One of the maxims about online dating is that you get out of it what you put in. For many, online dating is a wonderful tool that puts you in touch with people you'd never otherwise meet, and many relationships now start online.
But if you're an online dater who has tried hard with dating sites, trawling through profiles and sending messages to people who don’t reply, this can seem a little galling. If you're not even getting to the point where people respond to your messages, it's worth taking another look at your profile.
There is no hard and fast rule about creating the perfect online dating profile, but some key lessons learnt can help if you’re committed to using this method to finding someone.
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Be an active online dater
The first rule of dating online is to be proactive, because the more you log on to your profile, the more likely you are to be seen by other users. Don’t sit around waiting for everyone to flock to you.
Dating sites themselves are built with active users in mind - those who log in regularly, add others as a favourite and use the messaging function are much more likely to be featured on the site’s advertising and as a popular profile because they’re using the site right there and then.
If you’re not using the service very often, then your profile will slowly disappear from being seen by others.
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Know what you want from your date - but don't be too prescriptive
Think about what you want in a potential match. If you’re absolutely determined not to date anyone who lives over 20 miles away or you only want to meet a doctor, then ensure that you have it on your settings and stated in your profile in order to avoid awkward conversations with potential dates.
However, bear in mind that the more specific you are, the fewer results you’ll have. If things aren’t working out in terms of finding the right profiles, then it might be best to relax your criteria a little and see what affect it has.
Don't compromise on anything that is truly important to you as an individual - for example, if you're a staunch vegan or go to church regularly, then you'll probably need someone who shares your outlook on life, but if you could see yourself going an extra five miles for a date, or wouldn't, on second thoughts, mind someone who has an occasional cigarette after dinner, then a compromise might work out.
Experimenting with what you’re looking for might show profiles that you might not have seen previously.
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Think about the relationship you want
What frame of mind are you in, in terms of dating? If a long-term relationship has just come to an end, then immediately looking for another serious one might not be suitable for you. Think carefully about whether you know what you want. Do you want a friend, a companion, a lover, a spouse?
"Give yourself time to recover before venturing onto the dating scene. When you’re ready to meet new people, be wary and do not arrange to meet someone too soon," advises Saga Dating member Jay. "Ask yourself what attracts you now. Is kindness more important than good looks? Can you accept a man with children living at home? What about someone with less than you asset-wise? The trick is to know what you want and don’t be afraid if things don’t work out."
Dating doesn’t have to be finding someone to spend the rest of your life with right now - if you relax what you’re looking for and just concentrate on having fun with someone new on a date, you may find that love comes from unexpected places.
Confidence breeds confidence. Dating, especially online dating, is about taking chances and (safely) getting out of your comfort zone, and that means contacting people you might otherwise be too nervous to chat to.
Well done for being brave, but remember, it is inevitable that some people won’t respond to messages no matter how charming you might be, and that's just par for the course - not something to discourage you.
There’s no doubt that not getting a reply is frustrating, but you can’t be a match for everyone, and the best way to counter this is by writing another message to a new profile - don't write the non-responder another message, even if it's just a polite query as to why they didn't respond, as it will never end well.
Move on to another likely contender and in no time you’ll have forgotten all about the person who didn’t reply. The more messages you write, the more confident you’ll become.
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Watch the jokes
You could be the funniest person in the room, but online it's a different story. Do your jokes and silly stories rely on facial expression and tone to come across as comedic?
Remember, people are there to find love too, and if you come over as viewing it all as a bit of a joke, you might be inadvertently putting people off. Take a step back and re-assess, and perhaps tone down the flippancy and dial up the sincerity.
Don't change who you are - say you like a joke and you can be silly if that's who you are, but rather than reeling off the one liners, perhaps list a few of your favourite comedians and comedy shows in order to give a flavour of your specific brand of hilarity - then when you meet your date in person, they'll be blown away by how amusing you are!
Don't embellish or mislead
It’s so easy to add a couple of inches to your height or lose a few around your middle. It might be tempting to give yourself a promotion and take up a couple of thrilling or intellectual hobbies, just to give yourself an edge.
These embellishments may well help in getting you some interested emails and an agreement to meet, but you need to consider what will happen when you meet your date in real life. There's no point being dishonest for short-term gains.
Another temptation is to use an old photograph of yourself. It’s understandable that you’ll want to look your best, and, again, it may get you some interest, but all will be revealed the moment they lay eyes on you in real life. Trying to trick someone in this way could end up completely backfiring on you as they would lose any trust they had in you.
If you now look obviously different, this won’t be a true representation of yourself, meaning that what was meant to potentially be the start of a new relationship has soured from the very beginning.
Instead, opt for a photo that's recent but one you feel good about. If you're nervous about the image looking too awkward or posed get a friend to take a photo of you doing something you enjoy - perhaps on a trip or indulging in a hobby. This will convey more about you as a person than simply what you look like and might prompt some early conversations.
If you’re serious about looking for somebody it’s always going to be in your best interests to tell them the truth and show them the real you from the start. If you layer your profile with embellishments and untruths you’re likely to attract the wrong type of person, one that isn’t a very good match for you.
Get a second opinion
Finally, if it’s not working at all, get a second opinion, which can often be invaluable. The stigma of dating online has disappeared and no-one should be ashamed or embarrassed about it.
Ask a friend or family member what they think of your profile. They’ll often have insight into your character or personality that you’ve not thought about before, or think that you’re trying to talk to the wrong sort of person. "I think it helped having a close friend look at my dating profile. Sometimes modesty can unwittingly make you play down your good points," says Saga Dating member Julian.
Friends may be able to browse the site you’re on and mark out profiles that they think would be a good match for you. Contact the site’s support team too - they might also be able to give you some succinct and worthwhile advice about your activity on there.