Forty million Americans using online dating. Two, single, thirty-year-old Christian seminarians who have collectively dated over twenty different women they met online over a period of eleven combined years. Now, the world’s two worst superheroes have one mission: preventing online dating disaster. With our powers combined, you will meet a romantic partner online! Or offline. Don’t limit yourselves, people.
We recently published an article about avoiding online dating disaster. The first article was written primarily by Enoch with edits and interjections by Danny. This clickbait-esque list was compiled by Danny with edits and interjections by Enoch. Got it?
Now that you understand some of the pitfalls and challenges of meeting someone online—because of course you read our first article—Enoch and I have sat down over coffee and mocked up tips and advice for meeting that special someone in cyberspace.
We’re guys (#whatup) so our interactions and experiences are necessarily one-sided pertaining to what we’ve seen and done in Online Dating Land.
Nonetheless, we’ve done our best to assemble this list, and it should prove useful whether you’re a guy or a girl, whether you’re brand new to meeting people online or whether you’ve been doing it on and off for years like us.
Let’s get to it.
One: Send interesting messages.
Enoch: I get way too many “Hi,” “How are you?” “Look we are a XX percent match!” and, “I am a Christian too!” messages. Prove you read a match’s profile. Comment on one of their pictures. Ask a good question. Poke fun (as it pertains to this author, there’s a copious source material). Whatever you do, be creative.
Two: Don’t act like your body is the best thing you have to offer.
Enoch: Leveraging your sexuality will get you attention, but studies have shown this attention is generally of a lower quality. On this topic, OkCupid founder, Christian Rudder, notes: “If you want worthwhile messages in your inbox, the value of being conversation-worthy, as opposed to merely sexy, cannot be overstated.” Expect to attract the kind of person you advertise for.
Danny: Or, y’know, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Three: Choose a variety of pictures with you and others doing interesting things.
Enoch: Pictures of you lying in bed or standing in front of the bathroom mirror are weird. Prove you actually leave your house or car once in a while. And don’t just show your “best angle.” Be comfortable with your appearance and don’t hide behind other people. Don’t display your insecurities with the pictures you choose. Have someone else get photos of you. Anything is better than endless selfies.
Choose pictures that display how you look now. You may think you look better in older pictures, but if you look a lot different now than then, you’re going to have an awkward reveal on that first date. And ladies: avoid the duck face.
Four: Don’t say you are embarrassed to be on a dating website.
Enoch: People who choose to make use of dating websites in search of a mate have nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody is saying you must date online, but if you choose to do so, embrace the opportunity with boldness and see what happens.
Five: Recognize that what you put on your profile showcases what matters to you.
Danny: Economy of words is important when you’ve gotten someone’s attention on a dating site. Your reader assumes that what you’ve written has been written because it is significant to you and because it is a significant facet of being compatible with you. If I read a girl’s profile where she talks about her love of cats, it communicates that if we end up together we’re gonna be contributing (potentially significant) portions of our shared income toward catnip, kitty litter, and cat-themed snuggies for the rest of our days.
Knowing this, focus on highlighting the most important things that someone needs to know: what are the key aspects of “you?” What are the “must-haves” or “deal-breakers” in a potential mate?
Six: Don’t focus on the negatives.
Danny: Focus on positive aspects of yourself and positive lessons you’ve learned from your life and romantic history. A negative profile is a turn-off. Some things need to be said (“I’m looking to date someone closer to my age; please don’t message me if you’re too young/old”), but do your best to minimize those sorts of qualifiers to the very biggest no-nos. No one wants to read a laundry list of your bad experiences when they’ve never even met you.
Enoch: Don’t vent about the losers you have met and dated before. I am sure they were jerks. Let’s just sound a bit more positive and optimistic about the future.
Danny: Yeah! Optimism is hot.
Seven: Highlight your unique interests and qualities.
Danny: What excites you about your life? Do you have special skills or interests? What’s your field of work or educational focus? What are a couple big goals or dreams? Answering these questions will give potential matches a good idea of the kind of person you are.
