Online Dating: Filling out an OkCupid profile
Writing dating profiles is not an easy task, which is probably why, when you’re browsing dating sites, you come across so many half-arsed, haphazard profiles. Perhaps there’s also an air of ‘I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard’, but truth be told, I don’t answer messages from content-less profiles, I rarely answer messages from profiles without pictures, and the content has to be pretty outstanding for me to reply if someone hasn’t taken the time to consider their grammar and spelling. So if you do actually want to meet someone, these things are more important than they might appear to be. Which makes writing dating profiles a pain in the ass.
And before all that, there’s the matter of choosing your sites! If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to maintain seven different profiles on seven different sites. I’ve tried a few – Plenty of Fish, Match dot com, Girls Date Free – and when considering layout, ease-of-use, and basic profile set up, I like OkCupid best. Also, it’s not exclusive: you can use it if you’re poly, or open, or if you’re kinky – the community there is quite accepting. Being a kinky person I also feel compelled to be on FetLife, although I don’t particularly think it’s a great place to meet people. However, I use it to remain connected with kinky friends, and I receive a fair amount of correspondance from interested strangers too, which, although largely disappointing, does occasionally bring me something good.
Funnily enough one of the main reasons I joined OkCupid was to test the theory of another blogger. Unfortunately I can no longer remember who it was, but this blogger did a series of posts about how to fill out each section of your OkCupid profile. The advice was interesting, so I wanted to test it. Obviously, over the time I’ve been on the site, I have changed my profile a few times, so I’m not sure how far I’ve transgressed from her original advice, but it was ceratinly a good starting point. I remember her suggesting that under the Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food section you try not to just list all of your favourite things, but actually write a paragraph about your interests, with particular examples thrown in.
Without going into too much detail, my personal life has shifted somewhat recently, and whilst my profiles used to be very geared towards finding a long-term, monogamous relationship, I am so enjoying being single and (actually, although this is the first time I’ve used this label) a swinger that my profiles really need to be updated and rewritten. So that is what I am doing. In my 18 months of being active on OkCupid and FetLife, I have gathered some tips and advice of my own, so I thought, as I am in the process of rewriting my own profiles, I would share my advice.
When it comes to OkCupid – our site of discussion today, – I cannot stress, enough, the benefit of having a photograph of yourself. Generally speaking, it is nice to see someone’s face as early as possible. And well lit, friendly, welcoming headshots are more enticing than dark, red-eyed photographs of you drunk in a pub. Also, I wouldn’t particularly advise posting photographs of yourself with your exes, as it can be a bit off-putting, and I always wonder if those exes have consented to having their photograph on the site. If you’re non-monogamous, however, a photo of you and your partner(s) might be quite a good idea. But again – ask them first.
As for filling out your profile, well, this is the tricky part. On OKCupid, all the profiles have – on the right hand side – a bar titled My Details. It’s basically a list of all those little but essential details that can be tricky to work into your written profile: ethnicity, height, body type, smokes, religion, education, etc. – you get the idea. Try to fill this out as fully and as honestly as possible. The best way to think of it is as a filter system: if you’re a deeply religious feline-fan, you don’t want to accidentally end up on a dating a raging atheist with a bad cat allergy. I think the parts most people don’t answer are 1. body type, and 2. salary. I don’t think it’s all that important to put your salary down, particularly if you’re not looking for something life-long. But feel free to be honest about it if you’re willing. As for the weight thing: as an overweight girl myself, I can tell you openly and honestly that having ‘overweight’ on my page has meant that I receive much more promising messages than I did when it, somewhat coyly, said ‘a little extra’. It’s much better not to put yourself in a position where people can be surprised into giving you negative feedback. And I have never received any fat-shaming messages that I didn’t provoke by being a real bitch.
All in all, if someone has a very empty My Details panel, I get suspicious that this person is hiding something or just overly secretive about their habits and thus less likely to be open and honest with me further down the line.
When it comes to filling in the bulk of your profile, you are required to write under several different sub-titles. The first of these is My self-summary. This has always been the part I find toughest to write, because if you scroll down the page a little, you will find that everything you might want to put in this section is encompassed by what follows. However, if you’re the kind of person who really dislikes having their profile broken up into these categories, I have seen good profiles in which the person used the self-summary section to write about themselves in full, and left the other sections blank. I’m not sure how this affects searches and matches, – and you may want to check that before you disregard the other sections – but as a discerning member of the OkCupid community, it doesn’t bother me personally at all.
