I've been dabbling in the online dating world for almost ten years. Holy shit, that looks crazy to me in writing, but it's true. I made my first profile when I was 18, in 2004. It was on OkCupid, before smartphones and apps. I sat at my family's bulky desktop computer and started looking for love. God, I WISH I could see what I wrote in that first profile, but all I remember is filling it with blurry photos taken by our sub-par webcam and giving duckface before duckface was a coined term.
So needless to say, a decade of doing something gives you a lot of experience and wisdom. While I haven't been on innumerable dates (I remember every online-to-in-person encounter I've had because I can count on my fingers), I have spent hours upon hours browsing profiles, and getting to know the way straight men use these kinds of sites/apps.
(Disclaimer - I am highly aware that everybody finds different things appealing and attractive, that different pickup tactics work for different people. This is only my personal experience and opinion, online dating filtered through the lens of Quirky Canuck, and meant to be a fluff piece only. It should also be noted that this advice MAY have geographical relevancy, since I am in a major Canadian city, and perhaps online dating has regional trends. But hey - I hope it helps someone, somewhere, somehow. So now, on with my schtick!)
Single, straight men of the world! Are you sick of the rejection that comes with online dating? Are you struggling to get replies to your messages? Are you constantly stuck chatting with women who have no intention of meeting in person? Are you wondering why, as a nice guy, you're finishing last? Well, stop crying those lonely penis-tears into that tissue/sock/what-have-you and listen up!
You're doing it wrong. That may sound harsh, but you need to face it if we're going to move forward and get you some success.
Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
1) Your photos. They suck.
I'm sorry, but it's not what you think. Hear me out. I'm not saying you're ugly. I'm saying you have no idea how to choose the right photos of yourself for the purposes of online dating. Since this bullet point is so important, it actually has several subdivisions. Here we go.
a) SMILE - The world is a sad, scary place, the online world triply so, and quadruple that if you're a woman. We are looking for love, relationships, and sex. We aren't looking for a slew of mugshots that positively scream "I'm a hardened criminal! Look how intense I am!" Even if we're just looking to bang someone, we're usually not looking for someone throwing up gang signs, and their nose up in the air with the caption "I'm angry." Women assume enough risk as it is in these scenarios. So look friendly. Smile. And for God's sake, show your teeth. If you don't show your teeth, we assume they're fucked. If they ARE fucked, sorry about that.
b) NO MORE GROUP PHOTOS - There's nothing worse than looking through five photos with five dudes apiece, and not knowing who is the owner of the profile. If you MUST post these, add a caption identifying yourself. But make sure your face is clearly visible, as group photos tend to be far away and not very clear. If you're going to post five group pics and one of yourself last, it's time to get brutally honest with yourself. Are your friends hotter than you? Will the ladies scroll through and hope you're this guy, then they reach the last photo of you solo and sigh and go "Oh he's that guy"? If this is your uncomfortable truth, stick with just photos of you. Manage expectations.
c) MORE ANGLES - Although it's awesome that you snowboard, water ski, scuba dive, and visit exotic locales, stop showing us yourself from 30 yards away. All this tells us is your general body type. This doesn't tell us what you look like at all. And let's say you have one closeup photo amongst these longshots, your head is turned to the side, you have a slight grin, and you're wearing sunglasses. YOU. COULD. BE. ANYONE. I would never see that pic and then see you in the street and go "That's him!" Anybody can look handsome/sexy/pretty in one perfectly angled shot. But it's an unfair representation of yourself. (Yes I know women are guilty of this too, as well as everything else I've mentioned.) Let's see you smiling (see 1a), laughing, from the right, from the left, making a silly face, etc. It takes several different photos to get an accurate idea of what a person really looks like. Which brings me to D.
d) NO PICS, NO FAIR, NO REPLY - Do not expect anyone, especially if they have photos posted, to answer your message, no matter how good it is, if you did not post photos. Look, I get it - you're embarrassed to be seen online, you have coworkers who use this site, you only share pics through email, blah blah, I've heard it all. If that is truly the case, online dating is not for you. By nature, it is shallow to start with and involves getting a look at the other person. Imagine you're in a night club and trying to hook up. Do you approach the person with a potato sack over their head? Absolutely not. Do you reciprocate if said potato sack person approaches you for a dance? Fuck no.
e) MISCELLANEOUS PIC TIPS - These could very well be solely related to my age group and geographical area, but here goes anyway.
Stop posing with fish. Within my personal matches, one in three men is posing with a fish. There is nothing inherently wrong with fishing or being proud of a fish you caught, but I just thought I should let you know that it isn't original, and it borders on annoying. The bigger the fish, the more I can feel your subconscious proudly comparing the fish to your penis and saying "Look, it's big!"
