What's going on, Kotaku? Hello and welcome to the first installment of Ask Dr. NerdLove, an advice column specifically for your geeky relationship issues. To kick things off, this week we're going to talk a little about getting the results you want from online dating.
I'm a video game programmer, and general nerd, and I've come to the age where I would like to get a girlfriend. My industry and social circles are not very abundant with potential dates, so I've turned to Match. However, after using it for six months (Paid), I've heard nothing from anyone, and every message I've sent has been ignored.
I think my profile is fine, as I don't go out of my way to geek out about any one thing, and I don't try to paint myself as someone I'm not either. I have some trouble trying to figure out what to put in the messages I've sent, so I've tried everything from long and specific messages to simple "Hey, how was your day?" messages, none of which get responses.
I'm not overweight (I'm actually skinny) and I'm not ugly, so I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing wrong. Can you give me any idea as to some things I might be doing wrong, or some idea of how to write a profile/message that won't get ignored?
Online Dating Newbie
There are a metric ton of reasons why women don't respond to a dating site email, but the most common is that your message - or your profile - didn't intrigue her enough to want to reply...
Let's start with messages. Women get deluged with messages - often rife with "creative" approaches to spelling and creepy sexual come-ons - which means that you need to make yours shine. If you can't catch and hold her attention right off the bat, then you're going to get passed over like Brussels sprouts at a Golden Corral buffet.
Most emails either go too long and ramble or are just "hi i like ur face." I have a template that I recommend for first contact emails. It's very simple, with no more than two lines per section. This makes it lean, mean and - critically - more interesting than the usual "'sup biznatch?" that's so common.
You start with a greeting. Personally, I like "Hey, you seem like you're cool, and I wanted to say 'hi,'" but you should have one that matches your personality.
Next, bring up something from her profile that caught your attention: "I noticed that you're a fan of retro video games and built your own MAME cabinet… that's awesome!" Then ask a question, preferably related to that part of her profile. Make sure it's something that can actually spur a conversation, not a question that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Finally, write a couple lines about yourself, followed by "hope to talk to you soon," and your name.
Tip: Don't challenge her to prove something, especially if she's into geeky stuff and definitely don't try to neg her with a left-handed compliment. It's a stupid PUA trick that not only doesn't work but will actively piss women off. At best, you'll get your email tossed in the trash. At worst, you end up as a new post on a "Creepy Guys of Online Dating" tumblr.
With all that said, it doesn't matter if you've got Cyrano De Bergerac writing your messages if your profile is a mess.
First: Audit your photos. Most dating sites will send a thumbnail of your primary photo with your message. This can make the difference between her clicking through to check your profile or skipping to the next bachelor on the list. It's vitally important that you use a photo that makes the right impression.
"Artsy" Instagrams, badly cropped vacation photos and group shots are all horrible primary photos. Your main profile photo should be a clear shot of you by yourself—preferably a headshot—on a clean or solid background. It also helps to be wearing something with a bright splash of color to make your thumbnail stand out from the crowd.
Your other photos should be the ones that make you look like you're fun to be with. Include at least one full body shot. And absolutely no "check these abs" selfies. Seriously, they make you look like a douchebag.
Second: You want to purge your profile of anything that will turn women away. Imagine you work for an advertising firm. You don't sell chips by saying "They're decent enough, I guess." You aren't going to sell a car by telling prospective buyers that they shouldn't even think about buying it unless they meet a 20 point checklist of prerequisites. You sell it by making people think about how awesome their life would be if they had it.
When you're writing an online dating profile, you're advertising yourself, and nobody is going to buy a product that can barely tolerate its own existence.
If you're full of negativity, bitterness or an entitled attitude, women will hit the back button so fast that time will warp. Even self-deprecating humor is going to read as "thanks for noticing a loser like me," so toss it. And there should never be any references to your sexin' skills, cunnilingus, cock size, or your skill at full-body rubdowns. Not only will nobody believe you (or want to find out if it's true), but it's goddamn creepy. There is nothing that will make the possibility of sex disappear in a cloud of sulfur and loneliness faster than talking about how much you love going down in your profile.
(When in doubt, check this handy list of common online dating mistakes. If you're doing anything on that list, you need to change it immediately.)
Third: You want to practice good dating search optimization. Most dating sites let you narrow your searches to more than just height, weight, body type and location. They're in the business of helping you find the red-headed Pastafarian opera singer of your dreams, so it's in their interest to let you be as specific as possible. As a result, most sites will let you search for keywords. This is where the dating search optimization comes in: You want to make sure that those desirable keywords appear prominently in your dating profile. If, for example, you're hoping to date a fellow gamer, you want them to be able to find you, right?
Think about the sort of people you want to date. What are they going to be looking for? What search terms are they likely to be using? Those are your keywords. If you're not sure which ones to use, do your research: Check out the profiles of people you're attracted to. See where their interests lie and make sure that you have an easily identifiable reference in your profile too. Just remember: these are examples. You want to make sure that you're listing interests you actually have, not laying bait for one specific person. If you lie about your mutual interest in manatee breeding, she's going to be pretty pissed when she starts talking shop on the first date and you can't follow along.
(True story, by the way.)
Last but not least: you need to remember to show, not tell. Anyone can say that they're $DESIRABLE_QUALITY; you want to demonstrate that quality. If you're funny, don't just say "I'm funny," let your wit shine through your profile. If you're athletic or adventurous, have profile photos that show you playing soccer or visiting Praya Kahn. If you're a geek and looking to date other geeks, drop a few geek references in. Mention your love of Assassin's Creed or your zombie apocalypse plan.
When in doubt, just remember: You're selling a product to others. Make sure that you're making your advertising as clear and as enticing as possible and you'll have much more success.
If you have online dating stories of your own to share, let's hear about them in the comments. And we'll see you in two weeks with more of your dating questions!
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Kotaku" in the subject line. Man, woman, single, married, he's got advice for everyone.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr. Nerdlove is not really a doctor.
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