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Online Dating: Hot or Not? Who Cares!

How much can you really tell about a potential love match from their online dating profile or photo?Are you a superficial online dater? Does this guy really look like his photo? Here’s what to look for in a dating profile, including some surprisingly frank advice from Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today by Philip Galanes.

Ah, the pleasures of online dating, where half the participants are only killing time while they wait for their 4:00 p.m. conference call, and the serious daters are so finicky that they make 9Lives’ Morris the Cat look easygoing by comparison. I’m afraid that some outdated pictures seem to go with the territory too. Everyone wants to look their best, and if that was fifteen years ago, oh well . . .

As a practical matter, focus on profiles with more than one picture: Be on the lookout for radically different hairstyles and clothing styles from different decades. Beware of anyone sporting a Kurt Cobain grunge look. It may seem like yesterday, but that was twenty years ago now. Or the next time you’re hitting it off online, try giving to get: “My profile pics were taken at my sister’s wedding on Borneo last summer. What about yours?” The response may give you a better sense of the photographic time line.

As for liars and professional retouchers, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Easy, right?

These first two examples point in the “buyer beware” direction of Mystery Dating: It is a big, scary world out there, and we can be hoodwinked pretty easily by mischief-makers. Still, what I know of people makes me suspect that most online daters mean well, even if they have some trouble with execution.

In fact, the most common problem with online dating involves neither trick photography nor stashed wedding rings. It’s:

You Seem Very Nice, Mystery Date, But . . .
I recently joined an online dating site. When I receive a message from a woman I don’t find physically attractive, how do I respond? Is no response the best answer? How do I decline politely?

How about building an effigy of the woman and setting it on fire? I’ll bet she takes the hint then.
Here’s the thing: Online dating can seem like an anonymous business, with all those (typewritten) overtures popping out of the ether. But in fact, the authors of those messages are real, live people—with feelings and everything. So if someone initiates a chat with you online, or sends you a message, respond as politely as you would at a bar or a bus stop.

If this person goes so far as asking you out—even though she has the audacity to not be your cup of tea—how about a simple “No, thanks”? Don’t ignore her messages. When we like people, for some sad reason, we can convince ourselves that it’s reciprocal, no matter how obvious the truth is to everyone else. They’ll just keep bugging you. So be straight with them instead. It may take decades, but these people will get over us eventually—and quite possibly go on to lead semi-productive lives!


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