Show some range. Variety is the spice of life. You in a tuxedo, you in a pajama onesie, you in a Halloween costume, you relaxing in jeans and a t-shirt. Awesome!
Stop posting bar shots with hot girls. You're not impressing us by showing you can have your photo taken with hot girls. We get what you're trying to do here (even if you don't consciously realize it) and it doesn't work.
Generally speaking, we don't care to see your car. Some girls may ask you what you drive later on, but it's a waste of perfectly good photo space.
Only post mirror selfies of your abs if you are looking for a hook-up. Most females looking for anything more than sex don't take those photos seriously. Usually we just laugh at the douchebaggery of it. I'm sorry.
2) Your write-up. It probably sucks too.
Write something. Anything. Don't waste this space by putting "I'll fill this in later." That is the epitome of laziness and, after all, shouldn't you be doing your best here to impress a passerby and really convey who you are? Flaking out on this is the ultimate turn-off. How much work is it really to write about things you like and what kind of person you are? And what kind of person you're looking for?
I, personally, don't accept the excuse that I so often see - "It's hard to talk about yourself!" That's bullshit. Talking about yourself is the easiest thing ever! It is literally the subject you know most about in the whole wide world. Use the following as a rough guide if you're struggling - three sections - Who I am. What I like. What I'm looking for in another person. And it's in your best interest to be completely honest. Frankly, I like reading profiles that include 'biggest faults' and 'personality quirks.'
On the subject of honesty, it's important to single this point out: Be honest about what you're looking for. This is key. This is fair to everyone involved. This ensures nobody wastes time, gets hurt, and although it might narrow your visitors and messages, it will properly filter them down to people with whom you are more likely to click. Quality over quantity. If you want sex, say so. If you're rebounding and want something light and fun, for fuck's sake, say so. If you want to settle down and get married and pump out a flock of children, please put that out there. Please don't fool me into giving you my number because I think you're a stand-up guy looking for love, then immediately send me an unsolicited dick-pic. That's visual rape.
Be straight up. We all know the euphemisms. So you're looking for someone into a 'healthy lifestyle' who can 'keep up.' I know you aren't going to write 'no fat chicks' (although I have seen that) because you're not a terrible person, but try to include the things that attract you, physically and otherwise. It's okay to say you're not into smokers and that you prefer a woman with an athletic build without tattoos.
Are you yourself a little overweight? Do you like to do drugs sometimes? Are you seriously disabled in some way? Do you need to be choked and flogged while your partner dresses like your grandmother in order to have an orgasm? Do some self-reflecting and try to determine the things for which other people might count you out. I know we all feel like we're amazing and people should overlook our flaws, but the reality is that they have every right to decide against you for any reason they choose. And you have that same right.
So put all deal-breakers (yours, and what you perceive might be theirs) on the table right away. No sense in dealing with surprises and disappointment down the road.
Next up, clichés.
OH, you love to laugh? What a coincidence! Me too! Don't be a fuckwit. Everyone loves to laugh. Instead of that trite bullshit, try this: 'Here are the specific things that make me laugh.' Do you like British humour? Is Louis CK your hero? Say that.
Most people love to travel; you're not a special snowflake. Elaborate. Where is your favourite place to go? Been somewhere really off the beaten path? Write a few sentences about that.
So you love music? Whoopie, how original! Don't be daft - tell us who your favourite artist is. Give us the name of a song we can check out that describes you or your outlook on life. See that? It's almost interactive! Now you're seeming like an interesting person!
3) Put some thought into your first message.
Let's assume, just for the purposes of this advice, that you're using a dating service other than Tinder, in which case "Hey" is a perfectly acceptable way to make first-contact. With limited characters, you can't go into too much detail about yourself in the description, so just reaching out with hello is okay on that app.
So let's say you're using OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and... uh... I'm too lazy to Google any others. In a perfect world, everybody fills out the sections properly so you have lots of information to choose from with which to craft your first message.
a) READ the profile first. You wouldn't step onto a battlefield without a weapon, so don't enter into a conversation without any banter-ammo. Go in informed. Mention something in her profile that made you laugh, point out something you have in common. She likes a book you've also read? Ask her what she thought of the twist ending! Showing that you took the time to read the profile is important. It's respectful, it gives us something to chat about, and it shows the teensiest amount of effort which leads me into B...
b) DO NOT send generic copy/paste messages to mass amounts of people. Spreading your bets does not work in this scenario. You know why? Because we can tell when you're doing it. I've received countless of these - "Hey cutie, I really liked your profile and would like to get to know you better. Hit me up." I could have written about my penchant for skinning my dates and wearing their hides like a suit in my profile and I would still get this same message.
