#online dating tips
6 Online Dating Mistakes to Avoid
So, you’d like to meet someone and have decided to go online. That’s a good move — proactive and forward-thinking. But be careful not to be lulled into habits that will undermine your online dating experience.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you peruse the seemingly endless stream of profiles from prospective partners.
1. Don’t go crazy over the pictures.
On the Internet, it’s easy to feel nitpicky and maintain high expectations. With apps like Tinder, you snap-judge users as if you were scrolling Amazon for the best pair of speakers.
This sense of being in the driver’s seat, of choosing, can be appealing. It makes you feel powerful. Fight it.
If what you want is a real connection — a relationship with a person you hope to love and who will love you — you will have to bring your most mature and empathetic self to the project.
That means not saying, “Eh, she’s cute — but I prefer brunettes to blondes. Next!” You’d never behave this way in person, so don’t do it online.
2. Don’t obsess about the details.
Don’t worry too much about the particulars: which restaurants, bars, movies or books a potential date likes. (“Oh, he lives in Queens” or “She prefers Six Feet Under to The Sopranos .”)
Instead, take in the broad strokes — does he live in the same city? Is she a reader? Does he seem intelligent? Don’t become consumed with the idea that someone out there corresponds exactly to all your tastes and preferences.
After all, chances are many of your exes didn’t share your exact tastes, and nine times out of 10, it isn’t why you two broke up. If you obsess about the little things (this guy shares my passion for both dim sum and Noah Baumbach flicks!) you are likely to pass over the profiles of people who might actually make you happy.
3. Evaluate the tone of the profile.
What’s actually important in evaluating a profile is its tone. You want to try and get a sense of what the person is like, which can be truly difficult.
It’s a challenge as a novelist to convey characters in meaningful ways — it’s no less demanding for a person writing, or reading, dating profiles. It’s key to read between the lines to get a sense of whether the person seems well-adjusted — pleasant, friendly and reasonable, someone you would be drawn to if you met him or her in person, even if you didn’t know her top five favorite movies.
Look closely for signs of boastfulness, snideness or bitterness. Also, insincerity: the person who claims over and over again to “absolutely love” his or her life just the way it is, to be “completely and totally” satisfied with everything in it. These people claim to have joined said dating site on a lark (“my friend suggested it and I figured why not?”). These behaviors suggest this person might have trouble being honest about his or her vulnerability or true motives.
Attention to tone when you read profiles will help you to ferret some of those qualities no one admits to (we often don’t even know we have them, sadly).
4. Ignore claims about personality.
Ignore most of the person’s explicit claims about his or her personality — for example, “I have a sense of humor about myself” or “I’m an optimist.” People are very unreliable self-reporters.
That’s not just because they lie (although that’s a possibility, too), but because the way we see ourselves often bears little relation to how others see us. And only external events provoke our negative reactions, right? (We humans are expert self-justifiers.)
It means nothing. The only explicit claims worth taking at face value are factual — job, age, education and location. When it comes to less tangible qualities, people are just too biased.
On the other hand, it’s worth paying attention to what is implicit in a profile — e.g. a sense of humor that rises to the surface. (A friend of mine answered a question about his strengths this way: “I am responsible about refilling the Brita pitcher.” This says more about what he’s like in conversation than any claim of being a “funny person.”)
5. Don’t get attached based on a profile.
Image: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
No matter how much of an expert you’ve become at reading profiles, and no matter how well this girl or guy corresponds to your dream match, there’s still a lot you won’t be able to glean until you sit across from him or her at a coffee shop.
It doesn’t matter how many delightfully winning asides he has included in profile about his cute devotion to his 96-year-old grandmother. Think her passion for hot dogs and minor league baseball suggests just the kind of chill, fun-loving girl you’ve fantasized about dating?
You learn so much more from a person’s manner and demeanor — whether he makes eye contact, her tone when she speaks, how often she smiles. You also recognize social niceties; that is, what sort of effort he makes to ask you questions, whether she is constantly checking her phone, etc.
So much vital information is only disclosed in person. The goal shouldn’t be to find your perfect match but merely to winnow down the possibilities to a reasonable number, and then to meet those people IRL.
6. Don’t construct a fantasy after two dates.
You shouldn’t do this offline either, of course, but the temptation to fantasize can be even greater when you’ve met someone online. After all, in his profile he claimed to be looking for a relationship (and why would he be online unless he really wanted to meet someone?) What more do you need? Answer: a lot.
Sometimes we get so tired of dating that we just want to be done with it, rush into the next thing: the relationship. But getting too attached too soon is often the worst thing that can happen to a budding connection. It tends to dampen flirtation or scares off your counterpart. After a few dates, you are still getting to know each other, no matter how perfect he or she seems. To become too attached suggests that you are projecting a fantasy onto the other person.
It can be hard, when you so badly want to find “the one,” but getting to know another person, truly, takes time and patience.
What are some other tips you have for evaluating online profiles for compatibility? Let us know in the comments.
Homepage Image: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images
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Adelle Waldman’s first novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.. has recently been published. Her writing has also appeared in Slate. The New York Times Book Review. The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic. More