Make your profile more swipe-worthy in time for "Dating Sunday" on January 7.
How popular is app and online dating in our culture these days? It's the second most common way for opposite-sex couples to meet their significant other, and the number one way for same-sex couples to start a relationship. The pioneer of dating apps, Tinder, claims to have made 20 billion matches in 196 countries. Users swipe 1.6 billion times each day and go on more than one million dates a week.
All this success hasn't escaped writers and researchers like myself, who study strategies and tally statistics when it comes to what works and what doesn't in the digital dating world. One relevant finding: Every year, the most popular day for app sign-ups is the Sunday after New Year's Day. “Dating Sunday” will fall on January 7, 2018. But before you spend this Sunday swiping with the rest of the singles, make sure to craft a killer profile by avoiding these common mistakes.
You focus only on what you want in a partner
It's easy to get carried away and write out a laundry list of characteristics you're after in a match. But profiles that get noticed are the ones that clue potential dates into who you are, not just what you want in a significant other.
Use most of your profile to discuss yourself, your hobbies and interests, and your values and temperament. According to a study published in 2015, winning profiles typically used a 70:30 ratio in discussing themselves versus what they're looking for. Successful online daters also typically employ a bit of humor and keep it light; words in popular profiles include “love,” “fun,” and “friends,” according to Match.com.
You post unclear photos of yourself
While it’s great to put up group shots that show you have awesome friends and know how to have fun, make sure you have at least a couple photos in which you and your features are clearly identifiable.
“There is a lot of research out there about photos and which ones to choose,” says Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, psychologist and author of From First Kiss to Forever: A Scientific Approach to Love. Cohen cites one study demonstrating that women were more attracted to men displaying pride in their photos, like having their head tilted up, shoulders back, and an expanded stance. "Men were more attracted to women displaying happiness, like a big smile,” she says.
Hint, hint: Images that show you smiling are always good, according to statistics from Tinder. People who grin in their profile photo are 14% more likely to get a right swipe; those who face forward in photos are 20% more likely to be chosen.
Your profile is too generic
You know the joke: Dating profiles posted by women all say they love brunch, friends, and fitness, while too many guys are looking for a “chill girl to enjoy craft beer with” (all while posing with a dog or fish).
Avoid the cliches and think hard about what will make you stand out from others. “Also, be sure to share something that is important to you, Cohen says. “While it's exciting to date someone who can help us broaden our horizons, we want to know that we match when it comes to our core ideals, values, and beliefs.” Stating that you look forward to taking several major trips every year or what your religious beliefs are might turn off some people. But these specifics will attract the right people to you.
You leave your profile incomplete
Some apps and sites, like OKCupid and Hinge, ask you to answer questions they've put together to improve matching. The more you answer, the better your matches will be, so don’t leave them empty. And if the written profile part on a site is more open-ended, fill it out as much as you can. Unchecked boxes or lots of extra space can make you seem disinterested in really meeting someone—or uninteresting to others.
You swipe when traffic is low
Successful online dating means checking into the site or app at times when traffic is heavy and more people are also looking and swiping. Swiping is consistently heavier on Sunday, according to data from Bumble, but low on Fridays. In addition, people typically settle in with their dating apps in the evening instead of daytime hours; 8 to 10 pm is usually peak time for usage, and a great time to message someone you’re really interested in.
Your messages miss the mark
Once you've found someone you're interested in, it's time to contact them directly. Researchers have studied the messages that work and the ones that don’t. Open questions are best; for instance, “How was your day?” instead of, “Did you have a good day?” You want the other person to open up, so you can get a better feel for whether you should meet IRL.
In addition, mentioning something specific from the other person's profile or photo can increase your chance of a positive response. So read their profile and respond to something in it, rather than just sending a generic “I’m so glad we matched! How was your weekend?” to every person in your queue. When you’re communicating, keep it positive. Your potential date is looking for ways to filter you out, and overt negativity leaves a memorable impression (not in your favor).
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Finally, get off the app and into real life in a reasonable time. My suggestion is to message for no longer than a day or two on the app, and then if you feel comfortable and want that date, give your phone number and move the conversation to text. Making this jump in a timely manner increases the odds that you’ll actually meet up—and find out that you're actually super for each other.
Jenna Birch is the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love.