Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at Mashable.com, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.
(CNN) -- Online dating is like reading the National Enquirer in a dentist's office, performing in community theater or watching six consecutive hours of "Antiques Roadshow": Tons of people have done it, but no one wants to talk about it.
People do it furtively, with sheepishness showing even on their profiles. ("My most humbling experience: Trying online dating, of course.")
Here's the thing: Everyone's doing it, so we really ought to just get over the stigma. In the last two years, one out of five singletons (and one in four partnered-up people) has dated someone they met on a dating site, and 17 percent of couples that married in the last three years met online, according to a study funded by Match.com.
Those millions of people couldn't possibly all be losers who can't meet a potential date through friends -- or at the meat market known as the bar. Instead, they (a good portion of them, anyway) are just folks who wanted to weed out cute folks who are, alas, already in a relationship, for example, or not English speakers.
We aren't gonna explain, for the millionth time, how to structure a nice profile or start a good flirtatious-but-not-creepy dialogue. (There are entire services devoted to that -- hell, there are even dudes who will write your messages FOR you.
Instead, what y'all need are guidelines for interacting in real life whilst joining the online scramble. Take our quiz and read on for advice for living life when you're looking for love on the internets.
1: You're perusing others' profiles when a moment of, "Hey, is that ... ?" becomes "OMG, that is definitely Craig from Accounting, complete with a picture of him sweatily performing with a jam band." You:
a) Never speak of it, online or in person. Keep things limited to perhaps a knowing nod.
b) Send him a quick message jovially saying hello and laughing about the fact you're both on it. See, online dating isn't just for weirdos! What up, solidarity!
c) Mention it when you see him in the break room the next day. Ask if he's having any luck; swap profile-perfecting tips.
2: After some witty back-and-forth with a handsome rando on the site, you've got a date tonight, huzzah! You:
a) Tell no one. Online dating is stigmatized, remember?
b) Tell a few close friends exactly where and when you'll be meeting. You also promise to send a mid-date status report text.
c) Announce your plans via Facebook and Twitter.
3: That date fell short when he asked you how old you were when you lost your virginity. ("If it's too old or too young, that tells me a lot about a person.") On to Person #2. You arrange a date via messages on the site. When firming up plans, you exchange numbers. The date goes exceedingly well. In the following days, you:
a) Reply to the last message on that site with a cute follow-up and a suggestion that you go out again.
b) Send him a text (or even, gasp!, give him a call) expressing the same sentiment.
c) Show up on his doorstep, holding a boombox on high, and profess your undying love for him.
4: Cue the beam of light, the chorus of heavenly hosts singing wordless vowels in eight-part harmony: You emerge from the DTR (Defining The Relationship) talk with a bona fide significant other. A few days later, you feel a small sprig of glee in your ribcage when a co-worker asks about your weekend plans and you get to say, "Oh, my boyfriend and I are seeing 'The Social Network' for the third time on Friday." She, out of social grace (and by virtue of the fact you were still trapped in the elevator together several floors from the ground), asks a few general questions about him, including, "How did you meet?" You:
a) Lie and vaguely mention meeting at a party, then segue into how awesome his job (gallery owner!) and tattoos (a line from Kerouac!) are.
b) Turn to stare at the floor indicator and sheepishly mutter, "Oh, we actually met online." Continue the ride in awkward silence.
c) Say, "We met on [said site]!" and then smilingly answer her questions about your e-dating experience.
1. a. Online dating is like Alcoholics Anonymous: You just don't call others out on their membership. I know this seems to contradict our "the-stigma-must-die" campaign, but you just can't assume everyone will be proud card-carrying online daters.
2. b. This is more about safety than netiquette, but it bears mentioning: When meeting a stranger, you MUST tell a few friends exactly where you're going (a public space, not someone's apartment), and update them throughout the night (9:14: "This is way awks!" 10:53: "We totally just made out throughout a jazz karaoke open mic!"). The world is full of crazies; the internet, even more so.
3. b. For Pete's sake, pick up the phone. Once you've moved your relationship out into the tangible earth, it's time to leave behind the messaging system. Hiding behind the poorly functioning dating site inbox feels like a step backward, and just reminds said date that you're still actively on the site, looking at other hotties.
4. a. or c. How you respond to your co-worker's inquiry depends on how comfortable you feel with her. She's just making polite conversation (and, let's face it, doesn't actually care how you met), so it's fine to breezily sail past the topic if you think it'd make her view you in a negative light. If she's cool (and/or, hey, single herself), go ahead and give a little promo for your favorite online matchmaker!
Just don't blame us if she starts dating that guy you blew off after three message volleys when he couldn't stop using smiley faces and talking about his three snuggly kitties.