As you know from reading The Tao of Dating for Women, I’m not a huge fan of online dating — face-to-face is the way to go. However, on the heels of a friend’s success story — “Omigod, I met my fiance online! You should totally try it!” — I make an ill-advised annual foray into the e-swamps of eHarmony, take a whiff of the strange brew of Chemistry.com, or do something stupid on OKcupid. All in the name of education and research for you, of course. And then, properly chastened, I go back to the low-tech system of meeting real human beings in real time, until enough time elapses that I forget the unpleasantness and give it another whirl.
What I have learned from my month on this one site is that instead of facilitating the meeting of kindred spirits, how many barriers online dating introduces to humans simply connecting. So if you must be online, or you’ve already plunked down for a 3-month deal and it’s too late to cancel so let’s just see where this goes, here are some mistakes you can avoid very easily.
Caveat: I’m writing from the point of view of the guy, so I’m going to be super-blunt here. In fact, chances are very good you won’t like some of what I have to say. So even if you think what I say is petty, silly, stupid, prejudiced, remember: this is how lots of guys think. Even the really good ones. So if you want one of them in your life, it may serve you well to understand where they’re coming from.
And where they’re coming from is Strangerland, which also happens to be where you’re coming from. And so amidst the plethora of false and bewildering choice that is the internet, they have to sift through the hundreds of profiles they encounter. Time’s precious, so they’re in maximum elimination mode — any excuse is a good one for moving on to the next profile. And the very first way they do that is through the photos you choose to put up. That’s why most of the pointers below are about your photos:
1) Too many pictures of you and your dog.
Okay, you have a dog. That’s great! But when your first picture is you and your dog, and the caption reads “The #1 man in my life”, and your profile reads “I really love my dog and whoever I meet has to get along with Fluffernutter”, then as I guy, what I hear is this:
My dog is more important than you. Pretty much forever.
And considering how I’m a complete stranger and your dog is bonded to you with Krazy Glue — I mean, you kneel down and pick up its poop on a daily basis, for godssakes — for now I can’t compete. So perhaps I should take my toys and go home — those toys potentially being home-cooked meals, massages, trips to Paris and Palm Springs, fabulous sex, consequences of said sex like offspring and a family, a life shared happily ever after, and other minor amenities that couldn’t possibly compare to a pooch.
If you’re serious about having a deep, loving, committed relationship with a non-canine, then you should do your darndest to make the potential human candidate for that position believe that he will be a priority in your life, even if the dog is more important in the beginning. As wonderful as pets are, they are purchased from stores and replaceable. Life partners are priceless and irreplaceable, so treat a prospective partner as you would a lifelong mate from the outset so he has the good sense to stay.
2) Too many stealth pictures of you.
People tend to love us for who we are, not who we are not. Pictures of you behind giant paparazzi-proof glasses, or as a tiny figurine standing at the foot of Half Dome, or fuzzy and poorly lit from a funny angle so you look like anywhere from Oprah to Chrissie Hynde ’cause I can’t make out your face are all counterproductive. Show yourself in all your imperfect glory, because we’re all imperfect and it ain’t no big deal. The guy who’s going to like you will like you in spite of it all — and because of it all.
In your photos, I’m looking for information clearly conveyed — your face and your figure as I’d be able to see it in person in the first 5 seconds. If you’re wearing some Empire waist dealie, I’m going to think she must have a huge belly so she’s hiding it. No full-body shots? Her butt’s probably huge. Poorly lit face shot? Bad skin. As guys, we’re superficial bastards, and we’ve gotten very good at being superficial — not much is gonna get past us in that department.
Anything that gets in the way of conveying clear information about your looks introduces frustration and suspicion — What’s she trying to hide? — which makes a man more likely to move on to a profile which has clear, well-lit photos.
3) Too many group pictures.
I’m seeing a lot of women’s profiles where all the pictures that are posted are group pictures, which means that I have to sift through all of them to figure out which one is you. Please don’t do that. One or two group photos to demonstrate you’re not a hermit — fabulous. Twelve of them, and I need to write a supercomputer algorithm to figure out who you are — needlessly frustrating. So, make it easy for your audience to find and like you by posting mostly solo pictures.
4) Too many pictures of you with guys who aren’t your brother or father.
Who is that guy in the picture? And the other guy with his arm around you? And yet another in a tuxedo, but this one with his face fuzzed out or removed entirely? If you wish to be perceived as single and available, from the thousands of photos you have of yourself, choose to put up the ones that are guy-free.
