Traditionally, the first Sunday in January sees the highest traffic on dating sites and apps, as singles try to make good on their New Year’s resolutions to meet someone. As you’re setting up your profile, swiping and sending those first messages, here are some pieces of advice.
1. Write a bio. This seems obvious. But so many people’s “about me” sections are blank! I shouldn’t swipe right on these guys, but sometimes I do. And occasionally I’ll send a message asking them to tell me something about themselves, pointing out that their bio is blank. Yes, dating apps are image-heavy, and some people will swipe left or right without even reading your bio. But that’s no reason to leave it blank. If you don’t put the minimum effort in to create an online dating profile, it shows you’re not taking it seriously and doesn’t bode well for the kind of effort and attention you might put into a date or a relationship. For certain dating apps, such as the League, you won’t get in without a full profile, bio and all.
2. Include a diversity of photos — and avoid anything controversial. In addition to avoiding the dating-app pitfalls of including group shots or blurry photos, you’ll also want images that show you doing different things. “You don’t want all your photos to be party pics; you don’t want all your photos to be skiing. You want to look like you have a pretty well-balanced life,” says Amanda Bradford, founder of the League. A dating profile is your chance to communicate what your life is like, and what it might be like to date you. Ideally, someone happens upon your profile and thinks to themselves: I could see myself being a part of that life — and enjoying it. Which also means you might want to avoid any images that are particularly controversial.” Posting a photo with a gun is a polarizing experience for people,” says Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert. “It’s a very aggressive photo for a platform where the aim is for you to find love.”
3. Don’t swipe right on everyone. Some people do this to get the most matches possible, but more matches don’t necessarily translate into better ones. If you’re swiping right on everyone — and not reading their bios — you might end up going out with people who don’t meet your standards. As Suneal Bedi writes: “Daters who swipe right on everyone are attempting to save themselves time, but they end up exploiting the time and effort of other daters.”
4. But do swipe right on people who don’t quite fit “your type.” One piece of advice that often pops up in my conversations with matchmakers, couples and my married colleagues, is that the person you’ll end up with is not the person you imagine. So how will you meet that match if you swipe right only on those that resemble the partner you’ve dreamed up? You can still keep your standards high, but we can all benefit from giving someone a chance who looks different from the people you tend to date, has less-than-perfect grammar, or is from a different culture, background or lifestyle. You never know whom you might meet.
5. Message right after you get a match. Playing hard-to-get isn’t a good strategy in online dating, where people are often juggling multiple matches and conversations. “If someone interesting writes to you and you can see that he’s online now, don’t go ‘Oh, I’m going to make him wait an hour,’ ” says Julie Spira, founder of CyberDatingExpert.com. “Within that hour, he could schedule three dates, and one of them he could end up being smitten with, and you played the waiting game, so you lost.”
6. But please say more than “hey.” Don’t take my word for it — listen to Golden Globe-winning actor Aziz Ansari, who has railed against the generic first message in his comedy and his book, Modern Romance. Ansari admits to having sent “a good number” of “heys” in his own dating life, but he has the wisdom to advise against them. “Generic messages come off as super dull and lazy,” Ansari writes. “They make the recipient feel like she’s not very special or important to you.” You could take 2018 as your chance to come up with the next “Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?”: Ansari’s zinger from season two of Master of None. Don’t steal his — coin your own.
7. Whatever you do, don’t ask this question. Even when meant as a compliment, this rhetorical question — How are you still single? — is more likely to land as an insult. It presumes something is “wrong” with this person who happens to be single, and that the person doesn’t want to be single. It also hits women harder than it might hit men, as women face far more scrutiny and judgment for not being married by a certain age. If you see this, feel free to unmatch the person. Or, online dating coach Erika Ettin suggests, fire back with something like: “Aren’t you lucky that I am!” Or: “I believe you’re single, too. Lucky us!”
8. Stay positive. And take a hint. This one is hard, I know. But there’s so much negativity on dating apps — from daters whining about how they don’t want to be on there to flat-out insults hurled over text — that someone who’s interested and sends positive messages will stand out from the crowd in a good way. And if someone doesn’t respond to your initial message, leave it be. There could be multiple reasons for the silence: Maybe they’re fresh off a breakup and felt ready to swipe but not actually message with anyone; maybe their friends were swiping for them; or maybe they just don’t have the time to devote to online dating right now. But pestering a silent stranger, even if you already matched, won’t warm them into responding or going out with you. Concentrate on those who are writing you back, and leave the ghosts behind.
9. Online dating is exhausting.Take breaks. I’m a huge fan of this one. And so is Wendy Newman, a dating coach who went on 121 first dates before meeting her current partner. She said that “when you have three or four bad dates in a row and they all seem the same,” it’s a good time to give that swiping finger a rest. “Or when you feel like you’ve turned into a hunter, and you’re doing more pursuing than you’d like. Feeling burned and bitter are good indicators it’s time to recalibrate. Get a dating buddy; they can tell you when it’s time for you to stop and let you know when you’re in decent enough shape to return to the ride. On your break, do something you love that has a beginning, middle and an end, like baking or a craft project. Then get back to dating. A couple of weeks off can do you a world of good.”