If you’re online dating, you’re probably making some mistakes. Some you’ve probably never even thought about. Dr. NerdLove illuminates.
For many people, online dating is a godsend – especially if you’re the sort of person who hates trying to meet people on the bar and club scene. It offers you the chance to be as specific as you want to be in your search for for potential partners. Sites exist for every permutation of relationship you may want – eHarmony for marriage, Match and OKCupid for something less serious, Tinder in case you want to treat sex like ordering a pizza.
Unfortunately for many men it’s less of a gift and more of a venue where they can be rejected even more efficiently. It’s understandably frustrating when you feel like you’ve been sending out message after message, right-swipe after right-swipe and only getting echoing silence in return. It’s natural to feel like everything is stacked against you and you’re not getting your fair shake. But if you want to find online dating success, then you have two choices: rant about how unfair it all is or try to fix things.
Here’s how to fix your online dating experience.
“Re: That Dick Pic You Sent Me”
Something that every man needs to keep in mind when it comes to online dating – whether it’s Tindr, OKCupid, Match, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish or any other dating site – is that culture is playing against you. The cultural rule that says men are supposed to be the approachers and women are supposed to be the approached continues to exist online… and that’s going to make things harder for you.
One of the things that you need to keep in mind: you’re probably not the only person messaging that woman you’ve had your eye on. Hell, you’re probably not the only person messaging her right at that moment. You are one of potentially hundreds of messages, winks, pokes etc. that hit her inbox on a daily basis. This alone means that it’s very possible that you’re getting lost in the churn.
But while that’s inconvenient, that’s not the problem. The problem is how many messages she’s getting that look like this:
Other messages look like this:
The Instagram account Bye Felipe, started and maintained by Alexandra Tweten, was created to archive many of the repulsive and abusive messages that women get on online dating sites like OKCupid and Tinder. There’s also a plethora of blogs and Tumblrs like Ladies of OKCupid and Annals of Online Dating that document the awkward, ugly and flat out disgusting messages that women receive from would-be swains on a daily basis. And of course, there’s the occasional unsolicited dick pic that shows up in their inboxes as well. There’s only so much women can take before online dating fatigue kicks in or they get a sudden case of “FUCK THIS SHIT” before canceling their accounts altogether.
If you want more than just deafening silence in your inbox, you need to stand out from the crowd, and that means understanding how to message the women you’re interested in the right way. And that way is to keep it simple, short and direct. Any vague whiff of bullshit or entitlement is going to be all it takes to get you ignored. A message full of flowery compliments is going to be seen as suspicious at best. A novel-length email is going to be TL;DR’d straight into the trash. An email (or an IM) that’s just “‘sup” screams “why do you even bother?” And of course, launching straight into sexytalk is a great way to get blocked and reported.
That first email is, much like an opener in a cold-approach, just about getting the conversation started. You want to show that yes you did read her profile and reveal just enough personality to intrigue her into checking you out and writing you back. That’s it. After you get the conversation rolling, then you can get into longer, more detailed conversations. But until then, keep it simple.
Don’t Try To Appeal To Everyone
There’s a phrase I see crop up in “inspirational” memes on Tumblr and Facebook: “I’d Rather Be Someone’s Shot of Whiskey Instead of Everyone’s Cup of Tea”. And as much as the twee-ness of it makes me gag, it does make a good point.
One of the most common mistakes that I see people make is that they have crafted their online dating profiles to be as broadly appealing as possible. Now I realize that this seems a little counter-intuitive; after all, don’t you want to appeal to more people? The wider you cast your net, the more fish you haul in, right?
The problem with this approach is that by trying to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to nobody. You’re catering to the lowest common denominator and, as a result, losing anything that makes you appealing, unique or different. You’ve made your profile so broad that your personality fell out and all that’s left is a bland mush. It’s not surprising; a lot of people take the tack of trying to avoid rejection and to avoid giving off any signs of common deal-breakers. Of course, if the best thing that you can say about your profile is that it’s inoffensive, then you shouldn’t be surprised by your stunning lack of success.
Being too-broadly appealing means that you’re spending a lot of time and effort for minimal return. Since all of online dating is, at its core, marketing, you have to think like a marketer. Do you want to appeal to a broad audience, and one that’s saturated with competitors at that, or do you want to target a smaller, more niche audience that is actively looking for what you have to offer? That broad audience, while tempting, is a mistake; a large demographic that thinks you’re ok or nice enough is far less likely to respond to your messages than a smaller demo that really digs what you have to offer.
