Romance and Rejection, Navigating the Social Scene Online

They say that timing is everything in life -- and with Internet dating, good timing may be calculated at a rate faster than you can say, "would you like to go out with me?"

With thousands of potential dates to choose from and inboxes filling up with winks, messages and introductions, one delayed move can spell the end of a potential romance.

"If the person hasn't responded to your mail right away, you've written them off," said Connecticut-based businesswoman Sheila M. Welsh. "You don't have the chance to develop any relationship because 'forget you, I've got a whole pool to choose from.'"

Welsh learned that lesson the hard way. As a marketing executive who is frequently on the road, in between the great dates she's enjoyed, she's faced rejections by bachelors who considered her too slow in responding to their e-mails. "They don't want someone who isn't going to be there," said Welsh.

That type of snap decision can make online dating confusing for even the savviest of Web surfers, as singles sort between profiles and quickly decide if they will give a new suitor a chance for a romance.

"Yeah, you really have to develop a thick skin for this type of stuff if you're going to do a lot of it," said Baltimore resident Dan Binebrink. He's been online for six months, and wasn't prepared for the experience initially. "You'll send e-mails out to people and you'll never hear from them again, "said Binebrink. "It's hard to not take things personally sometimes."

Put on a Happy Face

With the ability to click through dozens of profiles in less than an hour, the swift technology that's helping people connect can also lead to missed opportunities, as decisions are made simply on one's presentation.

"I'm sure I've passed by a lot of guys … or they may have passed by me because I didn't look good in the picture," said 28-year-old Ruthie Kalai, who moved to New York City three years ago and has had mixed experiences online. She's had some great dates, but is concerned she would be able to better discern the appeal of a guy if she first met him in the real world.

"I could see somebody in person and they may not be the best-looking guy but there's something about them that makes me want to get to know them," said Kalai. "It's hard to not be superficial -- it's so tempting to look at a picture and judge the guy first."

Binebrink has been getting more familiar with the online dating experience, and is certain he would not have had the chance to get out on some dates if his profile didn't stand out. He used his professional graphic design skills to add a twinkle to his smile for his online profile when he saw what the other guys had to offer. "Half these guys have to take their shirts off or flex their biceps," said Binebrink.

"It's fascinating to see the types of photos that guys put online," said Welsh. "There's something about guys on motorcycles." The 45-year-old also noticed "lots of cat pictures," from men trying to show their softer side.

She admits she felt some pressure from her married friends to give the online dating world a chance, and has used eharmony and Match.com for the past two years. But when she first went online, Welsh was confused when she was only getting responses from men in their upper 60s, which was not her desired age range.

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