If you’re one of the 54 million single people in the US, there’s a 1 in 10 chance you’ve set up an online dating profile. Back when there were only a few options—when Match and eHarmony led the industry—it was fun to quickly check in and see who’d winked or flirted. But now that online dating is a $1.2 billion industry, there are dozens of technology-based matchmakers trying to woo you to their sites. As a result, you can spend months combing through communications and profiles and still end up at home on Friday night.
Yes, there’s a way to improve your odds of finding a suitable date without getting carpal tunnel syndrome, provided by two doctors who mined 86 studies on successful dating profiles looking for consistencies or recurring themes. Success was defined as the probability that the users would graduate from computer-only communication to a face-to-face date. One of the doctors, Sameer Chaudry, an internist at the University of North Texas, had an online profile that seemed clinically dead. He asked his friend, Khalid Khan, a professor of women’s health and clinical epidemiology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry to help him research the data on attraction and persuasion with the hopes of improving his odds of finding a date online. Here’s what their research says will work. (As you put these techniques to work, take time to figure what you really want from a relationships by enrolling in Life Reimagined’s 3-day program, Stop Searching for Your Soulmate.)
Play the name game. Believe it or not, choosing your user name is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make. Women prefer names that indicate intelligence (TheaterBuff) while men are drawn to names linked to physical traits (BrightSmile). Both sexes respond well to playful names (FitnFun), and avoid connecting to those whose names have negative connotations (Scarface). So take a good look at your online handle. Are you turning people off before they ever have a chance to get to know you SquidSmell? FoxxxyLady, are you attracting the wrong kind of attention?
Enter alphabet city. User names that begin with letters from the first half of the alphabet do better than those from the latter half. Researchers say it’s because we have a tendency to give things at the top of a pile more value.
Balance the personal and the physical. Online profiles that enjoyed the most success effectively divided content into personal information (70%) and a physical description of the desired partner (30%).
Tell the truth and be funny about it. Honest, likeable and succinct profiles written with a touch of humor got the best results.
Be humble-ish. Self-aggrandizing or using “rhetorical flourishes” are turn-offs online (as in real life). Save your philosophical musings for a more appropriate audience, like your cat.
Picture this. Photos that worked best showed the user smiling and standing in the center of the frame, surrounded by others. Researchers suggest that the viewer may infer you’re a fun-loving person whom other people like to hang with.
Once you’ve tweaked your online profile and are ready to reach out, make sure you’re making an effort. Keep your initial missive short and sweet, but personalize the greeting, demonstrating you’ve actually read the person’s profile. A “wink” or a “nudge” or a lame “wow, yr awesome” won’t win you any points. It likely won’t even warrant a response.
What it all comes down to, according to the researchers, is paying attention to courtship behavior, something to which the human brain has learned to subconsciously react. In real time, face-to-face, approaching someone of interest would see you on your best behavior, making an effort to be noticed and remembered. You don’t have to write an original poem for every person you contact, but you should let them know that they caught your eye for a reason.
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