If you had three minutes to evaluate a candidate for romance, what would you say? How would you act?
That dilemma is no longer the province of fantasy for millions of online daters. Unless you know how to present yourself - or is that "package" yourself? - in a compelling way, and do so post-haste, you may be spending your Saturday evenings alone.
Once upon a time Internet dating was for the geeky and the seedy. Today it's gone mainstream. Last year 17.2 million people viewed online personals and 2.5 million actually paid for a self-promoting ad, according to Jupiter Research. A few heavily trafficked Web sites - notably Match.com and Yahoo Personals - draw the biggest slice of the lonely hearts club. But specialty sites - such as those catering to African Americans, Jewish Americans, and gays - also are becoming popular. (Perhaps Sojourners should start a dating service for faith-based activists?)
If you are cynical about the potential of online dating, consider the benefits. Why set aside a perfectly good evening only to find out that your date shows zero interest in spirituality and is a charter member of the NRA? Join an online dating service and you can establish up front what's most important in your life, as well as profile the qualities you're looking for in a companion. Maybe it seems a bit like buying a sweater out of a Lands' End catalog, but it's a terrific way to weed out non-compatibles.