This is a good thread. Thanks Zephyr for sharing your journey so far.
I did online dating for a while about 10 years ago and eventually met my now-life-partner and we have kids now and everything. That was mostly luck tbh but I did learn I few things along the way, I think. Here's what I learnt:
It takes a while to learn the ropes, how to respond, how to not get your hopes up too early but still try and engage. How long to chat before suggesting a meet up etc. How most females on these sites are bombarded with crap from all quarters so you have to try and be a bit different. How only a small number of people you message write back, and then only a small number of them will you ever meet. But that thats OK and its all still fun.
I did all my dating years ago before Tinder. From what I can make out, Tinder is far too appearance-based so I would recommend avoiding it. I would stick to the more wordy sites like OK Cupid.
I can't speak for OKCupid now but ten years ago it was way better than anything else. All the other sites like match.com were too 'serious' like 'we will fix your life for you' whereas OKcupid was more real and more fun.
This is the important one: when you message someone and they message back you get on a high and its really fun and its a bit easy to get carried away and fill in the crap-ton of stuff you don't know about this person with your imagination. That is, its easy to build them up into something amazing and then you're likely going to come down to earth at some point. The messaging stage is a way to work out if its worth a real-life meet up, but if you do meet up - be prepared to forget everything you thought you knew about them and start again. Don't build it up too much before meeting.
And for the same reasons, I reckon its better to get to a real-life meet up as soon as realistically possible (but not too rushed also). That is, dont get stuck in the messaging stage for too long.
I was always quite a shy person but I learned that meeting up with someone you've never met before IRL is actually really fun. Like fun in a scary sort of way. The sort of conversations you have with people in that scenario are very different than the ones you might have with your friends because nothing is taken as a given so you range over all kinds of interesting ground. And that can be really refreshing actually. You're really _there_, on the spot and you've got to relate. The first 30 seconds or so feel a bit weird but then it can be quite exhilarating.
i don't drink but I was living in London so for meet-ups I always went to something cultural like an exhibition or an art gallery or just to the south bank to wander along the river and look at stuff that would always just be happening there. And like I don't know much about art but I can look at it for 40 mins or so and it provides things to talk about. Theres tons of stuff to do in London so that was an advantage I guess. Obv not cinema or theatre because you can't talk. Although I think I did do cinema a few times and it was OK if you talked before or after.
I think I did a few bursts of online dating over a few years. I think I met 15 people or so IRL, and most of them there was not really any spark of romance but all of them were afternoons well spent, in that I did something cultural, and had interesting conversations, and felt good about getting out and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Over those meet ups, I was also slowly learning about myself and what I wanted and what I didn't want. But that was only clear in retrospect.
Sometimes I met people a few times, sometimes only once. One or two I was friends with for a bit, one I'm still friends with now. But mostly things fizzled out, but thats OK. There wasn't a word for Ghosting then, but I see now its a thing thats got a name. Its good that there is a word for that now I think, and I see there's healthy debate now about how to let things drop. Is it better to fizzle out or just ghost? I dont really know. But stuff like that will happen, and you need to come to terms with it. As ever, doing it to someone else is actually harder than having it done to you.
When I met "the one", it was largely luck, but the 15-or-so previous meet ups meant that when we clicked I could really tell that we were clicking. And she was someone who I wasn't expecting to click with, and had just met up with because she seemed funny.