This means you have to be willing to be polarizing when it comes to your dating profile. You have to be willing to have strong opinions and to let your personality shine through, even if it means that you’ll potentially be cutting yourself off from a wider base of potential matches. Are you a Whovian with strong opinions about the Moffat era vs. the Davies era? Make that known – other sci-fi geeks are going to want to find you, even if the supposed “cool” kids think you’re weird. If you’re a Bronie, go ahead and let people know; the people who’re going to give you shit for loving Friendship is Magic aren’t going to suddenly be more tolerant of it when you surprise them with it, and you end up missing out on fellow fans of the show. If you’re only looking for a casual relationship, say so; don’t be the douchebag who pretends to be interested in something long-term just because you don’t want to scare people off. Similarly, if you only want a relationship that’s going to lead to kids and the white-picket-fences of suburban living, make that clear. You don’t do yourself any favors by chasing after people you’re fundamentally not compatible with. Let your best, most authentic self shine through in your profile, even if that means not everyone’s going to like it.
Yes, it can hard to be willing to put yourself out there, knowing that some folks aren’t going to like you. But trying to avoid rejection just ensures that you’re going to be bland and undesirable. Not everybody loves whiskey. Many people will never touch the stuff.
But the people who do? Love it. You don’t want people who think you’re ok. You want to be the thing they crave.
Your Profile Pictures Are Turning Them Off
Cold truth time: photos count in online dating. People are going to judge you by your photos.
But not necessarily in the ways you think they’re going to.
You see, the photos we put up in our online dating profiles are little snapshots of our lives. They contain all kinds of information about us – everything from the pose we’re in to the people in the photo with us, to the style, the background… these are all little indicators of ourselves, our interests and what we’re like as people.
If your photos suck, then people are going to turn away, no matter how pretty you might be.
Now there are some areas in online dating where pure looks are going count for more than personality – hook-up apps like Tinder, Grindr, Skout and Pure put the emphasis on superficiality and looks. But there’s more to being photogenic than just facial symmetry – there’s knowing how to present yourself for the camera in such a way as to make yourself look your best. Your facial features aren’t the only factor when it comes to looking good in photos – just look at any celebrity gossip magazine that features articles like “Stars Without Makeup!” and “Best/Worst Beach Bodies”. Little things like light-sources can drastically alter your appearance – overhead florescent lighting makes everybody look like waxy zombies.
But the quality of those photos counts as well – and in many ways, more so than the subject. Graininess, overexposure, underexposure, blur, angles, cropping, backgrounds, even basic settings like focal length and aperture settings all affect the quality of a photo. That quick, washed-out bathroom selfie is considerably less appealing than a well-framed, carefully chosen photo, even if you’re looking especially good that day. The mirror-in-the-bathroom pose, the decidedly unromantic locale (especially depending on anything you have in the bathroom), the blocking part of your torso with the phone and the awkward “trying not to look at the screen” expression on your face all take away from the impact. It says “I don’t care enough to put much effort into this.” A well-composed shot, with better lighting and with razor-sharp focus, on the other hand, is just more pleasing to the eye and, in turn, makes us feel more positively inclined towards the subject.
Your photos are one of the first thing that any potential match is going to look at, so you need to make sure the ones you have are absolutely tight. You’re only as appealing as your least-attractive photo. Two or three amazing photos trumps six or seven mediocre ones with one good one in the mix. Your photos create your first impression in an online dating site; better make sure they’re the right ones.
Your Profile Is Turning People Off
Remember when I said that you need to be polarizing and let your personality shine through? That’s not an excuse to be an idiot or an asshole. You may have an amazing profile photo and an incredibly witty first message, but when your match checks your profile and sees your rants about ladder theory and how women are shallow, hypergamous status seekers who only latch onto men and drain masculine light into their all-consuming void, she’s going to hit the back button so hard her browser will implode.
Similarly, nobody is sitting around and thinking about how much they’re wishing they had a partner who stews in his own resentment and bitterness towards women or the world in general. Advertising how much you hate the world is a great way of explaining to people why you should be single for a while.
But even if you’re not necessarily Oscar The Grouch in human form, there are still a number of ways that your dating profile can turn people off. You want to scan through your profile and look for these potential trouble spots:
- Using Passive Or Wishy-Washy Language – Remember what I said about being polarizing? This is the opposite. One of the most common phrases said in online dating is “I listen to a little bit of everything except country and rap”. What this really says is “I am painfully generic and have no opinions of my own.” Similarly, you want to excise any phrases that include “people say I’m…” or “I guess…” All this tells people is that you have no confidence. Worry less about seeming self-absorbed and be willing to take a stand. If you think you’re cute as fuck, own it.
