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Struggling To Stand Out Online


With online dating becoming more popular than ever before, standing out in the crowd can be daunting. Wondering where to look for inspiration? Start by checking out your competition’s profiles first!

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

here’s no doubt dating can be a bit competitive. For example, two girls spot a sporty gent in their gym’s juice bar — which one wins his attention? Or two guys vie to get noticed by a babe at the pool…should bachelor #1 or #2 get invited to help reapply her sunscreen? It’s basic Darwinism, but applied to dating; in other words, for every smokin’ hot single you spot, there are probably at least two “competitors”
Wow, he’s going to get a lot of responses with that hard body.
throwing their hats into the flirting ring.

But how does this work online? Did you ever wonder what kind of competitors you were up against when you posted your profile? In other words, who is popping up next to your photo in other people’s searches…and does that person’s profile outshine yours — or make you seem like even more of a catch by comparison?

With so much online competition, it’s hard to keep someone’s attention…
A recent personal experience made me start to wonder just who was out there digitally dueling with me in cyberspace for my next boyfriend’s attention. We’ll call him Mr. Abs (I chose this nickname because, although I liked what he wrote, I’ve got to admit that I was also instantly attracted to the 8-pack sported by this very handsome personal trainer I’d spotted on Match.com). After feeling particularly bold one night, I took the initiative and sent him an introductory email instead of playing coy and waiting for him to write me after I’d added him to my “Favorites” list. Much to my delight, he wrote back immediately with a very enthusiastic response, saying it was one of the best emails he’d ever received. Could we chat on the phone later? The result was a great conversation — easy and fun — that lasted for well over an hour. We had lots in common, and as we ended the call, I thought: “Wow, I’ll look forward to meeting him soon.”

What happened next? Nothing! As in, I never heard from him again. I sent a cute follow-up email the next day… nada. Then, a few days later, I sent him a flirty text message; still, I heard nothin’ but radio silence. I was really surprised, actually. And then I got curious.

During the course of our phone conversation, he had admitted to being an online dating newbie, which had made me think: “Wow, he’s going to get a lot of responses with that hard body.” On the downside, it also meant he might find himself feeling like a kid in a candy store for awhile. That said, I have a pretty good sense of self: I know I’m good company, in great shape and have a well-written profile, so unless he started researching me and freaked out after discovering I write about dating and relationships for a living, I was left feeling baffled and wondering: “What gives?”

Who are you up against for dates?
So I went on a bit of a journey into the land of “girls like me” on Match.com and… whoa. Talk about eye-opening! Not only did I learn a ton by looking at the profiles of other femmes that fit into my same demographic group, I was also amazed at how many seemingly gorgeous, talented and incredible women there were out there also looking for Mr. Right in general. And when I came across the profile of a former swimsuit model turned pediatrician who helps needy children in Africa, I’ll admit that even I was starting to feel a little intimidated. I mean, heck, if I were a guy, I’d try to date her! I didn’t let this little seek-and-destroy mission get me down, though. Perusing the profiles of my purported rivals, I learned a lot. To begin with, I realized I should take it less personally when a man didn’t write me back. There are a lot of really great gals out there, and if I’m right for someone, I just have to trust it’ll work out. In this case, it was Mr. Abs who dropped the ball, not me.

With that in mind, I consulted with a few other experts and came up with these seven terrific reasons why you might want to spend some time checking out your online competition…because when it comes to finding your match, it pays to be informed!

Competition Check #1: Identify the most clichéd phrases — then avoid using them
Tempted to write about fairy tales or long walks on the beach? Don’t. It’s boring, and a quick search through others’ profiles can help you see which romantic turns of type sound trite and don’t bear repeating. “One look and you’ll get an idea of which phrases are overused in headlines,” says Cherie Burbach, author of Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza. “Things like ‘Trying this out’ and ‘Looking for love’ are common, so skip those in favor of something that better reveals your personality.” What other things should you avoid saying? “I’m looking for someone who is as comfortable in a little black dress/tux as she/he is in jeans,” or “I can’t believe I’m doing this” (yes, you can believe it…or you wouldn’t be online!). And don’t mention candlelit dinners; everyone knows they’re romantic. Such clichés are a total waste of valuable profile space.

