With the rise of online dating, meeting new people should theoretically be easier. There are tons of people on Tinder, OkCupid, and Match (among others) that you might never otherwise have crossed paths with. But online dating can feel maze-like and overwhelming.
How do you start a conversation with someone? What should you include on your profile to get noticed? How do you move from messaging to meeting up for coffee? Should you post that sweet selfie with your abs showing so she can see your rockin’ bod or should you post a picture of you out and about with friends instead? Do potential dates really need to know that you got burned in your last relationship?
Never fear. We talked to Buffie Bell Lily, the woman behind Wine Pairings, a Charleston-based dating service, about how to create an online dating profile that will get you noticed and get you dating.
Go get ‘em tiger.
First Impressions: Photos
Humans are visual creatures, for better or worse, and so most people don’t get past the photos on a person’s profile. Proceed with caution when it comes to choosing your photos.
A successful profile photo will make the difference between someone actually reading your profile information or not. To boot, photos that work are not just a matter of whether or not a person is attractive, Lily says. Photos on dating websites need to tell potential dates a little bit about the person.
“This is the first thing people see,” Lily says, “so photos matter a lot more than people may realize.”
Lily suggests choosing photos that show you doing something you love.
“If you like soccer, choose pictures of you playing soccer. Even a picture of you out and about on the town–at a museum, at a park–will do.”
Don’t have any pictures like that? No worries. “Go somewhere you love with a friend and have them take pictures of you. People really respond to photos like that.” Lily says photos along those lines suggest that you’re active and you’re passionate about something, which is a huge plus.
She also suggests leaving other people out of the equation. Just post photos of yourself, lest potential dates get confused. “I had a client whose profile picture was him with his niece, and [a potential date] saw that and thought he had a kid.” Same with sisters and women who are just friends. Save the guesswork.
But Don’t Be That Guy
No matter what, Lily says to avoid selfies at all costs. “Don’t you dare put a picture of you in a bathroom with your shirt off,” Lily says. “It makes you look like you have no friends, and it’s a definite turn-off.”
Second Wave: Information
Congratulations. Your photos piqued someone’s interest enough for them to start reading about you. Now here’s where you turn that raised eyebrow of curiosity into a message saying hello.
First and foremost: we get it. It can be weird to write about yourself in a way that is honest and enticing yet humble. This part requires a sort of Goldilocks balancing act of figuring out just the right amount of information to put in your profile.
Before you try to figure out if you should list every book you’ve ever read or just write “I like to read” you should know something very important.
“Just be real,” Lily says. “Women are sick of being lied to.”
This advice goes both ways, of course. No matter who you are, do not lie on your profile. Don’t lie about your height. Don’t lie about how much exercise you get every week. Remember: eventually you two will meet in person, and the jig will be up. Lily says there’s no point anyways, because your date will eventually find out. No matter the lie, you shouldn’t expect them to be happy. Even if you lie about something as benign as if you’ve read A Song Of Ice And Fire, it signals to potential SOs that you’re not trustworthy.
Entice, But Don’t Overwhelm
Lily says this part of your online dating profile requires a balancing act: giving enough information to let on whether or not you have common interests with the person reading, but not writing so much that it feels like your life story.
“Potential dates need to know something about you, or they’re not going to bother messaging you,” Lily says.
Do you like reading science fiction? All right. That’s a worthy thing to mention. Do you need to list every book you’ve ever read? No. In fact, any and all information dumps are to be avoided like the plague. Not only do people not want to slog through that much information, you run the risk of telling people so much about yourself that there’s nothing left to talk about.
Okay, Okay, Here’s What We Mean
So we’ve been talking at you about the Goldilocks profile. Why don’t we just show you what we mean?
Bad: I’m Jim, 34, accountant. I like going out with friends and reading.
Why it’s bad: Who doesn’t like going out with friends? And what the heck do you read? Magazines? Blogs? Obscure 19th century Russian fiction? There’s not a lot to go off of here, so it’ll be difficult to start a conversation. Theoretically, someone could ask you what you like to read, but that’s running the risk that you don’t have anything in common depending on your answer. You need to give a little bit of a hint of what you’re about.
