The cynic’s guide to online dating

I’m not fan of online dating (I’ve written about this before), but there comes a time when the water runs so dry that you know you need to do something to change your luck. And it’s with this situation that I found myself back online trying to meet some new women. Almost instantly, I remembered all of the reasons I had forbid myself from online dating. Instead of just writing about it, I thought I’d let my inner cynic out to describe my latest experience. Cynicism set at maximum.

Pay attention to the username. If there’s an adjective in the username, it’s what she wants to be not what she is. Example: SexyGrl48. I’d bet you anything that this girl is not at all sexy. Another example: HappyGwen. Dollars to donuts that Gwen is, in fact, miserable. Stay far away from anyone whose username has an attribute that you desire in a mate (i.e., pretty, sexy, hot, etc.).

Only headshots means she’s fat. People who have nothing to hide don’t hide anything. If there’s not at least a three-quarters body shot on the profile, it’s probably because she doesn’t want you to see the rest of her body. If that’s what you like, hey, go for it. I just chalk that up under “not being honest.” Right up there with posting photos from when you were in college and hot.

Multiple photos with the same angle count as one. If she looks exactly the same, same expression, same angle, in every photo despite scenery and wardrobe changes, there’s something fishy going on here. Does she only exist in one dimension? Does she think that’s her good side? Without multiple points of reference, I don’t trust that I know what she looks like.

Beware profiles with rants. I’ve come across a fair number of profiles that are essentially angry letters to the girl’s last boyfriend. If under “wants” she says something like, “A guy who doesn’t LIE or CHEAT. You guys who think you’re PLAYAS can move on to the next profile, cuz this fish ain’t bitin’. Respect your woman!” then you should definitely move on to the next profile because this girl is nursing wounds that won’t soon heal. She’s not ready to meet anyone for romantic purposes, she’s ready to meet someone to take her frustrations out on.

Girls who say they don’t want drama are usually the cause of it. If a girl says that you better not be drama, it’s because she’s already drama and doesn’t want competition.

Recently single = thinking about my ex. Never ever write to a girl who says she’s recently single, or otherwise just got out of a long-term relationship. That is, unless you like being the rebound guy that has to listen to what went wrong with her ex the entire time you know her. And deal with him still calling. And her still responding.

Obscured faces mean high opinions. A lot of guys mistakenly think that girls who post photos with obscured faces have a low opinion of their looks and are probably ugly. Actually, it’s the opposite. Usually, they think they’re really attractive and are “tired of guys hitting on them for their looks.” Except they really do think they’re good looking and love being hit on for their looks. You just don’t get to see what they look like without proving yourself first.

If there’s more than one girl in the photo, she’s not the cute one. Don’t fall for this trap.

15 thoughts on “The cynic’s guide to online dating”

  1. Have you ever had a success with online dating at all, Zack? And what things did you notice about the ads that worked out, if any?

  2. Well Zack,
    I see where your cynicism comes from. Going online looking for someone can be a bit frustrating. Here is a thought. How about trying a new angle and not looking for the hot chick/beautiful girlfriend. How about going online with the idea of meeting some women to be friends with. Give yourself a break from trying to find Ms. Right. I did this a few years back and met some great guys. They were in different cities, but it was fun chatting with them after work. I answered ads from guys that were looking for friends, not the ones looking for sexy babes. Even though circumstances didn’t allow us to meet in person, it was enjoyable talking to them. Plus no pressure. You never know, you might find a treasure by mapping out a different route. I wish you good luck.

  3. Hey Zack,

    As a fellow (albeit female and overseas) cynic who has now despaired of online dating 100%, I realise you are less than completely serious with your observations, so thought they deserve a lengthier comment than a one-line advice to stop looking for sexy girls and start noticing… ahem, others.

    1. Usernames on dating sites are a subject worthy of a PhD on mental health, and I agree with your point. To me, anyone who IS sexy is least likely to want/need to say so – and very much like men who have to say “I’m a nice guy” (something deeply wrong there usually), are probably best ‘skipped.’ However, very often people are just monumentally crap at thinking up good names – without having a hidden agenda.

    2. Mmm… OK, I’ve known people with chubby faces and slender figures, but never the other way round – have you? I think if a girl has hollow cheekbones and thin-looking face, she cannot possibly be fat. And many people who are perfectly comfortable with their not-fat bodies still may not want the whole WWW to scrutinise them in close-up.

    3. Not being a girl, you wouldn’t know how many of us have been told repeatedly that we DO have the best side… so yes, some may be that naive as to believe it. But very same expression is a cause to worry, I agree – are they alive? My own research shows that most people on dating sites aren’t.

    4. Rants or any hasty reference to a disastrous past are most off-putting, but it’s hardly gender-specific.

    5. Drama… beg to differ. I’m one of those who definitely isn’t a drama queen, and am put off by almost everyone who is (except on screen or stage). I’m genuinely, honestly scared of grown-up people (male, female or otherwise) who throw their toys out of the pram on every occasion. Luckily, I haven’t met many highly strung men, so wouldn’t put up a warning against those on my dating profile.

    6. The “recently single” thing can be two-fold. Again, it’s not gender-specific and may simply mean the person naively believes they have to say it to be honest with a cynic like you. I’d rather a man mentioned (sooner rather than later) if they have just come out of a long-term relationship and left 5 children behind… “Mentioning” is very different to mistaking you for a 24-hour helpline, I know, but I think being overly honest is not as bad as not telling something important early on.

    7. People who obscure their faces? They may be simply on the run (I’m told is rather full of these). Or they may live in a very small town where everyone knows them, and don’t necessarily want that everyone pointing fingers, the way people in very small towns do. As for those ‘tired being hit on for their looks’, these often happen to be people who haven’t bothered putting up any info about them, and give others a chance at hitting on them for their brain, for instance.

