a few tips to keep things fun and make online dating work for you:

Pick the Right Site
Many dating sites are geared toward a specific type of relationship or lifestyle, so choose carefully before you hit the subscribe button.  Keep in mind that free sites don’t usually offer the same type of services that subscription sites do.  You might save money but you won’t necessarily get quality results.

Be Honest
Odds are you are quite sincere in your quest for love. That said, for some the temptation to lie on their profile is too great. You want your potential matches to think you’re funny, successful, attractive, and talented.  Regardless of how true these things may be, too much exaggeration is only going to leave both parties disappointed.  Your match will eventually find out that you lied, and you will have cost yourself time and heartache.  Also keep in mind that filling out your profile and the personality quiz that accompanies it can be time consuming, but that’s the information the site uses to find your ideal matches.

Use a Current Profile Photo
This isn’t about being superficial; it’s about that whole being honest thing (If you’ve already forgotten, please see above).  Your match will expect to meet the person they saw online.   You want someone to like you as you are, so don’t try to trick them with a photo that you took ten years ago.  You’ll be doing yourself a favour, and you’ll absolutely want the same in return.

Don’t Settle
You don’t have to jump into a relationship with the first person you meet on a dating website.  This is your opportunity to meet different kinds of people and figure out what you want out of a relationship.  If there’s a deal breaker, such as someone who’s allergic to your cat, then just move right along to the next one.

Be Gentle
It’s quite possible that you’ll be contacted by people you aren’t interested in dating.  There are numerous reasons to turn a person down, but you should always try to do it in a respectful way. If you don’t get the same in return, many sites allow you to report and/or block specific users.

Stay Safe
When you decide it’s time to meet your online match in real life, remember that you still don’t really know this person.  While most people using dating sites are fairly genuine, there’s still a risk.  Always meet in a public place, and let your friends or family know with whom you will be and where you are going.

If you decide to give online dating a try, just use the same common sense you would use if you were meeting people any other way.  Remember that the people you meet online are still actual people with real thoughts and feelings, so treat them the same way you would want to be treated in return.  Explore your options, and take advantage of this chance to meet people that you might not have otherwise.  Be yourself, be smart, and have a good time!