Equally as bad: I like binging on Netflix, especially [insert all the shows you’ve ever watched here]. I also read science fiction in my free time; I’m particularly a fan of Asimov’s Foundation series. I also quite enjoy Ender’s Game, the Dune chronicles, and Neuromancer. I don’t really like the Song of Ice and Fire series because I find it to be full of plot holes, and Martin’s portrayal of a fantasy-based feudal Europe to be tone-deaf. Other books I like: anything by Terry Pratchett, etc., etc.
Why it’s bad: First of all, information dumps are never good. Walls of text are almost guaranteed to repel people. Second of all, if you go into all of the books you like to read and why you like to read them, and even the books you don’t like and maybe even why your first grade teacher really was the wooooorst, you risk two things: first, that you will come off as a know-it-all who isn’t open to conversation and, second, even if that’s not a turn-off to a potential date, there will be nothing to talk about if that person wants to message you.
Good: I enjoy reading science fiction (current read: Martian Time-Slip; favorite read: Watership Down) and taking my two aussies for hikes on the weekends, but I also love getting lazy with Netflix (Archer and Jessica Jones are my current faves) and ice cream.
Why it’s good: You give the potential date a little bit more to work with. You like science fiction, so they can ask what your favorite books are. You take your aussies hiking? Where? How old are your dogs? Leave some breadcrumbs, and the right person will definitely follow.
Third and Final Step: Messaging
Holy crap, you’ve made it this far. Don’t freak out. This is easier than you think.
Lily has advice for you, whether you want to start a conversation or you want to pursue a conversation someone else started.
Give Compliments Specific To The Person
If you’re going to message someone first, this is one of the most important pieces of advice we can give you, but this piece of advice is relevant whether you message first or not.
No woman wants that generic “Hey beautiful” message. “For all we know, you’ve sent that to a dozen ladies,” Lily says.
While compliments are always welcome, make them specific to the person and, even more importantly, about the person’s interests, not their physical features. This will show that you’ve read their profile, and that you’re interested in more than just looks.
For example: does the person you’re interested in mention hiking with dogs? Say something like, “It’s crazy impressive that you can handle two energetic dogs and climb a mountain.”
Questions Are Your Friend
Questions will open up the conversation, giving you a better chance of turning an interaction into a date. While a specific compliment will differentiate you from other people sending messages, a compliment by itself doesn’t leave a lot of room to start a conversation. There’s nothing much to say in response other than “thanks.” So that’s where questions come into play. What do you find interesting about that person? What do you want to know more about?
Let’s stick with the hiking with dogs example. So you like that that person hikes with their dogs. You could ask what their favorite hikes are, how old the dogs are, how long they’ve been hiking, etc.
Asking questions will also give you the chance to gauge the interest of the person you’re talking to; if they ask questions in kind that’s a good sign. Likewise, if they don’t ask questions in return or if they give short answers, perhaps you should move onto the next person.
Know When To Take It Offline
As nerve-racking as it is to go from messaging to meeting in person, we assure you that it’s well worth it and way easier than you think, like ripping off a band-aid.
“If you’re getting along with someone online, you’ll most likely be fine in person,” Lily says. At any rate, she says, it’s important to find out as quickly as possible if your positive interactions will translate face-to-face.
Lily suggests asking someone out after no more than three days of messaging–and even that is stretching it. Messaging, she says, is there in order to test the waters, not so you can establish an entire relationship. “Do it sooner rather than later so you still have stuff to talk about,” she says. You don’t want to waste all of your conversational energy and curiosity on messaging. It’s also important to get to know each other offline so you can also gauge physical chemistry.
When you’re ready to ask someone out, use what you know about them to suggest a date relevant to their interests. “If you talked about art, meet up at an art museum. Even a farmer’s market or a coffee shop,” Lily says. Choosing a location relevant to that person’s interests and your ongoing conversation shows that you’re paying attention; to boot, locations like farmer’s markets and coffee shops are low-stakes, casual atmospheres.
With these online dating profile tips you’ll be sure to make a connection or five. Well, what are you waiting for? It’s time for you to get out there.