    8. Well… personally, I think group photos should only be used as supplementary anyway, but girls with other girls are not half as annoying as guys photographed with another female. Yes, it may be their sister/mother/landlady/old dear he just helped across the street. Yes, it may be that he wants to show he’s got a pulse and is popular. Still, either is pathetic.

  4. I joined a dating site not too long ago and wondered what kind of pics of me I should put. I am mostly the one taking pics, I love photography, so there’s not many of me! I choose a few different ones of me traveling, outdoors, indoors. But really, it sucks. We all judge the pic before even reading the profile!! I know I do it for guys. So yep… Unless you’re a supermodel, good luck.

  5. Bridget, it’s funny how you state your personal opinions as facts. Because I, as a dating coach who also teaches how to meet women online and who met his wife online?

    I have to say: most, if not all, of Zack’s observations are true. Don’t hate him or me for it, but the people who get on online dating sites while they’re not ready for a relationship.

    Hell, I’d like to add some more points now we’re at it:

    9. The chance of a woman lying about her age online is 50-50. Same thing goes for her weight. So make sure someone has RECENT photos.

    10. Don’t believe the Im funny/flirty/fun/adventurous and bla bla bla summaries that women give you. Because if a woman truly IS funny, it would be obvious by how she talks: she jokes around, makes some sharp remarks. Funny women never SAY they’re funny. They know and show. Same goes for every other character trait. P.S. men use these summaries as well.

    11. If a woman avoids exchanging contact information more than twice, move on to the next one. Some women really are there simply to make friends, to get attention, or just to talk. Men usually aren’t: they want to date, so seek women who have the same goals. Leave the friend making for when YOU honestly only want to make friends.

    And for the record: we’re not pessimistic here, because these are some of the proven traps of online dating. And I know it sounds intimidating, like “can online dating be done then?”

    But YES it can: I met my wife online, I’ve met dozens of women before her abiding by these “rules” and my students also appear to be pretty successful as they get responses from women 80% of the time

    To More Dating Success,

    Dennis Miedema
    Win With Women

  6. Dennis, it’s even funnier that you seem to take a fairly light-hearted comment as a serious matter. If I thought my opinions facts, I would hardly bother stating the well known. Of course they are opinions – isn’t that the whole point of commenting:)?

  7. Zack,
    You may or may not be a cynic. But, another 5 letter word that begins and ends with a c comes to mind — comic. That is who your post seems to be written by. Thanks for keepin it real and real funny. With the things you brought up, you have to laugh if you’ve been through them like obviously we both have!

  8. One makes me think you have had some very bad experiances with online dating or not. But you do pick up on some very interesting topics, which is mostly true.

  9. IMHO, online dating sites service the needs of many people with no time and limited options for meeting others – especially those of us who are a little older in years and not into ‘night clubs’ or sitting in bars.

    With that said, a common issue with dating sites is the fact you often find that the date (in person) does not match their ‘tuned’ dating site profile and you find you’ve waisted an evening, some money and worst still, emotional effort.

    Another issue – for those of us who’re not so good at face-to-face dating is finding out “what went wrong?”. After a few online dates with no second dates, many people become confused and start to over-think their dates.

    We created ValidDate to help online daters with issues like the above – check us out then tell us what you think – we’re launching in the Bay Area right now.

    I’d like to thank Zack and Datingthoughts for this informative article.

  10. Some great points. I definitely agree with the one about people who are recently single. Last year a really hot Spanish girl sent me a wink out of the blue, and I thought my luck was in. It said on her profile “recently separated” but at the time, I paid it no heed.

    When we finally met up for a drink one evening, she turned up and instantly looked like she didn’t want to be there. Before you say anything, I don’t think it was because of me or what I look like. Pretty much off the bat, she told me how she’d been married to this guy in Wales and how he’d practically run out on her after two years. They were planning on divorcing, but they’d only split a couple of months ago.

    She told me she liked me and we agreed to see each other again, albeit taking things slowly. She maintained contact for a bit and then totally flaked out, so I gave her up for dead.

    Also your point on the blurry photos – in my experience, a blurry photo DOES mean that they’re ugly! I think if someone has lots of photos where you can hardly see their face, it means they’re insecure about their looks (and probably with good reason).

    You can’t tell everything from the photo, however. I’ve met some women who had mediocre or obscured photos (e.g. can’t see the whole of their face, only have one photo) and yet when I met them, they were smoking hot.

  11. Brilliant article! I love your style of writing and found this very accurate if not controversial! I’m sure just like me, a lot of guys were nodding their heads in agreement all over the world as they were reading this with a smile on their face.


  12. This is a very interesting article, true and funny at the same time. I often write about how profile pictures can trick male online daters but you touch on something that I have never thought about when you say that multiple pictures from the same angles showing the same facial expression should only count as one picture, this is very true! As far as your opinions on hiding what they truly look like and so on, you are dead on. 99% of the time this is true except on the rare occasion where a female has a distorted view of herself!

  13. After 5 years working in online dating sites, I love your approach Zack. Some, if not all of what you relate, is true, whether it is tongue in cheek or not

    The great thing is you have offered up a way to filter out potential dating disasters.

    As a former dating site customer and now a Community Manager, if I could give one piece of advice it would be “don’t try so hard”. It’s a cliche – but just be yourself, be honest, don’t try any gimmicks or sales pitches. People are looking for relationships, not a new car!

  14. Some good follow-on comments here, but I’m still lost on why daters should be spending time trying to spot the ‘players’ or the ‘doom and gloom purveyors’ on online dating sites based on their profiles and early dialog.

    Why not just find out from someone who has already dated them?

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