Online Dating: Your Virtual Glance Across the Room
I’ve been quoted as saying “Online dating is like dragging a magnet through a bucket of nails: it’s the pr*cks that make it painful”. This shouldn’t be interpreted as being sex specific or limited to online dating. Dating, in general, is a game of Love Roulette – you never know when you’ll find one that blows your mind, or drives you back to being single for awhile. It’s not surprising, though, that so many daters of a certain age (OACA) turn to the internet to meet someone.
Here, in the metro, where we can ride a city bus all day and meet no one but the driver, we are isolated by geography, work, family and social commitments, our own phobias and social norms. The internet is an easy way to reach out from your comfort zone (aka sofa) and meet strangers with little effort. Along with the snippets we read, we may exchange a few emails, texts or actual phone conversations before meeting someone – it’s the equivalent of making eye contact and quick chit chat at the bar.
Easy as the internet can make dating, few succeed in finding their true love that way. Why? Three reasons:
- we have unreasonable expectations, or conversely,
- are settling far too quickly both of which are exasperated when we acknowledge
- we aren’t good self promoters.
Why should we be? We didn’t think we’d ever have to write an advertisement for a date, and most of us grew up learning not to brag about ourselves so combined – POW – most online profiles don’t accurately reflect our great, date-able qualities or present us in the best possible way.
Recognizing the prevalence of online dating, as a dating coach I spend time with my clients helping them dissect why their profiles are attracting the “same old/wrong type”, how to improve online images and write a catchy – but truthful – assessment of who you are and what you’re looking for. Think of your online profile as your “elevator speech” - the 30-45 seconds you’d have on an elevator with a potential mate who’s just asked “Why should I date you?”. What would you say to ensure they understood who you were, make you more memorable or – ideally – want to ask you to coffee so they could get to know more about you?
Let’s look at some excerpts from actual profiles - typos, misspellings and all (if any of these are yours, call me!):
Spell check, please:
howdy. i’m a quasi health nut, working at a advertising firm and two other jobs to fill the gaps and keep me out of trouble. but i love trouble. hey, i’m fun loving, outdoors hiking, not hunter though, no nascar, but love sports, lift…
The good: You get a sense of positive energy from the profile, what the person likes to do.
The bad: Punctuation and spelling go a long ways toward making a good impression. Do you really believe they are college educated or write poetry?
The ugly: No picture. In this case, a picture could have been worth a thousand typos, misspellings and run on sentences.
Love Coach suggests: Take the time to write complete sentences, use proper punctuation and skip the bit about trouble – that’s why most of us are divorced now.
When I was 20 – I knew what I wanted. When I was 30 – I thought I knew what I wanted. When I was 40 – I knew what I didn’t want. And now, I know that finding someone who is truly a soul mate seems impossible. But being a consummate optimist, I’m still out here looking. I’m sure my job, moving, and not being obsessed with finding someone has contributed to not finding someone long-term. For any of you that have previously read my profile, emailed me, or even met me… thank you. I probably seem rather aloof to you. That’s not the case. Either there is a connection or there isn’t the first few times you correspond or meet. I will say that I still keep in contact with a couple of guys I’ve met on here as friends. It’s just better for both of us if that is the course meant to be.
The good: This profile has a bright smiling face picture.
The bad: Nothing in the introduction or profile back up that smile or claim of optimism.
The ugly: Unless you wanted to be judged, and assume fairly swiftly, there’s nothing positive here: they know what they “don’t’ want”, reads “a relationship isn’t very important to me”, and may qualify as serial dater.
Love Coach suggests: Tell us your redeeming qualities and why you’re on a dating site to begin with. Match the profile with the smile, in an honest, meaningful way.
What Do You Want?!
I am told I am a good catch as I am not the "usual" girl. I don’t fuss over things like most women and I like and understand sports (are probably the main reasons I am told this). I am fun and love someone with a good sense of humor and looks are not as important to me as the person inside (what a cliche, but so true). I am getting wiser with age, and have learned from my past life mistakes, althought am prepared to make more. Have had a rough past year but am ready to get out there and have some fun again!
The good: The profile picture is really nice.
The bad: That’s all there is in the profile. I have no idea what this person wants, do you?
