Putting Yourself Out There

It’s a new year. Perhaps you’ve set a resolution to put yourself out there a little more when it comes to dating. Given the popularity and success of online dating, maybe you want to try this for the first time, or maybe you are looking to try a site you were on years ago or that is brand new to you. Either way, you are likely faced with the question of how to craft a dating profile that will attract others. 

Brooke Cagle/Unsplash
Source: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Been there. Done that. It’s how I met my now husband. I went on many first dates, I went on a handful of dates with two other men, and then I met Mike almost seven years ago. I think every man with whom I was in contact commented on my profile. They told me it was different from the others. In the world of online dating, this is definitely something worth striving for. 

As a sociologist, I study human behavior, relationships and intimacy. I’ve written this article drawing on what I know professionally and personally. So, this is for all of you who want to make your profile really stand out. Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Tips for Guys:

Resist posting pictures of yourself shirtless, holding a fish that you caught. Women are more interested in how much of a catch you are, not what you can catch! 

Include pictures of yourself and not pictures of your dogs, decks, cars, and bikes. You’ll come off as showy and materialistic. One picture of you with your dog on your deck is plenty. 

There is also need to post pictures of yourself shirtless holding a wooden spoon and spatula in the kitchen; we’re not looking for kitchen porn!

Don’t post selfies from the bathroom mirror. We’ll only be checking if you remembered to put the seat down and refill the toilet paper roll. 

Don’t include pictures with small children to prove you’re a great dad; we’ll find it manipulative of the kids. 

If you are a man under 5’9” just be specific with the number. I remember that the men 5’6” and under always claimed to be 5’8, and the men under 5’10” insisted they were six feet. That myth is blown the first second we see you.

Don’t say that you would like to meet women between the ages of 18 and 60. You will seem super creepy and desperate. And, you will raise red flags if you are only willing to meet women who are younger than you are. It’s common for men to want to date younger women, but you will sound much more attractive, for example, if you are a 52-year-old man interested in meeting women 45-55. 

Tips for Women: 

Thrusting your hip to one side to look five pounds thinner only makes it look like you dislocated your hip. 

Speaking of hips, no selfies with hands on your hips. 

This isn’t an ad for push-up bras at Victoria’s Secret so you need not make the pictures cleavage shots. 

Skip the line about being just as comfortable in jeans and sweats with a ponytail as you are in your little black dress. It’s incredibly boring and overused. 

Assuming you are looking for more than a booty call, choose a screen name that is a good combination of sweet and serious rather than childish or overly sexualized like sexbunny or caramelkisses. 

Men will often lie about height; women will often lie about body type and weight. But remember that it’s all fairly obvious once people meet up. 

Ditch the rigid socialization you’ve likely subscribed to; if you are on a dating site, it’s fairly obvious why. So, it’s fine to reach out to men before they reach out to you. All the rules are out the window—at least until you meet in person and then you can be old-fashioned if you like. 

If you are in your forties and beyond and looking to date men, you can be pretty sure that men in those age groups want younger. For example, if you are a 55 year- old woman refusing to meet 60-63 year-old men you might be guaranteed dates with Ben or Jerry on the couch.  

Tips for Everyone: 

By all means, check out your competition. For example, if you are a man seeking a woman, go on the site as a woman seeking a man to see what the other men are like. 

If you want to put up pictures that feature others with you, now’s the time to round up your less attractive friends

Never lie about your age. 

Don’t send someone a wink, wave, poke or any other form of flirtatious non-verbal communication, and don’t be lazy and send a message that simply says “hi.” If you want to chat with someone, send them a real message with some substance, and indicate what caught your attention about their profile. This is particularly true for men who are seeking women, since in this culture, women are more reluctant to make the first move and will likely have trouble with how to respond to mere winks. 

Most people on these sites feel a little weird, and we know it takes guts to reach out, but if done with respect, it goes a long way.  On that note, if someone takes the time to reach out to try to connect with you, and you are not interested for whatever reason, the polite thing to do is to still respond. You can decline politely, but you should not leave someone hanging who had the decency to reach out on such an awkward forum. 

