Whether you’re just checking out friends of friends on Facebook, lining up a date for the weekend on OkCupid, or looking for a future husband on Match.com, finding love online can get just as intense and confusing as the real thing. In this long-overdue post about online dating from the guy’s perspective, I’ll list four simple rules to give you the best chance at finding love — or whatever else you’re looking for — when you start online.
1. Profile: Post the Right Picture, and Don’t Say Anything Crazy
This first rule is a two-for-one because there are really only two key elements of an online profile that the right guy will notice.
First, your picture should make you look good (it’s by far the most important part of your profile, from the guy’s perspective), but it should also look like you. If you post the most perfect picture ever taken of you, when you were wearing tons of makeup, or your boobs seemed twice as big as usual, or the blurriness and the angle of your head make you look like Jennifer Aniston, that’s the wrong picture. Instead, find a picture that looks as much as possible like you will on a first date. Because that’s what a guy’s going to encounter in real life — and we do not recover easily from first-impression letdowns.
Second, don’t say anything crazy on your profile. Be yourself and crack a joke or two if you want, but if you spend more than 30 minutes trying to construct the ideal online persona, you’re wasting your time and might even be hurting your chances. Guys are much more likely to be turned off by something you overthought than we are to be turned on by your Pulitzer-worthy self-summary. Share your basic details, your interests, and what you’re looking for, let your voice show through a little, and leave it at that. Your personality will do the rest of the talking in person, where it’s supposed to.
2. Reel Us In: Don’t Overshare or Be in a Hurry
No matter how much you want to meet the right guy, it can’t hurt to take your time. A little space between online responses and a little reserve on your part will not drive a guy away, but it might just make him more interested. There’s no risk in taking things slow, whereas there might be if you come on too strong. Most of us guys expect to have to pursue you early on, so unless you’re waiting a week every time you message him back, you’re not likely to drive him away by starting slow.
3. Expect Disappointment
I have friends who have found love and even married someone they met online. But as a rule, online dating is not a high-percentage approach. Expect that some guys with funny profiles or great photos will be lame or unattractive in person. Expect that others who you really want to see again won’t call or won’t ultimately be very interested in you. One of the best things online dating can do for you is to make you both picky and resilient. Once you narrow your focus and let a couple of dates go by before getting too invested, you’ll start to increase your chances of finding something good.
4. When I Go Offline, Relax
Staying up late to message someone multiple times online is not the same thing as knowing him. Unlike at school, work, or in the same social circles, when you date someone you met online, you have much less shared context to fall back on. This means you may need more time than usual to get to know each other and get comfortable together. And that’s ok. As I pointed out in my post about when to have sex with a guy, as long as you’re letting him know you’re still interested, the right guy just will not be driven away by moving slowly. When you let things develop naturally, you’ll stand a much better chance at forming a rewarding relationship.