Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

PR and Online Dating: Part One

Here’s a little tidbit about me: I was once an online dater.

I am not ashamed of my admission, nor do I regret my actions. I made a few friends through the process. I also have a collection of funny anecdotes I can depend on to liven up pauses in conversations.

Earlier this year, I decided to remove all my dating profiles, despite being bombarded with eHarmony ads. (Clearly, their ads are targeted to people who have never dated online.) I did so for two reasons: one, online dating can take up a lot of one’s time, which I don’t have much of anymore; and two, online dating can be a humiliating process – your self-esteem can only take so many beatings, no matter how strong you think you are.  (There is a third reason I give when the question is asked by smug marrieds: “Yes, I AM still single and childless. Why ruin a good thing?”)

All this begs the question: why does online dating have to be so hard? Before the Internet, people would meet each other at bars, parties or through friends. That was truly a WYSIWYG situation; you could size up your potential mate in as much time as it took to drink your beer. But that meant making the effort to put on makeup, venture outside and spend time with countless knobs before you found a decent bloke with nice breath and more than two words to string together.

When I discovered online dating, it was like manna from the heavens. I could scroll through hundreds of men, in the comfort of my home and pajamas, and delete the undesirables with a click of my mouse. It was like picking fruit in a grocery store – I could toss aside the dented, moldy apples to get to the shiny, juicy ones. How can that be a bad thing?

But like most web applications, it’s only as good as the people who use them. There are users who see the tool as enhancing their lives, e.g. increasing their chances of meeting a nice person. And there will be those who see it as a means to their nefarious ends, e.g. how many women can I dupe, date and dump? You can probably guess which group I encountered the most.

I was recently sharing my online dating experiences with a girlfriend. Between the two of us, we accumulated many stories of, to quote the Lowest of the Low, salesmen, cheats and liars. We came up with some basic guidelines on how to decipher a man’s online profile. (For example, using “Tony Montana” as a profile name. Is it their real name or a shout out to a murderous, cocaine-snorting movie character? Answer: they probably have a Scarface poster over their bed.) Conversely, these same guidelines could provide men with tips on how to best market themselves. Then it struck me – online dating is a lot like public relations! My cohort didn’t see the connection but I sure did. The idea may seem ridiculous at first, but bear with me.

PR is about building relationships with your audiences. It involves developing a positive relationship with the public, with the goal of getting them to view your organization in a positive light. It also includes building a strong brand that will attract the right audience, instill trust and confidence and help you avoid pitchfork-wielding mobs.

When posting a profile on an online dating site, aren’t the goals very similar? You want to build a strong brand (profile) that will attract the right audience (women). It should also be an accurate and honest portrayal of what you have to offer; if your brand does not reflect reality or you can’t back it up with quality product, your success rate will plummet. And you will be chased by pitchfork-wielding women.

According to Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada 37% more men than women use online dating services. That means for every woman using online dating services, there are more than two men. So not only do you have to attract women to your profile, you have to compete with hundreds of other fellows at the same time. How do you make your brand stand out? I called it the 3H factor – honesty, a little bit of humility and a dose of humour.

So as a public service announcement, I decided to embark on a series of posts on marketing yourself through your online dating profile. What do women look for? And what do your profile choices really say about you? (My experiences with online dating are limited to men, so the focus will be on male profiles, ‘natch. Any male visitors to my blog are free to post their own musings about women and online dating in the comments section. Or write a post on your blog about the subject; remember to link to mine to create a lively discussion.) I would also like to thank all my lovely girlfriends who contributed their own suggestions via Twitter.

Part one: The Photo

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and brother, they ain’t kidding. This is the make-or-break item in your profile. It is what makes a woman decide whether to read your profile or block you from ever appearing on her screen again. The following are the types of photos commonly used and why they give credence to the old notion that pictures can steal your soul.

Standing in front of your car. It’s nice that you’re proud of your souped-up Honda Civic. In these times it is impressive that you can afford to drive, what with the high insurance rates and soaring gas prices. And kudos to you for being able to get your entire car in the photo with you!

What it says about you: That sure is a nice sheen on your chassis but you’re so far away that I CAN’T SEE YOUR FACE. It also tells me you’ll probably be more into your car than me. I expect our dates will include trips to the car wash, street racing and a request for a Tawny Kitaen-pose on the hood of your car because you are more than likely a Whitesnake fan.

