Ali Pica

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: 6 tips for a better online dating experience

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: 6 tips for a better online dating experience
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As summer approaches and cookouts are abundant, some of us single people may feel awkward or isolated at times. We see our friends with their significant others, being adorably obnoxious by putting their arms around one another, feeding each other potato chips (and yet we fail to notice the mess they make with the crumbs), among other rainbow bunny puking, sickening cute behavior that happy couples exude. I don’t know about you, but when you’re lacking something, like a boyfriend, numerous gluten-free beers won’t detract your attention from being alone. It only makes things worse.

Anyway, I figured instead of whining about my lack of love, I’d be proactive. My (and plenty of other people’s) version of being productive with dating is through the wonderful world of technology. I have tried online dating off and on throughout the years and watched its evolution and its pitfalls. I read and conducted research about online social networking and online dating and put this information to good use. From my research and experience, I am relaying to you these six tips in navigating online dating.

1. Make your intentions clear and don’t be a fake.

Don’t bother wasting your time being phony and pretending you are someone else. Seriously. People will find out you aren’t your sister, brother, cousin, friend, or random picture of a model found on the Internet. I understand you want to present the best version of you, but that version should be of you. Also, don’t pretend you like something because the person you’re talking to is interested in it. I can tell when guys Google stuff about movies and then get it wrong. I know what it feels like to be on the opposite end of falsity and have heard horror stories.

I remember going to meet a guy who I talked to online at a Barnes & Noble. In his picture, he looked 10 years younger, much thinner, and had a full head of hair. Being the nice person that I am, I ran out of the store without exchanging a word. He’s lucky he didn’t approach me or otherwise I would have yelled or punched him in the face. Please don’t be a liar! And if you feel that others wouldn’t like your appearance (hence the reason for a fake profile picture), please work on improving yourself (your health or whatever it is). People aren’t as shallow as you would think. Or are they?

2. Don’t expect to meet a supermodel/rocket scientist/millionaire.

I mean it – don’t have super high expectations of what people look or will be like. People online are real people (even though they may not present themselves as such). I have met enough people from the Internet to: A. Expect to be disappointed, and B. Be happy when I’m not.

There’s a lot of research that supports the notion that people with depression have expectations that are too high. Also, people with depression tend to use online social networking more often, which includes online dating. This doesn’t mean that everyone who uses online dating is depressed or that they have high expectations, but get this – there are other studies saying that people, most often men, who overindulge in pornography have altered expectations of desired mates and significant differences in their brains versus non-excessive porn watchers. The theory is that people who watch porn excessively have distorted views of what romantic encounters should be like. If you think that people who are obsessed with porn are losers, think again. They appear to be normal, well-adjusted, hard-working, and educated people. Sadly, they just have severe difficulties forming bonds with others because of a need to recreate a porn-like fantasy where none exists. It’s not just a male thing either; women who also follow the media closely have similar issues (e.g. women who watch reality TV, read tabloids, etc.).

Basically, there are a lot of us brainwashed by society who keep passing on great potential mates because we think there’s always someone better around the corner, which brings me to my next point.

3. Stop obsessively searching.

It is one thing to mindlessly swipe right (and accidentally left) on your phone while you’re in the bathroom (we online daters have all done this), but don’t go insane in trying to find “the right one” because you’ll never find it. Sites like Plenty of Fish have ironic names for a reason (other than the creepy smelly fish that inhabit this site, I’m somewhat joking) – online dating is truly like fishing. It’s funny reading guys’ profiles and seeing how many actually like to fish. There are a lot, and there are reasons why they never cease to exist on these sites (for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons). They are patient. People who like to fish don’t freak out if they don’t catch a fish right away. They kick back, relax, and toss their best equipment out there (hopefully they’re not flashers). They may catch a guppy or a boot now and then, but in the meantime, they throw back a beer and wait.

If you didn’t like that analogy, think of dating like applying for jobs. You want to put your best out there for people to see, but you don’t want to seem desperate. My advice to you is don’t use an online dating app, or at least turn your notifications off. You’ll get used to not being connected to online dating, like breaking free from an IV.

