Those of us from African countries have all kinds of networks and connections to meet people, so I'm not trying to bash that or anything. Honestly, if you have access to these networks, take advantage of them. These are people who know you and who you know. I still believe that is optimum. However, for women who want a wider scope, or who may not have access to these networks, or who quite honestly have not found the kind of partner they want within these networks, the online environment offers you another means to meet people who may be you would never have met with in your day to day life.
So all of that being said, if you are one to be easily offended or to take things personally, or are the type to always want a guy to make the first move, then stay away.
Part 2 will delve into the dark side of online dating.
This is a door that many of us girls from African countries are reluctant to cross or have outright sworn never to, so I am supposing that if you are considering this, you are braver and more open minded than many (no disrespect to those who choose not to though!). I don't know what path you have walked that has brought you to this point but I can tell you is this: no matter what site you are on, or what you are looking for, brace yourself.
I first ventured into online dating after the end of my longest relationship ever. I was at a very conflicted point of my life and I really didn't know what I was looking for then. Plus, between work and school, I hardly had any time to socialize or go fishing... so anyway. Yes. I jumped in the deep end,without a swimming tube and with swimming skills which were mediocre at best. So far I've gotten one good relationship out of it, although just when things started to get serious, it ended up getting completely messed up by his meddlesome family and his indecisiveness (different story for a different day). I've also gotten to spend time with some truly interesting guys and gotten some fascinating glimpses in the minds of men. Guys can be such messes, lol.
I believe these experiences are making me a better woman, more capable of accepting guys for themselves, and recognizing when, despite this acceptance,who they are is not what I can deal with on the long term. I believe they have taught me the difference between liking the person and liking the potential of the person which may or may never be realized.
So dating sites. What should you know? This is not a how to guide per se, but random stream of consciousness thoughts I have about the whole matter. If you do decide to jump in, your experience could be different. Here goes.
Men on dating sites these days are not the pot bellied, doughy, bald headed creeps one would so easily think. I found that there were men (and women) from all walks of life, of all races (there are African men on there too!) and ages and levels of attractiveness or lack thereof, who like me were looking for a partner - someone to connect with and possibly start a life with - and who had simply extended that search to the online environment...which is hardly surprising given the significant amount of time we now spend online.
If this has been your fear, by all means set it aside. Trust me, the normalcy of the men online is the least of your worries. It is precisely like being in a classroom/office/bar/club/public gathering/coffeeshop/grocery line/park full of people you do not know, one of whom could strike up a conversation with you and catch your fancy enough to get you to want to meet with them again. Even more, it gives people who normally would be shy in face to face situations, a chance to put their best leg forward. A chance for you to talk with and get to know the brilliant mind behind the dorky smile which you might have ignored to begin with.
You get the chance to check the guy out from a distance, but with a little more information than in a real life situation. It is sort of like being at a party and noticing a guy you are interested in. Only difference is, you know he is single and looking too (you don't get drop kicked by a jealous girlfriend/wife) and you have exactly what he is looking for in front of you. You know whether or not you'd work out. There have been countless times I have been reading a guys profile and getting all excited until I read that he doesn't like pets ( like seriously?) or he likes Rush Limbaugh (ewww...) or he specifically is looking for a white/asian/hispanic/middle eastern girl (oh welp...) or one who makes at least $100K (O_o) You do not waste time and energy talking to, spending time with and starting to get into your feelings about a guy only to discover that there is something he's into (or not into) that is a deal breaker for you. Granted people are trying to put their best foot forward on these sites but if his best foot forward makes you want to back away slowly, it's a win-win yeah?
In all honesty it's no different than, like I said, striking up a conversation with a cute guy at the bus stop, and finding out that you have enough in common that you want to hang out some more. There are really no formal rules. Yeah, you want to write a profile that gives people an idea of who you are and what you are looking for. You want to include (recent) full body shots and close ups of you living a life, but beyond that, it's like any other human interaction. So dive in. Create a profile. Speak honestly about yourself, put up good pictures. Have fun looking around.
