Thanks to a slew of reputable dating sites, people are meeting, dating—even getting married every day all because of well-written online profiles. So what’s stopping single you from taking the online dating plunge? The awkward first dates, right? Sure, meeting complete strangers at coffee shops is weird, but this is a numbers game—you have to put yourself out there and go on a lot of first dates. That’s where my experience comes in. I’ve used just about every legitimate dating site out there—I even worked for a few. (What’s up, JDate?) My tips will get you in the online dating game and ahead of the count.
1. Use the best one-person photo you’ve taken in the last six months as your profile picture.
Forgo the group shot with 20 of your closest sorority sisters or frat bros “crushing it” on Spring Break. There’s nothing wrong with group photos with friends, but using these photos in your online dating profile only adds confusion to a potential date’s first impression. It also reeks of questionable self-esteem. (What, you’re not confident enough to put yourself out there on your own?) And if you’re thinking about going the “no pic” route, don’t. The “no pic” profile will never get clicked, and people will assume you’re anonymity means you’re cheating.
2. Avoid the following photo clichés anywhere in your profile:
Petting a tiger: You’d be surprised how many women have traveled to the tiger temple in Thailand—I must have seen hundreds of these shots in my time.
Jumping in the air: These shots are usually taken on a beach or on top of a mountain. Cute if you’re a teenager, but we’re adults now, so skip it.
Fake finger mustache: You don’t need guys picturing you with facial hair.
Shirtless selfies: I don’t care how ripped your abs are, I don’t care how Ryan Gosling-esque your pecs may be, girls don’t really like shirtless pics from strangers. It screams “I’m vain and I’m going to be the pretty one in this relationship.”
Smoldering looks: Research shows that a man who looks directly into the camera comes off intimidating to women. It also looks like they’re trying too hard. Stay loose, look away from the camera and go with a candid shot. It sounds ridiculous, but looking away from the camera gives you a sense of mystique—more of a challenge. Don’t laugh, it works.
Toothy smiles: Nothing wrong with a grin, but don’t go overboard. You bare too many teeth and you begin to chart creepy waters. You’ll have plenty of time to show her your flashy smile when you meet her. On the other hand, women—every photo you post should be of you smiling—research shows that’s what works.
Men and Women
Flash photography: Flash photography on cheap point-and-clicks and smartphones age you horribly. It magnifies every wrinkle and pore—not a good first look.
Newfangled filters: Everyone knows what you’re doing when you use hazy, out-of-focus filters and oversaturation. Save that hokum for Instagram. Instead, use natural light—outdoorsy photos at the beach, the mountains, or the corner table on a patio café.
3. Write your profile in your normal, conversational language.
As much as people use acronyms like OMG, LOL and BTW in instant messages and texts, stay away from Internet shorthand—it’s poor form. If you’re looking for a meaningful relationship, do you really want to date someone who expresses themselves like a junior varsity cheerleader? As for exclamation points, Mark Twain said; “One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.”
4. Don’t write an unnecessarily long profile.
A short profile is a red flag. If you’re not thoughtful enough to write a decent profile, people are going to think you can’t even hold up your end of a conversation. That being said, an unnecessarily long profile marks you and a pretentious blowhard. In my experience, a simple three-to-four line paragraph, per category, is most effective. Remember, this is the Internet—everyone is skimming for keywords and interesting opening lines at best. The more you write, the faster their fingers will click to the next profile.
5. Make sure you’re extremely specific in your profile description.
Telling potential mates that you “like to laugh” and you “like to travel, and listen to music” is only going to do you more harm than good. Who doesn’t like to laugh? And everyone loves to listen to music. Be extremely specific. What do you like to laugh at? Woody Allen movies? Buzzfeed lists? Big Bang Theory reruns? All three describe a specific person.
6. Be honest about your physical description.
It should go without saying, but a lot of people do it—don’t lie, especially about your age or weight. These lies will catch up with you—like when you actually meet in person. That said, while you’re browsing the personals assume everyone is shaving a few years (and pounds) off their profile.
7. Don’t let your profile stagnate.
Don’t be afraid to get in your profile and mix it up every week or so. Play around with new profile photos, new intros, and updated stats. This maintenance will let others know you’re still in the game. Most people tend to pass on profiles that haven’t been active for more than a couple weeks.
Remember, you’re not there to attract everyone in the dating pool, ultimately just your one perfect match. You’ll go on a few awkward first dates before you find your match, but your flawless profile will ease the pain of the journey.
Photo credit: Getty Images