I’ve always liked the idea of online dating. Maybe it’s because of You’ve Got Mail (which isn’t that great but man, that was, like, the dream of the ’90s) or because I was obsessed with coding as a teen (shut up, I was so cool, you guys) or because I work too much or because I’m hardly ever at bars unless I’m performing and even then, when someone hits on me it’s like throwing flirtation into the wind and hoping it lands somewhere near my brain. I don’t pick up on it.
Seriously, if I had a dime for every time a friend told me, “Lane, they were hitting on you!!!” or even, “Lane, they’re totally in love with you and have been for over eight years,” I’d have at least 70 cents, maybe 90. I just don’t pick up on it unless you literally say, “Hello, I like your face and body. I would like to go somewhere with your face and body with the intent to date or have sex with you.”
Point is, I guess I just always assumed that the traditional meet-cutes of movies and TV were bullshit unless you were super outgoing and out at bars every single night, or if you were a fancy lawyer with no time for dating but then one day your heel gets stuck in a street grate. I had no plans to be either.
When I started online dating, it was fantastic in most ways. Sure, I didn’t know any better and for the first few months, every single person I met was like one of Liz Lemon’s potential suitor (aka super hot but deeply weird, or not that hot but deeply weird), but the possibilities seemed endless! Seriously, it’s like a catalog of people in your area who you could talk to if you wanted to. That’s incredible! Sure, bars have that and so does wherever else people meet people, but online, all you have to do is send an email, which is like the coward’s hello.
Plus, my confidence in myself noticeably skyrocketed because I was getting countless messages from crazy-hot Internet strangers, causing me to have that important realization of Wait, am I hotter than I previously thought I was??? — and since most women have way less self-confidence than they should have (seriously, if you are reading this right now I guarantee if you think you’re a 3, you’re an 8, maybe even a 9), the answer was, OH, HELLLLL YES, I AM! Seriously, I now know exactly the caliber of people who find me attractive and it actually helps me in real life because now if I’m ever near a hot stranger I’m like, “Oh, he’s into me. No doubt.” because I have data, people! Hard numbers.
So why wouldn’t you give this easy-as-eating-pie method of meeting potential dating partners a shot? Oh, because it seems terrifying and horrible? That’s fair. I’ll get you through it.
1. Don’t post a photo of your face that is not your actual face.
We all have that one ridiculous angle that makes us look like we’re Angelina Jolie in her prime (which was Firefox, BTW), and that’s great, but if this person can’t recognize you when you meet in person because in person you look more like Wednesday Addams, choose another photo. That said, it’s still cool to leave at least one of those angles up in there. (Look, I can’t help it if I look really great up close because it makes my eyes look like I’m in a Japanese cartoon).
2. Don’t just post selfies.
I am a big supporter of selfies. If they make you feel sexy and happy, take ’em every second. However, photos can also be used to showcase more of your personality, which is great if you’re not as good at describing yourself as you are at taking photos of yourself doing awesome things with your cool friends. Or if you’re like me, taking photos in a photo booth at a craft fair. Either way.
3. You don’t need to tell everyone everything.
You’re just starting out, so it’s OK to only reveal a little bit because you have no idea who these people are or how this thing works and it’s kind of scary! Just write what you’d feel comfortable sharing with a stranger at a bar.
4. Write about things your ideal person would respond to.
If you wanna meet someone who loves Bridesmaids, make sure you put Bridesmaids in there! If you wanna meet someone who loves Beyoncé, same thing! If you wanna meet someone who is super sensitive and kind, put that you are! Likeminded people seek likeminded people a lot of the time. Plus, it’s really great to know you already have a lot to talk about on your first date because you love stuff together.
5. Don’t pin all your hopes on one person.
I know it’s often impossible to get it to line up like this, but try having a few upcoming dates at once. That way, if one doesn’t work out, it won’t seem like the end of the world because you have other dates soon! And one looks like Channing Tatum (That’s someone people like, right?).
6. You don’t have to keep talking to someone if it’s not fun anymore.
I’ve absolutely been messaging with people and it was going well for one or two emails and then I was getting really bored or they weren’t giving me much to work with or I realized that this person was like talking to literally anyone. They weren’t a jerk but they also weren’t someone I absolutely Had to Meet either. If that’s the case, it’s OK to just stop responding.
7. Meet in a public place.
I know I sound like a guidance counselor but seriously, I’ve had people I’ve never met before ask me to just come to their place for the first time we met and maybe it would’ve been fine, but also it’s legit scary to be a woman, and if they’re worth my time, they’ll understand why I don’t wanna go to a stranger’s house when they might be that murderer from Saw 1–10000.
I’m giving you the advice it took me years to learn. It may seem obvious but I spent sooooo many dates just being bored out of my mind or sometimes even just hating this person, but trying to make the most of it. But guess what? You don’t owe them shit. Get out ASAP if that’s how you feel. Some examples: “I’d love to stay and chat but I have to be up super early tomorrow so maybe another time!” “I have to go home and feed my cat/dog/ferret!” or the Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion classic, “Would you excuse me? I cut my foot earlier and my shoe is filling up with blood.”
9. It’s OK to take breaks.
When I first started online dating, I was disabling my profile all the time. Sometimes it’s just too much to deal with and you get all those weird messages, but you don’t wanna give up on finding someone awesome. Totally OK! Do what you need to do.
10. Don’t get discouraged.
You’re gonna have nights when you scroll and scroll and scroll and it’ll be nothing, no one good, no one attractive, no one who wants what you want. Or it seems like they do want what you want, but then you meet them in person and whoa, it’s different. Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years to help you know what to look for in someone else’s profile that’ll save you a lot of bad dates in the long run.
- You should be able to picture having a conversation with this person. Ideally, a person’s profile is a little bit like hanging out with them, so if you can’t get a read on them or get legit excited about them, move on.
- Ideally, their profile should really stand out to you across the board. Not just, “Oh they’re hot and they live in my neighborhood” (unless that’s all you want!), but also “Wow, they like this obscure thing I like!” or, “Wow! We seem to have a similar sense of humor!” or, “They spend their Friday nights just like I do!” Enough so that you feel like you’re starting off on a great foot and not just, “I see you are hot. I am also hot. Can you pass the salt?”
- You should feel like you’d be friends with this person. I know the idea is to meet someone you wanna be more than friends with, but you should also think this is a seriously great person you’d love to meet in any capacity.
Online dating is daunting and sometimes exhausting, yes, but one day it’s entirely possible that you’ll meet someone who will nearly knock you off your chair because they will seem so great. A lot of the time, that person isn’t actually that great but once in a great while, they really, truly are. And that’s the point of all of this anyway. You really just need one. Plus, that’s when you get to the best part of online dating: not doing it anymore.