For the millions of women who are not lucky enough to encounter Mr. or Mrs. Right on the street or in their social circles, online dating is the go-to. We use all sorts of online resources to find the best flight or restaurants, so why not put in the work to find something more important: love? Online dating is also a great way to date casually and meet interesting people you would not encounter in your daily life.
Nonetheless, online dating can be frustrating, especially for women who — more often than men — have to deal with rude messages, fake profiles, scams and more. This guide will show you how to win at online dating so you can meet the best people, have fun and avoid compromising situations.
Start with a Positive Attitude by Remembering How Convenient Online Dating Is
When you look for a partner by hitting the pavement, there are all sorts of stressors and annoyances to deal with. You feel the pressure to dress up, the bar might be gross, people can walk right up and be rude instead of sending a message and there’s no quick way to filter potential dates in a crowd.
It can be nice to circumvent these situations, especially if you’re a career-driven woman who works, goes home and works some more. Fran Greene — author of “The Flirting Bible,” licensed therapist and former Director of Flirting at Match.com — said women should ask themselves the following question whenever they take online dating for granted or become frustrated with it: “How lucky can I be to look for love at 8:30 p.m. in my sweatpants?”
Protecting Your Self-Esteem from the Negative Aspects
Then there’s the mental preparation for the dark side of online dating: offensive messages and rejections.
“The number one challenge is having a thick skin,” Greene said. “Their self-confidence will be tested.”
Here are some things to remember if online dating does some collateral damage to your self-esteem:
- You are beautiful the way you are.
- There are good people out there who want to date you.
- There are tactics you can use to succeed in online dating, but much of it is up to luck. If you try hard and get nowhere, it’s not your fault. Be patient.
If you receive an insulting message and want some support, think about submitting it to Bye Felipe, a popular Instagram page where people share screenshots of rude messages to bring awareness to this kind of hostility and use humor to deal with it. Remember, messages like these are only a reflection on the person who sent them. You did nothing to deserve them and they don’t mean you need to change anything about yourself. Delete them, block or report the person harassing you and do your best to move on.
Pick the Best Website for Your Needs and Preferences
The first step to picking the best dating website for you is deciding whether you want to look for a person based on race, religion, gender, lifestyle or sexual orientation. If you are Jewish and want to keep it in the faith, maybe try JDate. If you are only interested in meeting other women, perhaps PinkCupid is best.
Don’t have any of those preferences? Filter your dating site options further by being honest about your intentions. People have found love on Tinder and Grindr, but there’s nothing wrong with using them for casual encounters. The user experience is great for people who want to set up dates quickly. Then there are sites that allow more data-driven matching such as OkCupid. Match.com is paid, so more users look for long-term commitments.
You are not limited to one, though. People often use multiple platforms to cast a wider net. After all, most of them are free.
Setting Up a Killer Profile
No matter what dating site you choose, you’ll need to construct a profile that has at least one picture and some basic information. There isn’t a single correct way to do this, but there are methods of optimizing your page so it attracts the best people on the site.
Your Profile Picture is the First Thing They See
A profile picture says a thousand words, which is already more than people want to read in an actual dating profile. It’s the first thing visitors see and what motivates them to scroll down and learn more, so working on it will give you more options.
When it comes to choosing or creating a great profile picture, the key is looking your best without deceiving, said dating expert Jonathan Bennett. Here are some tips to help you do this, courtesy of Bennett and Greene:
- Pick a photo where you are smiling or looking like your normal self. Poses, provocative images and duck faces tend to attract more creeps and can turn people off
- It’s best to have a picture that only features you. If you insist on choosing a picture with friends in it, pick one where it is clear you are the person in question. Make sure none of the people in these photos appear like exes or partners.
- Supplemental pictures should show you in different places. This will show the viewer multiple sides of you. Maybe you love partying and mountain climbing or dress up occasionally but prefer staying in and watching movies. Four to 10 photos is the optimal range, according to data from eHarmony.
- A photo taken by a professional photographer is OK as a supplemental image, but the profile picture should be more natural.
- Everyone likes a woman in a red dress. But seriously, studies prove wearing red will make people consider you more attractive.
- Photos that focus more on the left side of the face, have landscapes in the background and use a 3:4 ratio tend to perform better.
Now It’s Time for the Second Thing They See: The Username
It’s amazing how much one word can affect people’s perceptions. Like a profile picture, viewers will make assumptions based on a username before they read the actual profile. If you want, your username can reflect a part of who you are and what you’re looking for, which affects who visits your profile.
