Dating is hard. It’s a complicated, error-prone experiment.
Online dating is harder, because the margins for error are amplified and accentuated: one misstep, and you can be eliminated with a quick swipe to the left. How can we overcome this? Is there a better way?
For the next month, I’ll be sharing how I use my Tinder Gold membership [which I purchased because it was discounted - 50% off]. I’ll walk you through my selection criteria, how I reach out to potential matches, what sort of responses I receive, and how my in-person dates turn out.
I’m doing this both as a public service and for selfish reasons: I want a vastly improved, more trustworthy, and equitable playing field for all of us. It’s exhausting and disheartening to put yourself out there, only to be met with meh-profiles, or worse: discourtesy, dishonesty, judgement, and impatience.
I want to raise the online dating bar.
And no, this is not an endorsement of Tinder over the other dating sites, I’m not just promoting heteronormative behavior, and I’m not sponsored by anyone.
Each time I set up an account with an online dating service, I tried it for one month, narrowed hundreds of possibilities down to 6–8 people, went out with half of them, and eventually settled on one person, whom I dated for several months or years.
This month represents my final effort at online dating.
If I don’t get it right this time, I’ll gladly relinquish the playing field to people who have more stamina and verve, and I will return to the old-fashioned method of meeting people in real life (IRL), i.e., in the course of my daily existence.
I am not on Tinder for hookups. I’m looking for, and have made it clear in my profile, that I’m seeking a long-term relationship (LTR).
So. What are my baseline selection criteria? What causes me to take a second (or third) look?
My Top 10 personal turn-ons/turn-offs:
- They’ve included a substantial profile. (No profile indicates someone just looking to hook up, or who can’t be bothered to make an effort.)
- Their profile contains the essence of who they are and what they are looking for: a mini-story, description of a personality quirk, or humor is a plus. (Laundry lists of glowing personal attributes is suspect.)
- Their profile has correct grammar and spelling. (This may seem minor, but when you’re limited to 500 characters for a Tinder profile, it’s a big deal. Would you have grammar or spelling errors on a job resumé?)
- They are clearly single, and not recently separated or divorced. (My moral code does not include extra-marital affairs, polyamory, or people who haven’t allowed themselves enough time to recover from a previous relationship.)
- They’ve uploaded a bunch of photos, and the photos are diverse. (Only one photo, or a series of selfies taken in a mirror or a car with identical expressions, appears rather unimaginative and uni-dimensional.)
- Their photos are clear and I can see the person’s eyes. (Pixelated photos or sunglasses make a terrible first impression.)
- They’re smiling in most of their photos. (Sad, morose, or stern looks are off-putting and a little scary.)
- The majority of their photos are of themselves and are not lewd. (Landscape, sunset, vehicular, naked chest (or any other body parts) photos are clichéd and uninteresting.)
- When I reach out to them by text, they respond within a short period of time (within minutes or hours; if it takes them days, that indicates a person who is lackadaisical, or not really interested in me).
- Their responses are polite and engaging, and they keep me engaged until we’ve set up a time to talk over the phone or meet up in a public place. (Waiting too long between responses will lose me, as will rude statements like “I gave you my phone number you didn’t use it!”)
All, or most, of these points may seem rather obvious, but over 90% of the Tinder profiles I encounter fail to turn me on or engage me.
As another fine Medium writer noted, if you want to succeed at dating, you need to date with purpose.
It might be helpful to reframe how we consider the act dating, and to put the end-goal of dating — a long-term relationship — in its proper perspective.
Our romantic partnerships, if they end up lasting for the long-term, are the most important relationships we have in our lives. They will influence our daily routines and schedules, our emotional, physical, and economic welfare, our social circles, our livelihoods, and our households.
How many of us treat these relationships with the attention, care, and energy they deserve? How many of us regard interviewing another person for a dating relationship as even more important than a job interview?
Full disclosure: not me. Not before. But I’m changing that now.
At heart, I’m a scientist. I acknowledge my current approach is yet another experiment, and that there isn’t much I can control. But I also know this: we can choose our variables, our methods, and the number of repetitions, and if we are very, very lucky (right place/right time), we might just get the results we hope for.