She'll put a shine on your chassis!

Tawny Kitaen, 80s video vixen. She'll put a shine on your chassis!

The Usher Shot. No, I’m not talking about the singer. It’s that one photo taken at your buddy’s wedding. You’re in a dapper tuxedo and you look absolutely, incredibly handsome.

What is says about you: You look good in a tuxedo. Big deal, most men do. But unless you’re James Bond, don’t bother using it as your main profile photo. Yes, it shows that you dress up real good, but what about the other 364 days of the year?

NOT YOU.

NOT YOU.

Group shots. Wow, you have a lot of friends. And they all seem to like you, you party animal!

What it says about you: You’re actually going to make me look for you in the photo? Is this what I’ll be doing every Saturday night when you’re out partying with your buddies – looking for you? In my experience, men who post the group shot are usually the ugliest ones in the photo. While this may not be true in your case, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. Next!

Pictures with attractive women. Wow, those are very attractive women you’re with! You’re such a stud!

What is says about you: So you got a Hooters waitress/Budweiser girl/auto show model to pose with you. Sorry to tell you this, but they’ll pose with anybody. That’s what they are paid to do. And if you are such a chick magnet, why are you on a dating site? You can get women to pose in pictures with you, but you can’t seal the deal?

Dude! They are SOOO not going out with you.

Dude! They are SOOO not going out with you.

Cut and paste shots. Aren’t you creative! You’ve taken a picture of yourself with an ex-girlfriend, cut her out and put “This could be you!” in her place. Awwww.

What is says about you: You think women are all the same and easily replaceable. You’re also a big nerd.

The shirtless man. You’re smoking hot. You must spend every day at the gym working on your six-pack.

What is says about you: You’d rather spend time at the gym instead of snuggling in front of the TV with me, a pizza and a six-pack of beer. You also spend more time in the bathroom than I do. You shave your chest more often than I shave my legs.

You are a walking Backstreet Boy video.

Really????

Really????

The traveler shot. Wow, you climb mountains, scuba dive and visit exotic locales. Nice shot of you waterskiing/in front of Mayan ruins/snorkeling.

What it says about you: You’re never home long enough for a relationship. And you have no job.

Firemen. Ah, yes, 9/11 has been bery, bery good to you, hasn’t it? What a cheeky shot of you wearing nothing but your, er, hose.

What it says about you: You want a one-night stand. Women of substance do not get a fire down below just because you slide down a pole. (This rule also applies to cops and military personnel.)

Firemen NEVER look like this.

Firemen NEVER look like this.

“Private” or hidden photo. You have to send me your photos first before you see these goods, baby.

What it says about you: You’re cheating on your wife.

No photo at all. You haven’t got a scanner. You haven’t had time to upload photos from your digital camera. You’re probably better looking in person, anyways!

What it says about you: You are a lazy, ugly Luddite.

It’s simple, really. BE HONEST. Don’t post any photo of you that is more than five years old. The picture is supposed to sell you. Think of it as truth in advertising; we will meet you at some point – do you really want us to be disappointed? Do you want us walking away thinking we’ve been sold a bill of goods? Remember, women talk. I had girlfriends who used the same dating sites I did, and we would warn each other about certain men. If I only had a blog back then…

Here’s another way to put it: You want to sell your car and post an ad in Auto Trader. You are selling a Pontiac Sunbird; you wouldn’t post a picture of a Cadillac, would you?

I know it’s hard. A lot of women will flock to the generically handsome men who make all the above mistakes. But be patient – these women will be continuously disappointed with “Romeo243” and “PrinceCharming4567” that your nice photo and funny profile will win them over. You may not look like Brad Pitt, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are women who aren’t sold just on flash and style; we look for substance behind the brand – wit, charm and intelligence.

Coming soon: The profile nickname.

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October 14, 2008 - Posted by | There is hope... |

22 Comments »

  1. Haha, this is amazing. I’m pretty into online dating, Bonnie. I have been for too many years and I probably will be for a while.

    A line I use in one of my profiles is “If you have shirtless pictures of yourself or ones where you’re standing next to your car, I probably don’t want to hear from you.”

    It’s fun, but frustrating. I bet we could talk for years about it.

    Comment by Rayanne Langdon | October 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. Love it!

    Comment by Brenda Hampton | October 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. Brenda: you were one of the lucky ones!

