Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Top 15 Online Dating Tips recently announced that January is its peak month of activity, typically seeing “a 25 to 30 percent increase in new members registrations between Dec. 26 and Feb. 14, as well as an increase is site searches and communication between members. If you’re on the millions of people going online to find your next date – and potential mate — please read the following online dating tips to save you time, energy, embarrassment, and the pain of sitting through long, drawn-out dates that leave you feeling deflated and depressed.

1. Post a recent photo of yourself that’s flattering and actually looks like you. Chances are you have one really fantastic photo of yourself that was taken at just the right angle that you look ever so slightly like Blake Lively or Jake Gyllenhaal. Don’t post that picture. Post the picture that actually looks like you — you on a good day (in great lighting). You want people to know what to expect and not be disappointed when it’s you who shows up for your date.

2. Be unique and specific in your profile. Everyone likes to have fun, okay? Everyone likes hanging out with friends, listening to music, and “going out.” So tell people something they don’t already know about you, like that the beer you brewed in your backyard last summer won first prize in a home brewing contest, or that you do a brilliant version of “Tainted Love” at karaoke.

3. Avoid negative language in your profile. It should go without saying that mentioning an ex or how bad a past relationship was is a definite no-no when writing an online profile, but in the same vein, negative language (anything that starts with: “I hate,” “I don’t like,” “I don’t know”) all sound lame and cast a shadow over you, too.

4. Only respond to people who interest you. If you post a flattering photo and write a unique and upbeat profile, chances are you’ll get lots of responses from potential suitors. Do NOT respond to all of them. Only pick the ones who truly appeal to you to reply to. For all the others, no message is the message … and it’s a lot kinder (and faster) than saying, “Hmm, no thanks.”

5. Avoid Googling a potential match. Let’s say you happen to get a whole name — or enough info about a potential match that you’re able to track him or her on Google. Don’t do it! It’s more fun to learn stuff about people the old-fashioned way (through conversation), and you don’t risk making presumptions or inadvertently revealing that you know something you shouldn’t.

6. Keep your emails brief. A general rule of thumb: two paragraphs is ideal; respond to something that was shared with you; share something new about yourself; ask at least one question the other person can answer; and leave plenty to talk about for your first date.

7. If there’s interest, meet in person quickly. Respond to messages within a day or two (three tops!), and make plans to meet up in person after you’ve exchanged a handful of messages. If it’s been three weeks — or three months! — and you’re still emailing someone you haven’t made plans to meet, then what you’ve got is a pen-pal and there’s probably a reason things haven’t progressed past that.

8. Protect your privacy. Keep your address, place of employment, and other personal information to yourself until you’ve gone out on at least a couple dates. I mean, duh.

9. Meet in public and tell at least one person where you’ll be and what time you expect to be home.

10. Plan a first date that can be short, sweet, and low-key, like lunch or a coffee date. The last thing you need is to get stuck on some long, drawn-out date with someone who bores you to tears, so use the first date to see if there’s a spark (which you can figure out in about five minutes), and it there is one, you can plan something longer or more intimate for the next time.

11. Keep your options open! Just because you’ve had a few great email exchanges — or even a couple awesome dates — with someone doesn’t mean you should log off the site just yet. People — especially ones who are practically strangers to you — have a way of being flakey and can disappear, change their minds, or simply let you down. That’s not to say that won’t happen at any point in your relationship, but there’s a great likelihood of these things happening early on, so keep your options open until you’re ready to be exclusive.

12. Don’t date someone just for “practice.” Let’s say you’ve gotten a few responses to your profile, but no one is really knocking your socks off. It’s been a bit of a dry spell for you and you’re feeling a little rusty when it comes to dating, so you figure what’s the harm in going out with one of these people just to oil the ol’ engine. The harm is you’re leading someone on, wasting valuable time (theirs and yours) and creating bad karma in the process. If you know you aren’t interested, MOA.

13. Don’t take the rejection personally. Not only can you not be everyone’s type, there are plenty of reasons people pass on potential matches that have little to do with the other person. Maybe you look too much like the ex who broke his heart. His loss.

14. Take a break if you’re feeling jaded. This goes back to #3. You don’t have to necessarily use negative language in your profile to reek of negativity. A bad attitude — and desperation — is just as bad. So, if you find yourself getting discouraged about the way things are going, close your account for a month or two, regroup and come back after you’ve cleared your head (and aura).

