How to Make Internet Dating Work For You

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Internet dating has become extremely popular over the past few years, and more people now use this method to find companionship. According to a 2020 report released by Pew Research Center, seven in 10 Americans have used a dating app or dating site to find companionship. However, online dating can seem intimidating to some, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed navigating the dating pool. Whether you’re unsure how to get started regarding logistics, are nervous about setting up your profile or choosing the best dating sites, or want to know more about what to expect, you’re in the right place. The following tips may help you increase your chances of having a good experience with internet dating and potentially finding a potential partner or lasting relationship.

Many feel they need help navigating new relationship

Building your online dating profile

Choosing an app or website is typically the first step in starting online dating. There are a wide variety of dating websites and social media platforms, and doing online research is typically the best way to figure out which might be best for you. Some are geared toward certain age groups (Gen Z versus older adults), certain orientations (like LGBTQIA+-specific apps), or certain interests or beliefs (like a particular religion). 

The next step is to build your dating profile. While profiles may look a bit different from site to site, they generally all have two basic components. Let’s take a look at the best practices for both.

The profile photo

Your profile picture matters a lot, but not just because it shows others how you look in real life. The best kind of profile photos are typically clear, recent, and reflect something about your personality. That's why many people choose to forego a professional headshot for a more casual, personal picture. For instance, a clear photo of you with a favorite pet or doing something you love is generally a better way to show potential matches a bit about you. It can also be a helpful way to attract people you may have things in common with.

The profile description

When writing a profile description, it’s usually best to be honest and sincere. While a witty line or two makes sense for those who are naturally humorous, for instance, you may not want to force something that doesn’t come easily to you or doesn’t represent who you truly are. Do your best to convey a bit about your true self, what you’re looking for, and what you enjoy most in life.

Giving people an authentic glimpse into who you are and what you want will usually give you the best chance of catching the eye of a potential match. 

Tips on how to make online dating work

Once your profile is all set up, you can explore potential matches with other users on the dating platforms or online dating sites you've chosen. In most cases, you'll be offered the option to set filters so that you'll only be shown like-minded people who fit what you're looking for in terms of age, gender, or distance from you, for example. Some platforms may offer the option to set other potential deal breakers, such as pet preferences and whether you're looking for a long-term relationship. These filters can help you find compatible matches to improve your chances of online dating success.

After you’ve set these, it’s time to start looking through prospective dates and expressing interest if you see someone you like. Whether you're seeking new friends, a long-term relationship, or something in between, here are a few online dating tips to keep in mind as you navigate the dating pool on free dating sites.

Take what you read with a grain of salt 

Before you move forward with someone, taking a careful look at their information can be helpful. Over a decade of experience has shown that about 80% of people say that their online dating profiles include at least some deviations from the truth, so you may want to watch out for those who sound or seem too good to be true.

While a scientific approach to meeting people may be helpful, being overly suspicious can be off-putting or lead to not making any matches at all. However, entering this process with an appropriate dose of skepticism when seeking a long-term partner can be helpful. If your intuition tells you something's off about a person—like they may not be who they say they are, for example—it's usually worth listening to.

Manage expectations on dating apps

Not everyone you match with on dating apps will want to meet up or be interested in a serious relationship, and successful online dating may often involve recognizing this early on. Some conversations may fizzle out before the topic of meeting up is even mentioned. Understanding this fact before you begin your search can help you properly manage your expectations of the dating experience. While being “ghosted” can be painful, it’s a fairly common occurrence in the world of online dating, particularly when people tend to meet online but not follow through to meet offline. 

Some people may be newly out of a relationship or otherwise not ready to date seriously yet, which may affect your success in making a connection. However, they might use dating apps or websites to test the waters. Others may use them for validation, fun, or even entertainment and have no intention of meeting people offline. With this in mind, you might prioritize your needs by being realistic about the process and not getting too emotionally invested too soon. 

Many feel they need help navigating new relationship

Be safe

Meeting up with someone from the internet is common these days, but it’s important to keep some basic safety tips in mind before you do. Some people find it more comfortable to video chat with their date before planning an in-person meeting to ensure they are who they say they are and to see if there’s any chemistry. 

Remember, meeting up with the person in a public place first, like a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, is generally recommended. You might also tell a friend who you're meeting, where, and when. Finally, trust your instincts. If you meet up with someone and things don't feel right, remember that you're entitled to remove yourself from the situation—even if the other person disagrees with your choice.

Getting support for your dating journey

Whether you have lots of experience or are just starting out, the world of dating or online dating can be daunting. Getting to know someone new on dating apps can bring up feelings and emotions from the past that can be difficult to deal with, and most of us will face the challenging experience of heartbreak from time to time, too. 

If you’re looking for more tips and support throughout the ups and downs of dating, you might consider speaking with a dating coach or therapist, especially if you need a moment of clarity or a break from the frustration. They may be able to help you get to know yourself so you can show up authentically in the dating world. They can also assist you in things like building self-confidence, polishing your communication skills, and learning how to build healthy relationships with romantic partners, friends, and family members. 

If you choose to pursue therapy, the method you select is generally up to you. In most cases, in-person and online therapy sessions can offer similar benefits, according to research. If you prefer to seek this kind of support from the comfort of your own home, you might consider trying an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. You’ll be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire about your needs and preferences, and you’ll be matched with a licensed therapist accordingly. You can then meet with them via phone, video call, and/or online chat to discuss the challenges you may be facing.


While they're not for everyone, online platforms, including free or other dating sites, can remove many of the obstacles associated with dating. If you're feeling nervous or uncertain about trying online dating or any other method of getting to know new people, the support of a therapist may be beneficial. 

Enter relationships with a refreshing perspective
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started