Rawpixell.com/Shutterstock
Source: Rawpixell.com/Shutterstock

While the growing number of online dating services on the one hand may be a good thing, the sheer number of sites available may conspire to make the process of online dating ever more confusing.  Indeed, there are estimated to be 2,500 in the United States alone, and about 5,000 in the world overall (Online Dating Magazine, 2016).  But I'm sure what we all really want to know is how to make online dating work for us.  There are of course no guarantees that you can make anything work.  Yet by following certain strategies, we may be able to  increase our chances.  This was adequately demonstrated in two studies by Nicolas Gueguen (2007).  One took place in a nightclub where a young male asked a female to dance with him, and another on a street where a male approached a female and asked for her phone number.  In each situation, the male touched the female on the forearm.  Gueguen found that a touch by the male to the forearm of the female  increased compliance with the male’s request.  This neatly demonstrates, that behaving in a certain way (in this case touching) can affect the likelihood of achieving something.  Therefore, can employing certain strategies increase our likelihood of successful online dating?  Below are some strategies to consider.

1. Which website or app?

The first thing is to decide on which dating website or app you are going to use.  In addition to the mainstream dating sites and apps, there are those which cater for a more niche market, ranging from Uniformdating.com, Glutenfreesingles.com to Theuglybugball.com.  Unless you are very wealthy, have plenty of time on your hands and can afford to join lots of them, you have to be selective in the type of dating site you choose.  Some sites require you to complete lengthy psychometric tests before promising to link you with a potential date using some kind of matching system.  However, according to Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis & Sprecher (2012), there is no evidence that these systems actually work in finding you the right person, so you may wonder whether it's worth the time completing such detailed profile information.  On the other hand, some sites simply require you to upload a photograph or two, probably the most famous of these being Tinder.  

One thing worth considering is that familiarity with and similarity to someone makes you more attractive to them.  Therefore, using a dating site which caters for your own particular interests or values may be an important consideration, as this may facilitatate attraction and a possible long term relationship.

2. Constructing your profile

Whichever site or app you use, you will probably be required to write at least a sentence or two about yourself.  Examinations of the way in which people describe themselves in dating profiles, has shown that men are more likely to describe themselves as dominant, wealthy and being prepared to invest time and effort in children, whereas females typically advertise themselves as being physically attractive.  According to evolutionary psychology, males and females describing themselves in these particular ways are more likely to appear attractive to the opposite sex (Buss, 1989).

One other piece of advice in describing yourself is to try to be as original as possible.  Absolutely avoid clichés (like the plague).  Don’t just say that you like long walks on the beach or you like staying in with a glass of wine, because really – who doesn’t?  

3. Evaluating other profiles

Any online dating site you use will appear to offer you a vast range of potential matches maybe to the extent that the sheer number of people from whom we can apparently choose may make this task, rather daunting.  When faced with such a large choice set, people often tend to make poorer and sometimes lazier decision choices, sometimes based on pre prescribed lists of (to us) desirable characteristics or maybe some other form of systematic assessment.

Finkel et al’s paper referred to above, advises not adopting an assessment mindset when using online dating.  Therefore, rather than using a list of desired characteristics you should try to select people based more on the basis of whether we think we could have an enjoyable time with them. 

4. Online chat

Once you have selected one or two potential dates, you next need to send them a message in order to ascertain whether they might be interested.  The advice is to send a message which indicates that you have examined their profile   “Dear (insert name here).  I like your (insert detail here) generic type messages are not a good idea, because they probably indicate that you are simply sending lots of messages in the hope of attracting someone.  That doesn't exactly make the recipient feel particularly special. 

Construct your message in a way that shows you are actually interested in the person.  If you can make your message humorous also, then that may be a good thing as we all report we like someone with a good sense of humour, whether they are funny themselves, or whether they can laugh along with us.

5. Meeting up

The end goal should obviously be to meet in person and not chat online forever.  After all, you surely don’t just want a pen pal.  Online dating is really nothing more than an introduction service, so aim to meet up quickly.  A real life meeting will obviously tell you far more than any online chat will be able to.  

When you meet, have some conversation prepared, and some as a backup.  A date can start to go badly if the conversation dries up.  Of course you need to avoid all the sensitive subjects like politics or religion.  Furthermore, having a conversation on a date should not turn into an interview or interrogation.  Finally, be positive as nobody really likes you if you are miserable or negative.  

Easy yeah?  Happy dating :)

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References

•    Buss, D. M. (1989) ‘Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures’  Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1-49.  

•    Finkel, E. J.,Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., and Sprecher, S. (2012) ‘Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science’ Psychological Science in the Public Interest 13, (1), 3-66.

•    Gueguen, N. (2007) ‘Courtship compliance: The effect of touch on women’s behaviour’ Social Influence, 2, (2), 81-97.

•    Online Dating Magazine (2016) ‘How Many Online Dating Sites Are There?’ http://www.onlinedatingmagazine.com/faq/howmanyonlinedatingsitesarethere... (Accessed June 9, 2016).

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