Your father had it much easier. So did his father. Dating. It’s never been the easiest territory to map. There are unspoken rules and etiquette you never seem to bother to realize until it’s too late. Sure, we all know how to behave during a job interview or a family dinner, even though we were never given any sort of official guidebook. But when it comes to dating?

It seems to bring out the worst in us. Awkwardness. Mixed signals. Anxiety. Talking too much about precisely the wrong things—and at the wrong time. Yes, it’s true. Your father had it much, much easier.

Or did the rules just change?

Dating etiquette has changed considerably in the past twenty years. So has the entire world. Digital interactions, both professionally and personally, are no longer novel but frequently replacing physical ions. And while your father probably never understood (and never will understand) online dating, he did understand mistakes. He likely made more than his fair share. If he tells you differently? Just ask your mother for the honest truth.

We’ve all probably chuckled at stories of online dates gone horribly wrong. But what about when the shoe is on the other foot? What about when you’re the one making faux pas after faux pas without even realizing it? Even if your aim is purely honorable?

Thankfully, online dating mistakes are fairly common. And for the most part, forgivable (OK… maybe sometimes.) But like we said, there’s no rulebook. You’re flying by the seat of your pants, my friend. Mistakes are going to be inevitable. But with a little foresight, you can learn how to minimize both risk and embarrassment. So how do you know what to avoid when dating online?

Online Dating Mistake # 1 :  First Impressions Count For Everything

And it’s just as true in the physical world. Research has shown that it takes less than a millisecond to form a first impression. That’s less than the attention span of a goldfish. Like it or not, online dating is built upon making a good first impression. No one’s going to take the time to know the “real you” if you put less than your best face forward. And that doesn’t just mean an attractive photo. That means the way you present yourself. Are you well-rounded? Articulate? Down to earth? Sane? All these are pretty significant factors in making a good first impression.

Online Dating Mistake # 2 : You’re Just Like Everybody Else

That might be true. But there are a million carbon copies of “everybody else” to choose from on online dating platforms. Why should a woman choose you over anybody else? What makes you different? Unique? What makes you stand out? What can you offer that other guys can’t? Take some time to craft a profile that grabs someone’s attention. That doesn’t mean shallow, pre-rehearsed witticisms. That means honesty. Sincerity. Think of the qualities you admire in yourself. Remember… you’re facing a lot of competition from “everybody else.” Don’t be afraid to stand out.

Online Dating Mistake # 3 : Of Course It’s A Recent Photo. 2007 Was Recent, Wasn’t It?

It may seem shallow. It may seem unfair. But the internet is a largely visual medium. And the only thing worse than not having a photo on your profile is having one of yourself from 15 years ago. And yes, women can be just as guilty of this. But women can also look past “dad bods.” And graying hair. And an unshaven face. In fact, more than a few women find all three tremendously sexy. Do you know what they don’t find sexy? Being misled. Being set up for disappointment. Do yourself a favor and post a recent picture. Yes, we all want to put the most attractive picture of ourselves out there for the world to see. But chances are if you looked like Brad Pitt 15 years ago, you’ll look like him now.

Online Dating Mistake # 4 : She’s Already Responded To Two of My Messages. She Must Be The One!

When you’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, it’s easy to mistake friendliness with an honest connection. But just like the real world, connections take time. If she’s being flirty with you, chances are that’s simply in her nature. That doesn’t mean she has or even necessarily will be falling head over heels for you. Just like the physical world, you have to work for it. More importantly, you have to make her work for it. And it has to be entirely natural. If she’s paying attention to you, she’s curious about you. She’s not quite smitten yet. Don’t cling. Don’t suffocate. And don’t propose undying love right off the bat. Because her next four words won’t be “I love you, too.” They will be “Please don’t contact me.”

Online Dating Mistake # 5 : Online Dating = Sex

Maybe you’ve had a preliminary Skype interview for a job position. Did that guarantee you a job? Of course not. Yes, sex can be found through online platforms. But I can guarantee you’ll probably find it either unfulfilling or simply expensive. Most women who use online dating sites know that sex can be found just about anywhere. What they’re looking for is an honest connection. Inappropriate solicitations and bad double entendres won’t just turn her off. They can actually get you banned from most sites. And just like the physical world, she has her circle of online friends too. And they’re not above sharing pictures and mocking you without pity.

Online Dating Mistake # 6 : Doesn’t Everybody Lie Online?

No, actually they don’t. Especially dating online. If you lied on your resume and miraculously found a job, you’d be fired just within one day once your employers saw how underqualified you really are. Online dating isn’t any different. That picture of you on a yacht? Everyone knows it’s not really yours. For better or worse, you are who you are. Don’t disguise it. You don’t have to put every single one of your flaws out there for the world to see—women rarely do—but honesty gets a quicker response than putting on airs.

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