“Only through a deep and unfailing awareness of the structure and effects of information, through a demystification of media, is there any hope of our gaining some measure of control.” Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Online dating is never easy. In fact, it’s often a torturous slog through the worst of humanity. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to be an amateur at it. After all, your only protection against the onslaught of potential creeps and douchebags is knowing what you’re doing and handling it like a pro. So here to help are your online dating “experts.” If you have more thoughts or questions, feel free to add them in the comments section.
[Editor's note: The answers are from both Julie and me, unless I disagreed, and then you'll find my differing opinion in an editor's note much like this one.]
Good luck and happy hunting!
Online dating username/handle – does it matter?
- Simple is better.
- You’ll want a separate email, Kik, Google+ to go along with your handle, so if you want them to all be the same, make sure the name is available on all those platforms first. [Editor's note: This is total insanity. Who is this OCD? I actually usually avoid giving people my email, to avoid the Googling problem. Why not keep writing via the OKC platform? And if you want to get intimate, start texting. For the few times when I feel the need to cross over into the email platform, I do have an alternate email address set up that does not include my last name (and no, it doesn't match my handle), but these days, I'm in a very WTF moment, so I rarely bother. If you want to Google me and find out all my racy secrets, go right ahead and get it over with.]
- Avoid like the plague “sub” “dom” and “unicorn” unless you are one of those things and want others to know.
- Avoid having your age be part of the handle as this might take a while and then everyone knows how long you’ve been looking.
Profile building do’s and don’t’s
- Funny is good.
- Include non-negotiables up front.
- Orientation: bi women are automatically thought to be easy and want three-ways. Be prepared. Also, lesbians may avoid you like the plague.
- Do NOT mention how you hate writing profiles. Don’t whine or complain in general.
- If your grammar skills are less than ideal, we highly recommend getting someone to proofread your profile.
- If words aren’t really your thing, you may want to get a friend to help you write your profile. After all, it’s the first impression potential dates are getting of you. If you come off as lazy or an asshole, that will directly impact the number of dates you (don’t) get.
Who am I looking for?
- Age range: give yourself a good 5-10 years around your age. Age is relative and you can always screen out people later. More than 10 years below your age and you might be seen as a dirty old man/woman. Also you’ll come to appreciate sharing the same cultural/experiential background as the people you’ll meet. More than 10 years difference and good luck finding stuff to talk about. [Editor's note: I try to be really open-minded about age, and one of the people I fell hardest for via online date was twenty years older than me. We had no shortage of things to talk about. Unfortunately (ironically?), he was incredibly immature when it came to intimacy, so it went nowhere fast. But I tend to be partial to the old souls out there and generally find little to talk about with people my own age or, heaven forbid, younger.]
- Distance: Julie does 100 miles because she loves driving and it increases the odds of finding someone. But not for everyone. I hate driving, but if I fall for you, I will even consider long-distance. And by long-distance, I don’t just mean the west side.
- Height/Body type/etc.: Again, if you are on the fence be overly generous and screen out people later. And be prepared for the fact that everyone lies. Guys will overestimate height and women will say they’re “average” or “curvy” when they are borderline obese.
- Looks: Again, realize everyone lies. The photos are perhaps the biggest lie. If looks mean a lot, realize that, in person, your prospect may look worse than they look in the worse photo they post, or at the very least, different. Guys will be shorter, women will be heavier and older looking. Pay attention to the captions of the pictures and when they were taken. Look for trends to spot potential problems (do they seem to age rapidly, are they getting progressively heavier?) [Editor's note: I once went on a date with a guy who had really bad hair and really bad teeth. When I got back home, I went and looked at his photos, curious how I had missed both. That was when I realized he had a hat on in every photo and his mouth was always kept closed. It may seem horrible to worry about things like this, but it's part of the shallow process of online dating.]
- Personality: They will be less interesting in person than they pretend to be on their profile. If their profile is boring, they will be worse in person. Don’t focus TOO much on similar interests because those will only get you so far. Take the profile as a whole and look for traits that appeal to you. Was the profile well-crafted? They’re probably pretty conscientious. Was the profile funny? They probably have a good sense of humor. Did the profile make them seem happy with their life? Great! You want someone who is satisfied with who they are and where they are in life.
- OKC match percentage: If you are a low match rate with someone you think you’d like, glance at their answers. The low match rate could be due to them only answering a few questions, or it could be the result of differences in an area you don’t care about. Don’t simply take the match rate at face value. Remember: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Making contact: Who writes first? What do I write? How soon do I write back?
- It’s expected that guys will write first. However, that sucks for them and they are usually ECSTATIC if a woman writes first. If you’re a woman looking for a woman, you’ll probably need to go first. [Editor's note: I actually very rarely initiate contact, especially with guys. I know this is sexist and lame, but I find that if I pursue a guy, he is less invested from the beginning, and then it will never end well because he's just going to keep on being less invested. But maybe I have just been corrupted by The Rules. I agree that there is more grey area with girls. Plus I've been told ad nauseum that I'm intimidating, so sometimes I have to initiate. I still try not to, because it's against my ethical code, but, that said, I did write first to my current love interest.]
- If you don’t want to write first, you can “visit” the person’s page a few times and/or rate them a 4 or 5 on OKC. Other platforms have similar ways to let others know you like them without writing. [Editor's note: I love this passive aggressive approach.]
