The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Online Dating Galaxy.

You've Got Mail.

My latest installment of my Singles column from The Jewish Advocate.  Though its specific to JDate, I think it can be applied to all online dating sites.  Happy hunting, y’all!  Enjoy:

Back in December, I flew south for the holidays. I arrived in Dallas on Christmas Eve after what felt like an interminable fall. After moving to Boston in September, I had struggled with adjusting to post-college life and taking my first steps into adulthood. In addition, I had had my heart broken in October, and was having trouble lifting myself out of that fog. I had gone through breakups before, but I suppose the combination of starting a job, creating a life in Boston and missing the comforts of college made it tougher to bounce back this time.

On Christmas Day, my parents and I met my aunt and uncle for an early Chinese dinner, and then drove back to my house, our car one of the few on the road. The joy of the season seemed out of sync with my heavy heart, and I knew that my parents were particularly worried about me. We all plopped down on the couch in the living room and began discussing my situation.

All of a sudden, my mom got bright-eyed and announced, “Let’s set you up with a JDate account!”

“No,” I answered her, adamant. “I’m not going to pay for that.”

My dad sat up in his seat. “We’ll pay for it.”

“No more feeling sorry for yourself,” Mom said to me in a sing-song voice. “Let’s make it now! Go get your computer.”

I looked at them. “Are you serious?”

Dad shooed me toward my room to fetch my laptop. “Yes, go.”

We ended up building my profile that night, my parents on either side of me, leaning intently over the keyboard, trying to come up with provocative answers to the site’s questions.

Truth be told, my parents were more excited about JDate than I was. Even now, I just can’t quite acquire a taste for it. Put simply, it’s not my jam. I crave the human connection, and believe strongly in instinct, in reading body language and gauging chemistry. But while I’m wary of online dating in general, I do know of a few JDate success stories among family members and close friends.

I’ve been on some dates with guys I met on JDate, one of whom I’ve seen several times. I’ve been selective, to be sure, but that’s because I think many men approach dating via JDate in an unromantic, tactless way, with what seem like dishonorable intentions or clueless approaches to getting to know someone for the right reasons. So to help everyone out, I’ve compiled a few simple rules for being a JDate success, but with this caveat: I’m not an expert, and I’m not one-half of one of those happy couples pictured on the right side of the JDate landing page.

I do, however, think all of us JDate users can aim for a happy medium that will put us on the right track to finding love – or at least someone to meet up with on a Wednesday night.

1. Your opening line is your 120-second elevator speech, in writing. You’ve got one shot at making a strong, positive impression. “Hi, how are you?” is fine if you’re sidling up to someone in a crowded bar, but not if you want to get a response through a chat box or email. You don’t need to write a Shakespearean sonnet, but I’m personally wary of guys who send me messages that merely ask me what I’m doing this weekend or compliment my pictures. It’s nice to be flattered, but I’m not on JDate to boost my ego.

Dive in head first by saying something like, “I noticed that you like scuba diving on your profile, and I have always wanted to do that; could you tell me more about the experience you had?”

When I receive first-time JDate messages asking me out, I’m amazed that someone who has had no contact with me would already be ready to go on a date. Make the effort to get to know the person over chat or email. It’s good practice, plus, no one is going to shoot down a Tom Hanks-like-“You’ve Got Mail” exchange. You know you loved that movie, too.

2. Tell us about yourself, but not just what you think we want to hear. Going through profiles on JDate can feel a bit like required reading. Make your bio interesting and funny! The best profile that I stumbled upon simply said: “I’m just looking for someone to watch ‘Love Actually’ with me.” A little cutesy, sure, but it was refreshing.

If I read a profile of a guy who claims that he loves being with his family, I’ll click through to the next one. This is a Jewish dating site, folks. Family lovin’ is part of our culture. If you mention your mom and dad and siblings in your “About Me” section, I’ll wonder if you are trying to be cute or if your parents, like mine, were next to you when you built your profile.

Similarly, every guy on JDate says he loves sports and the outdoors, presumably because it implies manliness, resourcefulness, and a penchant for adventure. That’s great, but unless you have a picture of yourself in a kayak or scaling a mountain, I’m not going to believe that that’s something that really matters to you.

3. Smile! You’re on the JDate Jumbotron, and everyone is looking. I hate to make a rule about something so shallow, but pictures are a major part of your profile. It’s not Facebook, where you can have pictures of you and your friends making kissy faces at the camera or getting drunk at a party. Post a minimum of four or five highquality pictures on your page. Keep in mind that the photos you select reveal a lot about who you are. Include photos that show the front of your face. If you just have profiles or shots in which a hat or dark glasses obscure your face, people will think you’re not confident about your looks. One or two funny faces may be endearing, but don’t just use photos that show you goofing off. And, please, don’t post pictures of yourself shirtless. I’d rather figure out if you have a nice bod the good old-fashioned way. Leave a little something to be discovered, guys.

As to women, there’s a lot to be said for being ladylike. That means no pictures of you scantily clad or showing gratuitous cleavage. Save those for OKCupid. Avoid images of you with several layers of make-up on (no raccoon eyes, girls) or pictures from more than a year ago. Present the best version of yourself, not the most done-up one. Remember, your date probably won’t appreciate that the real you bears little resemblance to the online you.

4. Leave money out of it. When I see guys share their income range on their profiles, I’m immediately turned off. In fact, I don’t think money should be part of the conversation in the early stages of a JDate relationship.