4. Don’t write a novel in your profile or message to someone.

First, people have short attention spans… squirrel! People have busy lives (e.g. working, watching Netflix) and don’t need to read your memoir. Also, leave out the pretentious jargon (e.g. technical crap you do for a living), philosophical rants about world issues, or your wanderlust. Some things are better left for much later, or possibly never. According to research, the shorter the profiles, the better (not too brief, but about 150 words or so, like you were writing a tweet). People are used to condensed information, so just provide enough details to give us the gist of who you are, like your interests and why you are using online dating (on second thought, you might not want to be too honest).

As sad as it sounds, don’t write about how you’ve been screwed over in previous relationships and how you vow to only date perfect people. I understand, it happens, but try to stay positive and use positive language. People like to read positive words, like “happiness,” “love,” “friends,” etc. Choose your words wisely. Thankfully, you can edit.

Lastly, don’t copy and paste messages to people. It’s like reading a cover letter, and cover letters are for business. I don’t know if women are guilty of this, but I have had men clearly copy and paste messages to me. It goes something like this:

Hey U r hot! I wanna know mor abut u.

Please use autocorrect at least. Or this:

Hello (insert your name here),

You seem interesting and attractive. I am (insert his name here) and I am a (insert job title here: engineer, firefighter, circus performer, etc.). I am a (insert life scenario: single dad, traveling here for business, etc.) Hope to hear from you soon.

Yours truly,

(insert his name again)

Voila! You are a bot, and not the fun, surly drinking kind.

5. Choose your photos and username wisely.

Ladies, I have read and heard interesting theories about what males are looking for in women’s profile pictures. Do what you will with this information; don’t shoot the messenger. There’s research that states that if women wear red in their profile pic, men perceive them as more promiscuous or less likely to want a serious relationship. I, incidentally, have done this and have noticed more messages from men, but not the kind I wanted. Second, some research says that men are more likely to look at and message women who show some skin. That seems like a no-brainer, but I have no idea what you would operationally define as “showing skin.” I imagine you should gauge that according to what type of attention you want. I go by the rule of thumb that if a family member saw my profile, they wouldn’t be embarrassed. That’s still not a clear definition, but I suggest you follow your values and do what feels comfortable.

Guys, there’s no need to show us your mostly naked pics or your action-packed adventure shots (you know what I mean). The one time you went tandem skydiving isn’t a true representation of what you do every day. I know you want to be more exciting than taking a selfie watching Netflix or toiling away at your office desk, but you can be slightly more creative and realistic. And I am bothered when men or women are practically naked in their profile pics. It’s gross. If I’m seeing it, it obviously means everyone else is too.

Last, and this goes for everyone, please have at least one photo of yourself alone. I hate sifting through photos and trying to guess who you are; I’m going to assume you are the least attractive person in the photos. Also, every photo doesn’t have to look like you’re still in college (unless you are, I guess). Drinking parties are fun, but not a place for profile pics.

Usernames… ugh. Stop using usernames like “niceguy” or “butterflygurl.” When I see “nice guy” in a username or profile, I run. If you need to tell me you are a “nice guy,” you’re probably not. Try to make a username that reflects your personality, but please don’t use your full name in your username or profile. Be safe.

6. Make use of your options.

Like I said earlier, if there’s a web-based version of the dating site you are using, don’t use the app. Take a step back from online dating and live your life. You could use options to send notifications to your phone if you want, like if someone sends you a message, or browse anonymously. Trust me – you don’t have to pay to take advantage of these sites either. There’s purposely a learning curve so you would be willing to do so.

Also, have you noticed that no one ever talks to anyone on Tinder? Maybe that’s just me? I hear people say it often too.

Keep in mind that online dating is a business, so developers mess with people on a regular basis to keep their customer base hooked. It’s a matter of just finding out how.

Do stay positive. Hopefully, my words of wisdom will help you in your journey towards a relationship, or whatever you’re looking for online. As someone who experienced the ups and downs of online dating, I understand your setbacks and wish you luck towards success.

By the way, I don’t know how online dating experiences differ from straight people to those in the LGBT community, but it’s something I am interested in learning.

Please send your comments, experiences, and questions to or reply below.

Sincerely yours,


Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Ali is an advice column that runs every Friday on NEPA Scene. E-mail your anonymous question to Ali here to be featured in a future column.