While online dating has become ubiquitous, it’s still tricky to navigate. And while each of the many dating apps available has its own set of rules, features, and terms, there are some universal rules you should follow for a better experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest mistakes everyone should avoid when searching for a match online.
1. Neglecting safety
It’s easy to get excited when you hook up with someone you like on a dating app. But it is important to remember that users can easily fake their information and photos on their dating profiles. At best, this is a lie to attract more people. At worst, you could fall victim to an online dating scammer or even find yourself in an unsafe physical situation.
Be smart and don’t let yourself get into a bad scenario. Talk to potential matches for a while before agreeing to meet them in person. Ask to talk to them on a video call, or at least on the phone, before meeting up. If they make excuses as to why they can’t, that’s a sign of a fake dating profile.
If you agree to meet up, make it in a public place where you have ways to close if you need to. Do not meet at your home, their home or some remote location. Transport yourself to the place of the date so you can leave when you want. It’s also smart to let your family or trusted friends know where you’re going and approximately how long you’ll be there so they’re aware if something isn’t right. You should also avoid drinking too much on a date, which makes you vulnerable.
Also protect your privacy on your dating profile. Consider using an alternate email address or Google Voice number to keep your real information hidden. Don’t reveal your full name to people until you get to know them.
Hopefully you’ll never run into someone who uses online dating to find victims, but it’s a real threat that you can’t ignore. These tips are even more important if you are using a free service, where the barrier to entry is low.
2. Using Fake Photos
The top photo on your dating profile is the first way people see you. It’s important to make it great so that potential matches are intrigued and want to know more.
While it’s bad to use blurry photos or images with multiple people in them, you can also go too far in the other direction. Editing your photos or using the best photo of yourself is not an honest representation of who you are. If you spend hours in Photoshop trying to get the perfect set of photos to hide your flaws, what will your date think when they see the real you?
Also, don’t use outdated photos. If your favorite photo of yourself is 10 years old, that’s not a good snapshot of who you are now. Ask a friend to take some pictures of you with your smartphone camera, or view photos you’ve taken during your favorite activities. People looking for a partner on dating websites want to see an honest representation of you.
The best profile picture is one that shows you as you naturally are. Provide variety, such as a head photo, a full body photo, and a photo of you doing something you love. If someone sees those and isn’t interested, they’re not the one for you anyway.
If your photos need a boost, check out the best profile photo tools.
3. Lie on your profile
It’s easy to hide the truth in your photos, but lying on other parts of your profile isn’t a good idea either. One of the basic tips of online dating is to complete your profile; a blank page doesn’t give potential matches enough to go off when they’re evaluating you.
But when you do this, you must answer the prompts honestly and not distort the facts. If you’re a little overweight, don’t claim to be slim. Don’t pretend to enjoy certain activities if you despise them or haven’t even tried them. Lying is not a good foundation for a relationship, and eventually these falsehoods will come out.
The right person will love you not just because of qualities they like about you, but despite your flaws. Plus, something you hate about yourself (perhaps freckles, the way you smile, or your passion for 1950s movies) may end up being something your partner likes about you.
Don’t try to disguise who you are; it is tiring and wastes your time.
4. Send boring or creepy messages
So you’ve finally found someone you find attractive and you want to message them. This is another crucial step that is easy to mess up. The best advice is to come up with something they haven’t heard a hundred times.
Start a conversation with “Hey” or “What’s up?” is boring and shows that you put in about two seconds of your time. Also, don’t introduce yourself with a five-paragraph article that contains way too much personal detail.
Ideally, you should bring up something you found interesting in the person’s profile so that they know you read it. Bring out a common interest and end with a good question to elicit a good answer. Avoid “yes or no” questions, as you won’t have much success if your message is difficult to answer thoughtfully.
Also, make sure you don’t project a creepy vibe in your first posts. Don’t ask for personal information, tell them they’re exactly what you’re looking for, or send weird photos. This will scare people off.
Be yourself and see what comes of it. If someone doesn’t answer right away, they may be busy with work or travel. Give them a few days and don’t obsess about waiting for their response. If they don’t have enough time to respond to you, move on.
5. Being too picky or idealistic
The world of online dating lends itself to some interesting challenges. When you find someone in person, you don’t have a stack of other potential matches to compare them to. Since you’re sifting through a list of profiles and photos online, it’s easy to become selective and obsessed with finding the perfect person. Don’t do this or it will become decision paralysis.
If she likes jazz music and you like country more, that’s no reason to contact her. Instead, think about the basics of a relationship: does she live in the same city as you? If you enjoy having intelligent conversations, does his profile suggest he’s interested in this? Do you have similar religious beliefs?
Of course, don’t compromise on your values, but understand that looking for someone who perfectly fits your vision of an ideal partner is impossible.
This also applies if you agree to meet them. Even if their profile looks great, you learn so much more about someone from the way they behave in person. Here’s how often they smile, their tone, if they check their phones too much, and other important details you can’t figure out on an online profile.
Once you’ve been on a few dates and things are going well, resist the temptation to think you’ve found your soulmate. You could very well have a great relationship, but building one takes time. Don’t obsess over the idea of dating someone; get to know the person you met and evaluate if they are a good match for you.
6. Not using the right dating service
You probably know that there are an absurd amount of dating websites and apps. If you are not very lucky to meet people, the reason may be that you are not using the best service for your needs.
Dating websites and apps differ in their user expectations. Free dating sites tend to be more casual than paid ones, so if you’re serious about finding a match, consider paying to join. Consider using a service that is appropriate for others of your race, age group, or religion.
If the app you’re using isn’t working, try one of these alternative dating apps:
- OkCupid is one of the largest free dating sites. It prides itself on its matching algorithm and interesting questions that feed it. Recommended for those who want to test the online dating waters for free.
- Match.com is one of the largest paid dating services. It uses a chemical personality test to find people you are likely to click with.
- Senior Match focuses on older singles. No one under 40 can join and it targets those over 50.
- EliteSingles is a dating site for professionals. It is advertised for those who want a serious relationship; more than 90% of the members are 30+ and have at least a college education.
What are your online dating rules?
Along with the regular challenges of dating, doing online adds some unique problems. Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the internet dating world and pursue some potential matches. Dating can be frustrating, but eventually you’ll find someone who makes it all worth it.
Once you’ve done that, there are resources that can help you build your relationships as well.