- But eventually you’ll need to write. What you write is important. Read the person’s whole profile and skim their answers to the OKC questions. Pay special attention to “You should message me if..” section. Be sure to include details from their profile so it doesn’t seem like you’re sending them a form message or that you’re a spambot. Re-read your message at least once before sending to catch typos. Do NOT use “u” or “ur” or any other stupid texting shortenings of words. This is not a text, it’s an email.
- Julie usually waits until the next day to write back to not seem totally eager. Wait at least an hour so it doesn’t seem like all you do is hang out online waiting for people to message you. Desperation, real or perceived, is a turn off. [Editor's note: I totally disagree. We are on a free online dating platform. Aka we're all desperate. I write back as soon as I can, which may be right away. It's never been a problem. Sometimes you even get a fun momentum going. There was even one night when I got emailed, I emailed back, he emailed back, etc., back and forth, and then we met the same night. We're already slumming it by being online in the first place. Why play it cool?]
How do I “reject” someone online? How do I handle creepy people?
- If you’re really not interested in someone who took the time to write you a thoughtful message, do them the courtesy of writing back. You can say, “Thanks for the lovely message, but I think we’re interested in different things” or “Thanks for writing, but I sense we don’t have much in common,” etc. End with a nice “Good luck with your search!” or something similar. It’s polite and let’s them know there will be no further communicate from you. [Editor's note: Wow, Julie is nice. I don't think I've ever done this. Sometimes I will write back and tell them I'm not interested if we've exchanged a few letters, and I feel like they now know I'm a real person, but if I'm not interested from letter number 1, I rarely write back. Clearly I'm a bitch.]
- If someone simply wrote you a form message or a sentence, don’t bother writing back. They’re not worth it. They took no time, neither should you.
- For legitimate creeps, threatening to block or report them generally works. If not, then ACTUALLY block or report them. And if you’re only looking for someone the same gender as yourself, OKC let’s you block straight folks. This can be a godsend if you’re a gay or bi woman. [Editor's note: I usually ignore the creeps and they usually go away. Again, if you never write back, I tend to think they don't know you're a real person. And they definitely don't know where you live.]
How soon do we meet IRL? What do I suggest for the first “date”?
- Julie and I generally exchange 3-5 messages before meeting in real life. This gives us a decent enough picture of the person to determine if we want to see them. When we’ve done it sooner than that, we’ve generally been disappointed. Messaging and/or IMing is a good way to determine how interesting a person will be, keeping in mind that the person is trying to put their best foot forward. Hopefully. [Editor's note: Meeting people in person is so exhausting (I have to put on makeup!) so I screen really carefully. Sometimes I insist on a phone call if I'm still not sure.]
- Meals are generally good for first dates. I like actual meals (lunch, brunch, dinner) but coffee works well. Sitting and talking is the classic crucible of dating for a reason. It’s just you and the other person and your words. If they can’t wow you or keep your interest, it’s likely things will not work out.
Why do people disappear?!?!
- Julie has developed a theory that OKC is actually run my extraterrestrials who use it to find human subjects whom they then mindwipe.
- In reality, they may have found someone else and didn’t bother to share, or they realized you aren’t who they’re looking for and didn’t want to write that. Which is all the more reason to give others the courtesy of a written rejection/explanation. [Editor's note: Again, Julie is nicer than me. I've been known to disappear, and I'm not surprised when others do it, too. OKC fosters this illusion that people (and their feelings) aren't real.]
Why isn’t this working?
- You might be too selective. You might not be selective enough. If you’re a guy or looking for someone of the same sex, you’re against horrible odds and it might take a long time. Plus dating sucks. Plus online dating makes it too easy to keep shopping for someone better. It doesn’t really encourage commitment and focus. So acknowledge that it’s a bumpy ride and brace yourself.
I want to give up. Help!
- Take a break if you need to recharge. Cut back on how much energy you devote to it. Or, if you’re not having fun, stop. There’s nothing wrong with putting it aside for a while if that’s what you need. Whatever you do, do NOT settle. [Editor's note: I generally will date in a very focused fashion for a month or so and then deactivate my profile for detoxing. Another approach is just leaving your profile up but being very selective and passive.]
Does this ever actually work?
- Several of our friends have found their significant others through online dating. For a lot of them it took a long time. But success stories ARE real. One of my friends found her current boyfriend on the seventh try. People do get lucky. I’ve been dating my current paramour for five weeks, which might be too soon to deem it a success, but it’s the longest I’ve been with someone in several years. OKC robots FTW!
How do I find a unicorn?
- Our initial reaction was: you don’t. Finding a bisexual woman who wants a three-way and won’t get needy and possessive and crazy on you is a fool’s errand. Of course, right after Julie gave me that response, she found a charming, attractive woman online who is in an open relationship. They started chatting and getting to know each other and she shared her partner’s OKC handle with Julie. Miraculously, the guy is actually attractive and seems cool. It’s still undecided if Julie will have an actual three-way or even have sex with the woman alone, but it’s the first time she has given it any serious thought. So, to answer your question: 1. Have the woman do the approaching. She’s going to be much better at making the other woman feel comfortable than a guy would. 2. Have the guy also be on the dating site so the would-be unicorn can see him and read about him. 3. Don’t push the three-way but float it as a possibility that could happen AFTER the two women get to know each other better.