Online daters: There’s a lot of information out there for you. You know which is the best day of the year to find love on your favorite dating platform. You know which sites are most likely to lead to a lasting relationship. You have some handy ice breakers at your disposal next time you’re ready to broach a conversation with an online crush. You even have stories of real couples who actually found their partners online ready and waiting to inspire you on even your darkest, most frustrating days. Sounds like all your bases are covered, no? Not quite.

What’s not being talked about enough — and needs to be — is the importance of setting healthy expectations around online dating, and the risks you take with your mental health when you don’t. While there are obvious perks to the expanding online dating universe — a larger pool! more options! convenience! a vetting system between you and a potential creep! — there are also more serious drawbacks that people rarely discuss. Scott Dehorty, licensed clinical social worker and executive director at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health, has seen the impacts of online dating in the absence of healthy expectations firsthand. Dishonest interactions, multiple unsuccessful dates or bad interactions, and repeated disappointment, he tells us, can all spell disaster.

“Expectations are crucial if one is to engage in online dating,” Dehorty says. “Profiles should be seen as resumes — just the greatest hits. More information is needed before making a decision about meeting.” Putting too much stock in what you see in a dating profile alone can set you up to feel deceived. The first step to setting healthy expectations in this process, then, is to seek out more information before becoming invested. Jumping on the phone to get to know a potential bae in a conversation that more closely resembles one you might have IRL is a better way to gauge the connection — and, more importantly, how honest the other person is being — than swapping multiple texts and emails.

Caitlin Bergstein, a Boston-based matchmaker for Three Day Rule, has some additional tips for healthy expectation-setting.

1. Allow yourself to be open to the unexpected. Sure, the people you think you’re attracted to might be letting you down — so why not step out of your comfort zone and see what happens when you open yourself up to someone who’s not your usual “type?” Bergstein encourages us to view each potential S.O. as a whole, rather than mentally ticking boxes on your checklist.

2. Don’t focus too much on the superficial. You know that getting wrapped up in the surface-level stuff isn’t going to lead to success. Focusing too much on looks, in fact, is often what sets you up to be on the receiving end of a dishonest, shady suitor baiting fellow singles with an inaccurate photo. Not an auspicious start.

3. Be up-front. “Be honest about what you are looking for and set the expectation early on with someone you’re seeing that you’ve met online,” Bergstein advises. “Whether you’re looking to casually date or for a serious relationship, it’s completely fine to let someone know your ultimate goals.” When you open an up-front conversation, you create opportunities for your online crush to do the same, which will make it harder for them to hide behind a photo and basic profile or to let you down several months later, when you discover that you’re looking for different things. We can’t guarantee you won’t be disappointed, of course, but honesty is the best policy when it comes to setting healthy expectations (among other things).

4. Give things time to develop. If you’re getting icky, potentially unsafe vibes from someone, we would more than encourage you to bail, but if your instinct is to shut things down simply because you don’t feel “a spark,” you may want to reconsider. “With online dating, it’s so easy to move on to the next person if a first date doesn’t give you butterflies,” Bergstein says. “It’s also very easy to quickly fall into relationships without really knowing the person. In both situations, do yourself a favor and set expectations for yourself that will allow you to get to know someone before ditching them or diving in headfirst.”

How do you make sure you’re setting healthy expectations while online dating? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)