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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Five Tips for Getting Better Online Dating Messages

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 8:00 AM

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I've been trying to date online for a few months now, but I'm just not getting any good messages. They're all some variation of, "hey" or a winky face or some bullshit. A friend said she thought maybe my profile wasn't the best showcase of my personality. Is she right? What am I doing wrong?

Good news and bad news: I can't stop the douchecopters-at-large from emoticonning you, but I can help you to improve your profile, which may help decrease the amount of "hey gurl, u sexxxy" messages you receive on dating sites. As a veteran online dater, I bring you these top five bone-afide tips.

1. Show, Don't Tell

Not to get all Creative Writing 101 on you, but well, this degree had to come in handy someday. When describing yourself, it really is better to follow the golden rule of writing: Show, don't tell. Many people fall victim to the sin of portraying themselves with a list of adjectives, but outside of Schoolhouse Rock sing-alongs, adjectives are worthless for helping you get laid. Why? Because they're generic. Words like caring, smart, or funny can apply to pretty much any human being, the cafeteria lunch lady, your grandpa, and so on. Resist the easy descriptors and tell a quip or story instead. For instance, change "I'm generous" to "I always tip servers 30 percent." Replace "I'm smart" with "I once read my weight in books." Not only is this more accurate, but it helps to pique users' interest, giving them fodder or a curiosity to address in their message to you.

2. Be Original

This goes along with the "show, don't tell" line of thinking, but every part of your profile should reveal something interesting about you. If your profile is too generic, then people won't have anything to message you about. Sometimes I'll see a superhot girl and will go to write to her, but then this will happen: "Hi there! I see you like...going to the movies. And I was really drawn to the fact that you enjoy...hanging out with friends." And then I fall asleep. If there's nothing in your profile for a potential suitor to latch on to or find commonality with, then you'll either get horrible messages or very few at all.

3. Proofread

Seriously, have someone else look over your profile. Even the best writers need editors, and you are no exception. We tend to be blind to certain traits or habits in our writing. Maybe you unintentionally punctuate sentences with LOL or :-). Maybe you mention your sister a Freudian amount of times and it sounds creepy. Maybe you misspelled an author's name or think this is your most flattering picture:

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Having a second pair of eyes on your profile, especially if it's someone whose sex matches those whom you are pursuing, can help you catch unsightly errors, TMIs, and allow you to gain insights as to how others perceive your digital self.

4. Unnecessary Word Vomit

Remove anything in your profile that approximates phrases like: "Hmm, I don't know" or "That's a dumb question," or "Geez, I never know what to say!" Most dating sites ask you to describe yourself in five to 10 questions. Don't waste time and space by answering with a nonanswer. If you've really done some honest soul searching and for the life of you can't figure out what "the first thing people notice about you" is, then ask someone else. Hell, ask a stranger on the bus. They'll probably be frank, and if they say something weird, then you just got a unique story to add to your profile. While we're at it, scan your profile for obvious clichés and delete them. Living life to the fullest, partner in crime, zzzzzzzzz.

Even more eye-roll-inducing than clichés is the person who writes nothing except, "If you want to get to know me, you'll have to ask and find out." Translation: "I'm so lazy and/or above this. Can I have a blow job now?"

5. Don't Be a Negativity Nelly

Avoid focusing on what you don't want in a date/fuck buddy/Canasta partner. Not only because negativity is a turn-off, but also because it's not a reliable predictor of compatibility. Do you really think people are attracted to each other because of their mutual distaste for Nickelback? No, they are not. I'm not saying you have to be all puppets barfing sunshine or anything, but keep your enmity to a minimum. No one likes a hater. I've also seen quite a few people say some variation of this: "Don't write to me if you're looking for drama, or if you're shallow, or stuck up." One, very few people perceive themselves in such off-putting terms, so it's not going to act as a deterrent. Two, it makes you seem petty, like you have a grudge, or that the world owes you something because someone in your past may have mistreated you. Do us all a favor and save your griping for therapy or Facebook. You will attract more people if you focus on what you actually want, not the other way around.

Get on that, and they'll get on you.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at AskAnnaSF@gmail.com. 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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Anna Pulley

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