Much like landing a dream job, finding the ideal partner is often a fierce game of tug of war, involving lots of crashing and burning and trial and error. Often times, the hardest step is actually the first one — when you put yourself out there and hope you actually stumble across another person who shares the same page you’re currently reading. But with a new generation of tech-focused, experience-minded millennials, connecting offline can be far more cumbersome than meeting via a dating app or online site.
Though plenty of couples have been introduced IRL (in real life, in case you were wondering), through mutual friends, in college or the workplace, if you keep coming up empty in this common meet-cuties area, it’s time to give online dating a chance. Though once a formerly taboo way to meet your partner, online dating is now the new normal for eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, who prefer the speed of swiping, rather than taking their chances at the same old watering hole for another night.
But if you’ve never created a profile, selected your photos or sent a message via your mobile phone to a complete stranger, the process can be intimidating to say the least. Especially since various sites cater to different audiences and feature singles with a wide range of intentions, diving head first without studying up isn’t recommended. Enter online dating experts; they have the expertise and the knowhow to help you get the most dates out of your heavy thumb work. Here’s our no-nonsense guide to making online dating work for you and your romantic goals:
1. How Do You Choose A Site?
How many online dating apps can you name? From Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and Happn to J-Date, eHarmony, Match, and EliteSingles — not to mention countless others, a quick internet search will have you scratching your noggin’, trying to determine which one is best for your lifestyle and taste. Online dating expert and author Julie Spira explains the first step toward success is doing a bit of soul searching. Because you want to spend less time with your head down scrolling through profiles and more time meeting women in person over drinks or coffee, you first need to determine what you’re looking for.
Though there are extreme cases for every site, traditionally speaking, some communities cater to more x-rated experiences, like Friend-FinderX or AdultFriendFinder, while others are geared toward creating meaningful, long-lasting relationships, like Match or eHarmony. A vast variety of others — like Tinder, Bumble or Hinge — fall in the middle, where some use the app to hook up at a swipe’s notice, while others line up dates in search of the right mate.
Think you should just pick one and put all your energy into it? Spira says to think again, as most singles actually keep tabs on a few dating apps at the same time, giving them the best odds for success. Especially if you’re in a big city, like Los Angeles or New York, psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz says having a pool of eligibles nestling in your iPhone is smart. However, before you download 10 and lose your job because you’re too busy responding to messages, both Dr. Schewitz and Spira note that two to three dating apps is the maximum number you should maintain at any given time.
And if you really are investing in dating apps because you want to meet your future wife? It’s time to cough up the change, Dr. Schewitz says. Don’t believe us? She says, go ahead, ask your buddies. “Have they noticed certain sites are more about hookups and others seem to have more people looking for real relationships? Sites where people pay to be members typically have more people looking for relationships whereas some of the free swiping apps like Tinder are known more for casual flings and dates,” she shares.
2. How To Build Your Profile
You might not be the first one to hop, skip and jump in front of a camera every single time your mom wants “just one more selfie” at family gatherings, but having a few solid photos to demonstrate your personality, your attractive features and your lifestyle speaks volumes about the type of matches you’ll receive. Writer’s block, much? It can be a tall order to put into a few sentences the reasons why a lucky lady would want to meet you for a cold one at happy hour post-work. For many men and women alike, the act of writing out your interests, your background, your likes and a funny one-liner for attention-grabbing can be difficult. It doesn’t have to be though, with a few guidelines from experts: Not sure where to start? Follow these tips first:
Take Your Time
You might want to start swiping away ASAP, but Spira says the most successful daters are ones who are thoughtful with their profiles and really put effort into them, to ensure they’re putting the best, most authentic face forward. “Take the time to write a great profile bio, upload 5-7 photos, caption them if you can. This way you can take the time to search pro-actively, rather than focusing solely on a pretty face,” she says. “Women pay attention to the guys who put in the extra effort, both with their own profile, and to see if the guy has actually read hers. Having all this info is helpful to craft a personalized email to get her attention — one that won’t end up in the spam folder.”
Say Bye To Selfies
See, you actually outsmarted your mom on this one! Though you probably take a few selfies every week — at the gym, on Instagram for the filer, or via Snapchat out of boredom — Spira explains these type of images don’t have a place on your online dating profiles: “Selfies are fun, with or without a stick on Instagram and Snap, but when it comes to looking for love, you need to put your best digital foot forward and post quality photos that show you’re serious, properly framed, and not out of focus,” she explains.
There are exceptions to this rule — younger guys, guys who are really good at taking selfies, or guys trying to show off a funnier, laid-back side, who have funny selfies to support that, for instance — but if you’re not one of those, you might be better off sticking with shots other people have taken.
Keep Your Shirt On
When a gal digs you, she’ll want to see you sans clothes one day, too. But Dr. Schewitz says not to rush the topic of sleepovers by oversexualizing your profile, since it sends the signal that you’re only online to get laid. “Shirtless selfies in the bathroom mirror immediately make women think you are a player, you are egotistical, you are shallow…the list goes on. Don’t do it. The only time it’s ok to have your shirt off in a picture is if it’s a group shot on the beach or an action shot of you doing something athletic. Leave something to the imagination if you’re looking for a real match,” she advises.
