If you’ve tried using dating websites and ended up frustrated, emotionally drained and feeling like you wasted your time, you’ve probably made some very common mistakes. Avoid these 12 online dating don’ts, and you’ll have a much better experience the next time around.
1. Don’t use a boring username. Your user name is the very first thing people see. It’s a marketing opportunity. Don’t bore everyone by calling yourself "SingleGuy" or "LawyerJane426". Come up with something clever that stands out or makes people laugh — something unique. If you’re 40 and play tennis, try "40LOVE". If you’re the life of the party, use "TotallyFunChick" — who could resist that?
2. Don’t post bad photos. Photos are the most important part of your profile — you’ve got to have great ones. Don’t you dare post pictures from 10 years or 10 pounds ago. Do not take a self-portrait with your cell phone or crop out your ex-boyfriend but leave his arm dangling from your shoulder. Use clear, recent photos — at least one headshot and one full body shot. And include pictures of you doing something fun or interesting. Consider splurging on a professional photographer. It will be money well spent. Be resourceful and go to the makeup counter to get made up for free before your photo shoot.
3. Don’t use the same photos for months at a time. More people will click on your profile if you change your primary photo now and then. One picture will appeal to some while another will appeal to others. Keep things fresh and experiment to see what works.
4. Don’t send form emails. When you initiate contact, mention something in the other person’s profile so he or she knows you actually read it. And then share something about yourself. Keep your initial emails short — no more than two or three paragraphs. Don’t send a long-winded eight-paragraph introduction and include your phone number. That’s just creepy.
5. Don’t agree to a date without talking on the phone first. After a few emails, progress to a phone call. Why invest time corresponding if you may not have chemistry? If your potential date doesn’t appeal to you after a 20-minute chat, politely let him or her know it’s not a match. It’s better to be honest than to waste someone’s time.
6. Don’t correspond with too many people at once. Don’t juggle so many people that you need index cards to keep them straight. Start talking with two or three and then hide your profile while you figure out which one is a good fit for you. If you get overwhelmed and your inbox fills up with unanswered emails, you may unwittingly reject someone wonderful. Take it slowly, and wait until you’re ready. Everything (even online dating) is better in moderation.
7. Don’t fill your profile with adjectives. Most profiles are filled with adjectives like athletic, passionate, adventurous, romantic, spontaneous, etc. Yawn, yawn, yawn! Show, don’t tell. Instead of writing that you’re "adventurous" (yeah, you and 30,000 other women your age), why not talk about the zip-line course you conquered in Costa Rica? You’re "athletic"? Write about the way you felt at Mile 20 of your first marathon. Your profile should be uniquely you — written in your own voice speaking directly to the reader.
8. Don’t use poor grammar and spelling. Spell check was invented years ago. Use it. Don’t abbreviate words like "u", "2moro" or "thx" in your profile or emails. Use upper and lower case properly. Show the world that you are educated and normal.
9. Don’t sound bitter. Even though you’ve dated emotionally unbalanced drama queens in the past, resist the temptation to write, "Drama queens need not apply" in your profile. Stay positive and talk about what you like, not what you dislike. Listing the things you’re NOT looking for will only make you seem bitter and negative.
10. Don’t reveal too much. Remember — until you’ve actually met a real live person, you don’t know who you are corresponding with. Be conscious of your safety and don’t reveal too much about yourself initially. Consider giving out a Google Voice phone number instead of your own. And create a separate email address to use for dating — one that doesn’t give away your identity. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.
11. Don’t taking things personally. When dating online, don’t take things personally. If someone you’re interested in doesn’t respond to your email, he or she may be busy at work, overwhelmed with an overflowing inbox or taking a break from dating. Be patient and be forgiving. Dating online takes a thick skin and a lot of patience, but in the end, it’s worth it.
12. Don’t get discouraged and give up. Stick with it and maintain a positive, hopeful attitude. Dating is a numbers game, and you’ve simply got to meet a lot of different people before you find someone special. If you’re under the impression that you’re going to meet "the one" within two months of filling out your profile, you’re probably wrong. Give it at least six months. A year is even better. Remember, it only takes one. And you might make some really nice friends in the meantime.