If online dating was considered an Olympic sport, Claire Jackson would be a marathon gold medallist.
“I had over 80 dates in the end,” says the Scottish expat, who now lives in Adelaide.
“There are so many things to navigate with online dating … I really treated it like a project.
“I was logging what was going on, what worked and what didn’t work.”
Fortunately, 49 first dates later, Claire found her Mr Right. But she didn’t want her comprehensive cataloguing to go to waste.
That’s why she started a “profile primping” service for singles looking for love.
“There’s nothing more uncomfortable and challenging than having a look in the mirror and reflecting on who you are as a person and putting that into words,” she says.
“It’s like writing a personal statement for your CV — it can be the most excruciating part about the whole job application process.
“You question yourself, you don’t think your [profile] is as interesting or appealing as others’.”
For some people, self-comparison can lead down a problematic path.
Claire says when she started online dating after a break-up in her early 30s, she initially felt pressured to present an enhanced version of herself.
“I put these conditions and boundaries around myself about: ‘I have to lose 10 or 15 kilos before I go online, I need to become a different person, and I can’t be feeling fragile whilst putting myself back out there’,” she recalls.
The three things we all want in a mate
According to Gery Karantzas, director of Deakin’s Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory, presenting a smarter, funnier, fitter or more attractive version of yourself won’t help your chances of finding a mate.
“You really are putting yourself at a great disadvantage if you choose to present yourself in an inauthentic way,” he says.
“You may be wanting to augment [yourself] in order to attract a mate, but if you are looking for a long-term relationship, sooner or later, who you are is going to become apparent.”
Mr Karantzas says a better approach is to think about your innate qualities and how they match up with the three characteristics that people look for in a partner. He characterises them as:
- 1.Warmth and trustworthiness: “We want someone who looks like they’re kind, looks like they’re caring, someone we can rely upon,” he says.
- 2.Vitality and attractiveness: “It’s not just what we would refer to as ‘sex appeal’ or being physically attractive,” he points out. “It’s that people look like they have a zest for life.” Mr Karantzas adds that we unconsciously look for a partner who seems healthy, so we won’t need to worry about them developing a chronic condition.
- 3.Status and resources: “It’s not the flashy car, it’s not the big bank account, it’s not the mansion, [it’s that] someone can provide if we go on to have a partnership or family together,” he says.
Mr Karantzas says that people wanting a short-term relationship or fling may prioritise vitality and attractiveness, but that doesn’t mean these characteristics are superficial.
“[They’re] supposed to signal to somebody, in evolutionary terms, that a person is healthy and that we’re likely to have children who are also healthy,” he explains.
Broadly speaking, however, the first and third categories are the ones that matter most to love-seekers, including those on online sites and apps.
Online dating profile dos and don’ts
So, how do we put our best foot forward without being inauthentic?
Looking for love and cultural sensitivity
As a black woman, I could never be in a relationship with someone who didn’t feel comfortable talking about race and culture, writes Molly Hunt.
Here are Claire Jackson’s top tips to building a dating profile that properly represents you:
- 1.Ask five friends to describe you in five words — you can incorporate these into your bio. Claire says one of her friends characterised her as ‘ridiculous’. “And I included it because I am ridiculous!”
- 2.Your photos should reflect what you say in your bio. “If you’re an adventurer with wanderlust who loves yoga, include a picture of you on a yoga course in Bali. If you’re all about your dog, include a photo of you with the dog,” she says.
- 3.Keep your bio tone consistent with your personality. If you have a sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek style humour, show it. But remember that people have short attention spans, so try to be succinct.
- 4.Choose a close-up pic, possibly a selfie, for your first image. Don’t start with a group shot because that confuses everybody, she says.
- 5.Include at least one full-length photo, Claire recommends: “Like it or not, some people are very concerned with physicality, and there’s no point in going 20 messages deep with a person who just isn’t interested in you if you’re a curvy girl, which was me”.
- 6.Think about the energy you’re putting out, and the type of person you’d like to attract — do they match up? “If you want someone who’s really funny, you can’t expect them to read a serious ‘this is what I’m looking for in a relationship’ type profile and swipe for that if they’re light-hearted, laid back and looking for banter.”
- 7.Treat your bio and photo selection as conversation starters. Give potential partners something to work with, otherwise you’re more likely to receive blander “Hi, how are you?” greetings.