Online dating is the best way to meet new people – and thanks to technology, it’s now easier and more popular than ever before. Since the rise of online dating sites in the 1990s, DatingAdvice.com¹ reports that more than 49 million people around the world have tried online dating.

Today, there are thousands of different apps and websites you can try if you’re interested in online dating. But before you start chatting with your matches, follow these dos and don’ts in order to have fun, attract others, and stay safe.

Do Make a Profile That Mentions Specific Interests

When you first sign up to an online dating site or app, you’ll be asked a series of questions about yourself and your preferences for a partner. A good online dating profile is friendly, but still says a lot about you as a person. Your profile should reflect who you are as a person – which is why you’ll want to get specific about your likes and interests. Mention activities or interests that you could talk about on your first date, like your favorite movies, music, or adventures.

Don’t Sign Up for Too Many Websites or Apps

With thousands of dating sites and apps available today, it can be hard to choose just one. If you’re looking for a legitimate relationship rather than series of partners, it’s a good idea to pick just one or two dating sites to try out at first. Otherwise, you’ll split your attention too much and won’t be able to give your potential matches the attention they deserve.

Do Use a Real Photo

One of the worst things you can do when setting up your online dating profile? Use an old or fake photo. Doing this may seem fine, but as soon as you meet someone in person, they’ll be misled and confused. Instead, choose a photo that expresses your personality and accurately reflects your current physical appearance. If you don’t have any photos that work for your profile, ask a friend to snap a few. Photos that show you active, social, and relaxed are the most likely to spark interest.

Don’t Be Fake

The best way to approach online dating is to pretend you’re talking with someone in real life. When you’re setting up your profile and sending your first messages, it’s tempting to put on a false “swagger” and act differently than you would in real life. Yet people need to see who you really are – otherwise, it won’t be a true match once you meet. Don’t fill your profile with inaccurate information in the hopes that it’ll make you look cool.

Do Be Personal When Sending Messages

When you first start receiving messages from potential dates, it’s easy to tell which messages have been carefully crafted and which are copied from another conversation. If you’re trying to connect with people, it’s a good idea to make your messages and conversations personal so they stand out. Ask about your matches’ interests, jobs, or hobbies to start. If you send a generic “Hey, what’s up?” there’s little incentive to respond. Use mutual interest from their profile to break the ice and start a conversation.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Whether you’re simply chatting via messages online or you’re ready to meet in person, you don’t want to be guilty of “ghosting,” or disappearing after making a connection with someone. The key to forging a connection and a relationship is to keep communicating and finding out if you two align – so don’t disappear after a few messages or a date. If you’d like to speak with or see this person again, you should let them know and make an effort to follow up.

Do Be Honest If There’s No Connection

If at any point during the initial conversation or date you’ve decided that there’s no connection between you and your match, you should be honest. Disappearing from all communication without warning is a childish, immature way to deal with conflict. If you’re already on the date and you feel like you’d like to leave, you should gently excuse yourself, thank them for their time, and pay your portion of the bill before you head home. There’s no need for a dramatic scene, but it can hurt to feel led on. The most respectful thing you can do is explain your feelings and let them know that you’re not interested.