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Tips for online dating

Single on Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry – Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, authors of The New Rules, provide some dating dos and don’ts in the digital world. Some single women have a problem with online dating. Either they think it’s not for them and refuse to do it, or they do it the wrong way. We feel that there are only two mistakes you can make with online dating. The first is not to try it. (We will get to the second in a minute.) If you are afraid or embarrassed to try online dating, we are here to tell you that it’s a safe and viable way to meet guys. When women complain to us that they can’t meet anyone, we suggest that, in addition to speed-dating and other singles events, they join a dating website. You would think we were telling them to pose for Playboy! They feel that it’s too public—what will their boss or neighbor say?—or insist that they have tried it before and it doesn’t work.



Here are some of the reactions we get to the idea of online dating—and our responses:


• “I’m too shy.” There is no social interaction involved in signing up! You just put together a profile with some photos, and let guys do the work!

• “I would die if people I know saw it.” Hello, that means they’re on the site, too! Nothing to be ashamed of.

• “I tried it and didn’t meet anyone good.” You probably didn’t give it enough time. Also, your profile is not exactly Rules-y!

• “Only losers go online.” Our clients who met their husbands online would beg to differ! The guys on these dating sites are a microcosm of all single guys: some are cute and normal, others are not. What else is new?

• “Most online guys are married!” Sure, some are, but most aren’t. The Rules screen out married guys anyway because they don’t ask you out consistently on Saturday nights or on holidays!

• “I don’t have a good or recent photo.” That’s easy to fix—just ask a friend to take one


No matter how many other ways you are trying to date, getting online will only increase your chances of meeting a great guy. It’s a legitimate social outlet—thousands of women have met their husbands online, probably including someone you know—and it’s not dangerous if done the right way. Trying to meet someone at bars and singles events is time consuming and not always possible if you have a job with busy hours or young children. Furthermore, the kind of guy you want may not be hanging out there anyway. Online dating is easy and convenient.


Perhaps the most compelling reason to try it is that as you get older, the dating pool gets smaller. More of your friends become engaged or married and have no one to introduce you to or aren’t eager to play your wing woman. After college, you won’t necessarily meet guys easily or by accident like you did on campus. Getting online is just another way to meet people—there’s nothing weird or scary about it! Sure, you might meet some frogs before you meet your prince, but that will happen offline, too!


Once you get past your resistance to online dating, it’s time to focus on putting together your profile. The first step is to create your user name. Many women are tempted to use something generic that makes them difficult to identify, like their initials and birth date, but that is a mistake. Inventing what is essentially a nickname for yourself on a dating website is an opportunity for creativity in making the right impression. Why not take advantage of it? We like to figure out what popular actress or model a girl resembles because celebrity look-alikes always catch attention. Another option is to capitalize on your favorite traits. “BlakeLivelyGal” and “BlueEyedLawyer32” are good examples of user names. Sometimes clients ask, “But isn’t it conceited to say I look like a movie star?” No—it’s fun and shows great self-esteem! More importantly, it will catch a guy’s attention.


The photo you choose to put on your profile is extremely important— just as your appearance would be offline. Have someone take new photos specifically for use on your dating profile. Smile and face the camera—no brooding or overly artistic pictures.


In terms of the actual content of the profile, we think it’s best to keep it short and sweet. Focus on surface items, like your profession, hobbies, and favorite shows, movies, foods, sports, and travel spots. Here is one example of a Rules-y profile:



Blake Lively Look-alike

I went to Georgetown U. and work as a beauty product publicist in NYC. When I am not working, I like to go running, biking, swimming, and to the movies. My favorite movie is Titanic and my favorite TV show is Law & Order. I like sushi and Italian food. I like going out to LA once a year. Looking for someone smart and athletic, with a good sense of humor.


Sometimes clients will say that their Rules-y self-description is too short or too shallow, preferring to tell guys more about their passions and inner selves. They want their unique personalities to shine through many paragraphs about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, their past and future; they want to share their experience, strength, and hope about life, love, and relationships. For example, some women write, “I don’t play games and I’m looking for someone to bond with— someone who completes me, but is not codependent.” Others will write that they are looking for someone “who is not threatened by a strong, financially independent woman,” or be up front that they are “not bitter for having gone through a bad divorce, but better!” They want to write a résumé or spill all their thoughts as if their profile were an autobiography, fearing that five sentences about their favorite things will not do them justice. But as usual, less is more! Even if you’re filling in separate fields in your profile, guys basically look at photos and only skim the rest. We have found that women who write dissertations attract pen pals who want to delve even deeper online, but don’t ask them out.


Women who share less, especially those with good screen names and photos, attract guys who are intrigued and ask them out. The trick is just to pique their interest. So if you have done online dating before and had no luck, we suggest you try it again with pretty photos and just a few facts—see if you get better results!


The second mistake we referred to at the beginning of this article is initiating contact with a guy through the site. The cardinal Rule for online dating is that he writes to you first. You never message or send him a wink or chat him up first, no matter how perfect or your type he is. To do so is just like talking to him first in person. It is pursuing his look/ type, personality, photos, and interests, which makes you the aggressor—it’s against the entire concept of The Rules.


You should also ignore winks, flirts, and other similar actions on dating websites. These are when a guy clicks on your profile but doesn’t write to you. It’s the equivalent of looking at you at a party but not approaching you or speaking to you—in other words, a big nothing. We tell women to ignore winks because there’s no effort involved. It’s like poking you on Facebook instead of writing a message. If a man can’t even send an e-mail to introduce himself, then he probably won’t ask you out either.


How to answer a guy’s message to your online profile is an art form for a Rules Girl. We keep it brief because we are not looking for a pen-pal relationship, but rather for dates. We want to go from online to offline as quickly as possible— within four exchanges, to be exact. If a guy does not ask you out within four messages, he is either a time waster, not that interested in you, or in a relationship. Next!


If a guy writes, “You are very pretty. We have a lot in common. Have you been on this site long? How do you like it? Look at my profile and let me know what you think,” do not discuss his profile with him and bond over all your common interests. Of course you can read it, but do not tell him you did—that shows too much interest. Instead, write a generic “Thanks. You seem interesting!” That will force him to say something like “I noticed you like Italian food. Any favorite places?” Then you can write back, “I like such-and-such place.” Then he can cut to the chase and write back, “Would you like to meet there one night this week?” If you go on and on about your interests and his interests and how long you have been online and what your experiences have been, you will be chatting online forever. If he has so many questions, he can take you out for drinks!


HerRules was first published in 1995 it became a New York Times bestseller. Over the course of their careers, they have helped countless women find and marry Mr Right. As part of their work they also run a worldwide network of Rules dating contacts so that women can get quick, free advice and support. They have been friends for 25 years, advising women on their love lives through their books and coaching courses. Ellen is married with two children and Sherrie is married with a teenage daughter.