At the request of some of my younger readers, I am going to go out on a limb today and address the phenomenon of on-line dating. I say “go out on a limb”, because having been married for more than 40 years and as a mother and a grandmother, I am happy to report that I have no direct experience and am, in fact, relatively ignorant about the details of on-line dating. Yet, I am able to appreciate why so often, so many, are turning to the internet to gain a social life, given the fact that most people have little or no time to organize their time let alone to find the love of their life.

The obvious pros and cons of such a decision can be guessed at by most of us, but listening to those who attempted to educate me and then reading the statistics (the billions of people world-wide, including the successes as well as the failures), I am writing here more as an investigative reporter than an expert on the subject.

I admit it may be easy to consider me to be a relic of a time gone by when people met in school, at social gatherings or houses of worship or were introduced by friends or relatives. It was a time when beyond the introductory meeting, the way we then got to know someone and further establish the relationship we wished to have was through going out on group dates (meeting one another’s friends), then graduating to individual dates, writing letters and/or speaking on the telephone. I suppose the truth is that the part of me that is still old-fashioned favors that way of engaging with anyone.

However, times HAVE changed. The demands made on people’s time are different and. if someone’s not into bar hopping, access to meeting people who share one’s interests and passions(especially in big cities) is slim at best. That being a given, it’s easy to understand the lure of on-line dating and, therefore, I feel obligated to list some of its attributes.

1- It gives anyone who participates many more options regarding the sheer number of people one is able to meet.

2- One can pursue or allow oneself to be pursued at any time of the day or night that’s convenient and it can be done from the comfort of one’s home without ever having one’s actual voice heard or actual body seen.

3- One can select from thousands upon thousands of entries, and if a person seems appealing, anonymity can be maintained until such time as one or both of the parties becomes interested enough to actually want to meet.

On the downside, however:

1- There is no way to know if whether the information the person has posted is true and/or if the photo he or she has submitted is recent or is even the person he or she claims to be.

2- Married people and ex-convicts – men in particular, I regret to say – often refer to themselves as being single and very up-scale. Those, of course, can be only the first in a string of lies uncaught unless one actually does a personal or criminal check.

3- Writing about anyone – including oneself – is far easier than having to talk face to face. If the writing is (as it was in “my day”) playful, romantic, and honest, one can learn a great deal about the writer. If, however, what is written in on-line questionnaires is in the form of the literary equivalent of what the younger generation refers to as soundbites, texting, sexting, and flirting, the reader may, indeed, be setting herself or himself up for disaster.

There are websites, however, such as SINGLESTUFF.com, whose sole purpose is to offer people Dating Safety Rules and often does not particularly endorse on-line dating. This site’s opening disclaimer states: “We cannot protect you from a broken heart, but we may be able to help you avoid a few of the other risks associated with modern dating.” They then go on to list safety rules:

Rule #1: Be careful who has your phone # and don’t forget that nearly everyone has caller I.D.
Rule #2: You may want to get a personalized ring number, if you don’t want to change your actual phone number … and do call your telephone service provider should you receive any harassing calls.
Rule #3: You may wish to open a separate e-mail account just for on-line dating.

This list and the options offered go on and you can find them easily, should you choose to visit that site.

Most importantly, however, no one can fault anyone for wishing to have a partner in life, a soul-mate, a person to love and be loved by. When searching for that special someone, however, one should choose an environment and a process which allows you to feel safe and comfortable.

If it is on one of the on-line sites, though, it’s important to know yourself and learn to trust your instincts using your head as well as your heart. Beyond how you may or may not respond to his or her photograph and how he or she may answer a set of questions in an attempt to make the getting to know segment of your journey speedier and less cumbersome, take your time in getting to know anyone.

Apparently, there are many people who do meet on line, fall in love, marry and stay together as often as those who meet elsewhere. Yet, however and whenever you meet that special someone, put one another through as many hoops as you would someone whom you were interviewing if you were the C.E.O. of a company. Because, in fact, you are the C.E.O. of your life. You should always feel as though you are in the driver’s seat calling the shots and making the decisions based on the maximum amount of information available, the knowledge about the competitors for the same position and know the reasons why the person you are choosing is best suited for the position of best date or best mate.

It’s your life and the decisions you make will reap the rewards of your wisdom or force you to suffer the consequences of an inability to know how to weed out those who are attracted to the position for the wrong reasons. If they are not ready to make the commitment you deserve or are simply manipulating the situation and seducing you into buying a false package, then that package will only fall apart as you attempt to hold it.

If you believe that there are enough wonderful people out there, then trust yourself to meet at least one of them who will lighten your load and enlighten your days!

With warm regards, I send best wishes for success to all who are seeking love on-line, off-line and all places in between.