“You look familiar. Are you on JDate?”

I don’t know why I felt the online dating service was anonymous; I, too, recognized some of my fellow partygoers’ faces from their tiny onscreen photographs. Yet, acknowledging this recognition was still disturbing.

Nearly 2,000 Jewish men and women in the Valley have profiles posted on JDate, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all available, as profiles remain on the system indefinitely unless removal is requested. So it shouldn’t be a shock to run into others who are interested in finding a Jewish mate at functions designed to offer that opportunity.

As the number of online dating services grows, the more it seems that this method of dating is here to stay, so, although it may seem awkward at times, Jewish singles may as well use it as a way to meet one another.

The standard procedure in online dating is posting an accurate description of yourself (more on that later…) and answering questions in essay form, such as what you consider the perfect first date and what you’ve learned from past relationships.

Members can then read through profiles to learn about people’s hobbies, likes, dislikes and philosophy of life. And, if available, view their photograph.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the person looks like, due to blurry or improperly scanned photos – or not being photogenic.

This should be the perfect opportunity to look beyond appearances and focus on the person, but this usually isn’t the case.

“We do notice that the odds are probably eight or nine times better if you have a photo posted that you’re going to get a reply,” says Scott Gordon, founder of the online dating service Jewishcupid.com.

From those who I’ve spoken to on the dating front, I’ve heard the same general comments about online dating. Following are some of the issues they’re dealing with – of course, they wish to remain anonymous (it’s a small Jewish community).

Although most people admit honesty is important in a relationship, some seem to overlook that it’s also important in online dating.

This includes writing the initial profile.

“We tell people to be as honest as they can be,” Gordon says. “It only hurts yourself if you list yourself as petite and you’re 40 pounds overweight when you meet the person.”

Gordon says the best thing about online dating is that it’s a great icebreaker.

“It’s definitely made it easier to meet new people,” he says.

For example, he notes, you can e-mail 10 different members and whoever replies, replies, but in a bar you’d have to gather the courage 10 times to walk up to 10 different people to strike up a conversation.
Although that may sound convenient – beware.

An e-mail that reads “Hi, I liked your profile. Write me and let’s chat” probably won’t get as warm a response as something a little more personal. It’s a good idea to at least pretend you’ve read their profile.

It’s not very flattering to reply to somebody’s vague message and receive the response “What’s your profile number again?” – as if they’ve just written each new member of the opposite sex and can’t possibly remember which one you are.

Also, interrogation and intimidation isn’t advisable either. If declined by someone you’ve written, it probably won’t win him or her over to write them back to insist they go out with you or to question their reasoning.

And then there’s the rejection. A common complaint people have is being ignored after sending an initial contact letter. However, Gordon points out that some people prefer to be ignored, rather than straight-out rejected, because then they can tell themselves, “maybe they never got my e-mail.”

Once a connection between two people is established, singles have different ideas about the next move.

While some people feel more comfortable exchanging several e-mails and then moving on to several phone calls, others prefer to meet as soon as possible (in a public place, of course).

One friend of mine, after conversing with one man for several months via e-mail and telephone, finally met him and found they had absolutely no chemistry. Now, when there are sparks of interest during the initial correspondence, she wants to meet as soon as possible.

That is an important point – although online dating may be a convenient way to meet new people, it’s no substitute for the real thing.

This article first appeared in the Nov. 2, 2001 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.