In the first installment of this series we covered the basics: headline, username, basic details, and search criteria. Now let’s tackle the stuff that people really find tricky.
THE SELF-SUMMARY/ABOUT ME SECTION
At this point in the game, it’s not about who has the most engaging or interesting profile text, it’s about who has the least boring and cliched. Understand this: very few profiles actually stand out. A lot of people, when they decide to put up a profile, end up looking at other user’s profiles and taking cues from them. That’s part of the reason so many profiles sound identical. When it comes to writing your profile, I would suggest you don’t use other people’s profiles as a guide.
Be sure to remember that your self summary is NOT where you talk about your ideal match or who you are looking for. Not until you have sufficiently introduced and described yourself, that is. If you’re only allotted one section to talk about your self and your match, then you should describe yourself first.
Your opening line has to grab people. Dating site users are used to seeing the same repetitive introductions. That’s why that first line of your summary has to stand out. You don’t want to say anything inflammatory, but you can definitely be a little provocative or humorous while still giving people an idea of your personality.
I’m a combination of Sheldon Cooper and Don Draper.
One part Joan Holloway, one part Joan Didion. (That’s the opening line of my profile.)
My most memorable brush with greatness was when Lou Reed said, “Excuse me” on his way to the men’s room.
If I were a character in a scary movie, I’d be the one who (died first/was the comic relief/was the wise sage that helped people defeat the monster.)
When I was twelve I dreamed of being a (insert fantasy occupation.)
Whatever that line is, it has to stray from the now expected, “I’m laid back, outgoing, and fun.” Forget about throwing out a bunch of adjectives to describe yourself. That is completely ineffective at this point. And it’s boring.
Instead, try to tell a story. You want to let people know who you are, what’s important to you, and what makes you tick. Don’t just word vomit a bunch of interests, personality traits, or hobbies. Before you write anything, open a blank Word Document. Type out any word or interest that applies to you. Don’t think too much. Just type. Underneath each word, write out a specific example of that characteristic or passion. The point of this exercise is not just to help you effectively describe yourself but to get you writing. When I’m blocked, my coach tells me to just write anything for five minutes. Anything. Maybe it’s a story of how I want to decorate my apartment or about a phone conversation I had. It doesn’t matter. The goal is to write and fill that page with words. One of the most intimidating things about writing anything is sitting there staring at a blank space. That blinking cursor can feel like it’s taunting you. Filling the page with phrases and words is your way of slaying that dragon.
Many people rush through this because they’re anxious to get their profile live. The problem with that is that people will get a few emails despite having a bare bones profile and won’t bother to go back and update their self-summary. Take your time.
The About Me section is where you give people an idea of whether or not you and they have similar lifestyles, personalities, and interests. That’s why over-used words like laid back or relaxed or outgoing don’t work. They’re too basic and vague, and they’re so over-used that they’ve lost their meaning. This is why you need to be specific. Don’t just say you love to travel. Talk about your favorite trips and what was most memorable about them. Remember, you’re not applying for a job. Nobody cares how organized or detail oriented you are. People want to know what will make you fun to date. They want to hear about things you like to do in order to tell if you and they will get on.
YOUR IDEAL MATCH/YOU SHOULD MESSAGE ME IF SECTION
My personal opinion is that people shouldn’t bother writing about a description of their ideal match. Instead, they should just say, “Drop me a line if you think we have some things in common.” Pretty much everybody says that they want to meet someone fun, honest, reliable, witty, etc. Derp. Of course. That’s why writing a laundry list of criteria seems pointless to me. Plus, most people go too far and are so specific or use descriptors that are so subjective that they end up alienating a number of potential matches.
ADDRESSING TRANSITIONAL ISSUES
I often get asked by clients whether or not they should reveal that they’re unemployed, recently out of a relationship, on sick leave, newly separated, etc. I always tell them that it all depends on what they are looking for. There’s no need to go into any kind of great detail, but it wouldn’t hurt to make a passing reference of your current situation in your profile. Just be sure to sell it in a way that’s positive and not negative.
If you’re in between jobs or on sick leave, then say you’re currently enjoying some time off by traveling/developing a hobby/engaging in self-improvement/contemplating your next big move as you look for your next position. You want to demonstrate that you’re not in dire straights financially or emotionally.
If you’re separated, and recently so, don’t admit that in your profile unless you’re looking for something strictly casual. Someone seeking a committed relationship isn’t going to be eager to meet with someone who just moved out of the apartment they shared with their spouse. If you’ve been separated for awhile or are positive that the divorce will happen or is imminent, then say that. You want people to know that there is little to no chance you’ll be returning to your estranged partner. You can select Single as your relationship status if you like, but you really should expand on that in your profile text if you’re separated.
