Hetero gentlemen, you’re doing online dating wrong

According to this infographic video I saw on the Man Repeller the other day, one in five couples now meet online, and that number rises to three in five for gay couples. This means online dating is about as mainstream as blue eyes, or cancer. So it is with zero stigma that I inform you that the reason I’ve been lurking on lonely hearts sites lately is not strictly for research. In the past few months, I’ve sifted through more men looking for their special girl than exist in all the bars in all the inner suburbs in all of Sydney, and I’ve noticed a few common problems that seem to defy common sense. Single men, you have nine more days before the most depressing holiday of the year, so if you haven’t been getting much attention online, this might be why.


What is that in your picture with you?
Think about the message you are sending with your profile picture.  Are those samurai swords in the background really a great idea? Is posing shirtless the classiest move? Are you wasted in Thailand with a tawly in your hand and your undies on your head?

Also, why are you standing next to an attractive, smiling lady? Who is that attractive lady? Why is she with you on a dating site? Is she some kind of yard stick - ‘girls this hot only need apply’? Are you trawling for a third?  Is she your ex-girlfriend you’re still in love with? The casual viewer has no way of knowing that the woman in the photo with you is your sister. Also, what are you doing looking for romance with a photo of your sister anyway? It’s fine if you’re with women in some of the pictures you post, but it shouldn’t be the first thing someone sees.

Babies and children are similarly confronting, regardless of whether they’re your own or someone else’s. It’s great that you’re a family person, but, in a romantic context, that’s probably not the first thing people should know about you.

Photographs where you are tiny and standing next to a landmark are also a problem. Always keep in mind that you’re competing for attention with people who aren’t afraid to show their face. Finally be aware that if there’s a recurring theme to your pictures, people are going to notice it. I once came across a man who was posing with a different wild animal in every single one of his seven pictures. Hilarious if intentional, deeply weird if accidental.  

Statistically, you’ll have the best luck if you’re not smiling, looking away from the camera a little, and maybe posing with something cute and fluffy (an animal, not a girl). The guy in the stock image illustrating this article actually has a perfect profile picture.  If you’re just looking to get laid, and are ripped like a Marvel comic then maybe showing off your body is a good idea, but going shirtless doesn’t exactly scream ‘long term prospect’.

Think about your audience. Be aware that the kind of girl you’re going to meet online is different from the kind of girl you’re going to meet in a bar. First of all, there’s an excellent chance that she’s a little bit shy, so coming on really strong will just be perceived as creepy. It might work in person, but immediately complimenting a woman’s looks online is redundant. If you didn’t find the woman you’re talking to attractive, then you wouldn’t be talking to her. It’s better to open a conversation by reading someone’s profile and picking one specific thing to mention from it. Approaching someone like this shows care and consideration, two qualities any sane woman is looking out for.

Your shy-girl audience should also impact on the way you present yourself, and the way you express what you want. You’re speaking exclusively to an audience of women here, so don’t make disparaging statements about women in general, and don’t say you want “a girl to treat like a princess.” By the time most women hit 15 they realise that being treated like a princess means having your every move monitored and policed. Just look at Duchess Catherine.  Instead, try and be as sincere as possible. Are you looking for someone to lie on the couch and watch Arrested Development with on a Sunday afternoon? Someone to see the world with? Say that. Reference your interests early and often, because they’re the easiest thing to have a conversation about.

Be realistic with your profile and ambitions. Dating sites essentially reduce your humanity to a shopping list of attributes, and your height is often one line away from your profession. There’s nothing wrong with being a 5’4 glassie, but the internet is a shitty place to convey your sense of settled wisdom and joie de vivre. I’m not suggesting you fib, but there’s nothing wrong with a gentle omission.  Reach out frequently and specifically, throw a lot of charm at the people you wind up meeting, and that way the people you interact with might start to actually like you before they think about the superficialities.

Being realistic also means that you shouldn’t tell obvious lies. Do not say you’re 26 when in your profile picture you’re clearly way past 30. Most people aren’t idiots, and even idiots can catch a lie when they have time to sit and stare at it.

Have real goals in mind. Is a bit of chatting with ladies an end in itself for you or would you actually like to meet people? If it’s the latter, ask to meet up quickly and have a concrete, very low pressure suggestion. After a couple of messages back and forth say “would you like to go for a coffee at this very public place, at this very low pressure time” before your conversation stagnates. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t get back to you, they were likely going to waste your time anyway and you should have abandoned your fear of rejection the second you set up your profile.

Get a woman to proof your profile. Asking a woman whose opinion you respect to take a look at your profile and make a few suggestions is the single greatest thing you can do. She’ll pick up on any unintentional creepiness, terribly chosen photographs or general awkwardness in a way you - or your guy friends - might not. Not always, but generally, women think about and dissect romantic nuance in far more complex ways than men do, so having someone who understands the semiotics of ladyhood on your side is always a huge asset.  You might even learn some things in the process. Finally, if you don’t have a woman in your life, whose opinion you respect, who is willing to go through your profile, then you should be looking for a therapist, not a date.

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