Should I Try Online Dating? A Guide for the Curious

Courting Disaster is Jackalope Ranch's weekly column of dating horror stories, observations, how-tos, and more by Katie Johnson. Names of ex-boyfriends, past hookups, and bad blind dates have been changed to protect the guilty.

Online dating has come a long way.

With so many virtual matchmaking venues out there now, including Tinder, OkCupid, Match, and Plenty of Fish, singles who subscribe to Internet courtship are no longer confined to the stereotypes of being socially inept or a serial killer.

With a busy schedule of adulthood responsibilities and the fear of giving a complete stranger the cold approach, online dating offers some serious appeal. But is it for everyone? Let's discuss.

See also: 10 Best Places to Meet Singles in Metro Phoenix

Are you married?

If the answer is "yes," then please refrain from using any of the mainstream dating sites. Stick to Ashley Madison if infidelity is your thing. Everyone else will just think you're a creep, including your soon-to-be-divorcing-you spouse.

Do you have kids?

For full-time single parents who would rather not resort to picking up strangers at mommy-and-me class, online dating can be an ideal method of courtship. Just make sure to be upfront about your familial ties, because whether you're passing off your son to look like a nephew or just a significantly younger sibling, the truth will have to come out eventually.

Are you just looking to make friends?

There are no friendships made through online dating. If someone says they are just looking for friendship on their dating profile, you can just assume that means one of three things: they're married, they're looking for a faux companion (think sugar mama/daddy or a beard), or they're looking to hook up but they're too much of a weasel to say it (you know what kind of buddy we're referring to).

Are you doing it to boost your self-esteem?

Well, strap on your seat belt and get ready for a bumpy ride. While the influx of messages in your dating inbox may be flattering (if not overwhelming) at first, be prepared to lose your sense of security and faith in all mankind within the first 10 minutes.

Are you physically incapable of holding a face-to-face conversation?

If yes, then online dating may work for you . . . temporarily. While meeting someone on the Internet gives you a chance to make your first impression in stages, just know the final stage of actually meeting them will have to happen eventually. Better refill that Xanax prescription.

Are you expecting quick results?

Unless you're an agoraphobic single, finding your match through the web isn't necessarily going to speed up the process of happily ever after. Having more options means more to sort through, and like your annoying friend always says, "It will happen when you least expect it." (Yeah, we hate her, too.)

Are you tired of getting dressed up every single night in the hopes of maybe sort of possibly meeting someone?

Us, too. For nights when you're looking for love but not looking to get off the couch, browsing the online dating sites with a bottle of wine and box of takeout can be a fairly entertaining way to pass the evening.

How are your writing skills?

"Hey babee. How r u doin'? Ur hot."

^This user will die alone.

Men: Do all of your photos feature you shirtless or holding a fish, red cup, or gun?

Delete them.

Women: Does your sexy boudoir selfie feature your confused toddler in the background?

Delete that, too.

Are you trying to catfish someone?

Don't. Leave that poor idiot alone. If he or she is dumb enough to be catfished, then he or she is dumb enough to leave the gas on. You don't need to make that person's probably short life any worse.

What did you have in mind for a username?

Because if it's something like PrincessKittyKat or PussySlammer69, you might as well stop filling out your profile now. Also, unless you want to end up as the inspiration for an episode of Law & Order: SVU, don't put personal details in your username (i.e. first and last name, address, where you work).

How good are you at reading signals on social media?

Because if you're the type to "like" 30 photos of someone in a row or you still resort to using the "poke" feature on Facebook, chances are your online social cues are sub-par. Be warned, if a girl or guy responds to your initial message on OkCupid, do not start playing wedding bells in your head. On a scale of one to 10, how honest are you?

Sure, "athletic" and "curvy" are relative terms, but every truth has a breaking point. Better to have your date be pleasantly surprised than supremely disappointed if and when they finally meet you.

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