Online dating is no longer the happy couple's dirty secret. Single Americans are increasingly turning to online dating sites to find that special someone. In fact, one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or app, and one-third of married couples in the United States meet online. But, on behalf of those of us still "single and looking" online, I have to ask, What am I doing wrong?
Sarah Gooding, dating coach at PlentyOfFish, tells us that it may be that your online profile could use some work. A quick perusal of your latest matches will show you how few people put thought and time into crafting their online-dating profile. And yet, like any first meeting, a good first impression is essential. But all the more so when meeting online because your profile is really the only chance you have to put the best you out there.
With that in mind, Gooding has shared with us the ten most important things to keep in mind when crafting your virtual pickup line.
Your photos are the most important part of your online-dating profile. That said, it's important that your photos reflect your best self.
UPLOAD A MINIMUM OF THREE PHOTOS.
As a general rule, post no fewer than three photos of yourself in a variety of different settings. Numerous photos will give the person looking at your profile a good idea of what you actually look like . . . which will help him when he’s trying to spot you in a crowd on your first date.
Among your three photos, Gooding recommends including one clear headshot sans paraphernalia (that is, no hats or sunglasses), one full-length shot, and one active shot where you’re showing off your interests or hobbies. The best photos of yourself are candid and casual (but always looking your best!).
DON'T SHOW THE "CLUBBING" VERSION OF YOURSELF.
Photos that include cleavage, dance floors, drunk eyes, and numerous alcoholic beverages should not be included in your online-dating profile. These types of photos (particularly the cleavage shots) have a tendency to label you as a "party girl." Although this may increase the number of messages you receive, it will likely garner the wrong kind of attention. If you’re looking for something meaningful, being distracted by Mr. Wrongs will set you behind on your search for that special someone.
GENUINELY SMILE IN YOUR PHOTOS.
Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately women have a tendency to upload their sultry shots, duck faces, and artificial grins . . . mostly in the form of selfies. Of course we all pose for photos but the trick is to make it look natural. Try having a friend take a few shots of you where you’re smiling but aren’t looking directly at the camera. This can give the photo an authentic feel.
The Rest of Your Profile
YOUR USERNAME: PAIR AN ADJECTIVE WITH A NOUN.
If you're on a site that asks for a username, a great trick for coming up with one is to choose an adjective and a noun that describe you, stick them together and voilà—you’ve created a unique username. Real-life examples from PlentyOfFish include: “RelaxedWanderer,” “Champagne_dame,” and “SillyWestCoastGirl.”
YOUR INTENT: IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A RELATIONSHIP, SAY SO.
If you’re genuinely interested in finding a relationship, don’t downplay your desires for fear of looking desperate. Based on the relationships PlentyOfFish creates every year, Gooding has determined that users who are honest about wanting a relationship are more likely to find it and leave the site in that relationship. This is especially true for men: PlentyOfFish's most recent research study found that men who say they want a relationship receive 38 percent more messages than the average single male within the same sample group.
When you communicate what you’re looking for on the site, you’ll avoid wasting your time on people who aren’t intentional about dating and be more available to those who are.
USE EXAMPLES OR STORIES.
Although it’s important to cast a wide net when dating online, you also want to attract people who share similar interests and values. If you describe yourself too generally, your profile will make you sound like everyone else and you won’t hone in on those you’re most compatible with. A good way to avoid being too general is to use examples and stories to elaborate on who you are. For example:
“I’m an active woman who loves to hang out with friends.”
“I play on a soccer team twice a week and love catching a football game with friends on the weekends.”
“I’m adventurous and love to travel.”
“Last summer I enjoyed eating Brie and a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower, and next year I want to experience the beaches of Thailand.”
AVOID WORDS LIKE "SOUL MATE," "TRUE LOVE," AND "MARRIAGE."
Not to be confused with stating your intent (see tip #5), these particular words tell a potential date that you may have unrealistic expectations early on, or that you are so eager to be in a relationship you may be willing to settle. Either way, these words tend to scare men off. Avoid them at all costs.
Do your best to ensure everything on your profile is positive and upbeat: your profile description, your photos (frowning won’t get you dates), and the messages you send.
When it comes to your profile description, avoid using phrases that start with “I don’t like . . .” or “Don’t contact me if . . .” These phrases can come across as being negative and can reflect poorly on your character, especially when someone is judging you on a few sentences. Instead, communicate the same message with a positive twist.
“Don’t contact me if you don’t even have a job.”
“I’d love to meet someone who is as driven and ambitious as I am.”
LIST YOUR INTERESTS.
Think about specific things you like to do in your spare time. Include things like food, sports, music preferences, creative hobbies, and lifestyle-related activities. If you have trouble listing these off, ask a friend to describe you. The more you beef up your interest list, the better equipped the site’s matching algorithm will be to match you with like-minded singles.
KEEP YOUR DESCRIPTION WITHIN THREE SHORT PARAGRAPHS.
Your description is not the place to tell your life story. Keep it short and to-the-point. The first paragraph is all about who you are. To start off, think of three traits or values that best describe you. Remember to rely on examples and stories to show the reader how you emulate these traits.
Your second paragraph should be about your interests, activities, and where someone might find you on a Saturday afternoon. The last paragraph is about what you’re looking for in a partner. Again, simply listing off characteristics is not helpful. Be specific by using examples or explanations. Make sure your last sentence is positive and upbeat.
While this may sound like giving your online-dating profile a makeover, it's really about reflecting you more accurately to those who may stop by.