Eight: Don’t try to appeal to every potential match.
Danny: Just like in your life away from the internet, there are plenty of people you’ve liked and plenty more you haven’t. Do you really want to potentially date everybody you meet? No? Well, this is likewise true in online dating.
Be honest about yourself and what you’re looking for. If you’re a creative person who has always gotten along with other creative people and creative people gravitate toward you, play that strength by being straight-up about it. Don’t pretend to be a sporty outdoorsperson because you saw a hottie who does triathalons for funsies—especially if you haven’t done anything more intense than stretching for a doughnut since the early 2000s.
Nine: Don’t artificially narrow your search.
Enoch: It is perfectly alright to have preferences in dating, but many of us would benefit from widening our search a bit. Don’t make every preference a litmus test. Women would be wise to consider guys who are shorter than they imagined, just as men would be wise to consider women who might not be “their type.” You may prefer men with facial hair, but don’t say that you “won’t settle for a guy without a beard.”
Danny: I have a beard 😉
Enoch: Yes, some things are not up for negotiation. Scripture is clear that Christians should only marry those who are “…in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:40). But outside of this requirement to marry other Christians, there is a lot of freedom. We don’t always know who will be good for us. Many people have been surprised who they end up marrying, and it is wise to avoid limiting ourselves too early in the process. So expand your search, check out a wide swath of profiles, and allow your expectations to be challenged.
Ten: Write at least two paragraphs in your profile.
Danny: You can do more if you like, but potential matches should be able to count on at least the two following things:
A paragraph describing who you are: your interests/hobbies, convictions, field of work/study, and a few hints at what a person who reaches out to you should expect.
A paragraph describing what you’re looking for: what kind of person do you want to date? What is attractive to you? What is unattractive? What are the “must-haves” and the “deal breakers?” Help potential matches out by providing a couple of conversation starters.
Eleven: Online Dating is Real Dating.
Danny: Discard the idea that online dating is somehow less meaningful than initially contacting someone in “real life.” The person sitting on the other end of the computer is not “less” than the person eyeing you from across the room, and your online presence is your “real” presence. Have some class. I’m looking at you, especially, gentlemen. I’ve been on dates with girls I met online. They’ve told me their stories. I know the kinds of things you’re saying to them, and some of you are weird. Not in the fun way, either.
Here’s the rule of thumb: would you say/do what you do online in person? If the answer is no, make use of a wonderful invention called the “delete key.”
Twelve: Be Relationship Material
Danny: Are you on the road to figuring yourself out? (NOTE: “On the road” and “have reached the destination” are two entirely different things.) Do you have a notion of what sort of people are going to match well with you and what sort aren’t? Do you recognize the trauma and baggage in your own life? Are you capable of having opposite-sex friends who are just friends and will always be just friends? How about having normal conversation with someone of the opposite sex? Are you able to treat yourself and others with the God-given value all humans made in His image possess? Are you striving, despite your faults and shortcomings, to love God first and foremost? If the answer to most of these is “yes,” I would venture that you are probably relationship material, and if you’re inclined to date someone either online or “in real life,” go for it.
Are you looking “just to date” or to “make friends” or to “have fun” as an online dater? Do you struggle daily with an addiction you can’t seem to shake? Have you consistently ignored the fact that you need counseling to overcome a burden from your past or present? Are you disconnected from peers and mentors in your local church? Are you incapable of having opposite-sex friendships? Have you gone weeks or months without reading your Bible or attending Sunday worship? Is it next to impossible for you to talk about your real thoughts and feelings? If the answer to several these (or related questions—you know your own heart) is “yes,” delete your profile and re-apply when your training is complete.
Phrases to avoid, ladies:
There are some silly things I (Danny) see pretty consistently on girls’ profiles, and y’all need to quit it. Guys, avoid the male equivalents of writing these things in your profiles.
“I’m doing this because my mom/grandma wants me to settle down.”