I want financial security as much as the next person, but I don’t want you to flash Benjamins in my face. Conversely, I was once told by a JDate prospect that he was in dental school and wouldn’t be able to take me anywhere nice. I appreciated the candor, but not the lack of creativity. Don’t assume that you have to take a girl to dinner and the theater in order to hit it off. At the end of the day, if you’re a good guy, I will like you no matter how much or how little you make.

5. Pick on somebody your own age. If you’re 40, please don’t message me. Most people will list an age range that they are looking for in a mate, and I can promise you that most 23-year-old girls are not looking for someone who was in college when they were in diapers.

6. Watch your language. In a similar vein to Rule No. 5, if you’re in your 20s, and especially if you’re older, conduct yourself like an adult. This is a dating site, not Craigslist “Casual Encounters.” Approach your conversations like a laid-back job interview. As far as typing goes, use spell check. We’re not 12- year-olds chatting on AIM anymore. Elevate your language and your grammar to meet your age and that 6-foot-2 height you’re claiming.

Nothing bothers me more than wannabe-suave messages, rife with spelling and grammar errors. I once received an email from a 37-year-old who alluded to a picture I had on my profile of myself and a drag queen from the cast of the Broadway revival of “La Cage aux Folles.” His message read: “When I first saw that pic of you and the drag-I though it was a mom and her daughterthought wow-apple sure fell far from the tree ‘cause that’s a cute kid with a pro hockey player in a dress… turns out I was sorta right.” What if I hadn’t included a caption for that picture, and that was my mom?

7. Just like Dr. Seuss said, “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” You don’t need to pull out bells and whistles and glamor shots to be noticed on JDate. Authenticity attracts. You won’t always be able to hide behind your computer screen, nor should you feel like you have to. Keep it classy and stay true to what makes you you. The ladies or gents will follow.

The rest, I guess, is up to b’shert. Good luck out there, and let me know how it goes!

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2 Responses to “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Online Dating Galaxy.”
  1. Chris G says:

    A very well-written article. There are just a couple of problems I have with this, and this might just be because your dating site is different from the one I’ve been using (OKCupid).

    1. “…no one is going to shoot down a Tom Hanks-like-“You’ve Got Mail” exchange.”

    Wrong. Let me explain to you my two modes of browsing a dating site.

    Mode #1: Slow and meaningful: I browse the site for awhile, read profiles, looking at pictures, looking for a girl that I think I would really like to spend time with and get to know. I sift through the profiles, weighing, comparing… and then I find a girl. She’s so perfect – she likes things I like, her personality complements mine, she’s witty, smart, and attractive… there’s that special something about her that draws me to her and I think, you know, I’d really like to hang out with this girl and see if she’s as awesome as she seems. So I take awhile and come up with a friendly, witty (I think) opening message that references things in her profile and indicates that I have invested a lot of myself in trying to make contact (because I certainly have). The whole time I’m thinking, “maybe she’s my soulmate! Maybe she’s the one I’ve been looking for!” Then I send the message and wait.

    …When I do this, there’s *maybe* a 20% chance that I’ll hear back. This sort of rejection just wears me down, and when you add in the fact that I’ve gotten responses from girls for much less effort, in the end, it’s just not worth it to do this with every single girl. Being a guy on a dating site is hard work, and most of the time, no matter how much effort you put into trying to make a girl reply, she won’t.

    Mode #2: Quick and dirty: This is what I use mostly now, because of how profoundly ineffective and depressing the above method is. I quickly scroll through my matches, click on the cute pictures, and write messages to like 10 girls. Sometimes I reference things I read in their profiles, but I don’t spend too much time or effort (quantity over quality). Then I wait. The next day, I have 2 or 3 responses. I start a conversation with all of the girls who responded, and I occasionally get a date. Again, this method is much more effective than Mode #1.

    I would feel differently about this if girls would take a few seconds and acknowledge the effort that went into this special “first message”. She doesn’t even need to accept going on a date; just some form of response is all I would need. Something that says to me, “I realize that this took a lot of effort, and you probably have a lot riding on this, but I’m not interested.” But, I suppose most girls are probably swamped by tons and tons of messages from guys, so I guess I can’t really expect this.

    2. “4. Leave money out of it”

    I didn’t list my income on my profile, but then I read this (see How Many Messages a Man Gets, By Age and Income). Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie.

    3. “When I receive first-time JDate messages asking me out, I’m amazed that someone who has had no contact with me would already be ready to go on a date.”

    Why is this so amazing? All of the general information is already on your profile. The details are what the first date is for. When I try to have a conversation online after reading someone’s profile, it’s usually something like:

    Me: “Hey I noticed this on your profile.”
    Her: “Yup, it’s awesome.”
    Me: “…Yup…”

    Me: “I also noticed this other thing on your profile!”

    Basically, what’s the point of doing this online, when you can just do it in person?

    3. “Authenticity attracts.”

    No it doesn’t, at least not on dating sites. Maybe once you get on the date. On the site, however, you’re competing with thousands of other guys for a girl’s attention. You have to stand out, in any way possible. If you just “be yourself”, girls will never pay attention to you. They’re too busy looking at all the guys exaggerating and showing off.

    Sorry if this seems hostile, I just wanted to give you a guy’s perspective. Thanks for listening.


  2. wildchristy says:

    I like your blog and your rules. Sounds like you have a good grasp on how online dating works. And that’s the key to enjoying your time on the site and meeting a quality person.

    Chris, I agree with everything you said except, “Authenticity Attracts.” I agree that most of the girls on the sites respond the way you suggested, but not all of the them. I still appreciate an authentic response and I’m sure there are other girls that do as well.

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