Friday, August 6, 2010

15 Online Dating Profile Blunders

So you’ve decided to join the world of online dating. You’ve picked a dating site and begin making your profile.

Unless the dating site asks specific questions and has you fill out an information questionnaire, there is a good chance what you say about yourself (and just as important what you don’t say about yourself) is left up to your discretion.

This could get dangerous. At best, making these common mistakes could cost you dates. At worst, assuming the success stories are true, it could cost you meeting the love of your life.

1. Lying about your basic info.

The people you meet online don’t know anything about you. Establishing any level of trust requires, no…demands that basic information like your age, body type, expectations, education level, income, sexual orientation, living accommodations and marital/ parental status is 100% true. If you end up meeting someone great and they find out you lied about something as basic as what year you were born or if you have children, they have no reason to believe anything you have ever said, or ever will say is true.

2. Your pictures are really old.

Maybe 2004 was a really good year for you. Maybe you’re really proud of that award you won your HS senior year. Maybe you were an adorable baby. But that is NOT what you look like right now: this month of this year. Even if your best friend agrees that the wedding party picture of you from January 2007 still looks exactly like you, you should never post pictures that are more than 2 years old. Ideally, most of your pictures were taken in the last 6 months, at the very least within the same calendar year that you’re making the profile. And if you only have one or two pictures of yourself, they should all be taken within the last year. You should also update your profile pictures every six months.

3. Your pictures misrepresent you.

Pictures are one of the most important parts of a dating profile. They are often the first and sometimes the only thing a prospective date might look at before deciding to contact you or respond to your message. If all your pictures are of you wearing sunglasses and a hat, are really grainy or you’re far away, no one can really tell what you look like. That is almost as bad as having no pictures at all (the cardinal sin of online dating!) Also at least half your pictures should be recent full body shots. Pictures only ‘from the neck up’ make viewers suspicious of why you’re hiding the rest of your body. You should also update your pictures if you’ve recently: changed your hairstyle or color, shaved off or grown facial hair, gotten facial piercings, gotten any visible tattoos, lost or gained 10 or more pounds, or had anything else done that would dramatically change the way you look. You don’t want to have to wear fedora hat or carry a white rose so the person meeting you will recognize you!

4. You don’t write anything about yourself.

It is critical for you to say a few things about who you are, what you like and what you’re looking for. Not writing anything about yourself makes viewers think one of three things. Either 1) you’re so arrogant that you think people will contact you based upon just your pictures, 2) you are an incredibly boring person with no life and having nothing worth saying, or 3) you are incredibly lazy and disrespectful enough to not care if people you contact know anything about you. You’re better off throwing a few honest lines out there outlining a few things that describe what kind of person they might be getting involved with and what makes you worth getting to know. Whether you’re looking for someone to share their life with you, or give you their heart or body, you owe it to them to at least let them know who you are.

5. You misspell words and use poor grammar.

While what you write should sound like how you talk, if your profile is hard to read or looks like a third grader wrote it, no one is going to take you seriously. A poorly written profile screams “I’m too lazy to use a spell checker!” “I don’t care if you can’t understand what I say!”, “I don’t respect myself or you enough to write like an adult.” and “Get with me if you don’t want a partner who sounds smart and educated.” If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points, do everyone a favor and write your “about me” section on a Word document which will correct your mistakes, then cut and paste the edited version onto your profile. You can do the same thing with emails you write to other people on the site. You really should think of dating as a job interview. If you don’t write or talk like an adult, you’re going to be passed over for the hundreds of other people who do.

6. You come across as aggressive, cynical or bitter.

Defensive, angry, frustrated and wounded. These are things that every human feels at some point in their lives. They should NOT be how you depict yourself in your profile. Most people have had a relationship end badly, maybe they even got their heart broken. But a dating site is not a place to go all “Jerry Springer”. A profile is where you give your first impression of yourself to others. Do you want people to think you’re a happy, fun person to be around? Or do you want them to be afraid to contact you because you’ll snap their head off because you’ve been hurt in the past? Save your venting over past wrongs for your diary and your BFF, strangers don’t want to hear it. If you usually are a sad, cranky or grumpy person a dating site isn’t going to help you. You should be seeing a psychiatrist. Dating sites are set up for normal, well adjusted people who are simply looking for a love interest, not someone to fix their wounded soul and heal their broken heart or teach them how to be a happy, optimistic person. Being in a relationship will absolutely NOT solve the other problems in your life.

7. You try too hard to be funny or unique.
You may think that your wacky sense of humor is one of your better qualities. And maybe it is. But it’s best served online in small doses. Too much sarcasm could be misinterpreted. Being outrageously silly in all your pictures might make you just seem weird. And writing a ton of jibberish that goes way, way beyond witty, could scare someone away who thinks you never know how to act maturely. No one wants to date (or worse be in a relationship with) someone who is going to chronically embarrass them with ridiculous clothing, incessant practical jokes, poorly timed humor and immature mannerisms. Revealing some of your taste in humor is good since people do want to be around others who can cut loose, make them laugh and understand each other’s jokes. So shoot for Vince Vaughn of Wedding Crashers’ casual sarcasm, and try to avoid doing too much Jim Carrey (The Mask) absurdities which are much harder to pull off on a two dimensional online dating profile.