- Telling, Not Showing: Anyone can say they’re something. You want people to believe it? Then you have to show them. You like to travel? Congratulations, so does everyone else. Instead, talk about where you’ve been, the exciting places you’ve visited, the cool shit you did while you were there. Don’t say “I have a great sense of humor”, prove it. Let your humor show up in your profile. Demonstrated traits are much more believable (and desirable) than just saying that you have them.
- Bitterness, Arrogance, Entitlement and Resentment: These are the Anti-Sex Equation.Resentment ain’t pretty and bitterness isn’t sexy. Lines like”I don’t take this too seriously” screams “I’m so above this,” which clearly you aren’t. Likewise, the more you complain about being single – or even hint at it why it’s all so unfair – the faster people are going to NOPE away from your profile. If you can’t go for five sentences without complaining about how shallow women are, then first I want you to show me pictures of all the lepers you’ve been approaching and then you need to take a break from dating until you can sort your shit out.
- Bullshit Challenges To Potential Matches: I’m always astounded by people who put conditions into their “Message me if you….” sections. All any of this does is scream “Dance, dance for my approval” and ensure that the women checking you out swipe left so quickly their phones leap out of their hands. Ditch the compliance ladder bullshit you picked up from a PUA forum and back away slowly. Incidentally, yes, there is the occasional woman who’ll do this, too. Don’t want to have to jump through their hoops? Don’t fucking message them.
- Epic Lists of Dealbreakers: It’s one thing to have standards. It’s another when your list of what you won’t accept is longer than your “About Me” section. The longer the list of things you can’t stand in a woman, the longer the list of reasons as to why you’re still single… and this is doubly true when you’ve listed them in your profile.
You’re Messaging The Wrong People
Messaging women in online dating sites is a tricky business. You’re already signing up for a fairly high messages sent to reply ratio, just by nature of the beast. But part of the problem lies with the way that people choose who to message. See, when most people join an online dating site, they’ve basically become a telemarketer.
Emailing potential matches is functionally the same as cold-calling a marketing lead; you’re trying to connect with a stranger and convince them to check out your product. The only difference here is that your product is, well, you. Now, realize she’s already received dozens if not hundreds of calls that day. It’s not surprising that she’s going to react the way most of us do when telemarketers call: by screening her calls and pretending to not be home.
As long as you are willing to put in the effort and don’t take a no-reply answer personally, a shotgun approach to online dating is one way of meeting people. Throw enough out there and you’ll hit something eventually. Hell, some people right-swipe everyone on Tinder in order to maximize the odds that they’ll have a match. However, it can be incredibly time-consuming and ego-depleting… especially if you’re looking for something serious rather than a casual fling. So instead, if you want to increase the likelihood that you’re going to hear from the people you message, you have to do it the right way. And that means focusing on the people who’ve shown interest in you first.
Fortunately for you, most dating sites are more than happy to provide you with that information. Almost every dating site out there lets you know who’s visited your profile recently. Those are the people you want to focus on – by checking you out, they’ve given you the digital equivalent of an approach invitation. A person who’s already shown interest in your profile isfar more likely to respond to your message than someone who’s never heard of you before. The most powerful tool you have in your arsenal when it comes to generating interest in online dating is a fine-tuned, carefully honed profile. Taking the time to make sure every part of it is as lean and mean and appealing as possible is a far more valuable use of your energy than cold-calling randos online. The more interesting and appealing your profile is, the more people are going to want to check it out.
Of course, you want to make sure people know your profile is there in the first place. Making sure you use good online dating SEO is important – after all, many people search by keyword as much as by age, weight, height and income. If you don’t use the right keywords in your profile, then your potential matches can’t find you. It’s also worth regularly updating your profile photos – weeding out the old and out of date ones and replacing them with new ones helps keep your profile higher on the search results. But one of the best ways to bait people into checking you out? Check them out first. How many times have you clicked through to somebody’s profile because you saw they’d visited you? Well here’s the thing: women do that, too. In fact, visiting other profiles to bait them into visiting you is a powerful trick. Chris McKinlay, the man who “hacked” OKCupid, actually wrote a Python script to visit every profile of women within a certain match percentage. Of those, a significant number would check himout in return. Now most of us don’t have the coding chops to pull that off, but you can make a point of visiting a few people’s profiles a day in order to draw them to yours.
And when you’ve polished up your profile – cleaning out the deadwood and negativity, tightening up your writing and using only your best photos -people who visit you will be thatmuch more receptive when you message them. In fact, if you’ve done your job right by troubleshooting your online dating profile, you won’t have to message women constantly.
Because they’ll be the ones who start messaging you.