Dating Etiquette in the Digital Age

By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW

More and more we are making connections to others digitally. From Match to Tinder we are all increasingly seeking connection in front of a computer or phone screen. There are countless articles about the pros and cons of digital communication. I will leave my opinion out of this debate. For better or worse digital dating is here to stay!

The question is how to be successful in this new digital age of dating. Those who have never tried online dating often think of it in simplistic and negative terms. “Online dating is just for people who can’t get a date in real life.” Not so! As a therapist and young woman living in New York City I can assure you that my contemporaries and clients are keeping their options open and trying to find love wherever they can. This often means people are on multiple dating apps while still hitting the bars. One thing I’ve learned is if you’re not successful in the dating world in person you are not likely to be successful in the digital dating world.

Newsflash to all the naysayers -- there are very eligible people doing online dating and in order to meet them you have to get on these sites. Of course everyone has a friend with a horror story about a jerk they met online. Common complaints are “they never call”, “they only want to hang out late night and hook up”, “I’ve been on so many dates and they’re all terrible”. The list goes on and on.

While dating online may seem scary you’ve probably made all the same complaints about guys you’ve met at the bar, park etc. So if you take the leap and decide to try the online dating trend I’m here to help you be as successful as possible. Follow the below tips to find the man of your dreams online.

Rules for Online Dating

  1. Be Picky!: Many women make the mistake of going for quantity over quality. When you first try online dating it’s overwhelming. There are so many options, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop! Resist the temptation to message every handsome man you see and jump into first dates hours after digitally meeting. I know it’s hard to resist instant gratification but trust me you won’t regret it.
  2. Go Slow: Once you’ve narrowed down your pool of suitors to a manageable number get to know them before you go out. This will save you a lot of time and heartache later on. I find a good rule of thumb is to message back and forth for at least a week.  Even better talk on the phone! This way you’re not going in totally blind. You have already established common interests and you know he’s more interested because he’s willing to wait.
  3. Give him a chance: Because there are so many options on the web , our natural tendency is to go on a date and decide to move onto the next potential suitor without giving our date a chance. Especially in New York City,  we have the fear of missing out. (This not only goes for that awesome loft party in TriBeCa but also with dating.)For example, you may meet a perfectly nice guy but then decide he has really large ears. Next! Try to stop this pattern. You could be missing out on someone great. Unless the guy is completely undatable give him a chance! Try going on 2-3 dates. Often it takes time for chemistry to grow especially with a nice guy. Beware the super smooth guys who make you feel weak in the knees. They may also be the guys who make you feel ashamed after a one night stand.
  4. Figure out your nice to haves vs. need to haves: This goes back to my point in number three. Because we have so many options we have this idealized person in our minds and we can’t settle for anything less. I hate to break it to you but this person doesn’t exist no matter how long you look. Men are especially prone to this sort of thinking. In a relationship there are things that are nice to have like a specific hair color, type of clothes, career, etc. Each person will have their own list and that list may be quite long. Before you get caught up in the nice to haves try to think about the core things you need out of a relationship. On my list is caring, honest, funny, smart. Your list could be totally different but it’s important that you know what’s on it. Try not to rule out guys who don’t fit everything on your nice to have list.

Once you’ve followed these steps you will hopefully have found at least one quality guy and see where things go. More next time on what guys think about online dating!

Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in New York City. To learn more about her practice, visit