Online Dating: The True & Terrible

Over the last seven years or so I’ve tried online dating on and off. I’ve only met a handful of men in person and have rarely been on a site for more than a month at a time. I am not an expert, there are plenty of people who have way more experience with online dating than I do. However, I’ve looked at a lot of profiles and I know what I want out of a potential online date. And as we know…I have opinions.

Photos. The first thing someone sees when looking at your profile. I’d imagine most people even look at all the photos available before even reading a profile or bio. And SO MANY DUDES do their photos wrong. So. Many.

The VAST majority of photos of men I’ve seen on internet dating sites have been either bathroom selfies, car selfies, terrible quality or one where he’s glaring at the camera – or some combination of those. Seriously! I have such strong feelings on this because it’s so easily fixable! I’m not going to swipe right on you or talk to you if you look like you want to kill me. I’m just not. That’s my first common sense rule for online dating. Don’t talk to dudes who look like they want to Netflix and murder.

And I’ve always hated bathroom selfies. They’re terrible! If I can see your toilet or your shower in the background, it’s too much, too soon. Why can’t you just turn the phone around and take a normal selfie? That’s the point, isn’t it? You don’t have to take a photo in a mirror because your phone camera can TURN AROUND AND POINT AT YOU. And what’s with the car selfies? This seems to be a newer phenomena, I wasn’t seeing car selfies in 2010. Now, I’d say you’re more likely to see them than not. Whyyyy? They annoy me less than bathroom selfies, to be fair. But still, I don’t get it. I’m not necessarily anti-selfie all day all the time…but for a dating site? If all a guy’s photos are ones he clearly took himself, I’m wondering where all his friends are. You don’t have anyone in your life to take a nice photo of you?

And goodness gracious, dudes – SMILE. You glaring at the camera will get you nowhere with me. I can’t think of a time when I’ve matched with someone who had no photos of him smiling. And I know, I know, in his recent book Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari discovered that the most likeable photo for a guy online dating is one where he’s looking off in the distance at a cool landscape with his face to the side. And I’m nothing if not respectful of Mr. Ansari and his research. But for my personal preferences, a genuine smile will get you farthest. However, better to be gazing off into the distance than looking at me with blood in your eyes with your nasty shower on display. And: hunting photos. Just don’t. I have to hope this isn’t just because I don’t eat animals and am against hunting. What woman wants to match with the man holding a dead fish and scowling? Oh, you want to gut me like that fish? Okay!

Moral of the story (and this is for anyone!): Post recent photos. Post photos where you look good but still look like yourself (in other words, if you hardly ever wear make-up, maybe don’t be wearing make-up in every photo you share). Post photos of you doing things you like without seeming douche-y or scary. Smile in the majority, at least.

Next, bios: there are many dating sites where users are asked a variety of questions and one can share as much information as one wants. I have little complaints about those. Typically, men who are using those sites are willing to put a little time into crafting their profile. But for platforms like Tinder, where there’s just a “bio” section…that’s a different story. Now, I don’t know the statistic on this, but a decent number of men don’t have anything written in their bio section. And, my general rule that I follow 93% of the time is to swipe left on guys with no bio. I do not know that this would be true for all women, Tinder is after all more focused on looks, so maybe many users don’t mind if their prospects have nothing written. But that makes me nervous. What if you can’t spell? What if you use obnoxious abbreviations? I don’t know if you haven’t written anything!

But for the men of Tinder that I’ve seen that HAVE written something. It’s often pretty painful. (I once saw a man that had written #MaleLivesMatter…enough said. *swipes left*) An astonishing amount say, “Work hard, play hard”. Why is that supposed to make me want to meet you? I’m not sure I understand. And to the dudes who write some variation of what they’re looking for and include gems like “done with the drama of needy women” “don’t be a whore” and “actually answer my messages”…thanks for putting your awfulness front and center so I know right away.

Bios can be tricky because one small thing can turn people off, maybe that’s why some go the silent route.

Moral of the story: If you’re going to write something, write about what you like about the city you’re in, what you like to do with your time, or let your potential matches know the child(ren) in your photo(s) aren’t yours! Unless they are, don’t lie. Spell things correctly and don’t be a jerk. If you want, say why you’re on the site. Just do it respectfully.

Messaging. You’ve matched with someone, yay! Now the real work begins. Another of my general rules is to answer all messages. UNLESS all they’ve said is “hi” or “hey”. Especially on actual dating sites, not the apps. You’ve had access to my entire profile and all you’ve said is “hi”?! I probably won’t answer. But if someone you’re not into messages you, just let them know. I’ve crafted many a witty, sweet message to men whose profiles I’ve really liked and not gotten a response. What a disappointment! Even if you’re not interested in talking to someone, if you can tell they took time on their message to you, answer them and be gentle.

And for some online dating platforms, people are there for one specific reason only. That could be hooking up. Or it could be looking for a marriage partner. Or something in between. Whatever it is, the new method seems to be being straightforward and cutting to the chase pretty quickly. I’m all for this – open communication is a great start to online dating! However, maybe don’t be too quick to cut to the chase. Say hello and let them know something you liked about their profile before asking them over/to coffee/to run away with you.

Moral of the story: Be honest. Answer messages, even if your answer is “no, thanks”. Be straightforward…but not too straightforward. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, say that.

Online dating can be really fun or really stressful. It can even be threatening or scary or the way you meet one of the loves of your life. (If you’re meeting someone for the first time, tell a friend where you’ll be!)  Give it a try if you think you’re ready. Listen to your friend’s success/failure stories from their experiences if you’re not. But I promise you: you can be the feminist you know yourself to be while online dating. And don’t let anyone tell you different.


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