QUESTION: I have a question about online dating. How long do you chat via email or texting before you meet?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: Make the decision on a case-by-case basis with each person you “chat” with. Side note, just to be safe: Meet the person with one of your friends.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: There isn't a set time for this — sometimes schedules are hard to coordinate — but I think it's important to meet sooner rather than later. A wise person told me early on in my own dating journey that he had learned it was important not to drag out emailing and texting for too long without meeting in the real world. That way, you know early on whether the relationship has a future and you don't waste your time.
Experience has taught me the same, several times. While online communication can be important for sustaining a relationship and staying connected, it doesn't seem to be as good for building a relationship from scratch. Instead, by communicating only virtually, you may be creating a fantasy based on your own hopes and expectations instead of a reality. Without meeting a person face to face, you don't know if the two of you have any chemistry, the real expression and sentiment behind typed words or if the other person is all talk and no action, which is extremely frustrating. You have to find your own balance in this situation.
While phone conversations and virtual communication can help you get to know someone initially, for me, a real-life meeting is key to developing a real relationship. However, take precautions to be safe when meeting in person. We all know the drill: Meet in a public place, tell you're friends where you're going, get to know the person before jumping into anything serious, etc.
HELEN'S ANSWER: It is always special to meet someone new. Get to know your online friend by emailing, texting and talking on the phone. If you feel like you would like to know more, after several weeks, then schedule a coffee or lunch date.
Some women and men meet via email and then go on a date right away. That way they have not wasted a lot of time talking and can meet and learn the particulars firsthand. Some people take their time in getting to know newfound acquaintance, so whatever feels right to you is important. Hopefully, you might figure out that you have some friends in common and you can learn more from them about the person you are about to meet before going on a real date.
GUESTS' ANSWER: Yvette Walker, night news director at The Oklahoman and media ethics chair at the University of Central Oklahoma: In my younger years, I thought it best to chat for a long time, getting to know the person via email or talking on the phone (I'm not much into text conversations). I now realize that a long-term virtual relationship can lead to unfounded fantasies and disappointment. Chat long enough to see if you have something in common with the person, then schedule a date.
As much as we don't like to believe it, physical attraction and chemistry is as important as sense of humor, intelligence and other psychological aspects of a relationship. If you've been chatting for months and you meet the person and you (or he or she) don't like what you see, you've both wasted your time.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.