At Online Dating

What is it about late fall that makes everybody want to break up?

Maybe that’s just me. My only serious relationships thus far both ended in the month of October (no, not the exact same month—though that would be really interesting), so maybe I’m biased. Or maybe not. Urban Dictionary defines the phrase “Turkey Dump” as “when a student returning from college breaks up with their significant other from high school, so called because it traditionally takes place over Thanksgiving break”, so I can’t be the only one who associates late fall with Ben and Jerry’s and Dirty Dancing.

Maybe this year’s Turkey Dump left you suddenly single, or maybe you’ve been unattached and living it up for quite some time. Either way, if you’ve decided you’re ready to get back on the dating scene, you’ve probably come to the accurate conclusion that, even in college, meeting people to date is hard. Most people in your classes are understandably too focused on lectures to notice or appreciate you hitting on them. Approaching someone cold in a place like a coffee shop or the library has gained a whole new level of awkwardness in the age of earbuds and avoiding face-to-face interactions. Sure, you can go to clubs and bars, but most of what you’ll find there is people looking to have forgettable, potentially regrettable fun for a night. Commitment? Not so much.

What options are left for the college student who is single and ready to mingle? The place where half of that student’s life probably happens: the Internet. More and more young adults are gravitating toward online dating as a means of meeting people who actually intend to date each other. It’s actually not a horrible concept; online dating allows its users to vet potential partners based on a variety of criteria, makes them aware of people they may have never met in real life and gives them a great measure of control over how other people on the site view them.

Yes. Feel the power.

If you do choose to take the leap into the wonderful world of cyberdating, you would do well to remember that the amount of power you have in that world depends entirely on how you use the resources you’re given. Here is a list of steps that will keep you from completely sucking at online dating.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the online dating world as receiving unsolicited messages on a regular basis, receiving replies to your own messages on a regular basis, and getting dates in the real world—numbers and frequency of second dates may vary. For random hookups, please disregard the following.

  1. Manage your expectations. It’s called a dating website, not a “find your one true love” website. Have fun with online dating and don’t take it too seriously, or expect to fail.
  2. Pick your photos carefully. At least one of the photos you post should have your entire face in it, and the majority of them should be flattering—you can include one “funny face” shot for personality if you want (the funny face should not be a duckface, even ironically; the joke is over, people). Needless to say, they should all be pictures of you.
  3. Pick your username more carefully. Your username doesn’t need to be clever or cute. If you’re struggling to come up with something, make it your initials or a random configuration of letters and numbers. If you’re a particularly dedicated fan of something, you can refer to it in your username if you really want to, but be aware of how it sounds out of context; people who are not familiar with Breaking Bad might be a little thrown by a screenname like “ilovecrystalmeth”. Above all, just don’t make it childish (I’m looking at you, Mcbuttz) or feel the need to divulge personal measurements (7andahalf, I really could have waited to find that out until later… or not).
  4. Be honest. Do you have a job? Are you in school? Did you graduate? Are you more than 5 feet, 9 inches tall? If the answer to any of those questions is “no” in real life, it shouldn’t be “yes” online. If you’re embarrassed by something, just don’t mention it on your profile. It’ll come up later, and the only way your relationships are going to work is if the person you’re dating is okay with your perceived faults.
  5. Use proper grammar. Many people greatly underestimate the aphrodisiac power of a properly placed semicolon. At least use capital letters at the beginning of your sentences and periods, question marks, or exclamation points at the end, okay?
  6. Send the right message. Messaging people you like first greatly increases your chances of your having an actual conversation with them, rather than just visiting their profile every once in a while and sighing with longing for eternity. However, just like in real life, there’s a right and a wrong way to approach someone. Good: “Hey, I like that movie you mentioned on your profile; have you seen the sequel?” Bad: “Let’s have amazing sexxxx.”
  7. Get offline. For best results, meet people you hit it off with on the Internet in real life within a week of your first message. If you’re not getting face-to-face dates, there’s no point in baring your soul to the Web.
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