OPINION: Best to test chemistry after online dating chats

Q: I have been single for four years and getting lonelier. I'm nearly 60 but feel so vibrant and young at heart.

I know I could still have years of being with someone if I could just find the right person.

My social life consists of doing things with my social clubs and girlfriends, many of whom are in relationships and marriages.

I don't have a group of single friends to go out to pubs with but neither do I fancy meeting someone in a pub.

Plus it seems like older men are only looking for younger women.

A niece told me to go online and find someone but I'm rarely on the computer and feel nervous about where to start.

Is it safe and how to I do it? Will I have any luck?

A: Online dating is terrific. It's popular and it's effective, if done well.

There are pitfalls to avoid and it's a great idea to enlist some help when choosing a dating site to join and developing your profile.

When you put yourself out there on sites (and there's no rule you only have to pick one!), be honest and be specific, avoid cliches and absolutely put your photo up.

You'll get far more interest if people can see a quick impression of you and these days almost everyone with internet access on the planet has at least one image of themselves for public viewing.

The safety issues are important, but it's the same kind of common sense you would use about giving out your personal information to a complete stranger: don't do it.

There is no reason whatsoever that someone you connect with online needs your address or even your last name until after you meet.

Think of an online dating site as a large social club room, filled with people.

Mostly they are single people looking for love, some are looking for less than love and more short term, and others aren't single, but are still shopping anyway, if you get the drift.

All the same types are online. It used to be, your eyes would meet with someone else's, maybe exchange a smile, and one of the two of you would be brave enough to approach the other.

You'd establish if there was chemistry and interest and maybe exchange contact information. The same process occurs online, just in reverse.

Knowing this, perhaps it takes the mystery and unease out of online dating and makes it less daunting.

Online, you and the crowd of people on the site ("in the group") look around and through an exchange of messages, establish interest.

You then meet in person to see if there is chemistry. From there, real world dating can happen.

The trap many people fall into is staying in the "online zone" for too long. You can waste your valuable time and emotional investment chatting online with someone you may not have physical chemistry with. Use the online portal to open a door to meeting someone in real life.

Do not linger and flirt and spend weeks going back and forth with someone you think you may be falling for, when you haven't even met.

There are lots of fish in the sea and the online dating world is a big, deep ocean!

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