Measuring online dating habits the facebook way

If you missed the last item, telling us that facebook were seeing what days its members were getting it on and unceremoniously back off again, go back to Will facebook be the next big thing in online dating?, get  a grasp of what this part two of two is all about, then come back and pick up where you left off here…

First and foremost the information was gathered from US facebook users from last year and the year before, then was split into three defining age groups, <25, 25-44, 45=<.  And, as much as we may be seen to protest too much about the relevance, there were some very distinct patterns about what days of the week people in different age groups changed their relationship status.

All three age-groups started the week on a positive note, more of each changing their online status to in a relationship, the middle group by as much as 14%.  The boffins decided that this had very much to do with the fact that the weekend spent socialising and indulging in ‘never-on-a-school-night’ frivolities instigated many new relationships.

As the week tailed off, however, and this is a measured decline throughout a given seven day period, those statuses gradually went back to single, dipping quite dramatically.  The over 45’s saw the biggest swing, from a plus 10% rise at the start of the week to a nosediving -7.5% by Friday, with the mid-group not far behind that 17.5% flux, dropping from their high of plus 14% on Sunday to -2.5% by Friday.  Again, the mad scientists put this down to the weekend, by suggesting those with experience dumped their dumpy dumpster in time to find a fitter Ferrari model on Friday.

The youngsters hadn’t quite got the hang of that bit as they showed the only bucking of identical trends by their Friday figure; it started to pick-up after Thursday, giving their overall swing the least movement by far.  That tells me two things.  Firstly, whilst you’re young, you can just go on dating whoever – just because you’re ‘in a relationship’ constantly, doesn’t mean to say it’s the same one; the ground never has time to settle beneath their feet, let alone allowing them time to change facebook status.

The second major factor, and I hark back to my Picasso Night Club days in Wolverhampton, is that when you’re that age, your weekend does start on a Thursday – at least it used to for us.  Friday at work was simply an inconvenience between the first two nights on the pull of many a hectic weekend.  They’d never have kept up with our statuses, back then.  But that’s possibly because the Internet hadn’t been invented yet…

Will facebook become the next big thing in online dating?, for me, do enough research on the online dating industry to satisfy the need of anyone who is vaguely interested in the cogs behind what makes the $2bn per year industry tick.  Okay, one may find it amusing that Android users are more likely to put out on a first date than iPhone or Blackberry users but, really, that type of research is nothing more than a page filler.  A little something to occupy their time whilst the dating scientists are waiting for the IT guys to come back from Starbucks to turn their machines on and off again after a grave malfunction during coffee break.

So quite why facebook have decided to assess how relationships change with the seasons is perhaps beyond reason.  Not content with grouping the blocks of information into four simple sections like the seasons, they have even drilled down into what days are more convivial to striking up relationships than others.

What facebook does have over your common-or-garden dating site,, though, to back up its findings is volume.  Whereas perhaps or even OKCupid may split-test over a few thousand as a sample batch for whatever query they perceive as being useful to their marketing, the facebook has 850,000,000 guinea pigs to test their algorithms ons, far bigger than any of your standard dating sites could ever hope to use as a pool for gauging information and split testing.

Given that there were so many singles taking part in the dating survey status, it does make sense that they were not all going to fit into the existing brackets facebook had originally created for its membership to choose from in the little drop-down box that tells the world so much about your dating habits.

If you are in either a ‘domestic partnership’ or a ‘civil union’ you can choose either of those options.  I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot of difference between the two.  I’d have put money on looking either one up in Thesaurus and finding each term was a pseudonym for the other, but that just goes to show what I know.  All sounds like dating to me.

I know you’re dying to know, now that we’ve started down this route, so I may as well spill.  Join me tomorrow (I felt just like Philip Schofield then, only it was ‘tomorrow’ and not ‘after the break’…ho hum) when we’ll see if there were any trends picked out or whether it was just another excuse for a café latte with a sprinkling of cinnamon and chocolate whilst the IT got to grips with the power socket with Measuring online habits the facebook way.