This kind of crap shows no individual attention. It tells me you're throwing out some bait and hoping for anyone at all to bite. I don't need you to write me a Shakespearean sonnet but, as someone who takes the time to read your shit and write a thoughtful first message, I expect the same courtesy. Your thoughtless, mass text only sends one message - "I will take literally anyone who answers me." And as we're all aware, desperation (as well as laziness and thoughtlessness) isn't sexy.
c) DO NOT invite me out within the first three messages. Okay, I'm sure other women feel differently about this, but again - this is just my perspective, and it could very well be the reason other women are fading away on you.
If all we've exchanged is "Hi, how are you, I also love sushi," then an invitation for a date at this moment points to one thing. IMPATIENCE. It also says DESPERATION, because we have barely interacted and I could be literally anyone at this stage of the game. I would much rather go on a date with someone who, I feel, has gotten to know me a little, sensed my vibe, vetted me in some way and separated me from the pack, decided that I meet the criteria and have graduated to step two - face to face.
This is what I'm doing when I'm chatting with you (as I suspect many women are). You may not realize it, but I am putting you through a fine filter using subtle questioning and what, on the surface, appears to be casual chit-chat. When you push me for a date too soon, you are depriving me of the opportunity to make some decisions about you, to get some things answered, and to get a good sense of your personality, be it through text or a phone call.
I don't perceive this to be a double-standard, or some unfair expectation of men to have to be put through the ringer. I would prefer if you did this to me too. See note above regarding 'I could be anyone.' I'd rather you were actively deciding to meet ME, and not just spewing out invites willy nilly and seeing who accepts, because anyone will do.
If you see this as unrealistic, unfair, or too much work, then you're not quite understanding. Because this technique is done very subtly, in such a way that you don't even know it's happening. I'm not shining a metaphorical spotlight in your face and interrogating you. I am getting to know you a little and forming my questions in just such a way that I can determine if we will click or not. It's a skill I have honed over time, and I have actually received many compliments from potential suitors, telling me how good I am at keeping conversation flowing and making them feel comfortable.
So the bottom line is this - be at least a LITTLE patient. Try filtering people yourself. Be a little more sure of potential clickage before you make that date. See note above re quality over quantity. All I'm asking is a day or two of texting, maybe one phone chat, to see if I want to meet you in person. And I think a lot of women feel this way. "Hi, wanna go for a drink?" as a first message is auto-translated into "I want some booty and you'll do."
d) DO be funny or clever. If this is too much to ask, and you're not capable of either of those things, you probably won't have much luck in the dating world, so you're on your own, pal. If you ARE able to come up with something witty, do it. Because - see note above re everyone likes to laugh.
Being funny is an indicator of several things - Firstly, good humour can be a sign of intelligence. Secondly, you're not taking this thing too seriously. Thirdly, it's charming and attractive. Lastly, it gets our attention.
e) Don't make me do all the work. Many women are overly polite by nature (and because society scares us away from being 'bitchy'), so we usually try to keep a shitty chat going longer than it deserves. If we've progressed into an actual conversation, please ask me about myself. Ask me about something I didn't mention in my profile. I can't express the number of times I've done all the heavy lifting in a convo and eventually just heaved a giant sigh and thrown my phone onto the bed in frustration. The message you're sending is "I'm not all that interested in you now that I have your attention, but I sure like answering your questions and talking about myself!" We both have to work for it. Basic social skills. Let's use them.
I realize this whole thing changed from 'how to make an awesome dating profile' into 'how to be good at online dating' but I feel it's all part and parcel of the same thesis.
Straight men, if you're following all of this advice and having no luck, you may have to read He's Just Not That Into You. The theory applies to all genders and orientations, despite the female-centric marketing and the way the title is formed. Another important part of online dating, the thing that will get you through the trials and tribulations, is to be a good sport. Instead of crying "women are bitches!" you may have to just accept that there was something about you (your look, your write-up) that didn't jibe with the profile-visitor.
Don't jump to the worst conclusions. It doesn't always have to be the worst case scenario like "everyone thinks I'm ugly!" It doesn't have to be a case of soul-crushing rejection. It could be the smallest detail, something that really shouldn't hurt your feelings. Perhaps the woman who didn't answer your message is a devout Christian and didn't like the fact that you listed God Is Not Great among your favourite books. You're blond, she likes brunettes. Maybe you have two cats and she is deathly allergic. Maybe, although you'll never know it, she did you a favour by not responding.
All of the advice above can probably be summed up quickly as such: Put in a bit of effort, be yourself, truly and honestly in every way, and use common sense. If you're really looking for a connection, whether it be for the night or for the rest of your life, don't shrug it off as just a stupid thing you browse on your phone. Your luck will drastically improve.
Actually, it could be summed up even shorter, in just one short blurb: TRY, even just a little.
While Yoda would have you believe there is no try, I think in the dating world, trying pays off.
I sure am trying.