If the Internet is good for anything—and, actually, it’s good for lots of things—it’s good for finding a needle in a haystack. Whether you’re hankering after a pistol grip for that vintage Hasselblad single reflex camera, or want to learn all the lyrics to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know it,” the World Wide Web has made tracking down and securing even the most obscure objects your heart desires a lot easier.
Yet, when it comes to online matters of the heart, finding “the one” often remains elusive. That’s because love, like the Internet, has a lingo and etiquette all its own. Combining the two in an online dating scenario can complicate the delicate dance even further.
Once it was: “Boy meets Girl,” and, depending on circumstance, “Boy gets (or does not get) Girl.” Now, it’s Boy posts profile. Girl posts profile. Profile does or does not pique interest. Maybe Boy and Girl meet—or maybe they don’t, and if they do, do Boy and Girl live up to their profiles and live happily ever after?
It Had to Be [Virtual] You
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Bottom line: a dating profile—your first impression—is “sell copy,” and you’re the product being marketed. The trick for you as “Boy” to get the biggest bang for your buck is to optimize your pitch so it will best appeal to Girl’s brain with content that directly tags her where Cupid lives.
For that, you need to combine persuasive language with the kind of images that makes your profile pop rather than flop, which, as many have learned from experience, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
There are myriad of dating sites on which you can cast your line to do a little love fishing. While many of said online matchmaking entities equate “attraction” with a mathematical equation, Nerve Dating (an off-shoot of the sex/dating/culture site, Nerve.com), has incorporated social media conventions into their platform that allow soulmate searchers to create connections via interactive conversations, rather than simply writing essays, checking off endless lists, and hoping for the best.
We’ve tapped Nerve.com’s dating columnist Caitlin Robinson, AKA Miss Information, to offer some tips and tricks to those of you prepping to post your profile.
Don’t hang yourself with a dull rote
Vague adjectives signal “dull” and appear in far too many profiles, Robinson warns. “‘I’m a laid-back, easygoing guy…’ Such terms are practically meaningless. Even high-strung people often think they’re ‘laid-back.’ Find something more descriptive.” Other common terms to be avoided: “cool,” “awesome,” “funny.” “Nearly everyone ‘loves to laugh’ and ‘enjoys fun.’ None of that sets you apart. Instead of saying, ‘I’m witty,’” Robinson suggests, “say, ‘I’m one part Ricky Gervais, one part Jon Stewart, and a soupcon of Fred Flintstone.’ That paints a more vivid picture.”
Avoid lists. Tell stories
I like surfing, reading, swimming, jogging, and cooking. “Bzzz—dull!” says Robinson. “Put yourself into a potential date's shoes on this one. If you saw a list like this on a cute girl’s profile, how would you possibly respond? ‘I also like surfing. What’s your favorite thing about surfing?’ Blech—that conversation is a total wipeout.” A better alternative, she explains, is telling stories. “ ‘Last summer, I went surfing at the Jersey Shore nearly every day with my dog Rufus. It was a fascinating anthropological experiment. Buy me a beer, and I’ll tell you more.’ Something like that gives a date plenty to want to talk to you about—plus you sound like an active, interesting person, not just a list of gerunds.”
Don’t stretch the truth, even on minor details. “Let’s say you're five-foot-ten, but you decide you’ll seem hotter if you say you’re six-foot-one,” Robinson says. “It may be a superficial detail, but if/when your date notices you fudged the numbers, she’ll wonder what else you sugarcoated. It’s not about the inch or two; it’s a sense that you’re insecure enough to be lying. You shoot yourself in the foot immediately.”
TMI alert! Don’t overshare
Miss Information tells us it can be truly mindboggling what red flags people slip into their profiles. “If you’re just getting over a bad break-up, or you’re feeling really cynical about your ability to find a good woman, or you’re in a depressed place in general, keep all of those feelings out of your profile,” she cautions. “Some people conflate melancholy and depth. Don’t be one of these people. Any hint of sad trombone will send quality dates running.”
Choose photos strategically
Give a critical eye to the potential profile shots, and think about the message they’re sending. These pix dictate how potential dates view you, so be proactive and decide what image you want to project. “If you’re looking for a solid, long-term relationship-type, avoid pictures of yourself drinking excessively or making kissy faces at the camera,” Robinson says. “If you’re just looking for a fling, skip the photos from the church bake-off and beef it up appropriately.” Extra points for artsy/humorous/evocative shots. Subtract major points for fuzzy/out of focus/mug shot/creepy head chopped in half, and even more for those that feature dirty laundry in the background, or ex-girlfriends not so cleverly cropped out of the frame.
Ask for help
Even taking all the aforementioned steps, Robinson notes that capturing the cute, pithy individual you are can be a daunting prospect. “If you aren’t sure how your profile looks/reads, ask a friend to proof it,” she suggests. “They can catch any potentially off-putting, Charlie-Brown-sulking statements, as well as good-naturedly make fun of you for any weird phrasing or half-truths. A good friend will help you punch up your profile, give you an outside perspective, and probably be more truthful than you’d actually want them to be—which can be a good thing.”
Next Week: What to look for in her profile, and sending the first message.