My first attempt at online dating was an utter failure. I was disheartened checking an empty email box day after day, wondering if my send button was even working. I received emails from women ten years older or more than me. The emails from women who were my age had pictures so bad it made me wonder why someone would voluntarily allow anyone to see a photo like that, let alone use it to represent themselves.
A good friend of mine who is a woman told me she did receive hundreds of emails, but most had the same issues—decades older, and even some who included photos of their penis as if that was their most attractive trait. While there are a lot of people out there we don’t want to date, there are some really amazing people who are online. You’re there, aren’t you? The hard part for me was finding them and sorting out those I didn’t want to date.
After a while of being on the site, the guys and girls started to all blend together, fading into the void of mediocrity. When a good profile did pop up, getting a response was never a sure thing. The superficiality of picking dates was like online shoe shopping—too much choice, everyone seemed the same after a while, and of course those perfect shoes are always out of stock.
Success is all about putting your best face forward while differentiating yourself from the crowd of faces.
Part 1 – Photos
A friend of mine once told me she made sure she put pictures up that represented her in a variety of looks, so that no one would be surprised when they met her. She didn’t want to put up only her best shots. While I applaud her sense of honesty, people online have a “Next!” mentality. Any little thing will cause someone to delete your email or pass over your profile. Putting yourself forward both good and bad is great in person, and in fact makes you more attractive. Putting up your faults or non-flattering pictures online is a recipe for failure. The idea is to get them to meet you, and then you have a chance to find out who that person is and vice versa.
The most successful online daters are people with good photos. If you are serious enough to try online dating, be serious enough to go take some professional photos. Don’t do glamour shots; have the photographer take photos that may be candid, or less posed. By having a professional do it, the photos will be much more flattering. Black and white close-ups are a very flattering shot to add among your other photos as well.
Try adding some photos of you in your travels or doing sports to show your active and adventurous side. These should be flattering but usually are easier to take yourself or pick from your photo collection because they often aren’t close-ups.
Part 2 – Profile
I am fun, optimistic, adventurous, down-to-earth, and love life! Sounds like the perfect person, doesn’t it? Well then there are millions of perfect people out there for you because just about every profile online says this same thing in different ways. There is a lot of advice out there on writing a good profile, but I want to give you a format to write something actually interesting and different while still presenting who you are.
Start with one of those character traits about you. Instead of just saying you are that, give us an example with a quick anecdote that shows it. Examples:
Adventurous: I once told a jungle shaman to put two cats in his mouth; I was a bit embarrassed when I realize what I had said in Spanish.
Goofy: I find that doing a John Travolta dance move in the middle of a busy intersection doesn’t attract as many strange looks as I would have thought. No wonder I like a bad pun so much, at least I get a groan.
Open Minded: The strangest person I have ever given a hug to was the man who did a handstand for hours upside down with his head on the bottom of a corona bottle in Union Square last year. He was standing up sharing with me his philosophy of the upside down people in a right side up world, with me appreciating the poetry of his slightly insane worldview.
You are an individual, just like everyone else. The key to making a profile is stop telling them who you are, and instead show them who you are with examples and experiences. There are tons of adventurous people out there. How do you manifest that?
Don’t explain every detail. Leave some mystery; give them something to ask you about. Make it easy for them to email you with questions. There was nothing more frustrating to me than finding a person I liked, then scouring the profile just to figure out a question to ask them. “I am fun, lively, and down to earth” leaves me with only the question “How are you that way?” Unfortunately, that is just a little too big of a question for a first email.
Part 3 – Email
I wrote a lot of interesting, witty, funny, insulting, and bizarre emails all in attempts to get responses. In the end, I found no one thing got me any more responses than another. In fact, the more witty, clever, and humorous I tried to be, the more I screwed it up. There are some things I did discover throughout my online dating adventure. One is that the email is a lot less important than the picture and profile. Here are some other insights:
No one likes a form letter. Actually read the profile for a quick question about something they put in there.
Keep the questions in your first email short. I hate close ended questions (yes or no) in real conversations; they shut down conversation instead of stimulate it. The interesting thing is that in an email, no one will reply with just a yes or no, and because the question is short and quick, it is easy to answer. Start with a quick question like “When you were in Peru, did you make it to the Amazon?” They will answer more than a one-word answer yet won’t feel like they have to write a book. If you ask, “What was your experience like in Peru?” they may just put your email on hold for when they have more time to reply. Hopefully they find that time.
Keep all your emails short. I like to ask a quick question then relate to it with a very short experience or example of mine. Don’t take up more than a paragraph. Remember the longer the email the more someone will feel like they have to write back to you. Short emails get more response than long emails.
Build relationships in real life, not online or over the phone. The internet is a scary place. Many people recommend taking your time to get to know someone before meeting them in person. While I agree with that, the reality is most of the time you will know in a couple emails or after a phone call. If you want to be really safe, set something up over email and don’t give out your number. You can also get theirs and call using *67 to block your number. Don’t be afraid to move to coffee at a public coffee shop after a few emails. In fact, it can be a huge waste of your time to build a relationship over email or phone. I rarely meet someone who is the same in person as they are online, over the phone, or in email. Sometimes that is a good thing; other times I found I got too wrapped up liking the person only to find that in person we had no chemistry. I always tried for two or three emails from me, then suggesting we meet for coffee.
Good luck with your online dating adventurous. Be safe and don’t take any of it too seriously. I found that the people I was most excited to meet often didn’t measure up and often I was surprised that I liked some more than I would have thought. However, online dating is a numbers game, even more so than meeting people in real life. Don’t get too attached to getting a reply or date from any one person. If you keep that in mind and realize that it can be very empowering to have more dates than you have time for, online dating can be a very rewarding experience. You never know who you might just meet!