15. Try different sites. Another thing you can do if you’re feeling discouraged, is simply try a different site. Dating sites are like restaurants — some of them have better menus than others. So if nothing at your current spot sounds appetizing, move along.

42 comments… add one
  • BoomChakaLaka June 8, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I have actually never online dated, but some of these rules definitely apply in “real life” as well.

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    • Chiara June 10, 2011, 7:48 pm

      Couldn’t agree more!

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  • silver_dragon_girl June 8, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Also, BEWARE free sites. BEWARE. I started dating on POF, because I was broke and between jobs, and let me tell you, the caliber of guys I later met on was much higher. Not because they were all gainfully employed, but because they were serious. If you’re serious, you’ll shell out the $100 for 6 months. It’s just one more little safety net, I think. I, myself, was much more serious about finding a relationship when I actually paid for the service. I think the fact that I shied away from it before was an indicator that I wasn’t ready for much of a commitment.

    And obey #4 don’t get sucked into the webs of the guys who complain on their profile about “girls never responding to emails I send out.” They think it’s rude and lay out a guilt trip, and then when you do reply with a polite, “Thanks but I don’t think we’re very well-suited,” they ensnare you in their little tangle of “Can I ask why?” emails. Bah.

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    • WatersEdge June 8, 2011, 4:34 pm

      I so agree about the caliber of men on paid sites v. free sites. I’ve done both too.

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    • Elle June 8, 2011, 5:41 pm

      I only got one date on It was a pity date. I put on my profile – this profile will be deactivated on mm/dd/yy. And a guy “requested the honor” to be my date. We were very much alike, and although we spent about 5-6 hours together, time just flew. I thought it was a good date, but I never heard from him again.

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      • silver_dragon_girl June 8, 2011, 6:28 pm

        Those suck. 🙁 That happened to me once. We met for coffee, had a nice time, then he was heading to a concert about an hour away. He invited me, offering to drive. I was new to the area and wasn’t sure about driving their myself, and since I’d met him an hour ago I didn’t want to ride with him. So we parted ways and I never heard from him again. Probably someone just looking to hook up, but still disappointing.

      • silver_dragon_girl June 8, 2011, 6:28 pm

        Actually, that has happened to me way more than once, but that’s the story that sprang to mind 😛

    • Lydia June 9, 2011, 8:35 am

      Oh my god, your response to #4 reminds me of the worst guys I encountered when dating online. I had a little list of ‘conditions’ in my profile, all very reasonable I thought: no guys 10+ yrs older than me (I was 20/21 at the time), no smokers, and no guys who didn’t currently live in the same country as me (because I actually wanted to be able to meet people). You wouldn’t believe how offended some guys got at that. So many 30+ guys completely disregarded this list (signalling to me that they didn’t care about my wishes at ALL), and there was even a dude who called me a dumb slut after I responded to his message that I wasn’t interested, as he could have seen on my profile.

      Okay, rant over. I’m just still flabbergasted by how entitled to my attention/adoration some of these guys seemed to feel. Not that that should deter anyone from online dating; I actually met some very nice people there too, including my boyfriend of 2 years who I now live with. 🙂

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    • MissDre June 9, 2011, 11:18 pm

      I met my boyfriend on POF and my brother met his wife on POF.

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      • MissDre January 7, 2013, 12:26 pm

        Update. I’m still with my boyfriend (1.5 years after this original post), and I have a friend who met her husband on POF too.

      • va-in-ny January 7, 2013, 2:21 pm

        I met my boyfriend on POF – we’re celebrating 3 years in a few weeks!

      • MissDre January 7, 2013, 2:30 pm

        Us too 🙂

  • RMM0278 June 8, 2011, 4:09 pm

    Oh I’ve got to add to #2. That ridiculous line I’d see in almost every profile: I’m just as comfortable in jeans as I am in a tuxedo/evening gown. Really? You mastered the art of dressing yourself and wearing clothes that you feel okay about? WOW. There’s my dream date. Gee, do you also enjoy breathing too? As for me? Nothing but potato sacks and muumuus.

    Another one: I love to laugh. Really? You do? We’ll be a terrible match. I do nothing but scowl all day. Laughing is Satan’s poison. I’ll die if I do it.

    Yet another: I love good food. Wow. Trailblazer that you are! You love good food. I’ve never heard that before.

    I don’t know. I guess someone wrote this stuff on a wall in a cave about a million years ago, and humans have been repeating it ever since without THINKING about it.

