Note: This isn’t a list of rules. It’s a list of suggestions. If you don’t know anything about internet dating then the tips here will be a good starting place to learn the basic do/don’ts, but there are exceptions to almost every rule on this list. It’s up to you to figure out when to break the “rules.”
If you have any tips you’d like to add, please post a comment.
1. “Rule” number one of internet dating is that the goal is not to attract as many people as possible. It’s to attract the most compatible person possible.
This piece of advice is implied in most of the steps on this list, but it’s so important that I posted it as its own entry to emphasize the point. Even if your goal is just to have casual sex with strangers, you’re still looking for a specific kind of person. The way you find the most compatible person for you is to weed out everyone who is incompatible, which is at least 80% of the people out there.
Good dating sites help you weed out the competition by making you answer questions so it can calculate your compatibility with other users based on their answers. The more honestly you answer those questions the better the site can point you in the right direction.
The more honest your pictures are and the more completely and accurately your written profile reflects who you are the more your profile will attract compatible matches and repel incompatible ones. So don’t try to put your most polished foot forward. Put your real foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.
2. Post a picture of yourself.
It’s perfectly acceptable to make a generic profile with no picture if you just want to lurk on dating sites and check out the smorgasbord anonymously. But if you’re actually looking for a date, put a picture of yourself on your profile. You might be scared to do that because you have insecurities about your attractiveness. But if a potential date doesn’t find your picture attractive then they’re not going to find you attractive in real life, and it’s probably not going to work out between you. Putting up a picture saves everyone’s time. At any rate, potential dates deserve to know what you look like, and not posting a picture of yourself tells them that you have something to hide, which will discourage them from contacting you.
If you are too insecure to post a picture of yourself then you’re probably too insecure to have a truly successful relationship. I say this in the nicest possible way: you should see a therapist before jumping into the dating pool. You have some healing you need to do. You deserve it, and you owe it to your future partner.
3. Post a clear picture of yourself that accurately captures your appearance.
Again, there’s no point hiding what you look like. People who aren’t going to like you aren’t going to like you. That’s the cold, hard reality of the dating scene. Accept it, and act accordingly. You need someone in your life who will accept you for who you are anyway, and you future partner needs someone who is honest with them.
If you’re so attractive that you feel the need to post slightly uglier pictures of yourself to discourage horn dogs from messaging you, understand that you’re also discouraging good people from messaging you as well. You might say to yourself, “But I don’t want to date someone who would only date me if I’m beautiful.” To that I would say, stop being a hypocrite. There are certain people you would never consider dating based solely on their appearance. We all pretend like there isn’t a petty bone in our body, but the cold, hard reality of dating is that water rises to its own level. We all know where we fit in the attractiveness spectrum, and statistically speaking we’re probably going to end up messaging and eventually settling down with someone in our range. There are good people with specific standards. Don’t help them overlook you.
4. Guys, don’t post shirtless mirror pics unless all you’re looking for is sex.
Shirtless mirror pics scream, “I’m vain,” and vain people are selfish. Selfish people aren’t good partners. Posting shirtless mirror pics repels girls who are looking for more than just sex.
5. If you can write a description under the pictures you post then do it.
It gives people a better idea of who you are and whether you’re compatible with them. Use the tools you’re given.
6. Don’t fill out your profile with generic information. Express yourself.
It’s perfectly okay to make a generic profile if you’re just lurking, but if you’re looking for a real relationship you should fill out your profile as completely and honestly as possible.
If you’re uncomfortable sharing personal information then you should probably see a therapist before jumping into the dating pool with both feet. Your insecurities are a symptom of a larger problem that will surface in all your relationships. For you sake as well as your future partners, get help.
If the only thing you profile says is that family and friends are important to you and that you like getting out of the house, watching movies and hanging out with friends then all you’ve really said is that you have a pulse. Everyone feels that way; it goes without saying. So if that’s all you say then you’re really saying you have no personality. That’s what you’re telling potential suitors anyway. You may be exactly what someone else is looking for, but if you don’t show them that you’re that person they’re going to overlook you.
You may not want to share too much about yourself out of fear that it will scare people away. If what you say about yourself scares someone away… that’s great! That’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to scare away the +80% of people who are incompatible with you.
If there really isn’t any more to your personality than the bare basics then you need to go traveling and find yourself. Being basic is no way to go through life, because being a dull person yields a dull life. The more you explore new passions and define yourself the happier and more fulfilling your life will become, and as you define yourself you define who is compatible with you.
There’s no one, right way to fill out your profile, but the following outline provides a useful starting point:
Explain what most defines you. What type of personality do you have? What do you like to do? What’s important to you? What do you believe? What do you hope to accomplish in life.