Moving too fast with your facebook status

As we’ve often alluded to here on in the past, dating sites have always had a certain style (as in: they all follow a similar format, not that dating sites are necessarily always chic and sleek), whereas social media design has pretty much remained individual to its own platform and been the brainchild of the guys and girls behind the original concept.

As we’ve seen recently, however, with online dating becoming ever-more user conscious, many of the newer dating site platforms are factoring in social media features and functionality.  So much so that it can sometimes be difficult to remember whether you’re in the public eye or have taken your online dating relationship into a private chat-room where you can reveal stuff you’d never dream of spattering on your wall.  Or anywhere else in the public eye, for that matter.

Julie Spira, renowned dating blogger, panellist, author – in fact, anywhere there’s a camera or tape recorder spouting ‘online dating’, anywhere within that fifty feet of the device, Julie’s usually somewhere in close proximity – was recently invited to chat with the girls about dating etiquette on facebook.  It seems that, in the search for love online, some people still need a helping hand what’s common sense when it comes to what you want your (potential) partner to see in your public profile.

Whether that be changing your status after the first date, using communication methods reserved for only the most intimate of friends before meeting in the flesh or even how to comment in the event that you may actually be in a position to take your date off screen into the real world, flick the ‘in a relationship’ status and point everyone who may be browsing your dating site profile to said herald, announcing your oneness with another to other would-be suitors, therefore not likely to respond to any advances in the interim.

Believe me, this can be complicated stuff.  Should you put ‘more than friends’ once you’ve slept with someone?  Duh!  If the partner with whom you’ve been intimate with moans that you class them as something other than casual acquaintances, I think it’s time to get your online dating status back paid up to date, primed and ready for action again, eh?

There are some specifics and I’ll have another look through before tomorrow’s article; if there are any particularly noteworthy snippets worth repeating, we’ll showcase the best of them.  ‘Til then, tootle pip. x

First dates – what not to say

Take a keyboard away from someone who uses dating sites or any social media platform and you’d be surprised at how many of them just clam up. If they have access to QWERTY, they’re flirty; minus the digits they’re practically frigid. Strange, but oh so true.

However, anyone who’s been on a succession of dates with singles they’ve met on the dating site of their choice will tell you that there have been times when they wish that they could have adopted the silent treatment as a weapon of choice, either for themselves when they’ve put their foot in their mouth or to use as a YKK zipper on their dating partner whose incessant chatter is destroying the romantic ardour built up beforehand.

But perhaps the most devastating thing that can happen on your first date is running out of things to say. When you have been in a relationship for some time, there are ways in which you can communicate with your partner that transcend vocals. This can either be a depth of sentiment that highlights your true one-ness (or wan-ness, if your relationship is coming to its natural conclusion) or it can be the depth of brown stuff you’re in, if you’ve upset your better half.

Save the silent treatment until you’ve been dating a while

Women play the silent card very well. Only when they think you’re starting to enjoy the silence do they dignify themselves to speak to you in any way that conforms to the norms of acknowledgement, but that’s for another article; for now, we’ll stick to the awkward silence when you first meet up with a potential partner from your dating site.

Being mean and moody is all well and good, but if you try to hide behind that persona on your first date, the likelihood of getting a second is zilch. Big fat zip.

In the early stages of dating, it’s all about getting to know whether there is any mileage in you expending your time and effort in the person you’re seeing, and that is very much a two-way street.

Assuming that you have spent time building up an online dating relationship with the person you are about to meet up with, which is usual on any matchmaking or personals site other than a casual dating platform, you should know a little about your date. If they have expressed an interest in any subjects with which you’re not au fait, then do a little research into them.

When it comes to the date, do not try to blag it, pretending you’re an aficionado in the subject to impress; be honest. You’ll score more brownie points by ‘letting it slip’ that you took the time out to brush up, even if only slightly, on subjects that interested your partner than by trying to usurp their knowledge, then failing miserably and finally making yourself out to look like a right git.

