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How to write an online dating profile

Picture frame for two please
Picture frame for two please
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Writing an online profile is counter-intuitive. Profilers who find themselves answering the questions directly are most likely not doing themselves justice. When asked what one enjoys doing in their spare time, a likely answer would be: “I enjoy hanging out, reading books on my couch, going out to bars on Friday nights with friends, but also enjoy the occasional quiet evening in. I like fun outdoor activities with people I love - heck, I can be doing anything so long as it is with the right people!” The problem with the above, albeit honest, answer is that it is applicable to anyone. Almost everyone likes spending time with their friends, eating good food, and relaxing.

So what is left to be done to make a profile stand out? Here is a quick do’s and dont's list for optimizing an online profile and saying more than is being asked:

1. Endearing versus commandeering!
Don’t tell the person what they should or shouldn’t be: “You should message me if you like yoga, eat green beans seven times daily, were in the peace corps, and volunteer in three different animal rights organizations (an interest in dolphins, pandas, and leopards is preferred).” Even those who fit these criteria would find this phrasing unwelcoming. It places the profiler on an unsharable pedestal; it seems they are not looking for a companion, but for someone who fits check-boxes on a list. A profile should not demand of fellow online daters ultra-specific interests and characteristics. Instead, a profile should tell a story about the profilers themselves, which, in turn, will prompt a desire to respond. For example, an alternate, more positive approach would be, “You should message me if you have a good sense of direction! One of us ought to!” The browsing individual learns something endearing about the person in the picture. Moreover, the response does not leave them feeling defensive or deficient; rather, they feel needed, and in turn, feel beckoned to reach out.

2. “Peanut butter and shrimp, but never together!”
Do, by all means, be playful. Although the questions the online profiles ask are not too full of character and spunk, with the right attitude, the profiler can make them so. A thinking profiler can insert an allergy group in the “favorite food” section. Or perhaps a childhood keepsake for the “can’t live without” section. Whatever it is, one should try thinking about the information the answer is conveying. If a response conveys a two-dimensional answer (in other words, if the response answers directly what is being asked) it will be forgotten before it is even read. If, on the other hand, a response carries with it a history and says something about the profiler beyond what part of the food pyramid they are most attracted to, that profile will be much more memorable.

3. Mind over matter.
Do not feel tempted to publish a yearly salary in order to make a profile more appealing! Profilers should present themselves as individuals, not as numbers, salaries, fancy positions, or Ivy League diplomas. Experiences speak volumes - but they shouldn’t be used as euphemisms for “I make tons of money and wear fancy suits.” Online dating prospects would like to learn what they’d be left with when the fancy suits come off. It would better serve the online profiler to use these accomplishments to convey a set of values such as being goal oriented, ambitious, and hard working. These are more attractive and more stable than any (…almost any) sum of money.

4. “Willing to lie about how we met!”
Don’t apologize for the medium. There is no reason to suddenly blush a conservative hue. 2014, despite the lack of hovercrafts that were promised back in the 80’s, is a year that is home to a technologically dependent generation. Anything and everything happens through the computer, phone, or tablet; it would be silly not to use this as an advantage to assuaging a lonely heart. Such an apology is not charming; essentially, this apologetic profiler is promising to be ashamed of any relationship whose buds bloomed online. Moreover, it conveys an interest in what others think rather than an interest in conveying a genuine personality. Yikes and yikes.

5. To selfie or not to selfie?
Do and don’t. Selfie with care. Selfies in which an activity is taking place are significantly better than shirtless selfies taken in the mirror. Pictures are, by definition, snapshots of the profilers’ lives. A selfie in one’s own bathroom shows that this person does not get out much and cares mostly about their own reflection. For those who haven’t read to the end, things didn’t end well for Narcissus. He dies. Try to use pictures taken on a day out with friends or family. These will almost always portray a happier, livelier, and more energetic version of the aspiring dater.

To sum up: It is vital to remember that there is much power to words (and pictures) in their subtexts. Phrasing always echoes layers of meaning. Keeping this notion in the back of one’s mind will inevitably transform a bland profile into a portal that accurately represents the individual’s personality.