    Rayanne: I was into online dating for a long time. We’ll trade horror stories this weekend. 🙂

    Comment by bonsmots | October 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’ve been reluctant to go on online dating sites but know many, many people who have, and even a few that have gotten married as a result. Welcome to the world of http://jdate.com There was even a play called Jewtopia about the fabulous world of Jewish online dating. When the site used to be open for all to view, my best friend and myself would browse through the profiles and know about half of them personally and they were all, shall we say not honest in their “looking for a serious relationship” bio.

    And now you have just confirmed my decision.

    Comment by thatsroger | October 14, 2008 | Reply

  5. Oh God… so traumatically true… And a good part of the reason why I refuse to date anymore. 🙂

    Definitely going to be posting my take. You’re right, it is at least a great source of stories for The Lore.

    Comment by Melanie Baker | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  6. Glad to be of service, Sarah.

    And I’m looking forward to your take on the subject, Melanie. (Nice blog, BTW.)

    Comment by bonsmots | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  7. Well I can tell you when I was in the game (hmmm…still having a hard time convincing myself I was ever “in” the game…but I digress) I tried the online stuff once or twice and much like most found it leaving me somewhat wanting.

    I think it’s like anything in life – a crap shoot if you will to think that what looks good on “paper” will translate into something that fits in real life. Something like finding your dream job on the first interview. I think anyone who has yet to settle even after dating for several years simply because they haven’t found the right person yet should be heralded and not pitied.

    With that…and yes happily married with triplets now…I love the advice here and think that anyone still honing their online persona’s should take note and implement – keep on keeping on my dear.

    Andy

    Comment by Andy Donovan | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  8. Funny you should mention eHarmony as a dating service targeted to people who have never dated online. I have been separated for over 6 years and my divorce should be finalized sometime this month. YAY!! Anyway, I resisted going online cuz I felt it cold, impersonal and a little desperate. But all sorts of people kept saying how amazing some services were blah, blah.

    So, I kept getting bombarded with eHarmony complimentary date matching e-mails, and one day I bit the bullet. Spent an hour and a half answering 300 questions and guess what?! Oh the horror! Oh the humiliation! In bold capital letters: NO MATCHES FOUND! No matches for you! I felt like I was being served by the “soup nazi” – No soup for you!

    I realized later that eHarmony is a Christian dating site, and they couldn’t match me up because my status was “Separated” which means technically still married, and I guess they want to shy away from any Ashley Madison shenanigans or comparisons. However, this experience left me feeling utterly demoralized and I have vowed not to jump into the online dating pool. Ever.

    Love this post – just another confirmation not to go the online dating route. I have planning on posting my thoughts on the parallels between job-hunting and the dating process – and now I’m going to just do it. Karin

    Comment by karinmk123 | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  9. Wait, so “Studmuffin69” isn’t a good profile name?!

    Comment by Leon Wu | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  10. Wait for my next post to find out, Leon.

    Comment by bonsmots | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  11. Looking forward to it, Karin!

    Comment by bonsmots | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  12. I found your blog via another PR post. I can relate! I don’t use online dating services anymore but I think if you’re careful about what you reveal they can be a great way to avoid spending time in bars. I keep that part of my online life separate from my professional life. Aside from my friends, I don’t really know who benefits from hearing about my love life, and I certainly don’t want to know these things about my colleagues. This is one of my problems with blogs and social media: everybody thinks they’re just so damned interesting – but few are. Some seem to think that the more revealing they are, the better. I think the result is quit the opposite. If you’re none too smart to begin with you’re not doing yourself any favors by broadcasting that to the world 🙂

    Comment by prjane | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  13. What a fantastic blog, Bon-bon! I laughed at every turn, because, like so many others, I’ve been there! As you well know, I used to online date for years. Met a few of my friends and a couple of my boyfriends on there. I had to go on at least 10 horrible dates for every good one, and I thought I was being discerning in my assessment of the profiles.

    Yes, photos had a lot to do with who I’d click on at first, and then how I’d react when I met them in person (depending on how much they’d oversold themselves).

    There was one guy who had an extreme overbite that gave him a slight speech impediment, and when I met him I realized why all his photos were either wide shots or strictly closed-mouth shots. I also learned that I was, indeed, a shallow human being. Mind you, I’ve had comments thrown at me like, “you’re heavier in real life than you are in your photos”, even when my photos were taken the week before! This is what happens when you post face shots and not full body shots… but then again, I date people of all shapes and sizes and the face is the most important feature to me.