Competition Check #2: Take a look at the other person’s tone; is it positive or negative?
Whiners never prosper and man-haters aren’t frequent daters, either. As you read through other people’s profiles, you’ll see that their attitude matters. Nothing turns off a prospective date faster than negativity or a profile with a list of things that are that person’s deal-breakers in a mate. When Kiri Blakeley, author of Can’t Think Straight, discovered her fiancé was gay, she found herself harshly thrust back into the single-and-looking world at age
No guy wants to deal with another man’s baggage.
36, which now included online dating. “I really had to fight in my profile not to write, ‘And please make sure you are not gay. No, not even curious; no, not even a tiny bit curious… No, you didn’t even experiment when you were 16,’” says Blakeley. “But a good male friend of mine (who was also on Match.com) sent me this other gal’s profile that turned out to be psychotically jealous of his female friends, so they broke up. He then sent me her new profile, which read something like, ‘And I know a lot of you guys out there like to have a bunch of female friends. I don’t play that way, so don’t email me if you do’ and we had a good laugh over it. But his comment actually made me go ‘de-psycho’ my profile copy, where I’d said something like: ‘I’m not interested in endless, amorphous casual dating.’” In other words, don’t bring your last bad relationship into your new dating profile. No guy wants to deal with another man’s baggage.

Competition Check #3: See what resonates with you to get inspired
Chances are, if you like the way another person’s profile reads, it’s a style you might consider using in your own copy. But be careful; when you’re studying profiles penned by others, you never want to seem like a full-on copycat — but there’s nothing wrong with “borrowing” a few elements here and there if you feel they actually reflect your personality. “If a dater has written his or her essay in a way that just makes you want to hang out with that person, chances are, he or she is getting good responses from other online daters,” says Burbach. “Take a look at the things said [in that profile] and how they are said, and then apply that to your own essay.”

Competition Check #4: Consider trying something completely different and new
“Sometimes, dating is counterintuitive,” says Jordan Harbinger, a managing partner of The Art of Charm. “What you might think is attractive might actually be less attractive to a date.” For example, if you see a profile of someone who looks really wacky and fun and your profile is more formal, consider playing up your quirkier side and see what kind of responses you get. “Guys might love a girl with nerdy glasses and her hair in her eyes, while a woman might think that picture of herself is ‘just awful’ or makes her ‘look gaunt’ or ‘too pale,’” says Harbinger. Look at different profiles and play with incorporating elements from them that inspire you into your own. Nothing says you can’t change your profile every week (and it could, in fact, be an interesting experiment to see who responds each time you make a few minor alterations). The profile adjustment that ultimately attracts the most responses from your “type” might actually surprise you.

Competition Check #5: If your pics aren’t tip-top, stage a new photo op
It’s positively fascinating to see which photos other people post to “illustrate” their lives online. And in the same way that looking at other people’s photos can help you decide which people you might want to date, looking at your competition’s photos can help you realize which ones work versus being an instant turn-off to potential dates. “The ones that make the most impact help illustrate one or two things about what the person likes to do in his or her free time and what this person might be like on a date,” says Burbach. “Pictures help tell your ‘story’ just as much as your essay does.” After looking through photos posted by other daters in your demographic, take a hard look at your own and decide if your pictorial presentation is really an accurate representation of you. Because the more authentic you are, the better the chance you’ll have of finding someone who is attracted to the everyday version of you as well as the “I’m dressed up and ready for a charity benefit or wedding” version of you in equal amounts.

Competition Check #6: Write your competitors or ask online-dating friends for input
Though this will clue your competitors in to the fact that you’re checking them out, if you approach such things as a “we’re all in this together” dating endeavor, contacting the people whose profiles you find particularly interesting can net you some solid advice. “It’s actually OK to message the men or women who own each profile and ask what types of messages they’re getting, how many they’re getting and of what quality to help [you] buffer your data,” says Harbinger. “But put something in the subject line, like: ‘From a female looking for advice’ or something similar, so that it doesn’t seem like a W4W thing.” If reaching out to a stranger feels too weird to you, another option is to ask your friends to share their online dating monikers with you “in the name of research.” See what they’ve got posted online and grill them about the girls or guys who have corresponded with them. This kind of “friendly” competition involves sharing information that can help you shape your profile to better match your online dating goals (i.e., are you actually hoping to find a long-term match or just seeking something casual?).

Competition Check #7: Recognize that you’re in good company online
Viewing other people’s profiles online can also give you a confidence boost if you’re still unsure about whether online dating will work for you. “Just seeing how many people are putting themselves out there makes you realize that you’re not alone,” says Burbach. “It also helps you see that there are a lot of people online that are just like you — a nice person who simply hasn’t met the right person yet.” In other words, though these people may technically be your competition, it’s also nice to know that you’re not the only cool lady or awesome guy looking for love online. And in the end, that really puts every online dater on the same team!


Kimberly Dawn Neumann (KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. A frequent online contributor for Match.com’s Happen magazine, she’s also the author of The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First as well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.

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