Digital Life: How to Win at Online Dating
I'm in my 30s, have a job and my own apartment, and now I'm looking for a long-term relationship — or at least real dates instead of hookups. I've joined a number of online dating sites, but it seems like mission impossible. What can I do to better my odds?
— Name withheld
Here's the good news: Almost 40% of singles who are "looking" have used an online dating service and a nearly a quarter of that group have met a spouse or long-term partner that way, concluded a recent Pew study. To maximize your odds, start by making sure you're on the right site for what you're seeking. For instance, OkCupid promises to "use math to get you dates. It's extremely accurate, as long as (a) you're honest, and (b) you know what you want." Then, there's Tinder, a relatively new app that matches people geographically, based entirely on their looks, with no background information. I think we all know what that means.
Next, follow these rules:
1. Be smart about your screen name. Choose a handle that says something genuine both about you and what you're seeking. Avoid names like "SexyGuy" or "HotBabe," which seem more about hooking up than getting to know someone. Use a handle that reveals something intriguing about you, like, "DCGymnast" or "FoodieInThe312." (These last two also let others know where you live – another plus).
2. Spend time on your profile. This is not a time to be lazy -- so don't just slap something together quickly. Be sure to answer all questions honestly and fill in the blanks about you and the kind of person you're seeking. Then read it back as if you were the potential date. Ask a friend to take a second look for you.
3. Your photo matters. University brainiacs at MIT and the University of Chicago reported that women and men who post profile photos receive twice as many e-mails as those without photos. That means, make sure your face is visible and that you're smiling. Since you're looking for a romance, choose photos of yourself in casual or work dress – with your clothes on! Please, no cheating: your picture should show you within two to three years of your current age.
4: Be clear about your expectations. Don't waste time -- yours or someone else's – so say what you mean and mean what you say. (Do you really like moonlit walks on the beach, or are you more likely to be found in a bar at midnight?) Make sure you're on the same page as your new prospect.
5. Be smart. Don't give out your last name, address, or personal e-mail right away. When you're ready, start with your cell number. Don't agree to a get together until you're comfortable — and when you do, meet in a coffeehouse or some other public place. Oh, and here's one last bit of advice: First impressions really matter. According to Match.com, most guys decide within the first 15 minutes whether they'll ask for a second date. Women take about an hour. Good luck.