So, by now, you’ve got a digital dating portrait worthy of Da Vinci. The next step in the process is selection of possible dating partners, but if we’ve learned anything from the other D, Darwin, nothing leads to the extinction of a species—or your love life—faster than impatient, impetuous, inattentive behavior.
It’s survival of the fittest out there. So, unless all you’re after is a string of casual hook-ups, in the world of online dating, brains trump brawn pretty much every time. If you want to evolve from homosapiens dateless to homosapiens socialus, pay heed to the following advice.
Do Your Due Diligence
Says Nerve.com’s dating columnist Caitlin Robinson, when contacting someone, you have to put a little effort into it. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by pretty much every woman we spoke with. Wendy, a veteran online dater from the tri-state area concurs. “It sounds stupid and elementary,” she says, “but it shocks me how many guys—especially the ones in their 20s—don’t fully read the profile. Nothing is more annoying than a guy who takes shortcuts.”
She cites the following example: “Say I spend an entire paragraph talking about how one of my loves is spending time with my sister and rolling around with her two boys. When a guy asks me, ‘So, do you have any siblings?’ I’m like, ‘Can’t you even be bothered to read the whole profile?’ Or, I’ll have stated that if you do any drugs at all—even pot—you and I will not be a match, yet I hear from guys who are clearly into partying.”
Wendy’s cardinal rule for online dating is this: Don’t waste your own time and don’t waste other people’s time. “I can’t stress this strongly enough. Read the entire profile…the essays and the multiple-choice checklists—every site has their version. If a girl says, ‘I have allergies and asthma,’ and you have a dozen cats…you are not going to be a match. If the other person’s profile says, ‘I’m looking for long-term,’ and all you’re after is hooking up, give it a pass. Similarly, if you want something more serious, and all she’s into is random play, move on.”
Next: Scaling it back >>
Kid in a Candy Store
The problem for many younger guys when choosing appropriate potential partners, notes Wendy, are “the shiny factor” and “single focus self-involvement lenses.” The most frequent offenders, in her experience, are twenty-somethings just looking to hook up or find some instant gratification. “Young guys are very visual,” she explains. “They see a tremendous rack in one of my pictures, and they’re mesmerized, and I get the IM or email.” (In fact, commenting on a woman’s physical attractiveness right off the bat can actually be a turn-off, according to Robinson, since it can be read as superficial. And yet, it’s a common enough gambit that gets would-be daters shot down on a regular basis.) So, don’t be distracted.
Next, pay attention to the major parameters of what your potential date is looking for, and honor them. “What I would honestly tell you, flat out, is that just because you don’t care what someone else is looking for doesn’t mean that they don’t care,” says Wendy. “Just because someone looks cool and has a good sense of humor doesn’t mean that a woman who clearly states, “I’m looking for marriage and children” is going to respond well to you … It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s and you’re interested in a woman in her 40s, but if the person you’re contacting clearly says in her profile that she’s looking for someone 35 to 45, and you aren’t even close, again, don’t waste your time, and don’t waste hers.”
Next: Making contact >>
Bearing the Cardinal Rule in mind, once you’ve found the potential girl of your dreams and you’re ready to make contact, Robinson advises that you treat your initial message like an opening line at a bar. “Keep it coy, genuine, and interesting,” she says. “‘Hey, what’s up?’ doesn’t cut it, but something like, ‘I can’t believe you met Ryan Gosling! Was it hard to form sentences around someone so attractive?’ is more likely to lead to a real conversation.”
Wendy, who actually posts to her Facebook status every time something absurd happens in her online dating saga, has developed her own three-pronged, winning formula that she both uses and responds to for contacting potential dates:
1. Hello, my name is… “You’d be surprised at how many people neglect to tell you their name,” she sighs. “If your handle is Scooby Doo, I don’t know what your name is, so when you’re introducing yourself, please tell me your name upfront.
2. Take a cue from her profile. “Reference what it was that made you think you and she might have something in common that made you want to reach out to them. ‘I saw your profile and found such and such really charming, or I saw that you like to hike and I just came back from hiking the Appalachian Trail.’” Adds Robinson, “Referencing her profile shows that you read all the way to the end, and care enough to pay attention.”
3. Tell me a little bit about yourself. “A couple of sentences to a small—and I stress small paragraph. Hope to hear from you soon. Actual name (not Scooby Doo).”
Wendy bemoans the socially awkward guys who feel the need to float their entire life story before her. She recalls a case of one who regaled her with an e-missive that went on paragraph after paragraph. “He threw everything up against the wall hoping that something would stick,” she says. “A dozen of his favorite movies, 17 of his favorite bands, a million examples of what he liked to eat, read, do. It was overwhelming.”
The flip side of the over-sharer is the losing lothario who opens with, “Hey, are you naked right now?” “If a guy IMs me with, ‘What RU doing tonight? RU horny?’ it’s obvious all he wants to do is porn chat,” says Wendy. “That’s not just wasting my time and yours, it’s actually making me angry. Say a guy who does that actually changes his mind? He actually reads her profile and decides he might want something more; that she might be the one? She’s always going to think of him as ‘the RU Horny Guy.’ Don’t be the RU Horny Guy.”