Road rage makes most of us shudder but some of the behaviour you encounter in online dating can also leave you gasping.

Like the shortish man (5’9”) who was told by a woman he approached that she would never date him because “he was a hobbit.”

Or the seventy year old man who sent an email to a woman in her late fifties and received this charmless response: “What’s a dirty old man like you doing on a dating site?”

Most of the huge numbers of people online dating are genuine, decent folk who do their best to treat others well.  But it’s unfortunate that the anonymity of the initial dating process seems to bring out the feral in some people. Their behaviour is really off putting, particularly to those just starting online. As an online dating coach it isn’t easy caring for bruised clients who have been harshly kicked to the curb – and trying to persuade them that there are many nice people online.

Often people just don’t seem to think about how they are coming across when they behave in ways that hurt others. Some profiles contain astonishingly rude demands, suggesting, for instance, that prospective dates must “pay attention to personal hygiene”.

Whatever happened to walking in each other’s shoes? People need to think about how it feels to have someone say they’ll call after a first date and then disappear. Or just vanish in the middle of an email conversation. It’s never so hard to send a brief email saying you enjoyed their company but you didn’t seem quite right for each other.

It’s actually really cruel to deceive prospective partners by misrepresenting yourself in your profile. By using an old photo showing yourself to be far younger or thinner than you are, people are seduced into spending time and emotional energy chatting and setting up a date only to be crushed and disillusioned when they finally meet you. It’s a low act. (And don’t believe all those friends who tell you its fine because you look far younger than your age …and that everyone does it.)

I heard recently from a man who came under attack after a date with a woman he’d met online.. She’d invited him to a dinner party and he said he was happy to come along but made it clear, in a nice way, that he wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with her. She was outraged, accused him of deceiving her because he wasn’t interested in real relationships. He was – but just not with her. Handling rejection isn’t easy but abuse is never appropriate.

So here are some do’s and don’ts to make online dating a kinder, gentler place:

Do respond to all contact you receive – particularly when someone has spent money to buy a stamp.

  • Don’t be stingy sending just kisses back and forth, trying to persuade your would-be date to pay for that vital first stamp.
  • Do respond if you have asked to see someone’s photos – it’s insulting to receive no response when you’ve sent images through. It’s kinder still to maintain email contact for a while rather than have them feel you have rejected them just on their looks.
  • Reject people nicely, offering compliments to preserve their dignity.
  • Don’t play games, leading people on, deliberately delaying responses, playing hard to get.

Everyone is vulnerable when they put themselves online – don’t abuse that trust.