On Revamping Your Online Dating Profile

After a string of digital dating disasters, Amy Webb dug into the data, played around with her dating profile on Match.com and OKCupid.com, changed it, and soon went on her “last first date.” It sounds quite easy, but I think it took a lot of work. She provides some tips on revamping your dating profile in this interesting Wall Street Journal piece:

My profile was obviously attracting the wrong kind of man. After one particularly disastrous date—he casually dropped the fact that he was actually married—I decided to change my approach. Drawing on my background in data analysis, I set out to reverse engineer my profile. I outlined 10 male archetypes and created profiles for each of them on JDate. There was JewishDoc1000, the private-practice cardiologist who hated cruise-ship travel, and LawMan2346, an attorney who was very close to his family and a former national debate champion.

And here are Amy’s tips on attracting the right kind of person on your online dating profile:

• Use between three and five photos in your gallery. More photos can do some good, but after five, my analysis suggests, profiles pass a point of diminishing returns.

• Lead with your hobbies and activities, unless they require lots of description or explanation. So you can start with tennis, if that’s your thing, but not aikido—or worse, “I have a black belt in aikido.” (I actually do, and I put it on my profile at one point, which prompted some men to challenge me to a fight on the first date, which was as horrible and awkward as it sounds.)

• It’s really hard to be funny in print—especially if you’re naturally prone to sarcasm. I found that people who thought they were being funny in their profiles weren’t. Instead, they seemed angry or aloof.

Women: Don’t mention work, especially if your job is difficult to explain. You may have the most amazing career on the planet, but it can inadvertently intimidate someone looking at your profile. I realize this sounds horribly regressive, but during my experiment I found that women were attracted to men with high-profile careers, while the majority of men were turned off by powerful women.

• Women with curly hair are at a distinct disadvantage online. I have no idea whether men prefer blondes, but I can say definitively that most men prefer women with healthy, long, straight hair. If you have curls and feel comfortable (and look good) straightening your hair, give that a try.

These tips will appear in Amy Webb’s upcoming book, Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match.

Emily Witt on Online Dating

In this London Review of Books piece, Emily Witt shares her thoughts on online dating. It’s an interesting read:

Like most people I had started internet dating out of loneliness. I soon discovered, as most do, that it can only speed up the rate and increase the number of encounters with other single people, where each encounter is still a chance encounter. Internet dating destroyed my sense of myself as someone I both know and understand and can also put into words. It had a similarly harmful effect on my sense that other people can accurately know and describe themselves. It left me irritated with the whole field of psychology. I began responding only to people with very short profiles, then began forgoing the profiles altogether, using them only to see that people on OK Cupid Locals had a moderate grasp of the English language and didn’t profess rabidly right-wing politics.

Internet dating alerted me to the fact that our notions of human behaviour and achievement, expressed in the agglomerative text of hundreds of internet dating profiles, are all much the same and therefore boring and not a good way to attract other people. The body, I also learned, is not a secondary entity. The mind contains very few truths that the body withholds. There is little of import in an encounter between two bodies that would fail to be revealed rather quickly. Until the bodies are introduced, seduction is only provisional.

In the depths of loneliness, however, internet dating provided me with a lot of opportunities to go to a bar and have a drink with a stranger on nights that would otherwise have been spent unhappy and alone. I met all kinds of people: an X-ray technician, a green tech entrepreneur, a Polish computer programmer with whom I enjoyed a sort of chaste fondness over the course of several weeks. We were both shy and my feelings were tepid (as, I gathered, were his), but we went to the beach, he told me all about mushroom foraging in Poland, he ordered his vegetarian burritos in Spanish, and we shared many mutual dislikes.

It is interesting how we tend to characterize the online vs. “real” worlds as such disparate entities…

The Superpower of Being Alone

I stumbled upon “My Superpower is Being Alone Forever” in the Awl after perusing the best #longreads chosen by Edith Zimmerman, a writer and co-editor of The Hairpin. Joe Berkowitz writes about online dating, its repercussions, and why some of us are still single:

Putting together a dating profile means performing a self-autopsy and reassembling the pieces into Sexy Robocop. You save what’s worth salvaging and shield the damaged parts with reinforced metal. You strive to find the middle ground between showing you have nothing to hide, and just showing off. You carefully curate your interests as if they were co-op displays in a Barnes & Noble, reveling in the understated complexity of liking both Nicki Minaj and My Bloody Valentine. Your picture gallery broadcasts a series of defensive messages: “See? Other females aren’t afraid of me.” “See? I go to museums sometimes and mimic sculpture-poses because Culture.” “See? I’ve been to a Halloween party so obviously I don’t spend much time alone, crying to The Cure’s Disintegration LP and drinking wine from a can.” Dating profiles reveal more about how you see yourself than how you really are, and more about how you want to be seen than how you will be.

With infinite choice comes infinite opportunities to judge. The more options that exist, the pickier you become. Scrolling through profile after profile, I am transformed into an imperial king, surveying his goodly townsfolk from a balcony on high. Those with minor perceived flaws are summarily dismissed (“Next!”) because surely someone closer to the Hellenic ideal is just around the corner. Anyone cute might be cast aside for the smallest breach of taste: a penchant for saying things like “I love life and I love to laugh” or self-identifying as “witty.” Yet even when I genuinely find myself attracted to someone, I’ll still react with skepticism. What’s the catch? What dark and terrible secret causes her to resort to this thing I am also doing? After scanning closely for red flags and finally deigning her regally worthy, I dispatch a message. But then the truth reveals itself: the king is not her type and also he is not really a king.

No piece on online dating would be complete without a mention of OKCupid:

Everyone has a friend who is so charismatic, brilliant or good-looking that the idea of him or her trolling OKCupid is mind-boggling. I am haunted by those friends. What is it that separates us? Is it gluten? I’m at peace with the fact that Drake sings about how jaded he is from being constantly propositioned by beautiful women—because Drake is crazy-famous. My friends who’d never be mistaken as online daters are not famous, but they also possess some ineffable quality that makes them forever F-able. As far as our social sphere is concerned, they might as well be Drake (or nearest female equivalent): They’re stars, and finding them on a dating site would create cognitive dissonance of Orwellian proportions. Personally, I’ve never felt as spectacularly anonymous as I have as an online dater, united with everyone else on the site in that we all have a reason to be there. I can rationalize about Internet dating for days. I can think up reasons for why the way my grandparents met is outmoded. But I don’t want any woman to think she was my last resort, and I don’t want to imagine that I was hers. When we say, “I’m so glad we found each other,” I don’t want it to refer to the way we had to find each other like hidden files in a hard-drive search.

I highly recommending clicking over to the original article to see Joanna Neborsky’s wonderful illustrations accompanying the piece.