Hands up if you have hundreds of matches on dating apps who you’ve never spoken to. It’s a pretty common habit, and probably the result of just having too much choice.
But according to Erika Ettin, relationship coach and the founder of dating site A Little Nudge, this is just one of the many ways we are doing ourselves a disservice when it comes to looking for love.
Ettin spoke to Business Insider about all the ways you’re going wrong on your dating app profiles, and what you should do instead to help you find “the one.” They aren’t rules, rather tried and tested methods that work.
“You’ll find an exception to every rule, but my background is analytical, and I’m an analytical person,” Ettin said. “So if something works 99% of the time, that’s what I’m going to recommend. You’ll always find the 1% and that’s fine, but I’d rather give you a better chance.”
Most of the mistakes are surprisingly simple – scroll down to see how many you’re guilty of.
1. Not writing a bio
You might think that not writing anything on your profile makes you look aloof and mysterious. In reality, you just look boring, and you’re giving your potential matches too much of a reason to swipe left (left meaning no thanks).
“It doesn’t matter how attractive you look in your pictures, if you haven’t written a single word then people question what the heck you’re doing on there,” Ettin said. “So it doesn’t take much. I only recommend 20-40 words on a dating app. 20 words is not that many, and you can write anything.”
You can write a couple of words about what you do for a living, two truths and a lie, a few bullet points – it doesn’t matter. Literally anything is better than no words at all.
2. Just writing your height
This is one of Ettin’s pet peeves. Some men think women are just after a man over a certain height, which isn’t true at all.
“When men only list their height, it’s as if that’s the only thing to offer in this world,” Ettin said. “I’m sure some people who care about height are appreciative of that, but seriously is that the only thing? It’s insulting! Like, wow he’s a catch, he’s 6ft tall, but maybe he was in jail last year.”
3. Too many pictures
Just because an app allows you to upload a certain amount of photos, this doesn’t mean you should. According to Ettin, four or five is the optimum.
“People have a tendency to look through every picture and find one they don’t like, and then dismiss you because of that one,” she said. “I would never put more than five pictures. It’s enough. People can see what you look like.”
4. Your first picture isn’t of your face
The first photo should always be one of your face, Ettin said. That way, people know for sure what you look like. So no more pictures of you looking off to the side.
“People are making a snap decision, so if you’re too far away, or if you’re blurry, they will swipe left on you regardless of what you look like,” Ettin said. “So people need to see your face.”
5. No full body photo
It works in your favour to post a full body picture, because otherwise people will jump to conclusions.
“People want to see a full body picture because when assumptions are made they’re usually not the most favourable assumptions,” Ettin said. “So don’t let them make those assumptions.”
6. No interesting photos
Even if you don’t have the cliché photo of you skydiving, you should still put up a photo of you doing something interesting. This just makes things easier for the person matching with you, because it will generate questions.
“Especially on Bumble where the woman has to write first, for the guy I really recommend a photo that she can ask a question about,” Ettin said. “I call that message bait. Basically you’re putting bait out there, the person writing to you feels brilliant that he or she used the bait, but really you planted it there.”
For example, if you do public speaking add a photo of you at a microphone. Or if you play a sport, try and find an image of you doing that.
7. Pictures with other people
Ettin doesn’t recommend ever having pictures with other people in them. She said she gets a lot of pushback on this, with people saying how it shows they have friends. But in reality, nobody assumes you have no friends, so you don’t need the proof.
“They assume you do have friends until you show them you’re trying too hard to show you do have friends,” Ettin said. “So ultimately, people want to see the person who’s going to show up on the date. If you put friends in pictures, inevitably you’re going to be compared to your own friends.”
You’re already going to be compared to everyone on the site, so why would you do that to yourself in your own profile?
8. Nothing but group pictures
The same goes for too many group pictures. You might think it shows how sociable and fun you are, but really the person on the other end is just getting tired with trying to work out who you are.
“People have a short attention span, so they’re not going to look at the picture and try and figure out who you are,” Ettin said. “It’s easier to just swipe left. Like, which one do I get? Especially if the first picture is a group picture – forget it.”
9. Too many pictures of people of the opposite sex
If you’re a woman looking for a man, or vice versa, you should avoid having pictures with people of the opposite sex. According to Ettin, it’s very intimidating.
“The rationale people use is ‘well they like me so you should too,'” she said. “But it backfires.”
10. Boring conversation starters
You may have heard the phrase “hay is for horses.” It’s certainly not for people you talk to on dating apps. Ettin said it just leads to a really boring conversation, if any.
“If the person has given you something in their profile to reference, either that message bait picture, or something interesting written, just ask a question about it,” she said. “For example, if someone has a picture of them playing tennis, you can ask them do you compete or do you play for fun. It’s simple, all you have to do is pick one thing and ask about it, and that will start the conversation.”
This is much easier than answering “hey, how are you,” 20 times a day. If they have really given you nothing to go on, then you have to get creative.
“Something that weirdly works more often than it should is the pizza emoji and then write or the sushi emoji question mark,” Ettin said. “People are very into their pizza or sushi choices, so that tends to work surprisingly well.”
11. No momentum
Don’t take too long to arrange a date with someone you’re interested in, or you’ll lose momentum, Ettin said.
The problem is, someone on a dating app likely isn’t just talking to you – they’re talking to multiple people. Also they’re busy and have jobs, so you want to stay at the forefront of their mind.
“Ultimately the apps are just a tool to get to meet in person,” Ettin said. “So I recommend if people match on a Tuesday they have a date lined up by the next Tuesday. The date doesn’t have to be within the week, but something should be on the calendar.”
Once you lose momentum, you might end up at the bottom of the person’s screen. If they get continuous matches, you’re not a priority any more, and you might have missed your chance.
12. Talking over text too much
Some people like to talk over text and even over the phone before they meet someone from a dating app. Ettin said she tells people not to do this.
“I think there’s no substitute for chemistry in person to see if you have it,” she said. “A phone call only gives you a part of someone’s personality. You can’t see body language over the phone, and not everyone is good on the phone.”
Even exchanging numbers before meeting up can be a bad idea, because once you start texting you lose the urgency, Ettin said.
“It’s like you have a texting buddy, and I have found through my clients, there is no urgency anymore in setting up the date,” she said. “The texts usually fizzle before the date ever happens.
So if someone asks for your number, you could say “even better why don’t we just meet?” or “I’m enjoying this conversation, think we should meet for a drink?”
13. Keeping a backlog of matches you never talk to
Some people see collecting matches on dating apps as some kind of game. But really, there’s no point in having a load of matches who you never speak to.
Ettin said if you match with someone then think they’re not for you, you should simply un-match them. After all, you can always rematch with someone.
“I’m a fan of a clean inbox in general, and in life. And the same thing with the dating apps,” she said. “If you have too many matches in there it means you open the app and you see all this stuff you don’t want to reply to, and you close it. So try to keep it only to people you’re actively communicating with.”
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