When you sign up for an online-dating website or app, it’s easy to feel hopeless. There are thousands of people positioned on either side of you, competing for the attention of your potential partners; first you’ve got to stop people in their tracks, and then you need to hold their attention.
There are a lot of ways to do it right, but far more ways you can do it wrong. To help you land more meaningful matches, we got some online dating tips from Bela Gandhi, Founder and President of Smart Dating Academy. She specializes in helping people market themselves in this crowded dating landscape, and has turned the most clueless daters into confident candidates.
1) Have The Right Mindset
“There are 107 million single adults in the U.S., which is almost half of the adult population,” Gandhi says. “And over half of them are dating online. It’s the world’s largest cocktail party, so there are absolutely people out there who are compatible with you.” For this reason, be optimistic about your odds, but set appropriate expectations: “You have to be ‘in it to win it’, not ‘in it for a minute,” she adds. “Don’t give up after a day or after a few dead ends. Hope and optimism are the right tools for this game.” Furthermore, if you project positivity, you attract positivity.
2) Limit Your Outlets
Gandhi suggests using no more than two sites or apps at once, at risk of overloading your plate and decreasing your attention span. “Even if you don’t like one of the apps or sites, just give it a month since there is such dynamic turnover in the dating world. If, after that amount of time, you don’t think this is the right place for you to look, then move on to another site.”
As for how many people you should be communicating with at one time, don’t limit yourself as much — to an extent. “You’ve got to have multiple people in the race,” Gandhi says. “It’s kind of like a horse race: Just because one gets a big lead, doesn’t mean someone else won’t surprise you with a come-from-behind win, or that the leader won’t fall back.” You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but you also want to lightly approach this phase of dating. Because you’re being presented with so many options, don’t get too emotionally invested — that is, don’t go sleeping with everyone on the second date — in order to really let each courtship play itself out.
3) Photos, Moderation And Balance Are Key
“Photos will determine 90% of your online dating success,” Gandhi says. “You have a fraction of a millisecond to get someone’s attention as they scroll through their options, and the first photo will make or break it.” Here are a few rules to keep you within the right photo framework:
- Don’t have just one or two photos, but also avoid having 15-20 photos. “The sweet spot is 5-6,” says Gandhi.
- Your first picture should be a cropped headshot, looking right at the camera, well-lit, hi-res, smiling, no sunglasses, and no selfies.
- “No selfies, ever,” says Gandhi. “And no photos of your friends. I know you have friends, and I don’t want to compare you against them in your photos. Also, I want to know that someone else took your photo, not you. It feels less narcissistic.”
- Dress to impress. First of all, don’t be shirtless, regardless of your physique. “Leave something to the imagination,” says Gandhi. “Moreover, your clothes speak volumes about you. They should fit well, and you should only post photos where you look your best.” That being said, be sure that you’re wearing something different in each photo.
- Find a balance of head shots, and don’t overdo it on photos of yourself in extreme situations (mountain climbing, scuba diving, on a safari) to seem “too untouchable”, and don’t have more than one “awwww” photo, like pictures with your baby niece or a puppy.
4) Spell Check
“People will judge your intelligence by how you write,” says Gandhi. “And because so many of us are on tablets and smartphones, we all make mistakes. But it’s so important to have eloquent, smart text on your profile.” She suggests putting everything in Microsoft Word or into an email draft to run a spellcheck. “Don’t lose someone’s interest because you don’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re,’ or because you didn’t notice the typo in the first place.”
5) Be Honest And Transparent
Never lie about your age, height, or weight. A lot of dating sites give you a “statistics” panel to complete. Be totally honest here — even if it asks about your smoking and drinking habits, or whether or not you have kids. These aren’t things you need to mention at all in your own written profile, but it will help filter out people who may not be attracted to you — which is fine! It will save you time and means that anyone you meet has proper expectations. A lot of first dates are over the second they start, because someone’s photos were outdated or they lied about their height. Just be upfront, and be confident about it. You’ll be much more successful.
6) Don’t Overshare – Make Them Earn Your Story
Again, don’t elaborate too much about your personal life story. You don’t need to tell this ocean of strangers that you are divorced or even that you survived cancer. These are hyper-personal details that make you unique, but that may intimidate people who don’t first get a chance to meet you. “Make someone earn the right to get this information,” Gandhi says. “If you wouldn’t say something in a job interview, then don’t say it on your dating profile. Everybody has successes and baggage; it’s part of the human condition. Bring it up naturally on a date, when it feels right, and when you know you can trust that person.”
7) Adjectives Are The Enemy
It’s not very helpful to tell people that you are “funny, adventurous, and creative”. You need to actually be creative and show them that you are these things. “‘Adventurous’ means different things to different people,” Gandhi points out. “For you it might mean ‘trying new ethnic restaurants’, but for someone else it might mean ‘hiking the seven tallest mountains in the world.’ Tell people how you are funny, or adventurous, or creative. Give them context.”
8) Avoid Negativity
We’ve already discussed the importance of projecting positivity, but it’s especially important in your written profile. “Never say ‘don’t message me if…’,” says Gandhi. “Even if it’s ‘don’t message me if you just want a hookup.’ You’re going to get unwanted messages regardless, and part of online dating is learning to ignore those people. By saying anything negative at all, you’re going to put off people who might think you want to set up all sorts of boundaries. Instead, just focus on the types of people you do want to attract, and speak to them in a positive manner.”
Some sites are eliminating usernames altogether, and are asking people to use their real first names. However, if you have a unique first name, it might be easy for someone to Google you in your city and acquire more information about you. In that case use a simple pseudonym — perhaps a more common first name.
9) Be Careful With Usernames
If you’re on a site that does require a username, then don’t try to be too funny. “DrLove” might sound humorous, but it’s not going to register well with others. Obviously, avoid anything with the number “69” in it, and instead try to pick a username that can be a talking point. “We had one client who was a teacher and a semi-professional cook,” Gandhi says. “We landed on ‘ZagatRatedTeacher’. She got a ton of replies because it explained so much with so few characters.”
10) Embrace Your Age
Women in their 20s are by far the most-contacted users on any dating app or site. However, their messages take a significant dip after they turn 30. Their dating preferences also tend to change at this age: They’ve liking played the field and have a good understanding of what they want in a partner. Because of this, heterosexual men in their 30s have an even better chance at online dating (and finding a meaningful match), because they will start to get responses from women who might have overlooked them in their 20s. It’s a happy spin on “nice guys finishing last”: They find relationships that last, too.