How to be Successful in Online Dating

As my grandma continues to remind me, dating has changed over the years. Girls can initiate dates and ask guys to marry them, dating is no longer called “going steady,” and there used to be no other option but to find a spouse “the old-fashioned way.” For the longest time, people feared online dating. Sites like Match.com and eHarmony were perceived as “shady” and thought to “attract sexual predators” by some, but nowadays, this is a very typical means of finding a partner. Given that many more people are getting divorced and dating much later in life and the bar scene is no longer the ideal place to meet potential spouses (especially in older age), online dating makes it much easier to both meet more complementary “potentials” and more easily sift through them to find the one that is the best match for you.

I was never into the bar scene. When I say never, I do mean never. I don’t metabolize alcohol well, so I really don’t drink but a few sips of it if any in one sitting. And let me tell you, being completely sober while everyone around you is drunk is totally not fun- in any way (except maybe to laugh at the drunkenness). Without alcohol to provide me with social lubricant (because I am introverted and used to be much more so) and the desire to meet people in bars or parties, I knew I was at a huge disadvantage in meeting anyone. Also, I went to a very hippy dippy college, where it seemed like every guy I crushed on was gay or not interested in me because the few straight guys there had their pick of loads of other girls. I gave up with the “normal” ways to date and started online dating as soon as I was of legal age (or maybe before that…but shh). And then I met D. I am an online dating success story, and I am not the only one. Here are my tips to increase your odds of finding that special someone in online dating:

1) Have a clear, attractive, and accurate picture of yourself on your profile.

The number of people who will even bother looking at your profile are much much lower if you don’t include a picture of yourself. As much as it may seem superficial, appearance is very important to how people judge us. This doesn’t mean people are going to judge you negatively just because you don’t look like a supermodel. Most people I’ve met in online dating are looking for a few things within your picture: 1) Is this an accurate picture? If this person says they are 50, but they look 35 in their picture, chances are they don’t really look like that now and are lying about one or more things in their profile. 2) Are they cute? Of course people are always looking for someone who fits their definition of cute, but everyone has a different definition. You will fit someone’s, don’t worry! 3) Do they fit my lifestyle? Pictures say a lot about you- not just what you look like, but where you are when you take the picture. If you put up a picture of you running a marathon, you’re saying “I’m an active, fit person.” If you put up a picture of you drunken with your friends, you’re saying “I’m fun to hang out with and like the bar scene.” The list goes on. It is therefore important not only to put up pictures of you, but also to choose wisely and choose pictures that are accurate of who you really are. 4) Are they hiding something? Please please make sure that the pictures you choose are clear shots of your face and are not altered or cropped to show “the best” of you. A blurry shot or a carefully cropped image very obviously shows that you are trying to hide something and will deter the honest folk from communicating with you.

2) Be honest and genuine.

This is number two, but in my opinion is the most important one.  Nietzsche once said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” When we make online profiles based on lies, we are not only attracting people who like us for who we are not, we are also inevitably proving to others that we lack credibility (once they find out you lied, of course). I know a number of people who provided “small” inaccuracies in their profiles (like writing they were 35 when they were actually 50 or divorced when they were actually separated) when they began online dating. It seemed like such a white lie to them and it may easily have been something that when honest about would have still attracted numerous people, but because it was a lie ended up ruining all relationships that sprung from it. Being honest and genuine about who you are may not end up drawing as many people to your profile, *but* it will draw the right ones- the ones attracted to you for who you really are. And isn’t that who you want?

3. Be very clear about what you are and aren’t looking for.

This is a follow-up to being honest and genuine. Most dating sites will allow you to post what your deal breakers are and what you are looking for. Be frank with yourself- if you aren’t interested in kids, write you aren’t interested in kids and that you aren’t interested in being with someone who is interested in having kids. If you can’t stand to be around smoke, clearly state that being a smoker is a deal breaker. We all have different things that irk us, and though they may not be rational or “fair,” if we know those things will end a relationship with us, then why bother attracting it to begin with? What is more fair- letting someone know once you start dating that they have to stop smoking or telling them to begin with that you can’t date a smoker? Again, you are trying to attract the “right” person, not just another person who finds you attractive.

