Blogger Trish Beaver has been wading in the murky waters of online dating for a decade. She hasn’t met ‘the one’ yet, but she’s encountered enough fruits, freaks and fibbers to make great fodder for a blog.

I have been divorced for fourteen years… and four years after escaping my marriage there was still no dating prospect in sight, so I reluctantly joined the online dating craze – cheered on by married friends who thought they could live vicariously through my experiences.

God knows why I am single. I am mystified

I am definitely not on the Cinderella side of the hot spectrum but I would say I’m not quite as bad as the ugly sisters. I am witty, smart and kind erm… and humble. So I embarked on my foray online with high hopes.

I joined the masses of singletons tempted to find true love online. Everyone seems to have a friend who says “I know a couple who met online. “ (Hmm… unless this one couple knows an awful lot of friends, it must be true.)

Or it could be an urban legend that fans the flames of hope for the unlucky in love.

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But my journeys online to try and find a proverbial knight in shining armour have been an experience to say the least. I suspect I may be a serial masochist, as I have dived in a few times when Valentine’s Day looms large again, or when I am gripped by the fear that perhaps I could become a nutty cat lady.

I have met plenty of frogs… erm men, on the internet. If I am honest – one or two a few promising princes and had one or two relationships. But more than that, it has taught me that everyone has different expectations and there are a few tricks and tips to help you navigate around the obstacle course that is online dating.

So firstly if you look at the pictures of women and compare them to men, men have no clue when presenting themselves. Of course it’s a generalisation, but most men post horrific selfies that make Shrek look like Prince Charming – they’d be more appropriate for Police File.

Of course it’s a generalisation, but most men post horrific selfies that make Shrek look like Prince Charming – they’d be more appropriate for Police File

We women can use devices like make-up to disguise our flaws

We’ve been groomed by fashion magazines for decades on how to hide wrinkles, dress to look slimmer, and of course the duck face pout.

Men on the other hand seem to think it’s best to let it all hang out. So honesty is good BUT guys – you have to make an effort. To those okes who have cropped out their ex from a photo – a disembodied arm is not a good selling point. Also don’t post a pic of your washboard abs from twenty years ago… no-one is that stupid.

More importantly you should try and market yourself… we all find it difficult to sell ourselves. But few men are good with words and are unable to communicate further once you have replied to their wink or heart message.

The most common response: “Let’s meet and I’ll tell you more”

I don’t want to meet a man who I don’t have a clue about. What on earth will we be able to say over coffee? I had a suitor who messaged me for three months and every morning he would say “Good morning” and every evening “Good night”. I tried everything to get a response and nothing. I deleted him.

Apparently the online algorithms are supposed to match you with people who would be vaguely compatible. Um that’s a lie. I have been bombarded with so-called matches and the only thing we have in common is a pulse.

Apparently the online algorithms are supposed to match you with people who would be vaguely compatible

The next grey area is the actual date. I think it’s important to know beforehand what you are hoping for. It is easy to get enthusiastic when you meet someone you actually would consider dating. The hormones are cheering you on… hey hey . But despite the chemistry one still has to establish if there are mutual intentions.

Prince Charming could still be after a one night stand, a notch on his belt

So tread carefully if you don’t want your heart broken. It seems that men and women are divided into two camps. Those who want sex and those who want relationships and it can be difficult to tell them apart.

My advice is to make sure you set the ground rules (in triplicate) before the date to save yourself those awkward moments when you reach in your bag for a taser. No still means no.

To elaborate, I offer you an example of the date from hell

I agreed to meet him at his place and we would go out for dinner. He said he ran a business from home and had an apartment above his office. Erm ok my mistake – they do tell you to meet at a public place = lesson learnt.

We did not go out for a romantic meal. Instead he made boerewors rolls for dinner. Ok bummer – no Gordon Ramsay. Then he offered to take me upstairs and show me around. His apartment was a bedroom.

I was horrified when it was only a bedroom (bed unmade) and his laptop was on… playing porn

I muttered some excuse and exited pronto. He was upset and started shouting insults and when I had locked myself in my car he seemed to think that banging on the window telling me he had a penis piercing that would change my mind.

It was a learning curve.

The internet has transformed dating and the way people relate. There is no such thing as normal. It is a minefield of miscommunication and expectations. In addition you have to try and suss out the conmen and women lurking behind false profiles.

My 78-year-old neighbour was conned out of thousands she sent to her paramour. He had a sick and dying child… allegedly. He was later exposed as a well-known Nigerian scammer.

Loneliness and hope are terrible conspirators and it is good to have a close friend to confide in and ask their opinion when you are online dating. Sometimes they have the ability to see the truth when you are submerged in sentimentality and wishful thinking.

Most recently I dated a guy briefly who seemed to be perfect, but when he sent me a gushy romantic message clearly intended for someone else – the wheels fell off. Clearly I was only one of a number of women he was juggling. On reflection I realised I knew very little about him. He was full of poetic words and compliments but a bit skimpy on facts.

My friend warned me – she said: “He probably has a family tucked away somewhere… ” He probably did.

My rule of thumb is that if they look too good to be true then they are

Mr Nice Guy posing with a picture of his yacht and his holiday picture in Paris, should make you nervous. If he tells you that you are the most beautiful woman on the planet in his first message – run.

We are dealing with an age of instant gratification where a “like” on a dating site can be construed as a precursor to sex.

Beware of the ones who say – “I just want a friend and we’ll see where it goes”

The term “friends with benefits” has been popularised in Hollywood movies and has snuck into the modern dating scene. But on closer examination it’s just a band aid for loneliness, meaningless sex and an admission by both parties that they are actually looking for a better deal.

I personally don’t believe long distance relationships can work – how do you get to know someone if they live hours away. The problem with limiting your choices to the local talent is that you can come across people you know. Awkward.

A friend’s dodgy ex-husband was parading on the dating site – he had posted quite a flattering photo. But according to his profile he was a model citizen. I knew he was definitely not.

As a veteran of internet dating I have become cynical. These dating sites are exploiting our basic need to connect meaningfully with another human being. Love has become a commodity that can be swiped left or right depending on your mood or someone’s bad haircut.

But don’t let me put you off… you could be the one percent who finds love online.

Trish Beaver is a freelance journalist, blogger and chocolate addict. Read more at www.trishbeaver.com