The bar scene has turned stale, the last friend to set you up was way off the mark, and you’ve given up on bumping into your true love on the street. It’s time to try online dating. Don’t panic, though, you’re not going out there unarmed.
With a few tricks up your sleeve, dating in the age of the Internet won’t seem as scary. Just ask Sanjay Salomon, classifieds producer here at Boston.com, who met his fiancee online. He and Deborah Sloan of It’s a Date! shared their best advice on how to make the most of everything from profiles to that first in-person meeting.
Soak up their words of wisdom, find the right service for you, and put yourself out there!
Newsflash: This is totally normal.
For many, the thought of trying an online dating service to begin with is just plain weird. But Salomon said that it’s actually a much easier way to find love.
“There’s a lot of pressure to not be single, and online dating gives you an environment and mindset that’s more relaxing,’’ he said. Part of that, he said, is because “the ice is officially broken.’’ Everyone understands that you’re trying to find a date — after all, so are they.
Make the sparks fly
“When setting up a profile, say something interesting to spark a conversation,’’ Salomon said. “You’re a Red Sox fan. Who isn’t? The more detail and intrigue the better — just don’t pretend to be James Bond.’’
Salomon’s fiancee used to be a monkey trainer, and she included that interesting tidbit in her profile. Doors like that, Salomon said, can open up to deeper conversations.
Talk yourself up
Deborah Sloan, whose It’s a Date! service will help adults over 40 craft the perfect online dating profile and first e-mail message, said that people tend to shy away from talking about themselves too much in real life.
“There’s that fear that comes in right away,’’ she said. “How do I find that fine line between doing a good job of telling my story and sounding too puffed up?’’
Sloan said to think of an online profile in two ways: first, as a movie trailer, and second, as a resume.
“Isn’t it annoying when you see a trailer that tells you so much about the movie you don’t want to see it?’’ she said. Telling a few compelling details, but not your whole life story, is key. So is spending time writing, rewriting, and editing your profile, the same way you’d rewrite a resume to get your dream job.
Step into the spotlight
“Be real about yourself and answer that question, ‘Why would someone want to date me?’’’ Sloan said. You may love your kids, your pets, or your family, she said, but your prospective dream date isn’t interested in them yet. They want to get to know you, so keep the focus on you.
How about you?
At the same time, include your potential matches in your profile by asking a few questions.
“Make the reader feel that you’re talking to them and are as interested in their story as you are in your own,’’ Sloan said. If you love cooking, tossing in something like “I love finding unique recipes from around the world. What’s the most exotic thing you’ve eaten?’’ will invite conversation.
Do not reply
Salomon advised against contacting anyone with these phrases in his or her profile:
“Laid back’’ means “Unemployed.’’
“No drama’’ means “Please do not attempt to have an adult conversation.’’
“Hi! My account is only active for the next three days!’’ means, well, nothing. That’s pretty much it. (By the way, they sound like “The One.’’ You should meet!)
“HELLO! I AM VERY PLEASING TO MEET YOU’’ means “Hey, can’t wait to learn your PIN, SSN, etc.’’
The perfect picture
“Even though you can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to make that cover the best it can be,’’ Sloan said. “The first photo someone’s going to see of you is going to be featured with a number of other people.’’
To really stand out, Sloan said that there’s nothing better than a classic headshot. Remember, your photo will be featured next to rows and rows of others. The photo should be a close-up shot with a background that doesn’t distract.
Kids, no; clothes, yes
Again, Sloan advises against including pets, kids, family, or friends in your photo. “They’re not dating those people, they’re dating you,’’ she said.
“And keep your clothes on! Most guys actually don’t need to see the bikini shots,’’ she added. Instead, Sloan recommended choosing photos that show off your figure without being so revealing or using some space in your profile to talk about the importance of fitness in your life.
Drop them a line!
So you’ve finally spotted the guy or girl of your dreams — now what? Don’t just wink, poke, nudge, or whatever other nonverbal method of communication the platform offers.
“We write a very short e-mail that we feel expresses them but also says a little bit about the person they’re trying to reach,’’ Sloan said. “If they get an e-mail that speaks to nothing in their profile, they know this person is just sending it to everybody.’’ A personalized message with an open-ended question is always more effective than an impersonal note.
Keep in touch…the right way.
“Keep track of who you’ve contacted,’’ Salomon advised. That way, you’ll spare yourself — and whoever rejected you in the first place — from having to go through that awful song and dance again.
It’s also important to only contact people who seem to welcome the advance. “Respect what other people want,’’ Salomon said. That means that if a person’s profile says his or her dream date is between 30 and 40 years old, stay away if you don’t fit that range.
And if you do get rejected or don’t fit the bill, learn to take “no’’ for an answer. “Online dating isn’t like Amazon.com,’’ Salomon said. “You don’t always get what you want.’’
Dinner and a movie is way too much pressure for a first date with someone you’ve only ever spoken with online. Instead, go for something shorter and more casual.
“Coffee or a drink is perfect because you can both walk away from it easily,’’ Salomon said. You can bolt after one drink if the date is going horribly wrong, or linger over another round if you’re really hitting it off.
Happily ever after — or not
At the end of the date, “don’t pressure the other person to make another plan on the spot,’’ Salomon said. “Just say you had a nice time.’’
If things went well, Salomon said it’s usually on the ladies to make that known. “Guys usually wait for a cue,’’ Salomon said.
And if they didn’t? “There’s no harm in not contacting the other person, but if you want to be polite and say it’s not going to work, go right ahead.’’