Shocker: The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are a super-popular time of year for online-dating services.
Dating app Happn, for example, said in a press release that February 7 is the busiest time of year for its users. Meanwhile, last year dating services including OKCupid and Match told TIME that they see big spikes in signups and activity around the holiday.
But just because you’re open to finding love online doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it can be terrifying to wade through thousands of nearby matches in the hopes of finding someone decent (who thinks you’re decent, too).
To make things a little less intimidating, we rounded up some of the most practical online-dating advice we published this year. Read on to learn the tricks of the trade — and the biggest mistakes to avoid.
1. Choose a photo where you’re taking up space
Research suggests that we’re more attracted to people in expansive — as opposed to contracted — postures, even if we don’t consciously realise it. Men especially appear more attractive to women when they’re holding their arms upward in a “V,” reaching out to grab something, or standing in another expansive position.
Whatever you do, avoid choosing a profile photo where you’re crossing your arms or hunched over.
2. Don’t choose a photo where you’re covering your face
Tinder’s in-house sociologist, Jess Carbino, told Business Insider that one of the biggest mistakes Tinder users make is obscuring their face in their profile photo. That includes wearing glasses or sunglasses, or even a hat.
The same logic likely applies to users on other dating services.
According to Carbino, we use people’s faces to make judgments about their personality, which are sometimes (but not always) accurate. So if people can’t fully see your face, they might not be able to assess whether you’re extroverted or kind, for example. Meaning they just might move on to the next option.
3. Include a question in your profile
Carbino also told Business Insider that adding a question to your profile can make it easier for someone to message you, because they already have something to talk about.
For example, if you mention in your profile that you like to travel, list a few places you’ve been and then ask: “What’s your next destination?”
If you’re an art fan, cite artists whose work you enjoy and then ask: “Who’s your favourite artist?”
4. If you’re a woman, take the initiative to message a man
Recent data from OKCupid suggests that women (those who want to date men, anyway) fare a lot better when they muster the courage to message men.
In fact, OKCupid found that women are 2.5 times more likely to receive a response to their messages than men are.
Moreover, women who send the first message wind up meeting more attractive men than women who wait for a man to ping them, the report finds. That’s because women generally message men who are five points more attractive (as rated by OKCupid users) than they are, while they typically receive messages from men who are seven points less attractive than they are.
Interestingly, OKCupid also found that men send 3.5 times the number of messages women send, suggesting that few women are aware of the advantages of stepping up to the plate.
That’s possibly because of lingering social stigma about women making the first move. Whitney Wolfe, the founder of dating app Bumble, on which women can message men but not the other way around, told Sophia Amoruso:
“I can’t tell you how many times in college I had a crush on a guy, or I thought a guy was cute, and I would text him, and my friends would be like, ‘You just committed the ultimate sin.’ Like, ‘What have you done? You texted him first?'”
Wolfe went on: “No thank you. … It’s so outdated, and it’s so needed for something to come in and say ‘enough.'”
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