April 19, 2021

What You Need to Know Before Diving into the Online Dating Pool

By Corinne Issa

With over 30 million Americans turning to online dating apps to find suitable partners each year—a number that continues to rise–it seems inevitable that, whether you want to just have fun or find “the one,” eventually you’ll venture into the cyber world to set up your own dating profile and review the profiles of prospective dates. So how should you go about presenting yourself in the best light? How can you interpret the information of potential partners? What are the largely unconscious factors that have induced you to swipe right or left? In the online dating world, it is important not only to address these questions, but also to fully understand your own responses when examining the profiles of potential partners: a thorough grasp of these elements will allow you to utilize some techniques that might make your experience a happier one.

Choosing the Best Profile Picture

First, you need to put some serious time and effort into your self-presentation, since it will become the primary strategy through which you can shape others’ view and impression of you. Photos that are more expansive, where the posture is open and the stance is wide, are more likely to invite a swipe to the right and increase the odds of making a successful romantic connection. An open stance conveys a sense of confidence, which is perceived as more attractive. Surveys show that potential daters rate smiling photos as more attractive than serious ones. In addition, the smile is an open invitation with its own message. A smiling person is less risky because the confidence he or she conveys indicates that person is friendly and happy. Since most relationships start with that first green light, the smile can produce a chain effect.

Of course, you need to comment on that profile picture. When analyzing the attractiveness of texts (in the creation of a profile), it was found that more alluring written description went hand in hand with smiling photos: just as the smile conveyed confidence, so did the words. Of course, in writing for confidence, you should make sure you don’t overdo it; over-confidence actually indicates insecurity or self-absorption, two traits that are more likely to be dismissed with a swipe to the left.

The Emoji as an Aid

Even online, communication has to be at the “heart” of the dating experience. To maximize how you are perceived, disclose the greatest amount of information, and heighten the interest level in pursuing a relationship, you should consider using emojis as nonverbal cues. Emojis can succeed where simple text often fails in providing clearer intent and tone. Compared to a text chat, versions featuring more nonverbal cues through emojis produced more favorable perceptions of the potential partner and greater disclosure. In other words, a simple text exchange won’t completely cut it: you need emojis, like blowing a kiss, that send a clear signal. Emojis are expressive in showcasing nonverbal communication messages you would be sending if you were meeting a date in person.

What Text Reveals

An impression is formed on both sides not only through the picture, but also though the “decoding” of text in the profile or exchange. Studies show that people will infer personality traits (and therefore compatibility) by interpreting the language. Here’s where subtext can become a valuable tool both for the profile you present and the text exchange with the person you are checking out. According to Stephanie Tom Tong, professor of Communications at Wayne State University, your profile is crucial because it is the first and primary means of expressing oneself during the early stages of online dating. Your profile can therefore foreclose or create relationship opportunities. She urges the use of natural language to put the other at ease, since this linguistic information is the primary means of interpreting cues. As the sender and the observer, you have to examine your own profile for these subtle messages that might attract or repel potential partners, even as you look for the cues in those you seek to attract. Word length and choice, grammar, sentence length, and vocabulary are all useful tools in assessing personality. Be clear and use everyday vocabulary and be conscious and use correct grammar. Don’t be shy about including some humor; this trait was positively associated with openness to experience, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Words showcase your personality: use them to convey an attention to detail both for yourself and in interpreting the words of others.

Take-home Message

If you decide to dive into the online dating pool, keep in mind that you want to also attract the most promising partners and convey your own attractiveness to them. Since in-person non-verbal cues are missing from the cyber experience, make the most of the verbal and linguistic cues, including emoji’s, at your disposal. Create a compelling, open, and confident profile as a crucial means of making a first impression; attend to those subtle details that can say so much about your positive qualities. Look for the minute cues in the presentational messages of others to see if they also took care with the details. A possible partner’s well-written post indicates investment in the process and potentially in you. Likewise, a grammatically incorrect or poorly written post might indicate a lack of education or indifference to the process.

Verbal and non-verbal components in online dating can tell an entire story about you and your dating prospects. But, with the level of anonymity involved, can you trust the process to be as revealing as we’ve outlined here? The answer to that question is a surprising “probably.” Notions that people frequently lie online is inaccurate. Now, if you opt to join the more than one-third of today’s dating couples who have formed online dating relationships, you can shape your profile and review the profiles of possible partners with the knowledge that you’ve optimized your chances for finding romance.


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