Dos and don’ts for online dating, based on science

In the online dating game, choosing a screen name with a letter starting in the top half of the alphabet is as important as an attractive photo and a great headline.

In fact, researchers have recently discovered some of the best ways of finding love in the digital world — and we have their tips.

online dating sites

When it comes to online dating, science says…

The researchers wanted to find out what approaches would maximize the chances of converting online contact between men and women into that all-important first face-to-face meeting, using published research on the art of attraction and persuasion.

Therefore, they carried out an extensive search of relevant studies in the fields of psychology and sociology — as well as computer, behavioral and neurocognitive sciences — and their analysis was published in the journal Evidence Based Medicine.

Out of almost 4000 different studies, 86 met their inclusion criteria. The study findings were pooled and synthesized to come up with a list of dos and don’ts for online dating, from creating a profile to making an approach.

Online dating profile tips: Choosing a screen name

They found that the screen name chosen for an online profile is important. The lovelorn should avoid names with negative associations, such as ‘Little’ or ‘Bug,’ and aim for something more playful, such as ‘Fun2bwith’ as this type of name is universally attractive.

And would-be daters should take gender into consideration: men are more drawn to names that indicate physical attractiveness, such as ‘Blondie’ or ‘Cutie,’ while women go for names that signal intelligence, such as ‘Cultured.’

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taking a selfieIt may be even more important to start a screen name with a letter in the top half of the alphabet, say the researchers. That’s because several measures of success, such as educational attainment and income, are linked to names higher up the alphabet — and on top of that, search engines sort names alphabetically by default.

But choose carefully, say the researchers, who recommend looking at the profiles of other people you find attractive and using a similar screen name to theirs.

Online dating profile tips: Picking the right picture

It goes without saying that an attractive photo is essential. But be sure to include one that features a genuine smile that crinkles up the eyes, and possibly a tilt of the head… And women seeking men should wear red, as this is likely to boost the level of interest, the evidence shows.

And don’t stop at selfies. Group photos showing other people having a good time in your company, preferably with you right in the middle of the action and touching someone else — but only on the upper arm — will help to convey, respectively, your friendliness, importance, and status.

Incidentally, women find a man more attractive when they see other women smiling at him, say the researchers.

For your headline and your profile

When it comes to the headline message, don’t use complex language in the belief that it will make you look more intelligent. It won’t. People are naturally drawn to words that are easy to remember and pronounce, and ease of information processing increases likability, the analysis shows.

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“If you can get the potential date to stop and think about your headline message, increasing the exposure time to your primary photo, this will increase their liking [of you],” point out the researchers.

And steer clear of fiction in your profile: apart from anything else, written information could come back to bite you, they warn.

The evidence shows that it’s best to provide a 70:30 ratio of who you are, and what you are looking for. And bear in mind that likability is more attractive than academic achievement, and that a profile that appears genuine is more likely to generate interest.

What traits are most attractive? Men are drawn to physical fitness in women, while women prefer bravery and risk-taking rather than kindness and altruism in men.

When it comes to another helpful ingredient, humor, ‘show; don’t tell,’ is the advice. A wittily-written profile is likely to be far more successful than just saying that you have a sense of humor, say the researchers.

More profile tips for dating success

They go on to provide a list of helpful tips, which, the available evidence suggests, could boost the chances of getting a first date.

Once interest has been piqued:
  • Do personalize any email invitations to correspond online
  • Do make it short and sweet
  • Don’t be afraid to use poetry, preferably rhyming with the potential date’s headline
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Once contact has been made:
  • Do ask open questions
  • Do respond promptly — eagerness is not turn-off
  • Don’t write a short novel, but enough to indicate generosity with time
  • Do introduce humor
  • Do disclose some personal information
  • Don’t sell yourself as a rare commodity that is worth having
If on a webcam:
  • Do smile
  • Do mimic body language
  • Don’t slouch
  • Do pay genuine compliments, but don’t flatter
  • Don’t portray yourself as perfect — it arouses suspicion
  • Do end every conversation on a positive note/with a positive revelation about yourself

And, finally, don’t leave it too long before arranging a face to face meeting.

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