If all else does fail, one thing not to do is panic. Instead of asking what they do for a living, you could end up being over intrusive by asking about their salary. Or, if asking about their recent dating history (but only as a very last resort – remember, this first date is about you, them and pastures new); you may splutter something along the lines of ‘how many guys you had, then?’, or, ‘as a woman, do you think it’s right to go all the way on a first date?’. Scoff at your peril, but when the pressure’s on, especially if you’ve overdone the Dutch courage, keeping the relationship between brain and mouth in the right order does not always work in the way you’d like it to, to devastating effect.

Keep it fresh and relevant, not too intrusive and let your date get a word in every now and then. The goal is to come away with you both knowing more about each other and judging whether there is any mileage in a repeat performance.

Forgive the sentiment, but, come on – it’s Valentine’s Day

Well, happy Valentine’s Day, one and all! With any luck, you have been inundated this morning and have a recycling bin full of envelopes and enough Valentine’s Day cards to wallpaper the spare room. If not, add this very special Valentine’s wish from me, print it off and pop it on your mantelpiece along with a sloppy wet kiss. xxx

However, it seems that more than half of the country are not looking forward to the day as it only reminds them of the fact that they are single. Well, isn’t that the point? Certainly, dating sites feel the heat on Valentine’s Day, with singles from across the globe desperate to fall in love and share their love, even with complete strangers over the distance of cyberspace.

It’s a great time for bringing couples closer together, too, especially if they’ve not been seeing eye to eye. It’s a white flag day, time for a truce and to just enjoy each others company and remember why it was you got together in the first instance.

But why should this one day have such a pacifying effect on stormy relationships? How come couples who are joined at the hip can fall impossibly even more in love with each other for the day? And why do so many singles who would otherwise not dream of it feel brave enough to part with their hard-earned dough by risking their reputation and possible friendships by declaring their love for some unsuspecting other single on this day more than any other, whether it be way of an e-mail, a card sent incognito or a private message on a dating site?

Despite the objections of those who would rather skulk and pour scorn on the day of lovers, last year love-struck nationals from every country across the globe sent over one billion cards. In the UK alone, we spent £20M, weighing down postmen’s sacks. That’s without taking into account the thousands of roses and other flowers, meals and take-aways, boxes of chocolates other keepsakes and mementos of the most romantic day of the year.

Today is a time for letting the real world run its course without you, for once. Devote yourself to your partner; vie for the love of another who may not yet know the depth of your feelings for them. If you think you are stuck because you do not have a partner and stand no chance of meeting someone in time, there are thousands of single dating site members across the world who would love to share the sentiment of the day with you, even if you cannot be with them physically.

The world of online dating was almost made for just such an occasion. Don’t miss out, be a part of the massive e-love-ution evolution that is Valentine’s Day – you have absolutely nothing to lose and you could, today of all days, find your perfect match in minutes to last you a lifetime.

Seniors dating experience is no anti-climax

Following on from yesterday’s insights into how US dating singles are previewing the year and their hopes and aspirations for a better 2012, certainly as far as finding their perfect partner online goes, we continue today by looking into the physical aspects of dating. Yesterday’s emotions were a bit of an eye-opener, based on those recent survey results, and there are a few surprises to be had today, too.

If I was to ask you, given that the difference is a whole twenty points: “Of the singles who took part in the survey, which of the two sexes would you think favoured moving in together within a year after meeting their partner on a dating site? “, what would your answer be? I’ll give you a clue – it wasn’t women!

It’s true. The theme from yesterday’s articles continues, proving that men are no longer afraid of the ‘c’ word. Almost half of the men said it would be good to start cohabiting in less than 12 months (46%) compared to a smidge over a quarter of the women who believed the same (26%).

And it seems that traditions are washing away as the new generation of love seekers replaces the old. Rather than hang their hat on social traditions, people are much more comfortable dating individuals who can satisfy their need for love and to love somebody, irrespective of ethnic or religious background (11%).