    I don’t regret all those years spent online dating.. it makes for great material and I may well go back to it someday. I stopped merely because I no longer had time to keep up with my countless profiles on Nerve, OKCupid, AFF, Lavalife, and even the dreaded A.M.

    Irony of ironies, about a month after I stopped, I met someone who is probably the best guy I’ve ever dated. I wonder why that is? Perhaps I finally had to talk to a stranger without revealing all my innermost goals and aspirations or sexual fantasies in an online essay before talking to him. Perhaps he could get a glimpse of the real me without imagining a skinny babe underneath this cute face. Who knows?

    I look forward to the next few instalments of this series.

    Comment by Daniela | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  14. What bugs me the most about online dating are the folks who tell you about their buddy at work who met the woman of his dreams online and that they’re getting married next week. I think if critical research took place, it would reveal that everyone who refers to this success story is talking about the very same guy.

    Meeting the man of my dreams online? I might as well ask for big boobs and a Ferrari while I’m entertaining that fantasy.

    Comment by kerry | October 18, 2008 | Reply

  15. Bon, I finally got around to reading this, and let me just say that it was both funny and deterring. I just got out of a LTR and while it’s still too early for me to get back into the game (and what a game it is), I’m probably going to avoid online dating as much as possible. Your experiences only helped to confirm that.

    Do you see the irony in giving advice to potential online daters and getting comments saying things like “Love this post – just another confirmation not to go the online dating route.”

    I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    Comment by Chris Clarke | October 20, 2008 | Reply

  16. You brought up a good point, Chris.

    I believe that you should try everything once (with the exception of bungee jumping and heroin). I tried online dating (more than once, over the course of several years) and decided it wasn’t for me.

    The objective of my post is not to scare anyone. I just want to manage people’s expectations. Impart some wisdom from my own experiences. Online dating does not have to be a horrible ordeal. In fact, I have two friends that found their husbands through an online dating website. Miracles do happen.

    What I want people to take away from my post is another way to read online dating profiles; do not take them at face value. Use my suggestions to decipher the hundreds of profiles you will have to go through.

    I do suggest you try it, if you haven’t before. I just hope I made the task less onerous for you.

    Comment by bonsmots | October 20, 2008 | Reply

  17. Bon, this is fantastic. If only online dating sites had more employees like you!
    It’s a strange way to meet people but much less painful than getting set up with “the only other single person” that your friends know. Those experiences culminate into some of the greatest dating tragedies of our time.
    Online dating has at least provided me with a few dates, and a few free meals, which is more than I was achieving on my own. I havent met the man of my dreams yet, but he has to be out there………..somewhere.

    Comment by Heather | October 23, 2008 | Reply

  18. HILARIOUS!

    After two recent-ish online dates, I have called it quits 4 LYFE! I’ll find the guy at work, at a bar, on the TTC, at the grocery store, somewhere…anywhere that isn’t online!

    Somewhere where I can hear speech impediments. Somewhere where I can see self-mutilation scars.

    It’ll save me a lot of time, really.

    In the meantime, there’s always ice cream.

    Comment by Sofi | December 10, 2008 | Reply

    • I’ve been told that the moment you stop actively looking, you’ll meet someone. That’s not true.

      I like ice cream, too.

      Comment by bonsmots | December 10, 2008 | Reply

  19. Fantastic blog, and from a friendly guy who is frequently using online dating sites, here’s some info for the ladies:

    No smile: I want a girl who can emote. If you have 10 pictures and not one of you is smiling, I think “She won’t be any fun.”
    Mirror Pictures: If you have no friends and have to take a picture of yourself in the mirror you have bigger problems than finding a guy.

    and on the upside, a couple of things that I do look for:

    A goofy picture: If you can laugh at yourself, then we’ll probably get along really well.
    Modest clothing: I’m sure that you can probably “bring it” when you need to, but your girl next door qualities make you a candidate for a dinner with Mom and Pops.

    Thanks again for this entry it was terrific!

    Comment by Jay | April 1, 2009 | Reply

  20. Thanks, Jay, for the male perspective.

    Comment by Bons Mots | April 2, 2009 | Reply

  21. […] This is the second in a series of musings on PR and Online Dating, originally posted on October 14. […]

    Pingback by PR and online dating: Part Two | October 31, 2009 | Reply


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