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I haven’t tried any of the top 10 online date sites listed on Mashable. But I have had success finding men online to date, though by using a different approach.

Like most people who peruse online dating sites, you probably dabble on OKCupid and fiddle with Tinder. And, when you’re truly ready to commit you hunker down and pay a whopping fee of $200 and go on eHarmony. How’s it working for you? Not that well, right?

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Online dating sites don’t work very well because, for starters, no one is reading each other’s profiles! Sorry for shouting, but it’s not a surprise that people base their dates on pictures alone.

The idea of people scanning images throughout the day and liking someone simply because of their appearance is sort of depressing but isn’t shocking, that’s just how our brains work. We’re looking for instant gratification, which is why some of these online dates don’t lead to relationships.

“Essentially, the text is less than 10 percent of what people think of you,” wrote Christian Rudder, OKCupid’s co-founder, in a blog post a couple of weeks ago. “[Y]our picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but actual words are worth … almost nothing.”

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Because of my profession I communicate with people I’ve never physically met on a daily basis. Over time, some of the connections fade, others lead to a continuous stream of online conversations via tweets, DMs, comments on posts, likes on Instagram, reposts on Tumblr, etc. If there’s a good rapport, some of these people, once strangers, become solid contacts, friends, and, maybe even more.

Oh, you’ve never dated a person that you met on Twitter? Well, then, you’re missing out. But more on that later.

A friend of mine said she went on “like 80” OKCupid dates before she found her current boyfriend on the site (who is a great guy, by the way). I get that it’s a numbers game, but the idea of going on 80 horrible dates makes me want to retreat to the mountains of San Miguel de Allende and become a nun (not like that’s possible, but you get my frustration).

In a recent story in The New York Times, writer Jenna Wortham disclosed that her friend dated a guy he met on Instagram.

“In Steven’s case, after a handsome stranger began to follow him on Instagram and “like” his selfies, Steven began to follow the new acquaintance right back,” she wrote. “The two flirted online and used Instagram’s private messaging feature to chat. Ultimately, they agreed on dinner and drinks.

“Each could learn about the other’s travels, social life and food preferences — just by browsing the trove of information freely shared on social media.”

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And that is the reason why (if you’re interested in online dating) I’m a big proponent of opting for social media rather than the standard dating sites. People expose themselves in a truer sense on social media.

I had a long term relationship with someone I met on Facebook. He was a friend of a relative, but a complete stranger to me before we began corresponding. I also briefly dated someone I met on LinkedIn, which unbeknownst to me at the time, is also a great site, not only to find a job, but a potential date.

Just as a heads up, dating someone you meet on LinkedIn can be tricky especially if either party involved isn’t open to becoming more than business colleagues. LinkedIn has quickly identified this growing trend and merged jobs and dating into a new venture called LinkedUp.

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I surveyed my group of girlfriends to see if they had met anyone on social media, and sure enough the answer was no. So I am the only crazy one out of the group? Apparently, yes.

One of those friends, who is very much against using social media to date, is an avid user of OKCupid. She said, “I prefer (OKCupid)] to the forced “we're meeting to date" approach. At least there's some larger guise of romance left to it.”

Is meeting someone based on attractiveness, romance? It’s still very superficial, because again, no one is really reading your profile. In my experience, I become attracted to someone after I see how they interact on Twitter and Facebook. I see their creativeness based on what they post on Tumblr and Instagram.

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Initially it does feel a bit taboo to out yourself as meeting someone on social media, but then I looked at my track record against those friends who only used online dating sites and realized I fared better than them.

I went on a few dates using howaboutwe.com and had some okay dates. I was intrigued by their friendly approach to online dating. The site tags itself as more of a casual meetup (not hook-up) with an activity tied to it, as in how about we go to a cafe and sketch people (true story), how about we go to the Museum of Modern Art, how about we…you get the idea.

It worked out fine for a bit. I had great conversations with a couple of guys, but there was still such added pressure: Will they look like they do in their photos? Will they expect something more? Are they being honest and sincere? And, the most God-awful question of all, am I being catfished!?

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All of these questions can obviously apply to anyone you meet online, social media or IRL. But what I have found is that by engaging with people for a while before connecting with them on a more personal level (beyond retweets, replies, and likes) is that you learn more about each other in a real way.

The idea of meeting someone via social media feels more organic and less of a fuss than allowing an online dating site to dictate your dating social life. Seeing someone’s Twitter feed or Tumblr posts is sort of like stepping into their apartment for the first time. You see the books they read; you find out the kind of work they do; you know where they stand on various political issues; what bands they’re into. It’s all very exciting, and very real. I never intended to date someone that I didn't meet through a site explicitly devoted to dating, but it just sort of happened that way, and that’s probably why it works.

So you’re ready to venture into the world of social media dating? Here’s 10 steps that’ll get you on the right track for love (hey, you have to be hopeful). Ready? Take notes:

1. Don’t be desperate. That comes across real fast.

2. Don’t use social media the way you do a dating site. BE YOURSELF!

3. Follow people who share similar interests as you.

4. If you’re passionate about your job, search for those with the same profession and follow them as well.

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5. Finding a dating prospect on social media can take a while, like months, so be patient.

6. Don’t ask anyone out just because you think they’re cute. The whole point is that you have mutual appreciation for similar things.

7. Have realistic expectations (meaning none), so have fun.

8. If someone piques your interest and they’ve posted something you like, tell them.

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9. Once you have progressed from stranger to internet friend and are interested in knowing more about them, Google them, or not, it’s up to you.

10. And once it’s over (don’t mean to be a cynic) here’s some pointers on how to cordially breakup with someone the online way.

Araceli Cruz is a journalist living in New York City. Her work has been published in The Village Voice, Elle, Latina, Whitewall, Rolling Stone, among others. And, in her spare time, she likes to play. You can follow her on Twitter at @chelipj.