Marriage is also less of a prerequisite for the basis of a new relationship, with only 23% confirming that the ceremony was a necessary aspect to start dating someone. Children were even less of a concern, with only 26% of singles saying that planning offspring had to be a compatibility issue before they’d initiate proceedings on their dating site. Rather, confidence and trust are the ways forward for attracting your next date, with a whopping 93% of singles saying that this was of vital importance.

However, there is one aspect that, based on the dating site results, only gets better with age, like a full-bodied wine that’s been left unscrewed for too long. Yep, that’s a good old orgasm. It’s absolutely true. The Baby-Boomers did not get their reputation without good reason; the over sixties have the greatest success rate of reaching climax an amazing 91-100% of the time. That must be down to the partners they choose as senior singles are the largest group to demand romance and sexual attraction as a must in their new dating site partner.

Start dating as you mean to go on – drop the fibs

So, yes – welcome back to the #datingguruuk series, taking a sneak peek for free into what the mega-loaded singles from the dating capitals of the world pay a fortune for every month. Yep, it’s only a peep – I’m not going to offer to call you up for a fifteen minute ‘get-to-know-you’ session (it’s true – if I’d lived in US EST zone, I’d have got one!). But that just shows why eHarmony have felt the need to completely revamp the ads for their UK dating sites compared to those in the US. We do look at dating in a totally different way to our American cousins. Oceans apart, geographically and in our love lives, it seems. Anyway, before I board that Titanic, as promised, why we’re so useless at dating:

Have you been to Amazon recently and seen how many books there are about dating? 14,100. That’s just under the tag dating. Then there’s the ‘for women’ (6,500+), ‘for men’ (a similar 6,500+) – there’s even a selection of 20 titles for dating the undead! The state of UK dating must be pretty awful if we’re buying guide books in love on the off-chance that a lycan or succubus is gonna drop by!

And I’m not one to suggest that the menfolk need a helping hand, but there is a strong selection entitled ‘dating tips for men’, yet they’ve dispensed with a similar section for the fairer sex. I did suggest over the weekend that women know how to get what they want, didn’t I?  Even Amazon are backing me up, there!

Do we need help dating in the UK? Oh, yes.

So, back to my e-mail series from the lovely EST lady in the US and our first fallibility when it comes to striking up a potential relationship: honesty.

Not to make out that we’re a nation of fibbers (rich, coming from the country that tried to convince us we’d landed on the moon, that Elvis was dead and that Iraq were building nuclear power heads – okay, one of them may be true: RIP the king), but telling porkies almost seems to become a habit when we’re in the process of doing our chatting up.

In the context of online dating, it starts with out dating site profile. Studies have shown that there is an accepted tolerance of height, weight, the age of our photo and what we do for a living, where the truth is even expected to be stretched a little.

But it appears that many folk can’t get out of the habit when it comes to dating offline, either. The problem is that when you start with a little white lie, you often find you have to tell another one to get around the original. Before you know it, you’re spinning a whole web of deceit and the only one getting caught up in it is you.

So, the message is clear. Start your relationship as you mean to go on. Be as honest as you can. If there is some bad gunky, use your judgement and wait until the relationship can support its gravitas before you throw it in, but never lie about it! See you over the page; remember: #datingguruuk

The hopes and fears of expectant singles

The #datingguruuk is back with another installment of why we Brits could do with a little helping hand when it comes to dating. Lots to get through, so straight into the mixer:

Take a chance on me

Fear of the unknown is one thing – it’s irrational, there’s very little reason to it. Like being scared of the dark: there’s nothing that’s metamorphosed just because you’ve turned out the light switch.

Rejection, however, can be a very real possibility. No matter how well you’ve developed your relationship on your dating site, when it comes to the crunch in reality, your date may just not be that in to you (metaphorically speaking – you should never let him get that far on a first date!). You have to prepare yourself for that possibility.