On the other hand, if – like me – you quite enjoy filling out sections and having someone else to guide you in structuring your profile, you might still be faced with the problem of how to fill out this first section. My advice? Keep it brief. If you’re not against using labels, then use them. For a long time, mine simply read ‘Curvy, kinky, submissive, English-rose type, literature student seeks creatively cruel gentleman sadist with good reading voice’ which provided me with some good responses. The point is not to go on for too long – as there are still ten other sections for your visitors to read, – to give some sense of who you are, and some idea of what you’re looking for. Although there is an I’m looking for section of the profile, it is filled out using drop boxes, and may not quite encompass what you want. Furthermore, the I’m looking for section is quite far down the page, and you might want to let people know, straight away, if you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, or if you are only looking for casual sex, etc. It just helps to be as upfront as possible so that you don’t have to deal with a lot of unwanted messages. Not everyone is going to read your entire profile.
I probably update my What I’m doing with my life section more often than I do any other section, and lately I’ve taken to using it as a little window into my life; how I do this is by writing a diverse, prose-style list of all the things I’ve done in the past week, or the main events of the past month. For example, my profile (up until now) has read ‘This week I: went to two lectures; presented a history of the word ‘moon’; carved Bane’s face into a pumpkin; took my little brother and sister to the Science Museum with my best friend; spent an evening listening to people read their erotic fiction at a book launch; began my fourth NaNoWriMo novel; had dinner with three sex-positive friends; cut down on my cigarette smoke intake; started rewatching The League of Gentleman; collected, rode amongst, and stole my brother’s A-level art for my bedroom wall; read book three of Troilus and Criseyde; made and drank a lot of tea; and watched The Blair Witch Project for the first time.’ This not only gives an insight into my activities and interests, but into how I live my life, and who I spend my time with. This is also the section that people mention most when they message me. They’ll ask me about something I’ve done, or share their own interest in the Science Musuem, for example. Most people use it to talk about their interests/work/hobbies, which works well too – but remember, you don’t need to go into great detail: you just need to put enough to spark a conversation. If you tell everything straight away, then there are no questions to be asked.
Moving into the I’m really good at section. I love this section. It allows you to be tongue-in-cheek arrogant, and show off just a little bit. I’d advise that you don’t write too much here; you don’t want to seem overly arrogant. But allow yourself to list a few of the skills you’re proud of. It seems to work well if you have a mixture of common talents – like cooking, or swimming, etc. – and something unusual, or quirky. Have fun with this section and try and think of a few of the odd things you seem to be really good at for no apparent reason. (E.g. – ‘I’m really good at tying cherry stems in knots with my tongue’. Useless but flirty and entertaining.)
I see a lot of people filling out their The first thing people usually notice about me in a really shy or coy manner, which can be a bit annoying to read. People blush enough in real life – I know I do – so doing it in awkward-word form seems like a bit of a waste of time. If you’re not sure what people notice about you, ask a friend. It’s probably something quite simple, and a good friend will frame it interestingly for you too. But keep it brief!
As I mentioned before, I tend to revert to the advice of that blogger, who’s name and blog escape me!, when it comes to the Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food section. Don’t feel like you have to address all of these things, or that you need to seperate them into their own little sub-sections. Weave them together, and try not to just list. If you’re a fan of feel-good entertainment, then say that, and drop in a few examples that encompass all of the categories. For example: ‘I love happy-endings, laughter, and romance like Four Weddings and a Funeral, and New Girl, and Jane Austen’. It doesn’t have to be quite that brief, but this seems to be a good basic guideline.
Many people have a very personal, and deep relationship with music, so if you feel similarly, you might want to take a little more time over that. (I use iTunes to check my top 10 most recently played artists, which tends to be quite representative of my tastes.) But if you want to leave it in with the rest, you can do that too. The same goes for food. Either way, conveying a general sense of things, and then a few specific examples for people to pull out, seems to work well.
The six things I could never do without section is where you really get to take advantage of your inner list maker. Keep it to six items – it’s a good show of your attention to detail – and make it varied. And I don’t mean list all your various Apple products – ‘1. My iPhone, 2. My MacBook, 3. My iPad, etc.’ – as this would be quite dull and one-dimensional to read. My favourite profiles list something day-to-day (like a favourite brand of breakfast cereal, or the bike you ride to work), something cultural, and something a little bit naughty. This is a dating profile, after all – you are allowed, or in fact downright encouraged!, to flirt.