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    • Britannia June 8, 2011, 5:13 pm

      But what if I want to weed out people who like BAD food?? What if I want to make sure that everyone knows I know how to dress appropriately for most events?? And I need to make sure that everyone knows that I will laugh at every single thing that could be remotely funny, I’m great company!!


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    • Steve June 9, 2011, 9:43 pm

      I like long walks on the beach.

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      • SpyGlassez June 9, 2011, 11:47 pm

        I like long walks off short piers.

  • DramaQueen224 June 8, 2011, 5:09 pm

    I agree with all of these, but I think #4 and #12 might be a little harsh. There’s a difference between online personalities and real life personalities. Someone who’s profile is a little meh can be fascinating in real life and you’ll never know unless you meet them. Similarly, if you’re in a rut, opening yourself to the idea of different types of people might be exactly what you need. Don’t just “practice” and don’t be cruel, but I think actually meeting people is an important part of the process and a half hour coffee date doesn’t hurt.

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    • Brian June 10, 2011, 12:36 am

      As a guy, I have to agree that #4 is a bit harsh. Most sites have some kind of “no thanks” button that at least lets them know you looked and they’re not what you’re looking for. If that brings up a rude response, that’s what the “block” buttons are for.

      Honestly, not taking a second to click “no thanks” or send a “sorry, but we’re just not a good match” email is almost as bad as not at least saying “no thanks” when asked for a second date, instead of just disappearing from the face of the earth. Both are rather cowardly and rude.

      Number 10 is a bit off as well. “low key” is generally the enemy of building chemistry. If you aren’t interested enough in someone to dress up a little and meet for a drink, you probably aren’t interested enough that you should bother to meet. If you’re too busy to meet for a drink one night, you’re probably too busy to be trying to date at all.

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  • lk June 8, 2011, 7:05 pm

    I’ve never tried online dating but I think #14 is probably really, really true.

    Also, don’t do it when you’re in Lunatic Rebound Mode… I watched my cousin try when she was all cray-cray and it was a little scary. She thought she was in love over and over again with any boy who had a hipster picture : ( Bad girl.

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    • SpaceySteph June 8, 2011, 9:52 pm

      Hah I totally went to JDate in my crazy rebound stage. Terrible idea. Only instead of like the guys, I hated every one for stupid, nitpicky reasons. Don’t do it. Wait til you’re actually over the guy (like ‘can find his crap in a drawer and calmly toss it out’ over it- ‘not breaking out into tears’ over it isn’t good enough).

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  • SpaceySteph June 8, 2011, 9:47 pm

    So I had a problem when I was online dating. See, I control the International Space Station. And am a total space nerd. When guys found that out (first it was in my profile then I took it out but you get there by the second date at least) that’s really all they were interested in. Then it kinda feels like a job interview.
    And I like my job, and that + the whole space nerd thing (I want to be an astronaut when I grow up… who does that?) is maybe one of the more interesting things about me. Take that out and you have an average looking girl who likes running and baking and hanging out on Dear Wendy. Kinda dull.

    To solve the problem I started dating a coworker (different group, different building at the space center). He trains astronauts. Now we just argue over which is cooler, controlling the vehicle or training the people. But if I ever am back on the market, its back to JDate I go, and I still don’t know how to fix my problem.

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    • fallonthecity June 8, 2011, 11:07 pm

      Well, I can see how that would be a problem, because it took me a minute or two to work past the whole, “She controls the ISS?! Sooooo jealous!” reaction to your comment. 🙂

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      • SpaceySteph June 9, 2011, 10:56 am

        Yeah. Its cool. But I already do it for 9+ hours a day… when I’m on a date I’d like to maybe for a minute do something else, ya know?
        I dated a guy from JDate for about 2 months and everytime he introduced me to his friends it was like “oh she works for NASA. tell them what you do.” So was he dating me, or just showing off? I don’t know. This was the first guy I semi-seriously dated since breaking up with my college boyfriend, who knew me before I worked here, so I was just very cautious and worried about people and their motives. I wonder if that’s (on a MUCH smaller scale) how movie stars feel too… like how do you have a normal relationship when the first reaction is “omg thats so cool that you do X”?

