By Jennifer Garstang
The stigma surrounding online dating has all but vanished, but when I first tried it, I still found myself thinking of it as a last-ditch activity suitable only for desperate nerds. (I am NOT desperate!) After trying a bunch of sites, though, and going out with guys I’d met both on and offline, I came to an important realization: The “online” part of “online dating” isn’t the issue. It’s that “dating” part that’s the problem.
See, online dating is just dating, but online. In other words, you get everything that goes with meeting potential romantic partners, just at the speed of light and in mass quantities. This can be overwhelming but also yield great results if you follow some simple guidelines:
Step 1: Choose a site that fits you
Like in real life, the places you go to find your date will make a difference in the dates you find. Each site caters to different groups. For instance, eHarmony markets to people looking for long-term commitments (and is also expensive). In that sense, I think of it as the “country club” of online dating. PlentyofFish is more like a dive bar: there are some good ones on there, but you’re a lot more likely to find a drunk looking for a cheap hookup. JDate is like looking for love at the JCC: a small but relatively high-quality pool that is nearly 100 percent Jewish. Craigslist personals is a romantic stroll through the psycho-ward.
As a Jew looking to date another Jew (or someone who is cool with my Jewy-ness) I’ve actually had the best luck with OKCupid. It attracts a lot of good folk, is a pretty fun site to use, and it’s free! But don’t take my word for it. I’ve heard great success stories from many dating sites, from JDate to Match.com. So, explore different venues, and find a site that feels right for you.
Step 2: Set up a profile that’s really YOU
When writing the profile, less is not more, but more is not necessarily more either. In other words, you don’t need to tell your entire life story, but don’t make potential matches fill in too many blanks. In my experience, the sweet spot for a personal summary is two to three moderate-length paragraphs. Plus, give at least a short paragraph to any additional sections the dating site provides. It’s really fun to read the “six things I couldn’t live without” section on OKCupid.
For your pictures, choose three to five that really show what you look like, both of your face and your (clothed) body. Picture selection may vary based on your end-game (if you’re looking for a sleazy one-night stand, then by all means post that shot of you lying in lingerie biting a teddy bear), but for the purposes of this article, I will assume you are looking for a fun, non-crazy date that could turn into something more.
So, your main profile picture should be recent, attractive and of your face. Seriously. People assume that’s the best one you’ve got, so nix the fake moustache shots, the shirtless abs iPhone-in-the-mirror shots, the “hey look, I’m this little dot standing on top of a mountain” shots, the “there are four people in this picture, guess which one is me” shots…and never EVER post a picture of yourself standing with your arm around a member of the opposite sex, even if you’ve cut him/her out of the shot. I don’t care how great your hair looked that day, or that it’s your sibling, not a significant other. Just don’t do it.
That said, some great photo ideas are: You posing with cute animals, you participating in activities you enjoy, and generally you smiling and looking like a happy person (not the miserable single sod you actually are).
And speaking of being a miserable sod: don’t. Of the countless unattractive things I have seen people do online, nothing turns me off quicker than someone talking about how insecure they are (“I’m really bad at writing about myself, but, well, here it goes, I guess…”) or how much they hate humanity (“Girls suck! I just want a nice chick who’s not a phony! Do those exist??”… Yeah, Bro, they do, but they’re not gonna be messaging you).
So what should you be when writing your profile? The answer is so simple it’s utterly cliché: be yourself. Your best self. Set aside your doubt and your fears of not saying exactly the right thing and let your personality shine through. When the right guy or gal comes across your profile, they will appreciate you for who you are. You just have to make sure you show it.
Now that you’ve gotten the basics, it’s time to move on to Step Three: Actually Finding a Date! Tune in next month for more tips, tricks and advice on “Taking the Oy out of Online Dating!”