Know what you want though, because the thing about online dating sites is that there is so much to choose from. SO MUCH CHOICE. Its a literal smorgasbord. Too easily can you find yourself looking around frantically trying to find the best combination. The temptation of something better around the corner is huge! It's like being at a buffet, versus cooking a meal for your self. If you cook for yourself, what you cook is what you have. You might want something else but you will have to rouse yourself up to make it. At a buffet table, however, the options are right there in front of you.You can go to the buffet table with a clear idea of what you want to eat, find it, take take it and leave without even looking at the other options. Or you can go there with no idea and sample as much as you can put on your plate. If you end up with posh belly or constipation, na you find am. It is said that the first 6 months are crucial and I would agree. Don't plan on staying too long. Go with the paid sites if you can. Sometimes they have discounted offers. Seriously. Money = Value. A guy who would pay for membership is likelier to be looking for something serious than one who gets in for free. The free ones are quickly gaining the reputation of being meat markets/ hook up venues anyway.
Keep your life active, try to stay involved in other things. Read, go for walks, join a book club, volunteer, go shopping. Have a life you can talk about. DO NOT become the girl who is constantly online. This might be hard if you are alone in an unfamiliar city or a loner like me, but you really want to have interests and things you do so you're not spending every free moment you have checking your account. You will get tons of messages....actually I take that back. If you are a black girl, the rules are kinda different. I will go into this later. But nevertheless, do not fall into the trap of wanting to always check your account. Here's the thing. It shows when you are online. Nobody cares much for the person, male or female who is always online. Make's it seem like you have nothing else to do with yourself,which is definitely not a good thing.. If possible set specific times you check your messages/browse around.
Don't be in a rush to meet the guy in person. Exchange emails for as long as you feel comfortable before agreeing to meet. A guy who is worth the time will respect your space, as you should his. If he is not ready to meet immediately then give him the same courtesy you would want. If you do decide to meet, make it a public place and a casual activity. I've found dinner to be a bad idea. If you met in person for dinner and things turn out to be awkward after all, you don't want to have to sit through an hour long meal. Make it coffee/tea/ a walk, something open ended.Go in expecting to cover yourself. Take care of your own transportation.
Make sure someone knows where you are and who you're with. Talk to supportive friends, share the guys picture and I feel bad for saying this but have a bail out plan. Have a friend text or call you at some point to check in. First, it lets someone know you are safe and having fun and second it gives you a chance to pull a quick, "My sister's car broke down and I really gotta go pick her up" (Hehehehehe...)
Finally, keep these things in mind:
- It is completely your prerogative to respond to or ignore messages as you see fit.
- You are likely not the only girl he is talking to (Remember, so much choice!) Do not get attached too fast.
- You CAN block people who are being pests.
- Keep your search criteria as open or as narrow as you wish, you will get the results you search for.
A special note.
If you're not on a black people only website, then it's a little more complicated. Statistics show that black women on non specific dating sites receive the fewest messages of interest. We're all aware of the negative stereotypes we carry so we have that to contend with. That is not necessarily a bad thing, though! First, the guys who do message you are the ones who can look past these stereotypes and that is a good thing. (There are also the ones who message you because they believe you are what the stereotypes say but I'll speak about those later.) Don't be afraid to be be yourself. My profiles have spoken about my love for Cameroonian food and West African music, my disdain for western imperialism and the special place Monty Python holds in my heart. You don't have to make excuses for who you are or try to be anything other than who you are. Also, you have to be willing to reach out. If you are interested in non black guys too, give an indication in your profile. Reach out to them. Many non black guys operate under the assumption that you would never be interested in them. One thing I have found out is this: a guy is a guy is a guy. Race has little to do with it.
Online dating is not something we normally would do, as girls from African countries but it is an option and if you go in with the right attitude, it can be a fantastic way to meet people. It does not take away the need to set realistic expectations and be open to compromise though!