There's nothing like online dating to put you in touch with people you might otherwise never have known about - but getting in touch can seem a bit daunting at first. Most of us have a natural shyness that we overcome eventually in the real world. Doing the same online is something of a similar process, even though we can't rely on other people's body language to give us clues about how we're doing.
The biggest and most obvious tool at your disposal is your profile. It's where you can set out your stall, so to speak, and really sell your best side to anyone browsing through or checking up on you in response to any of your own messages. A flattering recent photo and some interesting chatter about what you like and are looking for should be one of your first priorities. Think of it this way, when you're looking for people online, which profiles are you more likely to take a closer look at? The simple profiles with a couple of lines of text, or the ones with photos and a bit of extra effort? Of course you look at the cool profiles - well so does everyone else, so why put yourself at a disadvantage?
So what next? Well our messaging service is going to be absolutely essential for making contact, but what's the best way to go about it? A lot of people write long introductions and fire them off to people who have caught their eye, but this isn't necessarily the best way to go about it. After all, no one likes being talked at as if in a lecture, do they? If nothing else, if you've put everything about you in that first message, then what have you got left over to talk about next? You wouldn't do it if you met someone in the street or a bar, so why do it online? It's a good basic test to apply to any message you send, whether it's in a private message or more publically in a forum online. Ask yourself if it's something you'd say in person - and if not, then no matter how tempting, think again about how you're putting it.
Instead, why not try something short and sweet with a question or two? You're really looking to start up a conversation here that will then lead to other things, so anything you can do to attract their attention is going to work to your advantage. It's here that the advantage of being relatively anonymous online can work in your favour. There's something about putting words on a screen that is safer than a face to face conversation. Not only do you get more time to consider your response, but you have more wriggle room if it doesn't go down as hoped.
Whether you're looking for a life partner or something more casual, online forums and messaging are great ways to reach out to each other and get to know each other before setting up a date and seeing where it takes you. Keep it cool, keep it respectful and above all don't forget to have fun.