So, you want to find love. Or sex. Or the holy dating grail, a healthy, fulfilling combination of the two. Seems like a reasonable goal. One that might be aided by technology? After all, why leave things up to fate, when you can leave things up to algorithms?
Sure, it doesn't sound as old-fashioned and poetic as "we went home together from a bar," but haven't we gotten past old stigmas at this point? Online dating is just a convenient way to game the system of the dating world, and also, a fun ego boost if you're bummed out and need to be reminded of your options. Nothing makes you feel more in-control of your destiny than a service that essentially lets you shop for people. Basically this can all be super positive, if you let it.
It can also be a creepy, time-wasting disaster. And no matter what, there will always be some element of this. Casting a wide net has its ups and downs, which generally come in the form of gibberish sex requests from elderly strangers. These are unavoidable. That said, there are ways to game your gaming of the system, or, more simply, make a profile that people you'd actually like will actually be into. We promise it doesn't involve (too much) lying, or any gratuitous nudity.
Listen, there's no way to say this that doesn't sound at least a little bit sleazy, but you really need to include pictures of yourself. Representative, non-grainy ones, some of which are not just of your face. I promise, it's not that cheap and degrading, unless you're an "underwear selfie in bathroom mirror" rather than a "normal pre-existing photo of yourself doing an activity" person, in which case, it definitely is. But anyway, if you guys were meeting in person, you'd already be judging each other based on appearance, at least to some extent. This is not a crazy leap in etiquette. No one wants to be weirdly taken by surprise and then feel like sort of a jerk about the whole thing, and also, does anyone want to be on a date with someone who they feel like they sort of duped into it?
There's a large, if subtle, middle ground between "Message Me If: ur down 2 hit it n quit it" and a detailed explanation of why the tasteful napkin rings you've already picked out for your wedding reception are non-negotiable. Just be honest (and brief) about what you may or may not be looking for, and everyone involved will waste much less time, including you.
Oh, wow, you like pizza and TV? Tell me more. No, seriously, tell me more, because that tells me nothing about you at all. I will not be starting a conversation with you, because that would be impossible. Expound.
I was reading recently about that new online dating tome Data, A Love Story, and it turns out that being a little vague in your profile is often for the best. Which, in spite of the instinct to let people know exactly how cultured we are, actually makes sense. Haven't you ever noticed that if you really have chemistry with someone, it stops mattering even a little how they would rank the Pavement discography, or whatever your fussy "thing" is? So why bother ruling people out over something that may be arbitrary, or risk them ruling you out before you have the chance to pass judgement of your own?
The point is, you never know, because dating is nothing if not throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks. Within reason. Like, if someone goes out of their way to mention how much they're into Fun., never sleep with them. Under any circumstances. But otherwise, keep an open mind, and maybe don't get too vehement in your own profile.
This is a different beast than the "highly referential" profile of which we just spoke. This, more often than not, is crazy person territory, the kind of meandering 10,000-word profile that serves as nothing more than a red flag. Nobody has time for that. Besides being sort of weird and self-centered, it's also just overwhelming. Even if someone gets through your little opus, there's a slim chance of them bothering to pick out a single detail to talk to you about.
Yikes, man. Is there any bigger bummer in the earliest stages of a new relationship — even the earliest stages of a one night stand — than an uncalled for (it is always uncalled for), self-conscious mention of the last person with whom you shared sex and emotional intimacy? Terrible. Leave it alone.
Not that this is inherently bad, but at least in the world of OKCupid, any taco-related username is deeply played out. Enough. If tacos are really that important to you, then suggest them for a dinner date, or make sure they're in one of those super-representative profile pictures we already talked about. Anything but the username.
Not that much. If you have a daily cocaine habit or happen to think Ayn Rand is some kind of luminary, for instance, that might be need-to-know information for any potential dates. If that is you, specifically, maybe you shouldn't go on any dates at all for a while. I'm just saying in general that if you would think about re-negotiating your social smoking or occasional binge drinking for someone you were really into, then maybe don't play them up in your profile in the first place. Unless you're really, truly, just looking for a boozy one-night stand, in which case, do whatever you want. You'll find some kind of taker, no matter what.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.