Consider how you interact with people when you are reaching out for the first time or exchanging messages. For example, my husband, a marathon runner, tells the story that a woman reached out to him for the very first time and made fun of him for running, saying "I’d never date a runner; I’m a smoker." Or, if you hate the Red Sox and have your eye on a woman with a pink hat that has a B on it, resist the urge to berate her about her choice of teams. These sorts of comments may work in person, in context, and when people know each other but they certainly do not work on these sites. Be kind and genuine and consider how humor and sarcasm are conveyed. 

Most everyone enjoys romantic walks on beaches, sipping hot cocoa by roaring fireplaces, and relaxing in the evening with a glass of wine talking with someone special. Aim for something more original. 

Use current pictures. Remember truth in advertising

Skip the line about how you don’t care about finding the perfect person and that you just want to find the person who is perfect for you. We have all heard this one before. 

Most of us don’t want drama in our lives, or abuse, or infidelity, or someone who is a stalker. But, if you mention these things in your profile as stuff you can’t stand or say that it’s a drama-free zone, you can pretty much assume that others will read this as crazy projection and want to stay far away. 

Be sure to respond to site’s profile questions. Don’t leave them blank because others will interpret that you don’t care enough and have not taken the time to be thorough and thoughtful. If you answer, “Will tell you later” on multiple questions, it makes you seem too evasive.

If you’re separated but not divorced, it’s better to say that. It’s one way to weed out, and then possibly attract more secure, confident people. 

If you have a child or children you need not broadcast about how they come first and a potential partner will not. It sounds defensive and aggressive. If someone has a child or children, or is open to dating someone with kids, they will likely get this without you saying it and sounding obnoxious. 

Resist the temptation to take the easy way out with what I have come to call “the sixty-minute Starbucks check me out date at 5pm or 6pm.” The whirring sound of the frappuccino maker in the background doesn’t add much to the ambience either. It is understandable to initially prefer a date like this as it doesn’t get in the way of most people’s work schedules and weekend plans, but it’s just too cheap and easy and so obviously about checking out the other person’s appearance. 

Write as well as you can. Grammar and spelling matter. Consider sharing your profile with a few trusted friends to see if it rings true, seems authentic, and reads well. This is the first impression others will have of you. 

Demonstrate the essence of who you are, what you’re about and what you stand for. And take some time to reflect on what you feel are the most important qualities in another person and in an intimate relationship. 

Be honest. If you rarely or never work out, don’t say you’re athletic and toned and go to the gym four days a week. If you’re a night owl, that’s okay to admit. If you hate to cook or are terrible at it, it’s fine to admit that. If you love adventure but are afraid of heights, it’s okay to say this. If you really want to meet someone with a college education, say so. If you have no interest in having kids or being with someone with kids, let that be clear. On the other hand, if you are dying to have a child, you can let that be known without it overwhelming your profile. 

Being vulnerable and quirky can be endearing and lovable. You don’t need to get super self-deprecating though or mention every wacky thing that makes you who you are, but some amount of playfulness and uniqueness is fun. 

And remember, you need not reveal everything here—both in your pictures and in your writing; the profile is a way to give a glimpse of yourself so others are eager to learn more. 

Try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself as it winds up getting projected onto others. People often comment that online dating can feel like a part time job because admittedly, it is time consuming to sift through profiles and write and respond to people. But, have fun. At the end of my profile I wrote: “All of this might understandably lead you to infer that I am seeking something very serious. Actually, I am looking to have fun with someone special, a person with real integrity where, together, we find some joy and zest. If something serious emerges, I might embrace it. Perhaps we can chat. Regardless, by all means, all good wishes wherever your journey takes you.” 

And the same goes for all you readers…all good wishes wherever your journey takes you! 

Tips for creating successful online dating profiles
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