I am often introduced as “The Tinder Girl.” Despite having been off the app and in a relationship for the last year (yes, we met on Tinder), people still come to me for online dating advice because I’m a vocal advocate. I think I’ve had a lot of success, meaning I almost always meet cool people, even if I’m not romantically interested. I’ve already written about what not to have on your profile, but with Lauren Urasek (aka the most popular girl on OKCupid) offering up her secrets, I figured I’d share some more of my own as well.
1. Don’t feel ashamed
OK, if you met on weirdestfetishever.com you might want to come up with a cover story, but beyond that, who cares if you met online? I personally think it’s the easiest way to find other single people, and most people now agree it’s a good place to meet someone. If you go to a bar, you have no idea who’s single, who’s a misogynist, and who is a die-hard Lakers fan when you think Kobe Bryant is the worst thing to happen to basketball—whereas, you can learn all of these things fairly quickly from an online dating profile. You’re not desperate, you’re efficient. Plus, people as awesome as YOU are dating online, so it can’t be all bad, right?
2. Make sure your profile expresses who you are
It’s easy to turn this into a list of “don’t’s” (Don’t be negative, don’t have pictures with blood, don’t have a visible toilet in your profile pictures but really, to each their own. The seemingly ridiculous profiles (actual sightings: “Looking to meet new people and get involved in the meth and heroin scene!”; “I like to dress up like a unicorn sometimes”) are just weeding out those who don’t “get” them.
Just be sure to write SOMETHING about yourself. Quoting comedians doesn’t count. I’ve seen the thing about the goddamned Kia Sorrento approximately five thousand times.
3. Keep an open mind
You are dating online to meet people you don’t normally run into during your normal routine. Since anyone can sign up for most popular dating sites, you will see all sorts: People will have different backgrounds, education, and hobbies than you’re used to. Be receptive, and remember, new things can be fun! (Except the meth and heroin scene, I don’t recommend that.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions for small talk. Questions are a great way to break the ice and get a conversation going.
4. Read bios and scroll through *all* the pictures
People always save the weird shit for the end, so pay attention! Even if I’m going to swipe left, I look at every picture for amusement’s sake. One profile I saw was pretty normal until the last picture, where he had a bathroom mirror selfie revealing his tongue ring and a fanned out stack of money. #nope
5. Only give out your phone number when you’re excited to do so
Realtalk: once someone has your phone number, it’s a lot easier to annoy or harass you. If you’re feeling meh about someone, don’t give them that opportunity. I’ve gone on dates with people without giving them my number beforehand, it can be done. You can also use a service like Burner if you are very skittish.
6. Have an escape plan when you meet
If I’m meeting an online date, I try to meet during the week for a drink either clearly before or after dinner. Social lubrication makes everyone less nervous, and if the date is terrible, you can cut it off early by sticking to one drink and saying you have work to do. If you meet during the weekend, you have a harder time ending the date, and meals are just a weird and socially complex first date (What if you want the most expensive entree but your date just orders an appetizer? Are you ready to see how this person chews?).
If it makes you feel more comfortable, tell a friend where you’re going, information about your date, and that you’ll text them when you’re done.
Also, even after all the dates I’ve been on, I still have the urge to turn my car around and run away. You don’t know this person, and it’s scary! I don’t think that feeling of apprehension ever goes away, but for what it’s worth, only twice have I actually wished I had done so.
7. You don’t owe anyone anything (nor are you owed anything)
As much as you have chatted online, this person is still basically a stranger you are meeting for the first time. If you show up, see the person, and want to leave immediately, DO SO (especially if you feel afraid). You don’t “owe it to them” to stick it out, and while it may sting, you’re saving everyone time in the long run. But, at the same time, it is only 60-90 minutes of your life, and you may come away from the date with good stories. Most bad dates are boring rather than disastrous.
As far as paying, I don’t expect the guy to pay (except for the one date who didn’t cover my $1.75 iced tea—WTF, man), and always offer to split. And, as with all dating situations, paying for things does not mean you get the goods later, or ever.
8. Utilize the unmatch/block feature
There are a lot of crazy conversations making their way around the Internet as memes, but I don’t understand how it gets that far. If a date doesn’t go well—unmatch them so you never have to worry about it again! If someone is being weird—block them! Do not engage with crazy people!! (See above—you don’t owe them anything!)
9. Don’t get discouraged
If you go to a bar with 200 people, how many people there will you find attractive? One, maybe two? And between those one or two, how many would like you back? How many would you enjoy talking to? Dating is a numbers game, and unfortunately you have to sift through a lot of crap.
Online dating really is a great way to meet people and there’s little reason to be afraid. So get out there, have fun, and good luck!
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