5) Spelling and grammar mistakes.
“I’m 5’8″ and about 6ft in heals, so if you want to go out with me, you need to be taller than that since I like to wear heals!”
Your profile is a public document, and like your resume, is a reflection of who you are. Imagine if you were an employer and got a resume on your desk that was riddled with typos. How likely would you be to give that candidate a second look? Mind you, this guy could be absolutely amazing for the job, but there’s no way for you to know that yet, and all you have to go on is a sloppy resume. So you pass, to the detriment of both of you.
So get your online resume for love spell-checked and edited by a trusted friend, just to be on the safe side.
6) Pictures with you and a more attractive friend
When you put up a picture of you and your seriously hot girlfriend, I’m thinking, “How do I get to meet that girl?” Namely, the one that’s not you.
It’s an online dating site, so I’m already comparing you to a battalion of other women, so why bring your own best enemy to the party? When a man sees two women in a picture, his mind focuses on the more attractive one to the exclusion of the less attractive one. It’s almost like the less pretty one isn’t even there — like the moon vanishing when the sun comes out. So make sure you’re the one he’s focusing on — either by being the more attractive person in the picture, or by not having anyone else in the picture at all (better option).
7) All professionally-taken photos and headshots.
I live in LA, so lots of people have headshots and whole portfolios of themselves looking pretty. And pretty they do look — but just a little too pretty. From experience, I know that no one looks like his or her headshots. Those photographers are paid the big bucks to make you look good! So when I see all super well-lit photos of you artfully posed, contrapposto-style in your online portfolio, the first thought I have is: I have no idea what this girl actually looks like. In other words, mistrust.
There’s an enlightened self-interest aspect to this, too. When you only post photos of yourself as your drop-dead gorgeous smashingest self, then the only way to go from there is down (statisticians call this regression to the mean). Much better to underpromise and overdeliver than to overpromise and underdeliver, so make sure you have some snapshots in there of you being a normal human being, too.
8) Bland, unimaginative profiles that contain no useful information
Now you may think that you’re the only one who’s close to her family, likes animals, likes to eat out (Italian food! Sushi!), goes the movies, reads Harry Potter, watches Glee, and absolutely loves travel, especially if it involves moonlit walks on the beach. And you would be mistaken — these are activities all live members of the species Homo sapiens sapiens enjoy doing. You’re basically saying that you have a liver, two functioning kidneys, and like to breathe a lot. Insufficient information for distinguishing you from the hordes.
And you know what? There are a lot of bland, unimaginative guys out there, too — most of them, actually. So if that’s what you’re aiming for, your profile’s fine. But if you’re looking for that one diamond in the rough, that guy who’s in Technicolor amongst the grey masses, that Renaissance dude who flies his own plane and makes his own pasta, the exceptional guy who sees you for the rare gem that you are and appreciates you for all of your talents and quirks, then you need to convey that to him in your profile.
So be bold! Include concrete detail. Write it as if you’re speaking to me, not at me. It’s not an ad — it’s you. And you are colorful, fun, bright and interesting. So give me a reason to have my moonlit walk on the beach with you, not Annie J. Standard.
9) Any negativity whatsoever.
“I just can’t stand people who are late/Republican/meat-eaters etc”
It’s good to have standards. Some of them are important to have up front. You won’t date a smoker, heavy drinker or drug user. Fine. Former axe-murderers are also out, no matter how well the correctional facility corrected them. I dig.
But any time you actually say that stuff out loud, it comes off snarky, mean and petty. For all the world knows, you could be fully justified in your preference — maybe people who don’t like cats really do suck — but save it for later. So in the profile, only mention the stuff you do like. Positivity attracts positivity.
Also, once again from the Dept of Enlightened Self-Interest, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you don’t actually know what you want. As a hypnotherapist, I can tell you that people are super-inaccurate at self-reportage, and there’s a huge disjunction between what people think makes them happy and what actually fulfills them.
So even if you think a guy’s not your type, give yourself a chance to get to know him — you just might surprise yourself. Fully 40% of married women say they didn’t even like their husbands upon first meeting. And they’re married to that guy. So it makes sense to be more inclusive than exclusive. We’re not going so far as saying you should marry a meat-eating Republican who’s always late, but as the poet Molavi (aka Rumi) said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”