The (Virtual) Dating Game

A how-to on finding love in cyberspace.

Stop your snickering! There's more to finding that special someone online than the bad jokes - and occasional horror stories - that many of us associate with virtual dating.

Lisa Skriloff and Jodie Gould, authors of the much-praised "Men Are From Cyberspace," are experts in cyber-romance. Their advice: If you're a single woman looking for the right guy, don't neglect to look online. "Women who join online services get bombarded by messages," says Skriloff, who met her current boyfriend online. "The trick is to sort them out, weed them out, and pick the right man for you." In an interview, Skriloff and Gould offered Fast Company some tips on romance.

You Can't Hurry Love

Don't rush into a real date with someone you've met online. Skriloff and Gould suggest that people forge their online relationships in four stages. Talking with someone in a chat room, the online equivalent of a group date, is the first stage. One-to-one emails, which are like phone calls, make up the second stage. Next comes actually talking on the phone. Then - and only then - is it time for a date.

Look for Knockouts

It's easy - and counterproductive - to misrepresent yourself online. "We encourage people not to lie when they're cyberdating," says Gould. "The goal is to meet someone in person, not to sit in front of your computer all day." Still, lots of people do misrepresent themselves. The solution: Look for cues that knock people out of the running. "You might be attracted to the way someone writes," says Skriloff. "Then you talk on the phone, and you realize that you just don't click with that person. Just say, 'It was nice chatting with you. I'll see you online.' "

Practice Safe Dating

When you're ready to meet someone in person, meet in a public place and keep it short. Skriloff also suggests telling a friend or relative where you're going and whom you're meeting. "Just meet for coffee on the first date," she says. "If there's no connection, you can say, 'Nice having coffee with you,' and leave it at that."

Coordinates: $11.95. "Men Are From Cyberspace: The Single Woman's Guide to Flirting, Dating, and Finding Love On-Line," St. Martin's Griffin, www.menrfromcyberspace.com; Lisa Skriloff, menarefrom@aol.com; Jodie Gould, menrfrom@aol.com

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