Explain what you’re doing with your life these days.
Explain what kind of a person you’re looking for.
Explain what kind of person you’re not looking for.
7. Use proper grammar.
Using poor grammar and typing in text talk like this, “Hi wuz up!? I think ur hot. LOL. Write bck plz.!,” screams, “I’m dumb.” You might feel that’s harsh and judgmental, and maybe it is, but for right or wrong, that’s the message it sends.
If you’re only looking for anti-intellectuals then feel free to type like you’re a 13 year old on a cell phone. But if you really do possess the intellect of a teenager I would strongly urge you to consider taking a break from dating and focusing on educating yourself. Knowledge is important. It’s like having a super power. I guarantee that it will make you a better person and a better partner.
8. Don’t use “wink” or “like” buttons to express an interest in someone.
It’s the equivalent of having your friend tell someone you like them. It conveys that you’re not confident enough to approach them directly.
9. Unless you just want sex, don’t message people with cat calls.
Don’t send people messages that just say, “You’re hot.” “Hi, cutie.” “Message me.” “How you doing?” etc.
These types of messages convey one of three things:
1. You’re just looking for sex.
2. You’re too insecure to send a real message.
3. You’re too simpleminded to communicate effectively.
10. Make your first message personal, but keep it simple.
The first time you message a person write a brief statement about who you are and what piqued your interest in them. Then offer to meet them for an informal date. Then click “send.”
If you drone on and on about yourself you’re going to come off as self-absorbed. If you drone on and one about the other person you’re going to come across as clingy.
You don’t need to tell people your life story before meeting them. You don’t need to know their life story, and you don’t need to woo them. You’ll know within a few minutes of meeting each other whether there’s a connection between you. By just skipping to the chase and offering to meet you minimize your chance of making a fool of yourself, and you save everyone a lot of time and energy.
You want to make your message short and sweet, but you don’t want it to be so simple that it sounds like a cut and pasted template. People are more likely to respond to you if you show that you’re genuinely interested in something about them and that you have something in common.
11. Don’t message people if you’re not going to respond to their reply.
I’ve noticed a strange trend on internet dating sites, and I’ve talked to other people who have experienced it too. People will send you a message introducing their self. But when you write back and offer to meet up, they never write back. It’s frustrating and disrespectful. I don’t know why people do this, but stop it.
12. Have an informal first date.
Going on a big, fancy expensive first date may seem like putting your best foot forward. If you’re just looking for sex then it’s a good way to impress someone in the short term, but if your goal for a first date is to measure compatibility then you’re hurting yourself because all the glamour and glitz serves as a mask that hides your true selves.
The less pretenses you put up on your first date the more likely you are to connect on a real, personal level, and the more likely you are to recognize incompatibility. You might feel like a failure if you leave an informal date knowing that there will never be a second date, but the date wasn’t a failure. It succeeded at weeding out one more incompatible person.
13. Be attractive.
Even though I advise against getting too dressed up, I would also advise against being too informal. The simple truth is that people are attracted to attractive people. It’s in our DNA. You might have the best personality in the world, but if you show up on a first date badly in need of a haircut and wearing sweatpants you’re just slitting your own throat.
There’s more to attractiveness than just how beautiful your face is. It’s the total package from your haircut to the length of your fingernails to how you smell to how well you dress. If you look like you’re successful and well-groomed then you will exude attractiveness. If you present yourself like a slob you’ll be taken for a slob and will likely find yourself sitting alone at the end of a failed date. The problem isn’t that the other person was too judgmental. The problem is that you sold yourself short.
14. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Again, the success of a first date is not determined by whether or not there’s a second date. Success is determined by whether or not you connected with someone you’re compatible with, and securing a second date with someone your’e not compatible with counts as a failure.
If you are compatible, the other person won’t be able to connect with you if you behave vaguely and safely without revealing your true personality. If you’re not compatible, the other person needs to know that, and they won’t if you don’t show them.
15. If you’re just coming out of a traumatic breakup you should consider putting off dating for a while.
There are a lot of people on dating sites who will say flat out not to message them if you’re just getting over an ex and are an emotional wreck at the moment. That request seems harsh and arrogant, but there’s some validity to it. It’s hard (maybe even impossible) to build a healthy relationship with someone who is still getting over an ex.
After a big breakup you may feel alone and think that the best way to heal is to find love again as soon as possible, but there’s a good chance that the best thing you can do to heal, recoup and redefine yourself as an individual (as opposed to a member of your last relationship) is to spend some time alone.
If you’re feeling angry, hurt, lost and/or suicidal, find a therapist to help you work through your feelings. If nothing else, read this book: Getting Past your Breakup.
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