8. You’re too specific about who you’ll date.

Saying you’re attracted to someone ‘Tall, dark and handsome’ is pretty specific. Saying “You must be at least 6’4, have an olive complexion with black hair and have been the homecoming king in high school.” is way too specific. Stating you are only interested in people who are athletic or lean or who are non-smokers, is perfectly acceptable though. A preference that still includes many, many types of people is fine. A short list of qualities cuts out 98% of the dating population. While you may prefer blonds, only want to date aerobic instructors or feel it’s critical your partner has a Masters degree in biology, if you state criteria like that in your profile you’ll alienate a lot of people who may have otherwise been a good match for you. You wouldn’t want someone to exclude you from their “would date’ list because you’re a year over or under their age limits of ’24 or 25’, so you can’t very well say you’ll only date people with naturally hazel eyes. Include some general criteria, but don’t close yourself off to the masses of people who honestly don’t think blowfish is the best dinner in town.

9. You’re second to someone else.
It may be that you’re a parent and make it abundantly obvious how very proud you are of that. Or maybe you write incessantly about your poochie who sleeps with you and has her own wardrobe. Or maybe your ex is in every single photo with you. Your profile is supposed to be about you. YOU are the one looking for a date, looking for a relationship. Prospective dates need to know that you’re a whole human being by yourself and not someone who has to be constantly surrounded by your bff, your favorite niece or a past partner. Saying things like “I have a child who is my life and if you have a problem with that then don’t bother contacting me” not only scores you negative points in the “aggressive” category, it’s a huge turn off to someone who wants to date YOU, not ‘the parent of your child’. It should go without saying that you have important people in your life already. Your profile should stay focused on YOU as an individual.

10. You provide information overkill.
An online dating profile is designed to list your basic information, a little info about your life (where you’re from, where you’re currently living and what your past relationship history has been) but it’s just a synopsis, not an entire novel. Unless you have a stalker, long profiles never get read all the way through. And talking too much about yourself will just make you seem self-absorbed and high maintenance. Give enough of a teaser to catch a reader’s attention, but do save something for emails, a phone conversation and the in-person meeting.

11. You’re too high maintenance.

Everyone wants to be with someone who takes care of themselves and has a healthy dose of self respect. But describing yourself with words like “Princess”, “Diva”, “God’s gift” or “The best ____ on this site” is a fantastic way to tell everyone in a hurry that you are narcissistic and intend to be more work than you’re worth. Being an overly needy person is also a huge turn off. Most people want to be in a relationship with someone they consider a great friend as well as a lover and partner. But you’re not going to become clones of each other if you get involved. Everyone needs their own hobbies and time alone. Make it clear you have interest and opinions of your own that you intend to keep even if they differ from those of your future partner. No one should give up or lose their personal identity just became they’re in a relationship.

12. You come with enough baggage for a world tour.

It may be that your elderly parent lives with you. That you had six children and your spouse ran off and left you to care for them alone. Or you’ve lived in 15 states and had 29 jobs in the last 6 years. (Heaven help you if ALL those are true!) but you need to be starting a relationship with a clean slate and a willingness to put down roots and be a stable, reliable person. If you have a criminal past, STDs, a terminal illness, a life altering sickness, a mental illness or something else major you do need to make that clear to people before they move in with you or start picking out wedding invitation stationary. But you also shouldn’t drop a bomb like that on your profile or in the first email you send someone. People make mistakes and have unfortunate things happen to them, but it’s hard to accept that from someone you don’t know at all and therefore don’t really care about. You should say in your profile that “There are things that happened in my past a partner should know about me” or “I’m changing things in my life now that I’ve grown up” or “I have a medical condition that won’t prevent me from being a good partner”. Statements like those are vague enough to not be scary, but honest enough to get the conversations started before they fall in love with you and feel betrayed that you hid important facts about yourself.

13. Your needs read like a shopping list.
All about what you want and you need, you say nothing about what you offer and what you’ll bring into a relationship. For you, it’s all one sided: your way or the highway. The only thing worse than saying you have no idea what your looking for is stating precisely what you demand from a partner. I’ve actually read profiles that say things like “She must look great in sweatpants with no make-up on” or “My partner needs to make a six figure income.” Also placing limitations on your partners past history is absurd. One guy (age 30 something) wrote on his profile “if a girl has slept with five or more guys she’s a slut and shouldn’t contact me.” Wow! Really? Another guy had a 25 questions questionnaire for girls to fill out and should only contact him if they passed all of them. Saying you’re “picky” and “won’t settle” suggests that you’re placing a lot of high expectations on your partner. Expectations that maybe no mortal human being can ever live up to and therefore shouldn’t even try.

14. You’re the victim or a bully: anything but normal.
Begging readers to not hurt you because you’d been f’d over by every past relationship might get things started off on the wrong foot. Unless you’re advertizing to assholes that there is bully vacancy and you’re now accepting applications. You might be hoping for sympathy and extra kindness, but normal people will pity you and be too afraid of your weakness and lack of self-respect to want to get involved with you. Conversely if it sounds like you’re looking for a new doormat or punching bag, even if you really are a nice person anyone who’s not looking for drama or a fight, is going to avoid you.

15. You have no clue what you want.

“I don’t really know what I’m looking for.” Making a statement like that is bit shocking. By the time a person is old enough to be in a committed romantic relationship or possibly get married, they should have at least an inkling of what kind of person they’re going to be compatible with and whether or not they want to settle down with only one person or just have fun with casual dating. How can you possibly be considered a good person to become involved with, if you have no clue what makes you happy or what kind of people you feel comfortable spending time with?? Being the totally unique person you are, you’ll need to know yourself well enough to tell and show your future partner how you need to be loved and how you’ll be able to love them back. If you can’t do this you’re setting both of you up for a brutal suffering session the entire time you’re together from lack of clear communication and frustration from not getting what either of you need. If you honestly don’t know what you want and don’t know what you have to offer a relationship, you have no business creating a dating profile.

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