What you mustn’t do is let that tentativeness at least stop you from giving dating a go. It’s an absolute fact that nothing tangible will ever happen between you if you just stay online dating all your lives. Yes, you may not want to risk breaking up a cyberspace friendship but, in reality, if you get on that well on your dating site that you feel ready to date, you should at least have a decent time, no matter what the romantic outcome.

Don’t build your hopes up too high

The danger is, of course, that if you let your nerves build up to such an extent, you’ll also find that your expectations increment at a similar rate. Regain focus.

It may feel like such an achievement that you’ve actually asked your online partner to start dating, and it so is, but what may be a first time for you may be a regular jaunt for your newfound partner. It’s a first date you’re going on, not your honeymoon; keep it in perspective.

Love at first sight happens, but rarely

Your first date may have left you feeling a little deflated, it is usual. But that is usually because you set your expectation level too high in the first instance. If the birds aren’t singing his name or you’ve not started annoying your mates down the pub with hers yet, don’t panic – and certainly don’t judge someone on this basis.

Love is like a flower, a thing of natural beauty that takes time to root, nurture, grow and eventually blossom. If you got on well with your date, had plenty in common and don’t recall anything that rang any alarm bells, give the relationship the exposure it needs to bloom, its day in the sunshine, and see how you feel after the pressure of a first date is not hanging over you like a dementor.

Feeling ready to start dating, yet? A few more lessons tomorrow, then you should be done. See you then. x

Keep your target in your dating sites range

Online dating has changed the way people perceive dating forever, that goes without saying. But, according to one recent report, many dating site members are connecting as much through the forums or chat-rooms on their dating sites as they are via direct hits on their profile. Today, we look at why this may be the case.

Your dating site profile is there to be shot at, if you like, as a target to draw in the fire that you will either pick up and run with or leave drowning in the trenches, dependent upon who’s doing the shooting. You can control your returning salvo of responses but can do very little about who’s taking the initial pop-shots at this ‘stand-alone’ target. Yes, you can make that dating profile scary as hell, but then is the creation of your online persona a self-defeating exercise by wording it thus, putting people off contacting you, rather than attracting them?

The tables are very much turned in the forums where you choose to jump in to conversations either because you know about the subject or because you have someone else who’s joined in the thread very much in your own sights. This gives you the chance of targeted response, which will put off people from contacting you who have little value to add to the proven existing knowledge exhibited via your comments.

Don’t ask me why, but men get quite squeamish when they think that women are more knowledgeable about a subject than they are. It’s true.  Even when it comes to make up or other ‘girly-girl’ subjects, men still have this inherent belief that they have a rite to be right about everything. If you, as a lady within the confines of your chat-room, can show unequivocally that you are a domineering force on la journal du jour, only male members who have what they believe to be a justifiable opposing view or can add further to your own enlightened comments will respond. Hence, eradicating the dweebs and instigating conversation with someone who you can go on to develop a relationship with via the exchange of mind-fodder, in the first instance – you may very well find you have much more in common and start dating as a result.  Result!

A word of warning for the ladies on this matter, though. If you are joining a thread purely to scout someone who you have developed a passing fancy to, don’t be tempted to rain on their parade in a topic they’ve commented on, going in all guns blazing, just because you know you can to prove your feminine superiority!  Another self-defeating dating tactic, if ever there was one.

Rather, assess their opinion and, providing that they’re not too far off the mark from your own beliefs, support their point with empathy (not sympathy) and win their trust through this proven stealth tactic. If you do have heavy feelings for the thread topic but you had to bite your literary tongue when composing your response, wait a while before there is the strength in the relationship to support the weight of your conviction before you drop it into the mix.

Stealth the key to commanding dating site chat-rooms

Here’s a bit of a tip for those of you out there in dating land who have seen someone you quite fancy but are perhaps new to online dating and haven’t quite got the hang of approaching other singles on your dating site, yet or are not quite convinced by someone’s dating profile that you want to actually strike up a relationship with them.