      • SpyGlassez June 9, 2011, 11:52 pm

        @SpaceySteph – I went to Space Camp and Space Academy as a kid and as a high schooler and up until I was a freshman in college, I wanted to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, at that point my back went bad AND I realized that with my math dyslexia, I would never be able to do the physics and calculus required to actually BE an astronaut. It doesn’t really respond to your comment, but I think that’s so cool!

      • SpaceySteph June 10, 2011, 9:07 am

        I went to space camp too! Fun time. I actually talked about being mission control in space academy when I came out for this job. My interviewer thought it was interesting that the things we did in space academy were alot like actual mission control.
        My boyfriend and I have both discussed that we would agree in a second if offered a one way trip to Mars. We’re a crazy bunch, us astronaut hopefuls. You could be a mission controller even with a bad back. Its never too late!

    • scattol June 9, 2011, 6:24 am

      If you actually control the space station (as in move it to avoid space debris kinda control) I think your best bet would be to hang around at star parties all summer long. It chuck full of guys, some of them single… in the dark … all night long …

      It’s been known to work

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      • SpaceySteph June 9, 2011, 10:52 am

        Hmm star parties do sound fun. We used to have stargazing nights at the telescope on my college campus… but we didn’t call them star parties. Also I never found a date there.
        Funny story, before he was my boyfriend, my current bf said “we should go see that Hubble IMAX movie at the science center.” I already liked him but he was pretty hard to read so I couldn’t decide if he was just a fellow space nerd looking to go see a movie or, you know, ASKING ME OUT. A few weeks later I got impatient and asked him out for real. After we’d been dating for a bit I asked him if he was “asking me out” or just asking me along as a friend… he said he just wanted to see the movie and doesn’t know how I could interpret it any other way. Hah, space nerds are so bad at dating!

    • Avatar photo

      LM January 7, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Kind of like… “I do computer stuff”… “So, cool – you can fix my computer!” But, us computer people are a dime a dozen… space station job, much cooler!

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      • Riefer January 7, 2013, 4:58 pm

        I told a guy once I work with computers, and he was like “don’t bother to tell me, I won’t get it”. Okkkk…. Needless to say, that was our last date.

        Also, it’s super cool that you work for NASA, but I see your problem. I have friends who worked on the Canadarm, but they liked being worshipped for it and didn’t care if that was the main thing girls liked about them. Is that because they’re guys, or were they just a certain type of guy? Anyway, sorry, that’s not helpful advice. Keep dating coworkers, I guess? 🙂

    • LANY January 7, 2013, 4:32 pm

      At the risk of sounding like the many many other people I am sure you hear this from on a regular basis — you are awesome, and I would like to be your friend 🙂

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  • AKchic June 8, 2011, 11:34 pm

    *laugh* When I worked at the prison, all I got was “do you have handcuffs”. I was an administrator. I pushed papers. I wasn’t an officer.

    The condescending BS from guys when the topics of hunting, shooting, fishing, or anyhting outdoors came up was ridiculous. Especially from the military guys. They would act like I was just saying that I was “into that stuff” to impress them. I had one guy ask me if I’d had my muffler bearings checked on my car when I told him I was changing my oil the next day and couldn’t meet up with him for lunch. I told him that I’d get to that when I refilled my blinker fluid and gave him a sarcastic smile.

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    • plasticepoxy June 9, 2011, 11:12 am

      hahaha, blinker fluid. My dad and mom started dating in high school. One of the things he told her before they started dating was that she should tell her dad that his car needed the blinker fluid refilled and something-or-other belt replaced (I can’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t a real car part). She went home, told her dad, who then told her that the boy at the service station must like her, because those things weren’t real. Brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. It doesn’t come across as cute as it does when my mom tells the story. She gets extra smiley and a little giggly. My parents are so in love, it’s fantastic.

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  • SGMcG June 9, 2011, 12:11 am

    Another good thing to add to this list – please don’t use the abbreviations of the personals or popular internet abbreviations (such as LOL or WTF) when responding to an online personal. Write as though you’re writing for a job interview and double check what you’re writing. Better yet, how about writing full sentences and proper grammar in that initial e-mail response? I’m not saying become totally formal in your letter or profile, but make every effort to put your information and response in the best light possible. There’s nothing wrong with adding the occasional smiley, but don’t overwhelm the letter with those graphics as demonstrated:
    If you do that, there’s a good chance that the website will disable them, and you’ll come off looking ridiculous.

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  • dude23 June 9, 2011, 9:22 am

    Yea #2 is full of ….

