I’m single, therefore I date. Sometimes, I date online. I have a Nerve Personals account. (I boycotted eHarmony on principle because I thought they were antigay and had a limited view of who’s an acceptable smooching partner.) I’ve also tried Match, Lavalife, Salon and others. Anyway, after years of trial and error, I’ve gained a few insights and charted my own rules of the road when it comes to internet hookups and boyfriend hunting. A couple of you emailed me to ask, basically, “What are some safety tips for online dating sites?” I can’t say what works for everyone; here are five points that work for me:

  1. I ignore guys who don’t post photos. Here’s a scenario: I post a pic. The guy doesn’t, but he still emails me and expects me to contact him. Maybe he’s ugly? Maybe he’s married or dating and doesn’t want to run the risk of being “discovered” online? Whatever the case, I’m not contacting him. Internet dating is already shady enough. Who needs random, faceless strangers?
  2. I always go with my gut. Can’t really explain this one any more than that. Basically, if I get the feeling that something is off or not quite right about a guy, I trust my intuition.
  3. I perform background checks. Facebook, MySpace, Uber, LinkedIn and every other social networking site (and blogs!) are making the small world even smaller. I google the shit out of everyone I date. If someone’s legit, their name, alias, or email address has an online trail somewhere. So, if I do a search and nothing comes up, I take it as a sign that the guy keeps his online persona completely separate from his offline life. Translation: he may be hiding something.
  4. I stay really vague. I don’t really owe the guys that I meet online anything up front. If I don’t wanna give up personal information, I don’t. I’m a pro at two things in this area: (a) dodging questions from strangers and (b) kindly telling people when they’ve overstepped my boundaries:
  5. DUDE: So, where do you live?
    ME: I’m in the city. How about you?
    DUDE: I live in Brooklyn. I used to live in Williamsburg, but then I moved to Fort Greene. Hey, I once saw Rosie Perez walking her dog. That was cool. Anyway, so, I moved again and now I’m over on the other end of Flatbush. I live at 200 Eastern Parkway now. Great area … Wait, where did you say you live?
    ME: [smiles, touches dude’s knee under the table] I didn’t.

  6. I assume every first online date is a serial killer until they prove themselves differently. Would I meet a serial killer alone in his home? No. Would I tell a serial killer where I worked and lived? Nuh-uh. Would I get into a car alone with a serial killer? No. You get the point. I try to temper Point #5 with Points #2 and #3 so that I don’t come across as I paranoid freakshow. (One could argue that I still come across as a paranoid freakshow anyway. But, that’s fine. I’m okay with that.)

So, that’s all sweeties. How about the rest of you? How often have you dated online? Do you have any additional points, suggestions, advice or funny stories that you’d like to add? If so, stick ’em in the comments section.

Photo credit: Image of lovely, dovey frogs is from Bruno Sersocima in Goiânia, Goias, Brazil.