So you sent a smile to that girl? You swiped right and matched? And now you want to know what to do?
According to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of Americans who are single and actively looking for a partner have used online dating services. Among young single adults who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the use seems to be rising as free, no-contract services become more available.
Yet entering the world of online dating can be confusing and downright scary.
For all those YSA men out there, here's some advice on how to enter the online dating world or improve your online dating experience, based on many conversations I've had with my like-minded female YSA friends. (All names have been changed.)
Everything you post says something about you, for good or ill. The profile picture is the first introduction, so make a good first impression.
1. Clear pictures. Post pictures that look like you, show you and are not blurry. Avoid group photos or pictures of you in sunglasses or a helmet or anything that hides your face.
2. No selfies. Especially mirror and gym selfies. Consider this from one of your potential matches, Rachel: “Selfies — shudder — come off as desperate, shallow and prideful. If this is who you really are, then feel free to include them, and if you really are desperate, shallow and prideful, you won’t care about being perceived that way.” If you really don’t have any friends who can help, grandmas are really good at taking pictures with phones these days.
3. Shirts on. Unanimous approval on this one from the kinds of LDS women you’re hoping to attract. As Lissa said, “If you are seriously looking for a relationship, avoid any pictures with your shirt off, where you’re doing any kind of pout or duck face, or that are taken in the bathroom mirror. No self-respecting girl wants to show that photo to her future grandchildren. (e.g. ‘This is the picture that made me fall in love with Grandpa. Check out those abs!’ No.)”
4. Interests. Post pictures of your interests. But just a note: you aren’t the only guy who has taken a picture with a snake around your neck or with a tiger. Where are you all finding the tigers anyway?
5. Children. If you put pictures of kids, we’ll think they’re yours, unless you state otherwise.
6. Pictures with arms around girls. Why are you trying to get a girl if you already have one?
In most online sites or apps, you have a profile. Consider the following ideas:
1. Show you’re LDS. On non-LDS-specific sites or apps, either add LDS, Mormon or BYU (if you’re a fan) into your profile. For Tinder, go to the church’s Facebook page and like it. It’s likely the girls have liked church Facebook pages so this will then show up as a mutual interest.
2. Be creative. We know that you’re new to this. We know you’re not good at online dating. We know you’re just giving this a try. So tell us something new.
3. Be positive. Many profiles say, “I’m not this and I don’t like that and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.” We want to know what you do like. An initial introduction to dislikes puts off a negative vibe. Don’t be bitter, cynical or woman-hating.
4. Talk about yourself. Tell about your education, work or some of your hobbies. A blank profile or a profile that only mentions the kind of person you want to find or tells us that you’re not like all the “other guys” gives us little to go on. Don’t give the classic “message me if you want to find out more” line. Oh, and leave the Snapchat ID out.
5. Careful with the humor. We know you have it, but Ashlee commented, “Don’t try to be funny. You generally come off as insensitive.” And as Rachel said, “If you think you are funny or snarky and that is a major part of your personality, then maybe it would be appropriate to have a joke profile. But while those may make me laugh when I see them, I’m always wary of a profile that doesn’t offer any substantial information.”
6. Review. Have a friend or family member read over your profile and view your pics. They can point out things that don't really represent you.
1. Contact us. Call us old-fashioned, but we expect you’ll be the first to contact us. Don’t send the default messages. A smile or a “like” that the singles sites create doth not a conversation make.
Bad conversation starters: “Hey,” “Hi,” “What’s up?” A “hey” only gets a “hey” response in return, which gets us nowhere.
Try something like, “What are you studying?” or “I noticed you like to hike. What’s your favorite hike?” or “What did you do this last weekend?” Put a little effort into a conversation.
2. Maintain conversation with questions. When responding, ask a question in return. Otherwise, it’s exhausting. Example:
Girl: Do anything fun this weekend?
Boy: Yeah, I went on a hike.
Cool. Well, now the girl has found out the boy went on a hike and he doesn't care what she did. Stellar first intro. Keep the conversation going. Just imagine you are sitting face to face with each other in a room and talking to each other. Then write your messages that way.
(Note: If I get a no-question-back response too many times, I assume disinterest.)
3. Use real words. U R txting but it’s rly not hard 2 write full convos. Lolz. Just do it. And learn how to use “you’re” and “your” properly. You’re (you are) probably going to keep at least this girl interested a little longer with some basic grammar.
4. Be kind. After no conversation for two weeks, one guy emailed me and said, “Thanks for not responding, you jerk!” Wow, really classy. Give people a chance, be kind and realize that you don’t want to respond to every girl (heavens, how many matches do you have on Tinder that you’ve never spoken to?) so probably not every girl will want to talk to you.
5. Don’t be creepy. And don’t start right off with telling us we're hot or pretty because it makes us feel objectified. If we look nice, tell us on the date.
Setting up the first date
After you’ve communicated back and forth for a while, and you feel like you want to know more, ask us out.
1. Call. It’s OK to ask for our number and then call to ask us out. We are used to being asked out through text, but a phone call gives you bonus points. And a number makes it easier to confirm date details. But don’t be worried if we don’t give it to you. It just means we’re playing it safe. Respect that. Oh, and call before 10 p.m., please. As Maria commented "I question a guy's social skills and courtesy when he calls late on an initial phone call."
2. Meet somewhere public. Lunch, dinner or dessert is just fine. Plan something where we can talk or enjoy a similar interest together. Let us know exactly what we’ll be doing and where we’ll meet. Let us know if you'll be paying (a simple "my treat" or “I’d like to take you out to dinner” rather than “let’s meet up for some dinner”) suffices.
3. Let us know your last name. We only want to "stalk" you enough to know that you are who you say you are.
4. Be early and keep the date short. An hour or two is plenty of time for a first meet-up date.
5. Be normal. You can find advice from a million dating websites on how to talk, have fun, show your good side and be authentic. Keep your hands and face to yourself, even if you feel like we have a lot in common. Remember that we just barely met, even if we’ve been e-communicating for — gasp — two weeks.
Post-date: If you don’t have our number yet, it’s OK to ask for it. And there are no real rules about the post-date thank you text. Don’t discount the date if you don’t get a text. Just try for a second date.
While the online experience is not necessarily new, we all still feel weird about joining in. We’re all a little shy and a little awkward in our conversation. So give us the same kind of mercy you would expect we’d give you.
Good luck, and see you online!
Elizabeth Stitt is a BYU journalism graduate and University of Utah professional MBA graduate. She blogs at lizstitt.blogspot.com.