    I don’t care what somebody did a couple of times in their life, I care about what they are like everyday, if I want to hang out with them, and build a relationship.

    So … you wen skydiving once… great. I guess that proves you are “adventurous”.

    All I care about is what kind of a person are you on most days? If you a B___ most days, then i’m not talking to you, even if you skydive, deep-sea dive or whatever?

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  • airivera June 9, 2011, 11:07 am

    I have met over 30 guys off of the internet. All of them except one are from okcupid. I feel like I have a pretty good ‘process’ by now. My tips:

    1. Don’t get involved with anyone who is long distance. Unless you have mad money to spend on plane tickets and visits this is often SUPER hard and I’m sure there are plenty of interesting men that would work well for you within a 100 mile radius.

    2. Do not try and ‘force’ online conversation. If someone messages you and the conversation feels difficult to advance, example: they don’t ask you questions or discuss interesting things then this is a good indicator that in real life conversation will also be difficult and maybe there aren’t enough connections between the two of you to have a natural conversational repertoire. I have often regretted dates that lacked a natural flow of conversation and then was pissed at myself when I went home and read our messages and realized how much I was CARRYING the conversation. There are always exceptions, but I feel like this is a tell tale sign.

    3. Use Skype. Honestly. It is fucking FANTASTIC. I often use skype as a way to decide if I REALLY want to meet someone off the internet. I think it’s ultra important to not spend an eternity just conversing online but Skype is the second best thing to a real life date. I often use it as a deal breaker to see whether I would want to meet this person. If some dude starts telling me how hot I am or talking to me about how And it sure SAVES time and money.

    I followed these 3 rules and have been dating a wonderful guy that I think I might be in love with. Online dating can WORK if you do it thoughtfully. Also, I met over 30 guys! Shit takes time. Patience and thoroughness is key. Good luck!

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  • LibertyAtStake June 9, 2011, 9:10 pm

    Don’t post your junk unless you’re really sure people will pay to download it.

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

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  • PapayaSF June 9, 2011, 11:29 pm

    A good list, except for #4. I totally disagree: someone has read your profile, thought you seemed attractive, and sent you an email. Assuming it wasn’t some crude come-on, I think it’s only polite to respond, even with a “Thanks, but no thanks.”

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    • Riefer January 7, 2013, 5:03 pm

      I don’t know, when I was on I’d get sometimes 50 a day. And a bunch of those were clearly copied and pasted, and I had gotten the same one from the same guy previously, even when I’d told him no thanks before. So I stopped bothering.

      Not trying to brag about how many I got either – it was annoying. Most of them were from guys who apparently messaged me based purely on the fact that I happen to be blonde. Nothing else about me was ever mentioned. Many of them were clearly banking on the idea that apparently “blondes are sluts”, based on the content of their messages, and therefore didn’t deserve any kind of response from me.

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  • Joanna June 10, 2011, 2:59 am

    Another thing to watch out for is the same guy on every dating site there is. That shows he’s desperate for anyone female, or his standards are too high. If he’s desperate for anyone female, he’s most likely just after sex and/or is a serial monogamist. If his standards are too high, he is most likely trying to find an exact replacement for someone who is no longer in his life (i.e. an ex-girlfriend).

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  • Versie June 10, 2011, 7:34 am

    I absolutely agree with posting a picture that actually captures the real you. I remember posting this mediocre picture that I really enjoyed. There was no photoshop, no pimple removing, of whatever effects, it was a picture taken by surprise by a friend that I really enjoyed. Posted that one and I got a message saying: “Hey you got a big head”. :))

    The moral of the story is that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to date that person in the first place, since they thought I had a big head, that was plenty of information for me to know they’re shallow and put a lot of focus on how a person looks instead of how that person thinks.

    I’m using only paid membership websites as a general rule of thumb, because I think they provide a way better group of serious users that are interested in long lasting relationships and commitment. I’m frequently using eharmony promotional code to cut down on the monthly payments, but I’d probably pay full price as well because I enjoy it so much.

    This was the only rule I set out for myself when dating online: “Just be yourself!”

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  • Erica Richard February 4, 2013, 9:19 am

    I learned one important lesson from this life. you should do what you think you should do. no matter what others think, no matter that your ideas may seem stupid to them, you should pursue you dreams. If you think that an online dating site can help you find your significant other, then you are right:) This is what i did three years ago. I ignored everyone’s opinions and followed my heart. So that’s how I met my husband on eDesirs!

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