4. Keep an open mind.

Besides the deal breakers, you probably have some ideal features in mind for a future spouse. The reality, though, is that the chance of meeting that perfect person with all of those features is ridiculously low (if not entirely impossible depending on all of your criteria). As human beings, we are actually very poor at understanding what we want in general until we experience things first-hand. We also don’t usually understand the consequences of our desires (like the cons that come with them). For instance, a person who really loves to cook may also be extremely type A about how the kitchen is organized or someone who really loves to dress up likely takes a really long time in the bathroom getting ready every morning. People also change. Just because your idea of a perfect spouse is one that rock climbs doesn’t mean that you won’t meet someone who doesn’t currently rock climb, but could easily be convinced into trying it (and maybe even becoming addicted like you!). 🙂

5. Be balanced.

We are all human looking for other humans, and therefore the people looking at your profiles (assumedly human too) understand that people make mistakes and are not perfect. Looking for a partner is like a job interview: Generally, a future boss wants to know about what you can offer to their company- your strengths, your accomplishments, your assets. They also want to know about your weaknesses to understand what liabilities they would be inheriting by taking you on. Likewise, we are looking for what someone can offer us as a partner- mostly their strengths, but also how their weaknesses might fit with our weaknesses. Therefore, your profile should not be a list of all the great, amazing, crazy things about you, but a balanced explanation of who you really are and what makes you tic. Similar to a job interview, you might want to emphasize how those “weaknesses” are really strengths in certain situations. For instance, here is one from D’s profile so long ago: “I’m always willing to go out of my way to help my friends. Be it loaning money, a ride to work, whatever. It tends to set me up to be taken advantage of, which is why I’m selective in who I deal with, but I always try to be there for people.” Also, in being honest, be truthful about how you might like to improve yourself in the future. For instance, “I only work out one to two times per week, but am looking forward to taking up kickboxing as soon as this big project at work is over!” Because we are all human, we appreciate being provided with a very human description of a future partner. We can begin imagining how two lives can become enmeshed, and this is an important contributor to whether someone will send you a message.

6) Put forth genuine effort into your communication with others.

As much as you may think no one can tell that you spent all of thirty minutes writing a lame profile page, I promise you that people can. I spent more than a year on Match.com and only ended up communicating with a few people. Why? Because they were the only ones who demonstrated they were worth putting effort into, though I’m sure I would have enjoyed many of them (but how would I have known?). Greater than 90% of the profiles online are almost illiterate. (And no, the illiteracy rate is not that high in America!) I don’t know about you, but I’m likely not going to click on someone’s profile who didn’t bother to capitalize the first letter of any sentence or use periods correctly. Beyond that, about the same number of profiles are really not providing anything unique. I’m sorry, but “I like to have fun” will never cut it with most people. How do you have fun? What makes you passionate? How would you share this passion with your partner? This isn’t fishing, people! You aren’t just throwing a hook and bait out there waiting for any ‘ole fish to come along and bite. We aren’t throwing out lies and deceit or vague ambiguities in order to “reel ’em in.”  Moreover, as my cousin says, we are not looking for “low hanging apples.” We want those high up, great tasting, sun-kissed fruits that require getting a ladder, dragging it to the tree, taking risks and climbing up high. Spend the time on your profile and your communication with others and you will be rewarded with people who complement you well and appreciate that you put the “real you” out there from the start.

7) Give it time.

If you have an expectation in your head about how long it will take to find the right person online, you will likely be disappointed. As I said in my previous post about love, all relationships fail until one doesn’t. Similarly, even if every single one of your dates from online sites are horrible, all it takes is one to go right and you might have found long-term partner material. Keep trying. Also, make sure to learn something from every date that doesn’t go right- even if that is about who you don’t want.

8) When you meet up with someone, meet up in a public place.

Though the likelihood of someone you’re meeting up with from an online dating site having intentions of hurting you is slim, it doesn’t hurt to reduce the chances of anything happening and at the very least reduce the awkwardness involved in being at someone’s house and things not going as planned. Make sure to have a friend be aware of who you are going out with, where you are meeting up, and have a time you will communicate with them by no matter what. Also, it may be helpful to make the first date at a coffeeshop or somewhere you can get a quick drink or bite to eat so you can make a speedy exit if need be (unlike going to see Lord of the Rings in theaters- a horrible date I will never forget!). And hey, if things are going better than you thought, go somewhere else for a more intimate setting afterwards.

9) Don’t provide too much sensitive information up front unless you’re willing to deal with any possible consequences.

Though it is important to be honest, there are some things you may not want to mention publicly on a profile or up front before meeting with someone. One problem with online dating is the fact that anyone can see your profile, including coworkers, bosses, or family members (if they look hard enough, of course). If you display graphic details of your sexual likes and dislikes or discussion about how much you hate your job, this may come back to bite you. All I’m saying is consider the possible repercussions of being *very* open on your profile and weigh how much you want to tell people up front or after they’ve had some time to get to know you. There has to be some mystery in a relationship. 🙂

10) Don’t wait for someone to write you.

If I didn’t “wink” at D on Match.com, I don’t know that we would ever have met. Our social circles definitely didn’t coincide and he was about to give up on the online dating game entirely. So don’t sit around waiting for others to contact you. If you find a profile that interests you, make the first move and make it a good one. You might just get the person you “winked” at or emailed after all. 🙂

There is no exact science to finding a partner. However, if you’re out to find your life partner, being yourself is the key. There is only one you in this world – be confident that being you is not only “enough” but ideal for at least one other person out there!

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