In this post, I was talking about how to write an online dating profile. Let's say you write this great profile, post a fabulous picture and - BAM! - you get an email. Now what?
Well, first, let me tell you - contact on a dating site does not constitute a contract, nor does it mean you're actually "dating." You've met someone. Think of it like having a guy walk up to you in the grocery store and introduce himself. Say hi, and then check him out. Look at his profile - do you like it? Are you interested? Then fine - email him back. My advice? Limit communication to the dating site email for a bit, before giving out personal contact info. At least enough time to make sure it's worth the effort.
While you're vetting him - check out the profile for red flags. Any deal-breakers in his stats (smoking, income or education level, kids)? What about clues in his profile? (For example: if his job=student, this might mean he's gone back to school to get his masters to be a teacher; or it might mean he's lazy and is living off of student loans. It also might mean he lives with his parents. Proceed with caution.)
Does he past the test? It's okay if he doesn't, though now you have to decide - do you respond with a polite, "Thanks but no thanks," or just ignore the email? There are several schools of thought on this; most will say to at least acknowledge the note. The problem I've found is that some people don't take the hint well. No matter how clear you are in the "no thanks" portion of your message - they take a reply of any kind to mean, "keep emailing me."
If someone seems nice and genuine, and writes me an email he clearly took time to put together - I reply. If I get an email that consists entirely of, "Hey," or "How u doin," (yes, it's happened) - I don't even bother. Sorry, but if it's obvious you put in no effort, and have probably sent the same email to ten women in the last hour, why should I care?
If someone does make it past the starting gate, and the emails seem to be working, go ahead and share some personal contact info. I'll be honest - I limited this to an email address and maybe my cell-phone number. Maybe. Never my address, not until I actually meet the person.
I know what you're thinking. Does this mean you're dating yet? Well, let me ask you - if you gave your phone number to that guy in the grocery store, are you dating him when you get back out to your car? No? Then you're not dating this guy, either. And he's not dating you. Remember - you're just talking.
So when does the dating start? The same time it starts with anyone else - when you've actually gone on a date. Remember - it's just online meeting. The dating still happens in real life.