“For example, ‘labradorfan99’ will attract a different group of guys [or girls] than [a provocative user name],’” Bennett told Talkspace.
For those who want a scientific and data-driven edge to their usernames, consider these facts:
- Choosing a username that starts with a letter in the top half of the alphabet will give you an edge.
- Names that emphasize physical characteristics attract more men. Think “AwesomeRedHead64” or something like that. This name adheres to the above fact and is descriptive without being provocative (“CurvyRedHead64” would get a different reaction).
- Names that suggest intelligence and a sense of being cultured attract more women, but there is a way to do this without being pretentious. Using a name like “ForeignFilmFan” is better than “IvyLeagueLady.”
Finally, the Actual Profile
People go through a sort of marketing process during online dating. The profile picture is the big billboard, the username is the tagline and the profile itself is for people who are seriously considering taking the next step. As with the other stages, being honest is key.
“Be upfront about what you’re looking for,” said Jessica O’Reilly, Astroglide’s Resident Sex and Relationship Expert. “Online dating isn’t simply a numbers game, so don’t try to attract every single potential mate. Work on attracting the right one by being honest from the onset.”
A great profile only needs two paragraphs: one about who you are looking for and one describing who you are. The website might ask you dozens of questions (we’re looking at you, OkCupid), but you don’t need to answer all of them on your profile. No matter what you write, make sure it’s typo-free and grammatically correct. This demonstrates you edited your profile and ensures wordsmiths will hang around.
Don’t Repeat the Mistake So Many Women Make! – Send Messages to People You Like Instead of Only Responding
Due to centuries of double standards, people don’t expect women to make the first move. This silly tradition continues in online dating, where there is a huge gap between the number of messages men and women send.
This puts women at a disadvantage, Bennett said, because they are limited to the people who message them.
“It’s 2015,” he said, addressing women who are trying online dating. “If you see a profile you like, by all means send him or her a message.”
Once you get past this barrier, try messages with open-ended questions or engaging comments on his or her profile. It should become an exciting conversation where both parties eventually feel ready to go out.
If you can’t bring yourself to send a message, try joining a site where you have to. Bumble requires women to make the first move as part of its mission to update outdated standards in interactions between men and women (although Bumble has options for LGBT members too).
Going from Messages to Meeting, or Adding More Steps?
When people message with a potential date via a site, they can trade phone numbers through the messenger and set up the meeting. Or they can postpone the in-person meeting and continue the conversation on other mediums, gradually building towards that physical connection. Sometimes women exchange emails with potential dates, then talk on the phone and finally video chat, all before the meeting. They can do one or more of these steps, whatever makes them feel comfortable and safe.
The only problem with this approach is the risk of someone else snatching up your date and arranging the meeting before you do, Greene told Talkspace. Sometimes it is better to schedule the meeting quickly. After all, there are other ways of protecting your safety (more on that in a moment).
If you do email, call or video chat first, keep the communications brief so there is plenty to discuss during the actual date. Try being flirtatious to build anticipation for the date.
Meeting Up in a Safe and Comfortable Way
No matter how much you have chatted with your potential date, you are still meeting a stranger from the Internet and need to make safety a priority. Greene gave Talkspace some tips for women to use before and during that first meeting:
- Meet at a public place, preferably somewhere with lots of people around.
- Do not meet at or near your home or place of work.
- Let a close friend or family member know you are meeting and where you will be.
- Don’t do anything in a car during the first date.
- If you don’t know self-defense, consider carrying a non-lethal defense tool such as pepper spray.
Now comes the comfort part. This means keeping the first date a simple, reasonably-priced dinner or something similar. Surprising your potential partner with a first date full of base jumping and mountain biking would be memorable, but it’s hard to get to know each other while doing something like that. Save things like that for the second date.
Want more tips on meeting your online date for the first time? Read some from our own Talkspace Therapist Christy Paul!
When the Date is Done
If you had an amazing first date and want to see the person again, that’s great! Greene suggested women express these feelings to their date rather than holding back.
“Don’t make them worry,” she said.
The same logic applies to bad dates or people who, despite being great, did not generate that spark. Be sure to let them know so they are not wondering and worrying.
Society expects women to be “nice,” but sometimes being a strong woman involves brutal honesty. Don’t lie about seeing someone to get out of turning your date down. The rejection might hurt the person’s feelings initially, but it’s better than risking leading them on and having an even harder conversation later.
Obviously, we hope the first situation happens. Going from seeing a person’s face on a screen to holding their hand is an amazing experience. It’s time to win at online dating so you can have this feeling and find someone who will make you happy you swiped right or clicked.