TRANSLATION: “I’m too immature to make an adult decision and proactively seek a relationship on my own.”
RESULT: This will be a great strategy if you want to date people who act like they’re still in high school.
ADVICE: It’s bad to include that information because it indicates that you’re either not totally committed or that you’re not confident. Somebody else had to bug you to get you to try to meet someone. This is unattractive to adults seeking serious relationships.
If it’s true (thanks for your honesty, bee tee dubs), you should probably delete your profile until you’re seeking a relationship because it’s what you want.
An “about me” section that simply reads, “Ask me.”
I have a better idea. Take five minutes to write a hundred words about yourself so that the Netflix-bingeing geeky creative isn’t trying to hit up the straight-laced accountant who really likes the NFL and college basketball.
This is actually to your benefit because it will entice people who are interested in you to reach out and discourage those who aren’t from doing so. Or do you really want every single person who glimpses your profile messaging you?
“I’m beautiful.” It’s nice to know that you’re confident, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t just say you’re beautiful, show potential dates who you are and let the viewer decide whether or not they think you’re their cup of tea.
“I don’t like writing these [profiles] because I feel like I’m selling myself.”
Sit down. I’ll wait. Are you sitting?
You are “selling yourself.” You are trying to attract the interest of a potential romantic partner. That is why you decided to dive into online dating, isn’t it? So in this context of trying to attract someone’s attention, it comes off as kind of a cop-out when you say you don’t want to describe yourself for that reason. Be honest about who you are and what you’re doing on a dating site. Be confident about what you have to offer. It is okay to share this with others.
“My family and friends are important to me.”
Does anyone not care about their friends and family? If your goal is to highlight your unique qualities, you need to avoid run-of-the-mill phrases like “I love my family.”
If what you really mean to say that you talk to your mom every day, you have a tradition of watching Sunday football with your dad, and you spend every other Saturday with your siblings and their kids, then say those things.
The question you need to answer is, “What does ‘my family is important to me’ mean to you and to a potential mate?” How does it affect your life and how will it affect the life of someone you date or marry?
“I like to have fun.”
If your profile employs this phrase without any definition of what you consider to be fun, delete the phrase. Different activities are fun to different people. Share about specific activities (running, online gaming, cooking, wine tasting, hiking, etc.) you enjoy.
“I’m looking for someone with a sense of humor.”
Most people like to laugh. The question is not if you like to laugh, but what makes you laugh? Of course some people laugh more than others, and if you’re a real jokester or would like to date one, feel free to say that. Just don’t write “I’m looking for someone with a great sense of humor” without qualifying it, because you might as well write “I like to breathe.”
“I’m looking to make friends/I just moved to [city] and I’m looking to meet new people!”
If this is actually true, remove your profile and go find a local group that engages in some of your favorite hobbies. Consider spending more time with the friends you already have. Join a sports league or a gym. But don’t forget to remove your profile, because what are you doing on a dating site if you’re just looking to make friends?
If what you’re trying to say is, “I’m interested in dating, but I want to take things slow,” then say that. But don’t say you just want to make a friend because it’s not true, and whether or not you want to admit it, it’s deceptive.
Thirty and Single
We authors are both thirty and single, so clearly there’s a lot we have to learn about dating and relationships. But we’re also experienced in meeting people online and offline, and our friends and families generally think we’re well-adjusted adults. (Well, probably Enoch more than Danny.) We do not hold a monopoly on good advice about this topic, but we hope something here or in the previous article, if you are involved in or are considering online dating, removes some of the speed bumps and potholes from that journey.
Something to ask or add? Leave it below.
Enoch Haven hails from Traverse City, Michigan, and formerly ministered at McLean Bible Church in Arlington, Virginia. He studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. You can read more from him, and start a conversation, at enochhaven.com.
If you want to know more about Daniel Rodrigues-Martin, click his picture at the top of this article or visit his website: danielrodriguesmartin.weebly.com. While you’re at it, don’t forget to buy his books on Amazon.
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