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Online Dating: Do's and don'ts

Online dating is no longer the awkward conversation topic that it once was. Now, with an entire generation having grown up in the digital age, it's a more accepted means than ever to cut through the uneasiness and uncertainty that dating always seems accompanied by. Websites like Match.com, eHarmony, OKCupid and Chemistry.com (as well as a plethora more) have popped-up to meet the needs of those folks who: 1. Aren't interested in the typical singles social settings or bars 2. Don't have time outside work or other activities to fit in all the efforts dating requires 3. Want the luxury of getting to know a little about people before you're front-and-center staring them down at a first date (read: Blind date jitters)

Danielle and Brian have gathered some of their pro tips for wading into the online dating world. Both have experience in digital dating and Brian even met his fiancee on OKCupid (true story!)

Tip #1: Paint a clear picture The first step in any online dating venture is setting up your profile. First consider which photos to include:

  • Crop out anyone else but yourself (please don't put up photos of your children for privacy's sake)
  • Don't take pics in your bathroom mirror using your cell phone (you'll thank us later)
  • Please be fully dressed (Even if you have nice abs, let a potential mate find that out organically)
  • We suggest some close-ups of your face as well as a full body shot, preferably showing you doing something you enjoy - hiking, skiing, tennis, biking, at a ball game, scuba diving etc.

Then you need to fill out your information.

  • Be honest! It will do you no good to lie about your age, income, offspring, marital status, height or any other particulars, since eventually this will come out anyway.
  • If you aren't good at writing about yourself, ask some friends to describe you. This can give you a good jumping-off point.
  • Your profile should be a mix of who you are, what you enjoy and what you're looking for.
  • Be authentic and invested. If you're taking it seriously you should be genuine in your responses and interactions. But it's ok to make jokes if those come naturally to you.
  • Don't fall victim to the double-standard of wanting all the info you can get from others while being elusive yourself!
  • Share enough to give someone a sense of who you are, but don't over share to the point that they don't need to get to know you.

Some sites make this part easier. On OKCupid, for example, you can complete poll questions (and weight what responses you're looking for from a potential mate, too). Brian took it pretty seriously and had filled-out numerous. This helped the website algorithm to show him more and more compatible profiles while also displaying more information for people to know what really makes him tick. Take advantage of this tool!

Danielle is a mom and shares custody of her son with her ex, so she mentions that her time is limited and she has a child. This ensures people who reach out to her understand up front that she has responsibilities. (By the way, this pronouncement has not hurt her dating chances one bit. She's constantly going out with people she meets online.)

Tip #2: Take your time Remember, there's a reason you're choosing this method. So, take your time in reviewing people's profile responses, interests and philosophies on life. Of course physical attraction is important, but be sure you have something in common before reaching out to or responding to every good-looking person you see. If you start skimming, you really could miss something great! Get to know who you interact with and the sense you get from them. Do their emails make you feel comfortable? Do you find yourself bounding home at the end of the day to see if they've written? Does it seem like they're hiding something? Trust your gut and make sure you're both sustaining the conversation before you jump to the phone call. Many of the websites have services that make it easy to contact one another via phone without giving out personal information like a direct number.

Brian's tip: You want to make a good impression on your first phone call. Make sure you've felt-out topics, passions and opinions that you can refer to. My fiancee and I, for example, ended up emailing back-and-forth emails that seemingly needed chapter markers before we hopped on a phone call. Now, correspondence to this extent may be a bit on the opposite extreme, so find your middle-ground (or start stretching-out your hands before logging-on!)

Danielle's tip: I'm the EXACT opposite of Brian. I like to email once or twice to make sure they can spell and put a sentence together (and to see if they ask me questions and take an interest), then I offer to have a phone chat. This again is to see if conversation flows and hopefully allows the guy to suggest we get together. To me there's no point in a long email or phone courtship, since, to me, those are topics that should be covered on in-person dates. If at the end of the call, they don't ask me out, I'm not interested. And if they do, but I'm not feeling it, I tell them I need to check my schedule and get back to them. (I don't.)

Tip #3: Keep it simple Meeting the person is the most important thing. Clearly, that's why you're online, to meet someone in the flesh. A few tips:

  • Meet in public. This one seems obvious but for everyone's safety, be sure to pick a spot you know well, is close to your home, convenient and includes lots of people.
  • Keep it short. Meet for coffee or drinks. Don't plan on dinner. You can always linger longer if things go well, but if the date is not your cup of tea, one drink and you can cut your losses.
  • Be yourself. It won't do you any good to pretend to be someone you're not or like things that don't interest you. The result could be a lifetime of watching football games you really can't stand or going to craft fairs.
  • Like we told you with not over sharing, don't pry either. Reading the other person's body language will tell you when a certain question might be too much. As well as your own common sense. You don't want to make small talk, but asking about their sexual history or why their marriage fell apart is a bit intense for the first date. Stick to hobbies, jobs, where you grew up, went to school, vacations, family, etc. Enough to get to know them a bit better but enough that there's still plenty more you want to get to know.
  • Have fun! Yes, dating is stressful. But go in knowing at the very least you're meeting a new person, enjoying some time and getting out of the house. Attitude is half the battle.

Have you done online dating? We'd love to hear your experiences.

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