Another piece of advice that I still use from that aforementioned blogger – and now I’ve mentioned her so many times I’m beginning to think I should do more research and find you a link! – is on the I spend a lot of time thinking about section: her advice is to write it somewhat stream-of-consciousness. So you come up with one starting topic, and then write a paragraph that just follows your thought process. For example, if I took the topic of what to have for lunch, my paragraph might go something like this: What should I have for lunch? I think there’s some bacon in my fridge. Don’t you hate it when the fridge is empty? It’s so disappointing. Like when you have no Facebook notifications for a few days and you wonder WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?. Actually that’s what I thought at the beginning of 28 Days Later. It was so weird to see London all empty and creepy. I heard that they hired some really hot girls to divert the crowds whilst they filmed that. Or maybe that was some other film…’ and so on and so forth. Mind you, you need to know when to stop too. And it’s okay to insert a bit of cheekiness into it, I just get bored when this section is wholly about sex. It can come across as very one-dimensional.
The On a typical Friday night I am section is just as self-explanatory as it appears to be. Be honest, be playful. I’ve never read this section on anyone’s profile and felt it was miss-judged. If you’re usually out with your friends, say so. If you’re usually enjoying a relaxing night in, say so. If you’re usually engaged in a huge, hot, sweaty orgy – SAY SO. (Mind you, if what you’re usually doing on a Friday night seems particularly disappointing, maybe you can take it as an indication that you need to change your Friday night routine. Or maybe you should describe a different night!)
The section that most people both fill out and side-step is The most private thing I’m willing to admit. I would say that most people answer this with something along the lines of “You’ll have to get to know me a little before I’ll tell you that”. The problem with this answer is it is infuriating! because if it’s too private for you to admit on your profile, then it isn’t the most private thing you’re WILLING to admit – is it? You don’t have to divulge your deepest, darkest secret here. What it actually gives you is the opportunity to share a little-known fact or story about yourself. Admit to your love of children’s cartoons, or tell visitors to your profile about your odd sweet spot. It can be sexual, or dating-related, although I personally tend to prefer it when people are a bit more creative than that.
As I mentioned before, the I’m looking for section is filled out by using drop-down menues. Therefore the best advice I can give, is to fill it out as fully and honestly as possible.
Finally, we come to the You should message me if section. Again, this is a section I find works best when it encompasses some variety. Don’t be shy about spelling out any particular preferences you might have when considering a potential partner, but don’t be a twat about it. For example, I always have ‘good spelling and grammar’ in this section, because it’s important to me, and displays a certain amount of intelligence, but I don’t harp on about it – well, not in my profile anyway. As someone who is kinky, I also include something about that in this section. There’s no point in wading through messages from completely vanilla people if you need kink in your relationships. And again, be playful. Don’t be too serious about this section. Give people the opportunity to start conversations with you. Try to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
And there you have it. Overall, I think the best rules of thumb are to be honest, be welcoming, proofread what you’ve read, and give your profile the attention you’d like to see in the messages you receive. Along those lines, also don’t put anything in your profile that you don’t want people to mention. If you say out-right that you like to be spanked, don’t be surprised when people show an interest in spanking you. You don’t have to put up with people who are really rude or unthinking about it, but be aware that you are inviting some flirtatious comments.
Another rut that many girls fall into is to list all the things they don’t want. This, I’m sure, comes from the huge number of unthinking, negative, miss-judged messages girls open themselves up to online. I don’t want to make this a gender issue, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard similar complaints from men. It just seems to be the way it is. Nevertheless, if you are female, and you have online dating profiles, the best thing to do is to ignore the unsavoury messages, and keep the negatives out of your profile. Nothing is as off-putting as a profile that lists all the things you don’t want. And I say that as someone who has wanted to write that list many many times.
Ultimately, the more complete and friendly the profile, the more likely you are to receive interesting responses. And surely that’s why we’re all there to begin with.
I’ll try and write a companion piece to this one in the next week or so, discussing the far trickier task of filling out a FetLife profile. I can’t promise to have quite so much insight, but I certainly have some tales to tell. FetLife most definitely requires thicker skin…