How to Be More Discerning and Win at Online Dating

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My friend Katrina is an experienced online dater, and while shenow has a long-term boyfriend, she enjoyed trying out dating apps when she was single.

When I was post-breakup (and thought I was ready to date, though I clearly wasn’t), she sat me down and gave me some advice which I am sharing with you. Note that this is just what strategies she employed when trying to avoid hookup culture on the apps while pursuing a hetero-relationship. The following tips are what helped her match with her current partner.

Lead with several of your best lifestyle tendencies, but also one of your rarest/most difficult/hardest to deal with

This rules out most of the group and narrows the field to those who (presumably) can tolerate/handle a partner with those tendencies you talk about. The more specific you get here, the better. For example, if you are a morning lark who bounces out of bed at first light each morning and goes for a 5-mile run, you probably won’t be a good match for a night owl who sleeps until noon. You’ll just be on different schedules, and this can eventually take a toll on the relationship.

If you know you get super cranky when you’re hungry, share that. If you are a vegan or on the keto diet or anything particular, list this now. If you used to have a gambling problem and now avoid casinos, you can probably save this confession for later, but maybe mention that you are not the type to enjoy Las Vegas. The goal here is to whittle the potential field so you’re not wading through a bunch of people whose lifestyles and goals vary drastically from your own. Of course, also lead with the skills you’re proud of; Are you a 4-time yodel champion? Know how to make a mean lasagna? You don’t want to sound self-pitying or self-hating, so it’s okay to boast a little too, though this will come across as far more generic (after all, who doesn’t like lasagna?) The more specific you can share about your lifestyle, goals, and values, the better you position yourself to find someone who might match that.

Skip anyone who doesn’t write anything about themselves in the bio

It’s easy to choose a few photos, but if they aren’t investing the time in sharing a peek into who they are, they are probably just looking for a hookup and not a relationship.

Also skip anyone who posts photos flipping off the camera, or takes bathroom selfies or shirtless gym photos. These also scream “disrespect” and “hookup only.”

Read their bios and use what they say they want as a filter

First, you have to be authentic and honest about what it is you want. If you are set on having your own children someday and the profile you’re looking at does not say “Wants kids,” pass and move on to the next. Similarly, if you are against cigarette smoke or drinking, bypass anyone who is even a “social smoker” or “social drinker.” This rules out people whose goals and values aren’t in alignment with yours.

Even if you spot a really attractive man who only posts sports photos or fish photos or outdoorsy camping photos and those aren’t lifestyles you’d like to be a part of, then skip. You don’t need to share every hobby and activity with your partner, but you would ideally share some.

Respond to (and match) their efforts, and more or less ignore their non-efforts

If they aren’t investing energy into finding out if there’s a preliminary mutual interest in taking this match into the real world, then pass and move on. Katrina says so many guys will open a message with just “hey,” or “how are you?” and that she’s looking for a bit more mental effort. The whole reason people write bios is to intrigue potential mates, right? So whether you reach out first, or whether they initiate the conversation, there should be something of substance to reference.

Be discerning when you chat with someone

If their conversation doesn’t captivate you, move on to the next guy. Sure, chatting with a stranger online can be tough, but there are so many oddball questions you can lead with, like “If you were a vegetable, how would you like to be prepared for a meal,” or, “If a rhinoceros was chasing me, what would you do?” The point here is less how they answer and more if they’re willing to be weird with you and reveal themselves. It also will illuminate if they can think out of the box and whether they are creative.

And the shallow:

She says most guys stretch the truth when it comes to their height. (Stretch…see what I did there?) If you are set on a particular height for your future boyfriend, subtract an inch or two from what he posts.

If you’re not willing to hook up with his ugliest photo, swipe left and move on. She says men tend to choose bad photos of themselves, more attached to their memories of where they were when the photo was taken and not how representative of them the photos actually are.

That brings me to Katrina’s method; she never messages first. Call it playing games, call it strategy, but Katrina prefers to let a man know she’s potentially interested and leave the ball in his court to initiate the effort. The one exception is Bumble, where ladies must initiate contact within 24 hours or the match ends; here, she lets the matches expire, and only if they extend the match another 24 hours and she’s potentially interested in getting to know them will she send a message.

The truth is, you’re not looking to appeal to everyone and get the most matches possible; you’re looking to find someone who matches your quirky personality. It’s far better to only have one or two potential matches who might be really good fits with you as far as values and goals than it is to have 86 “blah” matches. Trying to wade through all that is just exhausting!

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