I give similar advice for people dipping their toe into the pool after a break-up or divorce. If you’re just looking to hook-up, then state in your profile that you’re fresh off a break-up or newly divorced. That’s enough information for mature adults to deduce that you’re not looking for anything serious. if you’re looking for more, there’s no need to announce that you’re giving dating a go again after a heart break. In fact, you shouldn’t do that. Nobody wants to be your rebound.
Now, do you HAVE to mention any of this? No, but this information probably should be revealed before you meet someone.
It’s astonishing to me how many people fail at choosing profile photos. In this situation, common sense should prevail and it should be a given that people should choose flattering photos. Unfortunately, many people ignore this simple fact and select what are quite possibly THE WORST photos of themselves for their profile. Let’s start with some general guidelines.
1. All photos need to be within the last year or so. Oh, you think you still look like that photo from 2010? How adorable. You don’t. It’s called aging, and we all do it.
2. Each picture must be clear, unobstructed, and relatively close-up. No hats, sunglasses,shadows, bulky jackets, or baggy clothes. No pictures of you taken from far away. And no photos of you hiding behind friends. Potential matches need to be able to make out the features on your face without squinting or adjusting their screen.
3. Your primary photo should be a clear, well lit, and close-up show of your face only. – You need that picture to be enticing when it appears as a thumbnail in a search. When the pic is that small, nobody is going to be compelled to click on your profile if it’s a shot of you standing next to The Eiffel Tower. All they’ll see is a stick figure. Use a photo that will make people click!
4. Your primary photo should be of you only. – I do not want to click on your profile and find out you’re the lesser attractive one.
5. Post no more than 5 photos. – Full frontal face, full frontal body, social shot, and then one or two more of any of those categories. You want to look relatively the same in all photos. Trust me, if you use a photo that’s 2-3 years old and put it amongst one that is recent, people will notice.
6. No goofy/unseemly shots. - Those pics of you with that fake mustache or in a Halloween costume? Hilarious, amirite? Wrong. We want to see what you look like. Putting fake facial hair on your face or dressing up like a zombie impedes that. Don’t use shots of you making funny faces, either, unless you plan on showing up to that first date and making that expression all night. You also want to avoid posting pics where you’re tipsy or high or under the influence because, duh. Holding a drink in a couple of your photos is fine, just don’t look hammered.
7. A full body shot is a must. - If you don’t have at least one shot of you from the middle of your thighs up, standing straight towards the camera, forget about dating online. Only people truly desperate will agree to meet you. Without that photo, your responses will be almost nil.
8. Your photos must reflect what you look like now. – That means all of them. If you dyed your hair, shaved your head, went and got a totally new hairstyle, your photos HAVE to reflect that. Gained ten pounds? Eh. Not a big deal But if you know you’ve gained more than that – and we all know when we do – your pictures need to be updated.
9. Use photo captions wisely. – It’s not a bad idea to add a time stamp to each of your photos. The month and year will do. You don’t have to explain each photo. If you do, keep it simple, although people don’t really care who was hosting that party or why you were at that barbeque.
10. Selfies are acceptable. – Okay, so pictures of you taking a photo of yourself in the mirror aren’t, but the other kids of selfies are. Anybody still using a bathroom mirror and a cell phone to take a picture of themselves is telling you they’re still stuck in 2005. Everybody at this point should know how to use the camera on their cell phone to take a picture of themselves. The fact that OKCupid now allows user to link their Instagram accounts to their profiles should tell you how acceptable selfies have become. If you take some pics of yourself at home with a phone, use the timer and pose. Simple.
11. Post a photo of your face and body or GTFO. – Self-explanatory. You’re not POTUS. Post a pic. If celebrities can use Tinder you, Mr./Ms. Middle Management Person, can too. I realize that it’s scary to think what people can and often do with out photos, but we’re all in the same boat on that one. The good thing is that you can always change your photos if necessary. Nobody wants to get themselves into a situation where they trade emails with someone, then see their picture, and have to politely get out of the conversation due to lack of interest.
12. Have a clean scene in your photos. – Nobody wants to see your unmade bed or messy desk or garbage on the floor. Clean your apartment before taking any photos.
13. Keep the group shots to a minimum. – Groups shots pull the focus off of you, that’s why they’re counter-intuitive in this context.
Next up: Additional profile questions, common dating profile red flags and online dating time wasters.