One great thing about the digital age is that the pool from which you can choose your potential dates is much larger.
You're not confined to finding friends through personal connections or within your hometown anymore. The world is yours when you sign up for online dating services.
And you're not alone: Almost half of Americans have tried out online dating at some point in their lives. And 42% of those users are looking for a serious relationship (Hadji-Vasilev, 2022).
But who ever said that writing an online profile and initiating contact with other daters is easy?
If you're wondering how to write (or improve) your profile, and what to do (or not to do) when you're getting in touch with a new person for the first time, here's your personal guide.
And the good news is that success in online dating does not come down entirely to good luck -- there's actually a formula to it that anyone can use.
Researchers analyzed 86 studies on online dating to find out what really works when you want to meet someone face-to-face (Khan & Chaudhry, 2015). I've summarized their findings for you and added some of our own advice as well for a happy dating experience.
How to increase chances people are interested in your profile
Your profile is one of the first things daters see. So obviously it should attract viewers to take a closer look.
You can hedge your bets by considering the following tips:
Make it positive and don’t use terms that have a potentially negative meaning like “evil,” “rage,” “little,” or “dirty.”
Start with a letter that’s relatively early in the alphabet: Search engines sometimes list names alphabetically and you don’t want to appear at the bottom of the list.
Keep in mind that people like others who are similar to them. Before you even choose a name (user names often can’t be changed!) you may want to browse a large number of profiles to see whether the user names of the people you like have anything in common with each other and possibly even choose a name that is somewhat similar to those you like.
If you’re looking to date a man, consider choosing a name that indicates physical attractiveness, such as “cutie.”
If you’re looking to date a woman, however, you may be better off choosing a name that evokes intelligence, courage, or protectiveness.
Show a real smile (yes, your crow’s feet are attractive!).
Tilt your head a bit.
If you’re a woman, wearing something red will do wonders.
Share group photos that show you having a good time with others, and in which you’re in the middle of the group.
Share group photos where you’re touching someone else (nothing more intimate than the upper arm, though!). Why? When you’re touching someone, people perceive you to be of higher status than the one who’s being touched.
If you’re a man: Share a photo where a woman (or women) are smiling at you – that instantly increases your desirability.
Choose words or a phrase that are easy to remember. This is not the time to show your high IQ by using words that nobody will understand!
How to describe yourself in a way that attracts others
Description of yourself
Describe yourself, but also include a short description of who you’re looking for. Use about 70% of available space to describe yourself, and the remaining 30% to talk about what you’re looking for in a future partner. Think along these lines: “Attractive, sociable, professional female, loves outdoor sports, socializing, traveling, and music, looking for honest, adventurous male with a sense of humor to explore the world.”
Stick to reality and be honest (or there will be a bad surprise waiting for you later on).
To differentiate yourself from others, use humor. A sense of humor helps your profile stand out. Most people like humor, and it’s better to demonstrate your sense of humor than just saying you are funny.
A note for women: Men are more likely to respond positively to your physical fitness when you mention activities that are associated with females like yoga and aerobics, rather than soccer or martial arts.
A note for men: Women are more likely to respond positively to traits like courage and risk-taking, rather than kindness and unselfishness. That said, once you meet in real life, be aware that both men and women rate kindness as the most desirable trait in a potential mate (Thomas et al., 2020).
How to write invitations that are likely to be accepted
Once you’ve browsed other people’s profiles, it’s time to craft an invitation to initiate contact. Here are some guidelines to help you along:
Make it personal. Don’t send out form messages but rather, take the time to comment on something that stands out to you in the person’s photo or profile. And yes, winks are impersonal, too, and thus don’t work so well – daters want to feel special, after all.
Feel free to keep it short. A sentence or two will suffice; no need to write long letters at this stage.
Be positive, but not overly so. If you flatter people so much that it seems unrealistic to them, they will question your motives and won’t take you seriously.
If you can rhyme, go for it! People love rhymes and poetry, and you’ll stick in their mind.
