By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
I’m going to be honest, I’m a big fan of online dating. Living in New York, a city that is notoriously difficult for dating, I found myself timidly dipping toes into the lukewarm waters of internet romance after a few years of absurd pickup lines in bars, and unsuccessful setups from friends. I was instantly hooked. It’s like shopping!! For boys!! The ability to peruse and pre-screen, to read about how someone characterizes themselves, and then exchange some pithy emails before meeting up had an air of excitement, and helped me feel more in control of my dating scene.
Perhaps the best thing that can come out of online dating is getting super clear on what/who you’re looking for. You quickly learn that “good on paper” does not always equal perfect in person. A few dates in, you’re forced to really home in on what works for you and what doesn’t, which is an excellent journey in self-discovery.
I met my true soulmate, the love of my life, and my now husband on OkCupid, so yeah, I’m a believer. But having a successful online dating experience requires some effort, introspection, and yes, even some skill. Read on to find out how to craft the perfect profile to attract exactly what you’re looking for — whether that be a super fun date, a casual relationship, or your one true love.
DO Get clear on what you’re looking for
If you’re a serial monogamist looking for a serious relationship, coming off as all casual and devil-may-care is not going to land you a good match. Likewise, if you’re really just looking for some casual dating, detailing your long-term life plans in your profile may send the wrong message. Do some soul-searching, and identify what kind of relationship you are looking for right now. Don’t be afraid of honesty in your profile. Without going into too much detail (recent breakups, relationship cynicism, and tiny violins are all best left out of your profile), feel free to state exactly what you want! “An awesome guy for some summer fun,” or “A fly lady for some great dates and conversation” sets a casual tone without making you seem like you’re just looking to hook up. Whereas the more relationship-inclined could state that they’re “Looking for the Clyde to their Bonnie” or just straight up say “Definitely not into one-night-stands.” Either way, say it in your voice, and have it reflect your truth, but try not to go overboard in either direction (see below).
DON’T Come off as sleazy, shallow, or desperate
Stating what you’re looking for has it’s limits. Unless you’re looking for Mr. Sleaze Bag, avoid terms like “casual sex” or “missing piece,” which can send quality dates running. “Must have nice body” is a first-rate douchey thing to say… Instead opt for language that conveys your love for fitness and an active lifestyle, and a desire that any match share the same.
DO Let your personality show through
Are you quirky? Funny? Dry? Sarcastic? These are aspects of yourself that are going to come out pretty quickly once you’re talking with someone, so there’s no point in masking them in your profile. You’re looking for someone who appreciates and is actively seeking those qualities! So let them shine! Are you a sci-fi nerd? List some of your favorite books and movies. An intellectual? Make some obscure references that only a true kindred spirit would get, if that’s what you’re looking for. Remember, your dating profile is a representation of who you are, not a glossy advertisement of who you wish you were. Don’t worry about coming off as cool or as a dream boat… The more accurately your depict your true self, the more satisfying your dates will be!
DON’T Lie or stretch the truth, in words or in photos
If you’re 5’10 1/2, don’t round up to 6 feet. If you’re unemployed, don’t make up a career. If you are divorced with a kid, don’t gloss over those details. If you live with roommates in Brooklyn, photos of you in a swanky Midtown high-rise send the wrong message. If you’re a few pounds heavier than your ideal weight, don’t post photos from your skinny college days. Your date will find out the truth eventually, and coming off as inauthentic in your profile shows that you don’t think the real you is good enough, so why should your date??
DO Pick some awesome photos that reflect who you are
It’s online dating after all, so your photos do count for a lot. Spend some time picking your best recent photos that really show aspects of your life and personality. Pick at least two close-ups, a full-length, and maybe an activity shot, all of which put your best face forward. If you don’t have any good photos, grab a friend with an artistic eye and head to the park for a little photo shoot! Highlight your best features, like your eyes or your smile, and let your personality shine through! If you’re a high-energy, fun person, choose photos of you laughing or sporting a great grin. If you’re a more serious, shy type, it’s perfectly fine to choose an artsy photo with a demure smile. If you’re looking for a relationship, photos of you doing a keg-stand or on a pub-crawl with your posse send the wrong message (and are just generally best avoided). If you’re a casual, jeans and t-shirt kind of person, photos of you all dressed up at a friend’s wedding aren’t going to be an accurate reflection of who you are.
DON’T Pick blurry, group, or barely clothed photos
Seriously, no one needs to see your abs or your cleavage in your profile, unless of course you’re just looking to hook up. Group photos are confusing and way too open to interpretation (seriously, she hangs out with guys like that?).. You don’t need to prove how popular you are. Blurry, dark or unclear photos make it seem like you’re hiding something, which doesn’t send a good message. If you want to throw in a dark or moody photo that may not offer the best view of your face, make sure the rest of your photos are more clear. Remember, if all you have are photos sub-par photos like this, take the advice above and go for a little photo shoot!
DO Pick the right dating site for you
Picking the right dating site can mean the difference between a tortured and miserable online dating experience, and one that is super fun and fantastic. OkCupid is a free dating site which has the most volume, making it great for casting a wide net. You may also want to check out some great, niche, city-specific sites. Want some great, active dates? HowAboutWe is for you, creating dates for you based on shared interests and experiences. Sparkology is a paid dating site for NYC-based young professionals who have graduated from top universities. Prefer to tap into your extended social network for dates? Try Swoon, an app that let’s you flip through potential matches with emphasis on shared contacts and interests, which you can “like” or “pass.” If the “like” is mutual, you both get contacted, eliminating the rejection factor. Older singles may have more luck on Match or OurTime. More conservative or religious singles may want to check out EHarmony or JDate.