Most dating sites have a chat-room or dating site forum that you can literally add your comment to any one of the threads that are live. Some dating sites have these facilities for paid members only, but even on free dating sites this is usually one of the features they advertise to entice sign-ups.

First of all, copy the user name of the single you’re interested in; you can write it down and search manually through the live threads but, for this tip, you’re better off highlighting the user name then either right-clicking it and clicking ‘Copy’ from the drop-down menu or pressing the CTRL + C function if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled in your browser.

Then, head over to the chat-room, open in a new window and press the CTRL + F keys which, in theory, should take you through all of the instances that the user name appears on the forum. Now – that’s the easy bit.

Dating site forums can be on diverse topics – everything from the latest soap news (sad but true), to how tight your last date was to dating site etiquette – it’s all covered on there. Find a thread where the single’s made a comment or, even better, started the thread, then make a comment on the same thread. But make the topic one that you know something about; the idea is to impress this target single with your knowledge on a subject they’ve chosen to comment on, hence they have at least a passing interest in.  If there’s nothing that you’re up to speed with but you sooo want to make contact, do a little research first.

One of the great things about threads is that they don’t have to be live giving you ample opportunity to go away and polish up on your knowledge first; only then respond with a killer comment. The bonus comes when the ‘online now‘ icon flashes next to the single’s user id and it is a topic you’re passionate about – you can dive straight into the action and see if they’re all that their dating profile makes them out to be.

This will improve your stealth tactics and get you chatting with new members; even if your target single isn’t the one to respond, you will have started to strike up relationships with others and you’ll have more of an idea whether this dating site is worth sticking around for – often, you get more feedback about any chosen online dating site from its existing membership than anything the site professes to offer in its advertising.

Communication – do we know how to do it any longer?

Communication is the key to almost everything we do, from the minute we wake up in the morning taking in the radio alarm until we say goodnight and curl up into bed – and pretty much everything in between. Without it, we would be starved of human contact and probably go ever-so slightly around the twist.

For many singles who go to work, clock on and clock off and interact with very few people either on the way, or indeed whilst they’re there, getting back home to log on to their dating site is nothing short of a relief. But does a lack of communication during the day lead to shortcomings in the ability to talk to others on a dating site platform?

Being able to interpret, digest and understand what you are being asked is not only essential to the way you respond, but can also be critical to the way an online relationship develops. To ensure you’re getting the best from your private messages and e-mails, here are a few definitions of the different aspects of online interaction that could possibly lead to your next prospective partner sending you a response or moving on to the next one of a million other possible dates on the site.

Are we talking about the same thing?

If something you are being asked on your dating site doesn’t quite make sense, be sure that you and your partner are on the same wavelength. You may be absolutely sure you’re communication is up to scratch, but not everyone may be as articulate or as conscious of what they are writing as you are. Before ‘flaming’ your online partner, be totally sure that they have said what they mean, and you the same.

Your feelings or events that have happened during the course of the day to either sully the mood or elate you can often affect emotions. If you are highly emotive before logging on to your dating site that can lead to complications further down the line. If your mood is overcast by a cloud of misery, that will translate into your text and float across cyberspace putting prospective partners at arms length. If you are, by contrast, overly excitable as you browse, you may come across as dippy or, worse, invite contact from people who you may regret opening up the line of communication to in the cold light of day.

Savvy single or hapless hopeful

Wherever there’s a gang of mixed friends, there’s always the one who states categorically that they prefer the single life when, in truth, you all know that they’re just hopeless with the opposite sex. Very often they’re named Steve or Dave if they’re blokes, Ange or Debbie if they’re of the fairer sex.  If you sent them into a room full of desperate singles, they’d only come out pulling their…

…okay, face, but you know what I mean?

There are genuinely people who prefer the single life; the field is there to be played, whether it’s bars or dating sites it doesn’t matter; they work hard all week building a nest egg for the future and they go out and have a bit of fun of the weekend. If, for whatever reason, they don’t pull, it’s water of a duck’s back – they’ll be here or there again next week, giving it another bash.

