What Internet Dating Can Teach Us About Writing

Very recently, I had cause to dabble in the world of online dating sites.

‘For a friend’, you understand!

What I found in this world both surprised and shocked me.  I wasn’t shocked in a ‘too many nutjobs’ kind of way, but in a ‘do people really put that?’ kind of way.  Here’s what I mean.

When you go onto the site, you’re asked for some basic info for your profile.  You want your profile to look good, right?  You’re there, after all, to attract people.  After the username, photo, age, height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, gender (in case the photo isn’t a giveaway) and ‘interested in’ part, you’re asked two open-ended questions.  To write a bit about yourself and to write a bit about what you’re looking for.

No problemo.

My profile (ahem… I mean ‘my friend’s profile’) was going to be easy.  I’ve known me my whole life, so a few words shouldn’t be a problem.  I rattled off a quick and quirky opener.  I kept it light.  I showed a bit of personality.

In the next step, you’re able to see other people’s profiles.  And here’s where the surprise and shock kicked in.  Number one, I was surprised by how open and genuine so many of them were.  (And hot – yes, really!)  Shame on me for having such a stereotype of what people in the online dating world were like.  So I was off to a good start.  People were normal.  I like normal.

Number two, I was shock at the complete and utter waste of time of profiles that start like this:

I’m not entirely sure what to say here.

I guess I’d describe myself as driven?

Not a massive fan of self-promotion.

…and (my favourite)…

Tell you later.

This whole escapade set me off thinking about the power of our words and using them to get what we really want.  Would you honestly approach Mr Tell You Later?  What is he saying there?  And what is he not saying?  ‘I’m too lazy to even fill out a few sentences as a profile’?  ‘I like to be intriguing.’  ‘I’m so arrogant I’ll let my photo speak for itself.’  ‘You can come to me.’  ‘I’m more than a profile on a screen and better in person.’

Who knew saying so little could say so much?

Likewise, Mr I Guess I’d Describe Myself As Driven? could be all sorts of misunderstood.  Maybe people don’t analyse as much as I do, but the Linguistic Analysis degree had to come in useful sometime!  To me, this guy is saying, ‘I’d like to be driven but I haven’t actually achieved much…’ ‘…don’t have the confidence…’ ‘…don’t want you to think I’m up myself…’ 

The question mark was the real kicker.  I was left thinking he wanted me to tell him if he was driven or not.

Poor confused lamb.

By the time I’d browsed a few of these profiles, the last thing I was going to do was contact anyone.  I was far too  amused and halfway through planning my next blog post!  This is what I learnt about writing self-promoting copy:

  • Call me old-fashioned, but self-promotion should, ah, self-promote.  There’s a start.
  • Be succinct.   We don’t want to read your stream of consciousness and self-doubt.  Unless it’s funny, deliberate and part of the persona.  Even so, a precise description is easier for your readers to get a handle on.
  • Be yourself.  But not at the expense of the self-promotion part.  I swear, one guy’s second sentence read ‘I play online games a lot on my laptop’ .  Dude, rein it in a little!  Or you’ll be playing online games on your laptop for the rest of your days.
  • Filter.  Yes, we all want to be ‘authentic’ and ‘real’.  But I’m thinking the guy with the fart jokes probably ain’t getting a date any time soon.  As a personal brand, the temptation is to put it all out there, but there are still some topics your audience might consider off-limits.  Even personal brands have to define what professional means for them.
  • Don’t ask, tell.  Your audience wants to get to know you and you are the best person to tell them who you are.  If you’re seeking something from your audience – feedback, help defining an offering, clarity – ask them elsewhere, not in your sales piece.
  • Be specific.  Don’t leave questions unanswered for your readers to fill in the gaps, especially where the answer is not obvious.  Example: you can use a rhetorical question when it’s clear what you’re driving at.  When it’s not, your audience will be left confused.  They don’t know how awesome you are yet.  You have to specify!

Putting these steps to use when writing my online dating profile came as second nature.  And I’m relieved to say they seem to be sound principles!  One guy even described my writing as ‘refreshing’.  I took that to be a good thing.  Watch this space…

Do you have a short, sharp piece where you’re under-selling yourself?  Have you written a bio, about page, guest post or article that’s just not quite there?

Follow the link for more information on my brand new Flash-Editing package.  Let me fix your writing fears in a flash!

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5 Responses to What Internet Dating Can Teach Us About Writing

  1. Rachael February 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Love this : )

    I had the pleasure of helping my best friend (male) write his dating profile, and then vetting his prospects and it was the funniest, most entertaining experience.

    It’s a mine field already on dating sites, but some of the things people say about themselves are just absurd, and fatally damaging to their dating chances.

    I hope your ‘friend’ has fun meeting some of the more promising profile owners.

    • krise February 23, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      I have to wonder who the online games guy is hoping to attract. It has been hysterical looking at what people think is okay to divulge. I might do a post about what I wrote one day. Maybe…

  2. Lauren February 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    VERY funny, Kris. Loved it. :)

    I’ve never been involved with any online dating sites (been with the same guy since foreverrrrrrrr), but many of my friends have been signing up lately and their stories are similar to your own. I think you’re going to get a lot of traffic on this one. Good advice and humorous–relatable!–stories.

    Well done!

    • krise February 23, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Thanks Lauren! Judging by the week I’ve had, I’m sure there are bound to be many more stories where these came from!

  3. Kris Emery March 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    I think I have a new favourite.

    “All of my best mates have recently gone overseas, so I’ve got no one to hang out with anymore!”

    Such a charmer…

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