To quickly sort out the good, the bad and the downright ugly, online chatting is ideal.
As well as using abbreviations and sending smileys (symbolic little icons), you'll soon build up a good picture of the person you're talking to.
You'll learn his way of expressing himself, how attentive he is, how quickly he replies, etc etc. A chat is a compulsory part of Internet dating.
If you want to avoid being hassled during a chat session, you'll need to have a personal address with MSN, Yahoo or Gmail for example. As soon as you're connected to the chat facility on the dating site, a horde of men with the craziest of usernames will try to attract your attention. Some of them are friendly and harmless, but others are more annoying, putting the pressure on you and hassling you when you're obviously not interested.
The avantages: In a few hours, you can ask all the questions that you'd never dare ask face to face. The great thing about an online chat is that you can start up a direct and frank dialogue. It's impossible to know whether what he says is true. It's up to you to judge this.
Disadvantages: The major disadvantage of an online chat when you don't know the other person is that you can interpret their words in any way you wish.
If he responds well to the questions you ask him, instinctively you'll begin imagining that he could be the one even though you don't have any concrete evidence, having not yet met him. If he responds badly, it's over for him and you'll ban him from your contacts quicker than he can say "sorry". The stakes are high...