How to communicate in writing
Ask open-ended questions like “What did you like best about my profile?”. Questions that can be answered with a quick yes or no are not helpful when you’re trying to keep the conversation flowing.
Be funny. People like humor as it makes them feel good.
Share something personal about yourself. Your potential date will feel closer to you if you share personal information.
Be neither too short nor too long. No one likes to read a response the length of a novel, but if you are too short it may seem like you’re not putting any effort into your replies.
How to communicate in a video chat
Use gestures like nodding, hand movements, and smiling.
Mimic the gestures of your conversation partner; it shows that you’re on the same wavelength.
Use words that are both positive and emotionally charged like love, like and adore.
Be funny (yes, you’ve heard that before – always be funny... it makes others feel good!).
Talk positively about your friends and colleagues; it makes you look like you’re a nice person.
Do not criticize. You don’t always have to agree, but don’t judge and criticize in your conversation.
Ignore your mistakes. You’re much more aware of what you’re doing than your potential date is. If you’re making a mistake, chances are they did not even realize it. Just keep going as if nothing happened.
Do some research into what your potential date likes and dislikes. Remember, similarity is attractive.
Don’t play hard to get. Not everybody is into that.
If you’ve got something negative to say, do so in the middle of the conversation - it's not so likely to stick in your conversation partner's mind afterwards.
End the conversation on a positive note. We remember the beginning and end much more than the middle.
Meet in real life sooner rather than later (that is, meet after three weeks rather than six or seven).
How to detect fraudsters
Although most online daters say they are honest and present themselves truthfully, not all are.
Some hopefuls present themselves not as they are now but as they hope to be sometime in the future. They're not purposefully trying to deceive you, but obviously you don't get what you sign up for when someone does this.
That said, many online daters are worried about fraud and deception, and it is always advisable to approach strangers with some caution.
Here are some hints that may help you detect fraudsters:
If you have specific questions that concern you, ask them in writing. People are less likely to lie in writing because their written words may come back to them.
Is your potential date suddenly not giving out enough details, or avoiding words like “I” and “me?” This is a red flag. Try to get a straight answer with as many details as you need to feel comfortable.
Look them up on Google. There are also websites that will find people and provide information about their background.
Often, when someone is faking, something just doesn’t “feel right.” Trust your gut feelings.
People sometimes present themselves online as they wish they were, not as they are. We all have a tendency to do that. Ask them how they act in their lives in ways that reflect who they are.
If you know where they work, if they work, look them up, if possible, through their organizational website to see if they are really there, and if so, what they do.
If you have troubling doubts, tell them you really enjoy interacting with them, but tell them how they can verify who you are and ask them how you can verify who they are.
On a video chat, watch out for the following signs:
Are they thinking too hard when there’s nothing much to think about? Gotcha.
Do they sound impersonal?
Are they suddenly reducing their gesturing while they speak?
Do they seem excessively nervous, or do they have trouble telling a consistent story, or do they seem uncomfortable or stiff or not “real”?
A final piece of advice
Before you go ahead and try your luck, remember to do some browsing and exploration of profiles you like. You'll get a better feeling for screen names that might be attractive to those you like, as well as which words they use and what interests or traits they may have in common.
Those insights can help you tailor your own profile – remember that we’re attracted to those who are similar to us.
And now good luck to you, my friend!
Hadji-Vasilev, A. (2022, June 23). 25 Online Dating Statistics, Facts & Trends for 2022. Cloudwards. https://www.cloudwards.net/online-dating-statistics/
Khan, K. S., & Chaudhry, S. (2015). An evidence-based approach to an ancient pursuit: Systematic review on converting online contact into a first date. Evidence Based Medicine, 20(2), 48–56. https://doi.org/10.1136/ebmed-2014-110101
Thomas, A. G., Jonason, P. K., Blackburn, J. D., Kennair, L. E. O., Lowe, R., Malouff, J., Stewart-Williams, S., Sulikowski, D., & Li, N. P. (2020). Mate preference priorities in the East and West: A cross-cultural test of the mate preference priority model. Journal of Personality, 88(3), 606–620. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12514