DEAR DR. JENN,
I think I come across as fun and attractive in my online dating profile, but by inbox is always empty or filled with messages from men I would never date. What am I getting wrong? How do I improve my profile? —Not OK, Cupid
If your inbox is full of duds, your instinct may be to narrow your search. Don’t—you’re better off casting a wide net and developing the savvy to weed through interested parties. Online dating is truly a numbers game. You are guaranteed to get a high ratio of frogs to princes. That said, it sounds like your ratio is outside the frog-prince norm, which indicates that your profile may be sending the wrong message. If you know exactly what you’re looking for—or what you’re definitely not looking for—there are a few ways to tweak your profile to appeal to your target bae.
A lot of men mindlessly swipe right on every profile they’re shown to see who’s receptive and only then decide which mutual right swipers they’re remotely interested in. Many do not read profiles or even look at pictures first. I have a male friend who actually paid for an app that automatically swipes right for all women within certain parameters. Yes, those exist! But two can play at that game. I’m not suggesting you get tendinitis from autopilot swiping; what I am suggesting is that you arm yourself with the knowledge that a “match” isn’t always a match and learn to shrewdly distinguish the catches from the flops. (More on that later.)
If you feel like you’re matching with people, just not your people, another matter to consider is the specific sites and apps you’re on. Looking to date a fellow creative? Maybe Raya’s for you. Do you like to lead in your relationships? Give Bumble a try. Some platforms are reputed to be more hookup-focused (Tinder, Down, Grindr), whereas others are geared toward people seeking relationships (Match, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel). That gap seems to be closing, but do a little homework and ask your single friends how they use these apps to make sure they cater to whatever you’re looking for.
1. Each Photo Should Have a Specific Purpose
Dating apps are fast-paced and highly visual. I’m sure your future soul mate will be attracted to your inner beauty, but first you need to captivate their attention. Choose between three and five photos (fewer doesn’t build a narrative, more is overkill) that are eye-catching and tell a story about who you are.
The basics: Nix the selfies; they come across as narcissistic. Don’t wear sunglasses; eyes are the windows to the soul (plus you look like you’re hiding something). Include one full-body shot to display your physical type. That said, no bikini shots unless you’re just looking to hook up. Don’t use group shots; if it takes too long to figure out which one you are, people just swipe left. Don’t include shots with an ex or someone who could be mistaken for one. Ditto shots in which you’ve clearly cropped another person out; some will assume it’s an ex, others will simply look down on your poor Photoshopping skills, but no one wants to see the arm of the person who was there before us. Include one summer shot; research has found that people are seen as more attractive in summery photographs than in their winter pics. Always use high-quality, recent photos. And change up your photos regularly; a new pic may catch the interests of someone who passed over you the first time.
But the real secret to your photo reel is to think of it as a synopsis of who you are. Choose photos that display your specific interests, without hitting any one note too hard; each photo should reveal a new and different facet of yourself. For example, if you’re a runner, include one picture of you crossing a finish line. Not only will this attract potential partners with similar interests, it also gives suitors easy conversation starters.
2. Make It Easy to Ask You Questions
The words in your profile are meant to seduce, yes, but also to make it super easy for someone to start a conversation with you. The more ice breakers you include, the more comfortable and inspired potential dates will feel to shoot you a one liner that’s more personal than “sup?”
Ask questions: “I’m new to LA and looking for my new sushi joint. Which is your favorite?” Include quirky details that give a browser the opportunity to ask for more information. Generalities (“I love hip-hop,” “I’m an avid baker”) don’t open the door like subtleties do (“If I could have dinner with one person, it’d be Cardi B,” “My butternut squash pie is better than yours—challenges accepted”).
Even your handle is an opportunity to intrigue. Jill1234 is not going to get the job done. Go for something fun that stokes curiosity. The ice cream-loving art-history aficionado might be PopsiclesandPicasso. Her suitors know exactly what to ask her about. You can even casually embed date ideas into your profile by mentioning the movie you’ve been dying to see or your favorite activity in your city. The main thing: Give them an opening.
3. Keep It Upbeat
This is not the place to bare your soul. No exes, scarring memories, daddy issues. Keep it light—and short, because most people won’t read your manifesto. Talk about what you like, not to what you don’t like. “I’m not a big going-out person,” sounds like a drag, even if it’s true and you’re a wonderfully entertaining homebody. “I love sharing a good movie and making new pasta dishes,” sounds fun and creates a vision of a date, even a life together. Show personality, instead of talking about it. Rather than saying you're adventurous, share the time you jumped out of a plane. Bonus points for corresponding photos.
4. State Your Romantic Goals
Are you looking for a hook up? A FWB situation? A fun boyfriend? A husband? State what you want. You may think that will scare off matches who aren’t looking for the same thing—and it will. That’s exactly the point. Make sure your photos align with your romantic goals. If you’re looking for a husband who's ready to settle down and start a family, skip the shot of you dancing on the table drunk at your best friend’s party. Of course wives dance on tables too, but you’re trying to build a visual narrative that's easily decodable.
5. Screen Well—and Quickly
Toss potential suitors who don’t align with your goals, and do so quickly. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you can immediately eliminate anyone who makes sexual innuendos or asks for naked pictures right off the bat. Avoid responses that seem cut-and-pasted, and look for well-thought-out messages from people who ask questions about the details in your profile and are forthcoming about themselves.
I also advise talking to potential dates on the phone before meeting in person, which gives you a better sense of who they are, what their energy is like, and if you have a rapport. Trust your instinct—if someone doesn’t pique your interest or sounds creepy on the phone, listen to that. Too many women go on dates solely not to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s a potentially dangerous and poor use of your limited dating time.
These tips should whip your inbox into shape. I hope you find your prince soon, and, in the meantime, sometimes kissing frogs is fun.