“Let me see the guys you’re checking out online,” Washingtonian Annie, 42, said to her friend Tina, 39, who was just reentering the dating world after her 18-year marriage ended. Annie, an online dating veteran, was ready to review profiles and make her recommendations, so she pulled up a chair next to Tina and the two ladies proceeded to go through — one by one — the men who showed up in Tina’s online dating search, along with the ones who’d winked at or emailed her already.
Annie wanted to point out the ones she knew something about who hadn’t been good matches for her, but would be worthy, attractive prospects for her pal. She also wanted to make sure that online-dating newbie Tina wasn’t spinning her wheels by wasting time on guys who Annie knew from personal experience (and the experiences of her friends, too — she has a wide online dating circle) weren’t suitable.
Annie looked at each one and weighed in on Tina’s matches. First up was a blond-haired man in his early forties. She pointed at the screen and said, “Yes, he’s great… divorced, with two kids who are adorable. He was just out of his marriage a few months when I met him, and it was bad timing. But he should be totally ready now.”
Next up: A dark-haired man, also in his early forties. “Skip him; total narcissist. He didn’t ask me one question all night.” A few glasses of wine later, they’d made it through 20 profiles, and Tina had seven solid recommendations regarding men that Annie knew — or “knew of” through her network of single ladies — and liked. Not bad for an evening’s work, wouldn’t you say?
“It’s hit or miss out there, and you need all the help you can get to mine prospects, don’t you think?” said Annie, the queen of online-dating mentors. Absolutely!
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Friends help friends with many aspects of online dating — from writing a compelling profile to choosing pictures. So why not help with word-of-mouth recommendations, too? To answer that question, I spoke with several women to find out what they learned from their friends’ online dating experiences. Below are a few tips you can glean from them, too.
Save time by avoiding the “known jerks”
“I’m busy and don’t have a lot of time to date,” says New Yorker Mary, 32. “So I’d rather not waste time on jerks. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if a guy is decent or not from his online profile and a quick screener call. I live in a big town, but dating online can be a bit like dating in a fishbowl. Chances are good that you and your friends are all looking for reasonably similar types of men, so of course your searches will turn up many of the same profiles. I decided a long time ago: Why not benefit from this? If we lived in a small town, your friends would warn you in person about the town Casanova or jerk. It’s basically the same thing when you evaluate men together online.”
Getting a friend’s seal of approval = a digital fix-up
“In the old days, friends would fix you up with guys; you’d have a comfort level that your date would at least be a good person,” says North Carolina native Angela, 35. “But that doesn’t happen as much these days. Who fixes anyone up anymore? I feel like talking about online dates and hearing whether a guy was nice to my friend on their date is as close to a Good Housekeeping seal of approval as you’re going to get in today’s world.”
Pre-screen your matches while simultaneously enjoying some “girl time”
“It’s cool to share dating ‘war stories’ and get recommendations from friends,” says San Francisco single Eliza, 28. “You can find out which guys are stretching the truth on their profiles and which aren’t. I’d like to know if a man’s profile picture is outdated, or if he’s actually bald when he says he has brown hair…stuff like that. It’s girl-bonding time, too. It reminds me that my friends have my back. Some of the most fun times I’ve had are spent hanging out with a girlfriend or two in front of a laptop as we totally scope out men.”
Discussing profile details helps you clarify what you’re really looking for in a mate
“I find that the more my girlfriends and I look at men’s profiles and swap stories about who we dated and what happened, we learn so much about what we like and dislike in a date,” says Maryland resident Carrie, 33. “There’s something very positive about looking at a profile, reading what he has to say, and checking out his pictures. It spurs discussions that are much more detailed than what you’d have sitting around chatting about guys in general. In evaluating a date’s potential with his profile in front of your face, you also get the added benefit of clarifying what you are looking for in a mate. Sometimes after my girlfriends look at a guy’s profile and we discuss it, I think of something new I want to add to mine.”
Listen…but take their advice with a grain of salt
“I love reviewing profiles with my friends and sharing stories about the guys we’ve dated,” says Boston native Lisa, 38. “I know I have dodged a few bad dates by getting the skinny from my friends first, but I also know that what works for them might not work for me — and vice versa. My ideal guy might be nothing like theirs at all. Their experiences are not the gospel or the final word about a man. The truth is, you know yourself best. So definitely hear what they have to say, but read between (and around) the lines as needed.”
Not everyone has such a determined and sharp online dating mentor like Annie to turn to, but maybe it’s time for you to start reviewing your matches with a few girlfriends. Spread the word!
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit hiswebsite, follow him onTwitter, oremail him.