Step By Step

1. Choose a Service 2. Set Up an Account 3. Write Your ProfileThe Screen Name The Headline The Picture The Vitals The Essay 5. Respond...Or Don’t 6. The Email Dialogue 7. The Phone Call 8. The Date

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Step 3: Write Your Profile

The Essays

The essay questions give you the chance to show your personality. They can be very hard to write. Take your time, have people edit your answers, and as I’ve said before, check your spelling. On the other hand, your profile will never be perfect. You’ll inevitably be dissatisfied with some of your answers. That’s OK. A profile is a work in progress; you can always change it later.

Before you write your profile, check out your competition. Most people’s profiles are tragically generic. If your profile is original, people will pay attention to that and respond to you. If you see the same answer repeated by other people, don’t put that answer in your profile. Wit is a great way to differentiate your profile; just make sure that other members aren’t making the same witticisms. Nerve Personals asks, “What’s the best lie you’ve ever told?” You might think that “I never lie” is a clever, ironic answer. Judging by the number of people who answered the same way, you’re not alone. But a clever answer doesn’t seem so clever when you’ve already seen it five times.

Some of my friends disagree, but I think attitude is a great way to inject personality and originality into your profile. Show some disdain for the questions and the whole dating thing. Attitude demonstrates that you’ve got some edge; you’re not just another pleasant, boring stranger. It also suggests confidence and shows that you’re not overeager. But attitude does not mean arrogance. If you turn your profile into a soapbox for whining about the dating scene or the opposite gender, the opposite gender will tend to leave you alone.

[TR: Totally disagree. I think negative attitude falls under the “get over yourself” heading. While dating can be a pain in the ass, showing disdain for the whole dating thing makes you sound like a pain in the ass. MJ: Let’s compromise, show attitude but not about dating.]

I do recommend answering all the essay questions. The profile is your only chance to show yourself to people before they decide whether to contact you, and you should take advantage of every opportunity. But you don’t have to answer every question seriously. If a question is stupid, you can say that. Or better yet, you can write something obviously ironic that doesn’t answer the question at all but shows off your wit and irreverent attitude.

And before you write any dissertation-length answers to the profile questions, you may want to find out the maximum number of characters allowed in the space. For example, Match limits your response to their About You question to 250 characters. Some sites also require you to enter a minimum number of characters in order to answer a question.

Here are a few obvious qualities you should strive to include or avoid in your profile:

Include Avoid

About You

Every dating service has some kind of question which allows you to talk about yourself. Do not blow off this question. It might make you uncomfortable, but you have to promote yourself if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your profile. But be subtle, and try to show rather than tell by discussing your interests in a way that highlight your strengths. For example, instead of writing, “I’m smart”, make literary references or write about how you enjoy intellectual discussion. Instead of writing, “I’m hip”, refer to cool new bands. Definitely do not write, “I’m funny.” Be funny. There is nothing more attractive than a hilarious profile. A short anecdote can be a also good way to say something about yourself in an original and compelling manner.

Do not represent yourself as lonely or sad. If you can pull it off without seeming obnoxious, try to imply that you don’t care whether anyone likes your profile. Disinterest can be very attractive. Overeagerness, when it comes to e-dating, is a turn off.

[TR: I agree about avoiding overeagerness, but showing disinterest? That’s just MJ’s twisted taste.]

To differentiate your profile, try to come up with things about yourself that are unique or exceptional, like an unusual place you’ve lived, a weird job you’ve had, or an uncommon hobby. Don’t be afraid to advertise your quirks; they will set your profile apart from the rest. Even sharing some negative qualities is OK, so long as they’re not too negative. A little self-deprecation shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Check out what other people are saying about themselves both to give you ideas and to avoid cliché. If you see enough profiles, you’ll see that most members rely on the same key words or phrases, e.g.

When I read those keywords, my eyes glaze over. For some reason, nurturing particularly bugs me. Sometimes it seems that every other woman describes herself as nurturing. I’m not even sure that I fully understand what it means and tend to read it as code for “I want babies”. It’s not the babies I object to; it’s the code word. If you want to promote your nurturing qualities, try to find an alternative way to talk about them, such as writing about the satisfaction you receive from helping friends in need or recounting the time you once hit a deer and cried all night.

What You’re Looking For

This section might seem like it’s about other people, but it’s actually about you. Unless you’re extremely specific, most people who read your profile will think that they fit what you’re looking for. Either that or they’ll ignore it. If you’re an attractive young, woman, you could write in this section, “I absolutely, positively refuse to date anyone over the age of 30,” and you’ll still get messages from 50-year-old geezers. It’s annoying, but try not to sweat it. You can ignore their messages. Your goal should not be to discourage the messages you don’t want but to encourage the messages you do.

So why write anything at all in this section? People will learn more about you by learning what kind of people you’re looking for. If you write that you’re looking for someone intellectual, it implies that you’re an intellectual. If you write that physical attraction is important to you, it suggests that you are physically attractive. If you write that you value punctuality, it means that you’re punctual.

Don’t be afraid to be a little negative. The qualities that people seek—attractiveness, intelligence, passion, humor—are fairly homogenous, but the qualities that people dislike are much more diverse, so explaining what you don’t want is a good way to differentiate your profile. It also demonstrates that you’re selective, which is a good thing.

On the other hand, too much negativity is unattractive. A sentence or two about what you don’t want is fine. A laundry list of unwanted qualities will overshadow the positive stuff and make you seem peevish and demanding. And outright obnoxiousness will get you nowhere. “Fat chicks need not apply” will put off not only overweight women but also all the women who just think you’re shallow.