The ugly: Second profile picture is her and her daughter. Bad move. Why are we so careful about posting pictures of our kids on Facebook but toss them all over dating sites? Do not put pictures of your children on dating sites – ever. The stranger you’re talking to may be far more interested in meeting your tween daughter or teenage son than meeting you.
Love Coach suggests: Be specific about what you want and who you are. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re very frustrated with your online responses. It’s not clear to anyone what you want or are looking for, so men are going to take a shot. This will result in a lot of wasted time – yours and theirs.
First off let me say thank you for taking the time to look at my profile. I realize I’m not a model or out of the GQ magazine I am who I am. However I am trying to get back into shape and loose weight. I am somewhat quite and some times a little old fashioned. I don’t require the latest things and am happy with what I have. I have a quick wit and a good sense of humor. I am well educated even if I don’t have a collage degree…
The good: This guy is honest, has manners and is humble.
The bad: His profile isn’t compelling – it doesn’t give you a reason to reach out to him.
The ugly: Unfortunately, his honesty is overshadowed by his lack of self esteem. He assumes he will be judged on looks and education, along with others mentioned I didn’t include here.
Love Coach suggests: Remove the negatives. While you may have low self esteem and are taking steps to improve that (exercise, weight loss) focus on the positive traits you have today. Be honest and, men, don’t assume women will judge you based on looks alone.
First and foremost, I am not here to play games. I can go to the bar for that. I would like to meet a quality person, with high integrity in both their personal and professional life. I would like to date, and go from there. But honesty and trustworthiness is first and foremost, say what you mean, mean what you say and back it all up! Simple things in life make me happy, and make me smile. Remembering small details from conversations, stopping by for no reason, relaxing at home, or a low key eve out make me as happy as a trip to vegas, or a night out at the clubs! I’m very flexible and easy going.
The good: This person is diverse and tells you that very clearly.
The bad: This profile goes on to state they “don’t share if dating regularly”, asks if you have kids if you really “have time to date” and are being “fair to the children”.
The ugly: The pictures have a prostitute-trying-to-do-a-glamour-shot look about them. Will catch a man’s eye, certainly, but doesn’t go along with the content regarding games and integrity.
Love Coach suggests: Focus. You’re profile pictures scream player, it’s referenced in the profile, but you declare a goal for integrity. Chose one and align your entire profile in that direction.
These are by no means specially selected profiles, just a random sampling from a few dating sites. I could write the balance of the year on improving online profiles, but let me leave with you a few simple tips:
- No kids, ever. If you’re OACA, we can assume you likely have one or more. Don’t post anything about them (ages, live with you, et al.) and never post pictures of them on dating sites. That said, if you don’t have children/at home and either a) like it that way, or b) are actively looking to have kids put that in your profile. If you’re being honest, that will help others assess compatibility.
- Be honest, but focus on the positives. That doesn’t mean ignore the areas you’re working on, but those are better in a discussion, not an online snippet. No one is perfect, we know that, so think “elevator speech” and put your best foot forward.
- Focus. You may your mate to be rich, tall, educated, hard working, sexy, sensual, romantic, witty, charming, kind, compassionate, engaged in the community, own their own home/rents a loft downtown, drives a truck, rides a motorcycle, has pretty feet, keeps a clean house, cooks well, loves family, has a cat, slim and fit, reads, watches sports, likes to travel, plumbed their own home…….(hold on, catching my breath)…..but think of your top three or five and stick with that. No one – ever – will meet your entire wish list and posting it will intimidate, rather than lure people into your life.
- Expect to be judged on looks alone. Harsh words, but all sites are designed the same: picture and headline to catch attention. Take the time to have good pictures taken, either by a friend or a professional. Consider this your glance across the room, your first impression. Nothing will pull someone into, or push them past, your profile faster than your picture.
- Spell check is your friend. If your site doesn’t offer it, create your profile in word processing software, spell and grammar check then cut and paste.
Remember, online dating is just one arsenal in your dating artillery pack. Use it to your advantage, keep you and your family safe, focus and avoid wasted time – and painful mistakes – by thinking your strategy through before adjusting your pillow and firing off that profile.