Then there are those gagging for a relationship, but that desperation reeks more than the half a bottle of smelly-nice they put on as they leave the house, nip back in to apply a bit more just to be sure, and that overpowering combination sees them skulking off before the end of the night because they’ve been rejected, yet again.

It’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is they’re doing wrong but, like a virgin on a first date with Quagmire, their fate is sealed before they even leave the house, ponging of Kouros and desperation.

There’s an interesting article just been published in The States about what hapless singles may be doing wrong in their approach to the opposite sex; over the next two articles, I’ll translate that post for a UK dating audience so that, even if you’re not Dave or Debbie, you can perhaps pass on a few pointers for them next time they log on to their dating site or you can arm yourself with the information to really rub it in next time you’re pulling, there knot.

1. Being picky
Is your friend looking for too much in a date, therefore narrowing their options to such a point that the likelihood of them finding an exact match is still awaiting the copy-editors red pen in a Disney studio, somewhere?

Let’s face it, for a guy, the next Kate Moss or Claudia Schiffer is not going to be the next person to walk through the door of your local spit and sawdust bar. For the girls, the Nick Camen’s of this world do not drop by and strip in the launderette to a Marvin Gaye soundtrack.

If that’s where your friend’s hanging out, he gets what he gets; girls dreaming whilst watching the washing machine go around, likewise. The same can be said about dating sites. If Ange is only flitting between the free dating site services, just scrolling down profiles that don’t match the list of 20 ‘must-have’s in a potential partner, she’s hardly going to find someone who’s a) all of the above and, b) unwilling to invest the requisite time, effort and hard earned cash in finding the perfect match online to make a go of a relationship of any description. Again, you get what you pay for.

More in the next two articles (click the tag ‘Debbie and Dave’ on Friday to bring up the entire dating site thread for this mini series), starting with positivity and integrity, two key factors to making your dating site work for you.

Dating sites from shy-guy to fly-guy

If you have never approached a woman through a lack of confidence, or just because you are generally introverted, what are you ever going to do about getting married?

Irrespective of who you are, the first date is a whole kettle of writhing snakes slithering away in your brain, belly, just about everywhere. But we all have to get through that initial liaison to truly put a stake in the heart of those dating nerves.

Extroverts usually pile in, get the experience under their belt before they’ve had their first shave and, due to the amount of shy people, or people who are more guarded about approaching the opposite sex, they have the playing field for themselves for years. Oh, yes…

The good news is for those who’ve stood on the sidelines wishing that they had the same level of bravado as being exhibitted by their peers is that women, once they get to serious dating age, have had a belly-full of finger-clicking, trophy-toting boyfriends and, like on that very first date, want to get the snakes out of the way for someone a whole lot more settled.

So, all you shy mothers, get on out there and dance (sorry, couldn’t resist)!

Dating sites were just made for the more retiring personality. If you stick your oar in and don’t get a peep (which is unlikely – there’s usually someone who says ‘Hi!’, especially if you post a pleasant dating site profile photo), but if you don’t, no harm done. Who’s ever going to know that you’re sitting there blushing because you’ve spoken up, for once, but your request has fell on deaf ears? Over a dating site forum, as long as you’re articulate and stick within the guidelines of the site, your voice will be as loud as everyone else’s.

In fact, if you utilise that stealth, that strength gained from standing back in the past, whilst the rest of your chosen online dating community rip each other to shreds and then time your well-rehearsed response to devastating effect, you will suddenly find you have a whole host of new admirers.

As your relationships grow, so will your confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be leading the conversations in the chat rooms, approaching other singles on the dating site and, well, when you get to that stage, you’ll need no more advice from me.

To get you on your way, we’ve chosen a whole host of top-class dating sites for you to begin that journey, shed that skin of shyness and leap, head first, into the world of online dating!

p.s. – if you do get rejections, and everyone does (even I had one or two) don’t let it bother you; they’re the ones losing out and will never know the opportunity they missed!