Get Specific In Your Profile
The worst type of profile you can have? One that’s empty, according to Spira. She also suggests giving enough information to sound interesting but not too much that there’s nothing left to strike up a conversation about. “One of my favorite tips is to post a photo of a location you’ve been to, or better yet with a celebrity if you have one handy. Simply write in your bio, ‘bonus points if you can guess who I’m with in the sixth shot.’ An empty profile will show you’re not serious about it and is a turnoff to women,” she shares. “I recommend 125-150 words for a dating site and 3-5 sentences for a dating app. Include something you’re passionate about in a non-generic food. If you say, ‘I like concerts,’ that’s great, but if you say, ‘I just saw OneRepublic in concert and had a blast,’ you’ll get more responses from women who love live music as well. Plus, it’s a great ice-breaker for date ideas.”
Smile – And Look Happy!
Even if you’re ex-military or your pops told you to never smile in photos, it’s time to let that professional, stinted side go for your online profile. Especially if you’re trying to mimic the duck face your sister always makes, Spira urges you to set the frown aside and let your fun-loving spirit shine through. “A happy and confident man is going to get matched more often than someone who appears too serious, is looking sideways, or is wearing sunglasses. A warm and genuine smile will capture her attention to click on your profile to read more about you,” she notes.
Don’t Post Pictures With Other Women
Even if the majority of your best friends are women, it’s not recommended to have countless images on your online dating profile with other women. For many women, Dr. Schewitz explains, this is an automatic swipe-nope. “Don’t post pictures of you with your arm around girls unless you caption it, letting viewers know it’s your sister,” she explains. The only type of photo where it’s okay to have another lady standing next to you? “Mom pictures, on the other hand, are highly encouraged! Women love to see a guy who loves his mama,” Dr. Schewitz adds.
Use All Of The Photo Options
Though some sites like Tinder offer a smart photo feature, giving you real-time insight into which image is performing the best and attracting the most likes, Spira says, as a general rule of thumb, you should take as much real estate that’s offered to you — and no, she’s not talking about purchasing a home to snag a mate. “There are similarities to having curb appeal for real estate as there are in finding love online with a rocking dating profile. That means, if your mobile app lets you upload 6 photos, don’t post only one. A real estate listing will include the best shots available and great copywriting. So should your dating profile,” she explains.
3. How To Message
Finally found a gal who swiped a resounding “yes” like you did? Now it’s time to strike up conversation — but a simple “Hi there” definitely won’t do the trick. Instead, it’s important to be a healthy mix of casual and curious to keep the conversation active enough to lead to a first date (more on that later). Here some tips to remember:
Be Flirty And Use Her Name
One surefire sign a woman feels less than stellar when you message her? You aren’t specific about anything in her profile, but rather, it’s evident you merely copied and pasted the same “Hey, what’s up” to all of your matches. “I recommend always using the woman’s first name in your message, along with a compliment, which shows you’ve read her profile. A good example, according to Spira, would be, “Hi Jane. I have a feeling your smile can probably stop traffic and I see you like to ski. What’s your favorite run?”
Keep The Convo Going
Spira says to go ahead and forget the three-date rule when it comes to messaging, as it’s an easy way to let a potential connection simmer out. “If you get a quick reply, don’t play messaging games. Write back quickly, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of the slow fade. With so many conversations going on at once, you’ve got a digital auction going on and need to keep her attention and put a date on the calendar,” Spira says.
Don’t Get Sexual Too Fast
There’s plenty of time for playtime, but for a relationship that extends beyond the bedroom, keeping it PG is recommended until after you’ve actually met in person. As Dr. Schewitz says, “Do not compliment her boobs or butt or mention anything sexual in any messages before meeting her. This is a sure-fire way to get blocked.”
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4. How to Plan The First Date
Ready to take it offline to a bonafide real first date? Congrats. It can be seamless to go from digital interactions to in-person success with a few smart tips:
Suggest A Safe Meeting Place
Here’s the deal, even if your grandpa is adamant about picking up a lady for a first date, the world of online dating makes it a little less common. Because you’re essentially strangers before you shake hands or hug, asking to pick her up might fall on deaf ears. That being said, try to find a place that’s easy for her to get to — a restaurant, a bar, a cafe — where she will also feel safe meeting you, Spira suggests.
Keep Your Guard Up (A Little)
Don’t want to be catfished? Spira says that this is when trusting your gut becomes essential. No one should ask you on a first date to pay medical bills, and they should never evade every invitation to meet, especially if they’re very talkative. And if they’re way too ga-ga over you, that’s troublesome too. “If someone can’t find the time to meet you or hop on a video chat if they live out of town, it’s possible they never will. If they tell you they love you and have never felt this way about someone before, and they haven’t met you, it’s a huge red flag. It takes time to fall in love, and that means spending time together in person. It’s possible they could be saying those three words to several potential dates at a time,” she shares.
Don’t Talk About The Past
At least on the first date. If you’re going to be in a relationship, you’ll have plenty of time to dig through one another’s skeletons, but the first date should be one where it’s only about the two people sitting on bar stools. Spira says, “I know dating can feel like being on a treadmill of dates that went south, but sharing them with your date puts you in a negative light. Avoid asking questions such as, ‘how long have you been on this site or app?’ and ‘how long have you been single?’ No-one wants to date a Donnie Downer, so talking about things that make you smile should be part of your first date conversation.”