Can we just stay friends?

If, like many of the UK dating population, you are members of more than one dating site, you are inevitably going to have to let some of the budding singles who contact you down. A lot of people take this slight on their advances for granted, forget about it and move on to their next target.

For the one doing the letting down, in this instance you, it can be just as painful as it is for those who don’t take rejection well, especially if you’re addressing an online relationship that has run any course of time. On social media platforms, you have no issue with yourself about blocking someone or rolling a circle out of existence, so why does it feel different on dating sites?

If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to blur that line between “friendship only” and . Although many of the newer dating sites have the feel of your facebook or google plus networking site, the dating site community on there have signed up for a completely different reason.

Let’s just flip the coin, taking you as the ever-hopeful single looking for romance on your laptop screen, as the example.

You must understand that some singles never have the intention of actually meeting up with a date, instead just like the idea of cyberspace penpals with whom they can flirt all night, bottle of wine or beer at their side and they feel like they’ve had a night in on the pull, but the majority do, at some point in the future, want to meet that special someone on the dating site platform(s) of their choosing.

As long as that individual discloses that information in the first instance, then, if you start to fall in love with that person – yep, it can happen – then the onus of responsibility not to let your feelings muddy the issue falls directly on your shoulders.

And that really is the crux of the issue – be totally honest about what you want from your dating site membership when you’re filling in your profile at the outset. Many dating sites have a drop-down menu when you sign up. In order to protect yours and others feelings, choose the healthy option, which is often ‘romance’, rather than anything that points to long term commitment.

If you don’t want to be in the position of asking the ‘can we still be friends’ question, take heed from The Wonderstuff song, from way back in the day: Don’t let me down, gently, ah, don’t let me down at all

Onwards and upwards

So you’ve hammered that stake in the ground, learnt the lessons from 2011, have got the scars to prove it and promised faithfully that you’re not going to make the same mistakes with your love life in 2012 that you did last year.

Great – good start. But how do you make good on those promises?

This year, be bold. There’s a saying: it’s a small world. And that’s not just about bumping into people from the same home town as you when you vacation 4,000 miles away. It’s happening all around you, every day.

The way you handle people, the way they assess you – you may not realise it, but other people judge you on that basis, even if it is not them you’re directly involving yourself with at that given moment. Be it on your dating site, at the gym or in the office, you may be carrying on in a manner that’s putting off your perfect partner but you don’t recognise them, just yet. Everything’s relative – you’d better believe it.

Of course, all this may not be your fault, directly. If the environment in which you find yourself is causing you to act in a certain way, putting up barriers, reacting coldly or rashly if you don’t truly grasp what’s being asked of you, it will cause you to be constantly on the defensive.

With the odd exception, everyone we interact with is human. You may find that you have an impression of another person perhaps gleaned from something you’ve heard or because someone with whom you work holds a certain opinion. Never judge people until you have taken the time to interact with them personally. The strangest friendships have grown from the seeds of hostility; we all need relationships, be they in the real world or in the world of online dating.

Can you imagine logging in to your dating site and finding that you’ve been totally ignored – that no one has responded to your e-mails or invitations to chat?  Of course not.

However, unless you are able to communicate your true self, your heartfelt feelings, you will end up turning people away who you know are not what you’re looking for but, in their absence, the people who you are looking for may not be finding you because you’re giving the wrong signals or are not taking the time to develop any of the relationships any further than the intial communication.

Online dating can be like finding a needle in a haystack but, at the risk of clichéing myself out, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Relationships are very much the same.

This year, take the time out to communicate, genuinely, with someone who you normally wouldn’t, even if it’s just to pass on the benefit of your experience. It may help them out of a jam and they, in turn, may return the favour, leading to pathways you would never have discovered had you not taken the time out beforehand.

Dating sites and relationships are like so many things in life – you get out of them what you put in; put nothing in and, well, need I say any more?

2012 – building bridges to a new start.