On dating sites, should my profile be long or short?
February 7, 2005 8:55 AM   Subscribe

DatingSiteFilter: One thing that annoys me on dating sites is profiles that are very short - just 2-3 lines or so. I'd like to know a bit about potential matches (yes, I'm picky!) But I'm wondering if having too long a profile is a turn-off to women. I'm a guy in his late twenties who totally believes in honesty, and my profile on a couple of sites is about 600 words long. This is so I don't accidentally end up with people who won't fit (I'm an atheist libertarian among other things). Is my profile too long? Should I keep some "mystery" back? Am I not getting any contacts because women might be falling asleep by the time they finish reading? Please share your thoughts and experiences.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IMOHO, overly long profile == reeks of desperation
posted by skwm at 9:10 AM on February 7, 2005

I would keep it pithy. A three-liner is too short, but a really long essay would make it look like you're trying too hard.

Am I not getting any contacts because women might be falling asleep by the time they finish reading?

You should keep in mind the ratio of men to women on these sites. When I was using internet personals, I very rarely had any responses to my profiles at all. What you really want to be doing is responding to THEIR profiles. Your profile is still important, because they will refer to it if they are intrigued by your email... but most of the women who use these services get so many responses that they don't bother to go looking for more.

I had a fair amount of success by responding to about 50 profiles, hearing back from 8 of them, and maybe ending up meeting 2 or 3 for coffee.

(I am now married to a wonderful girl I met on match.com.)
posted by agropyron at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2005

Agree with skwm and agropyron. Would you go into a bar, and launch into a ten minute monologue to try to impress a woman? No, because that would be scary. You use one witty line, and work on having a conversation. Shorter is better (says the twenty-something woman who uses dating websites).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

You mean you don't want to date people who aren't atheist libertarians?

There's believing in honesty, and then there's playing the dating site system to your best advantage. In this regard I think it's worthwhile applying to dating a cardgames metaphor - which is not to give away your entire hand away at once. Definitely keep some mystery back, because it gives your dates something to be excited about when they meet you. What will they discover next?

There must be a way of describing yourself (positively) and dropping all the right cultural references in less than 600 words. Be hard on yourself and edit 250 words out. I would say that if you're looking for a literate, erudite person then they are not going to have a problem with a decent amount of prose. It's more that you don't want to give an impression of being arrogant or self-obsessed.

Incidentally, I'd say give people a chance. You don't want to scare off people who may turn out to be perfect, if only you'd given them time to come out of their shell. The dating site makes it awfully easy to exclude people on the basis of trivial things, but there's no chemistry on a website. I've made the mistake of pushing people away online, only to meet them in the offline world and find them totally intriguing.

And finally, many women expect you to chase them... so the profile is your calling card rather than an invitation to contact you.
posted by skylar at 9:23 AM on February 7, 2005

Hmm, I wish you'd posted the actual ad so we could critique it:-) But even that might not help you much. I might sit here thinking, hey, I'd respond to that guy, but if I weren't the type of person you wanted, how much would that mean.

But here goes. Six hundred words is a bit lengthy, but there's also no need to go with two or three sentences. I'm inclined to think it's a way of pre-screening - you'll meet fewer women, but those you do meet will be of a higher quality. They'll know what a libertarian is, and they won't be hoping you're a churchy type. I do something similar in my ad - it's lengthy, and I try to give the lads a sense of what I am like and what I want. I know that when I read someone's profile, that's what I find the most helpful.

However, since I don't often find that, it's not a prerequisite. So I will answer briefly worded profiles as long as what IS there is well-written and appealing in tone, and I like the picture. I think the only really bad qualities in a profile are illiteracy and a jerkass tone.

And if the guy's picture is only borderline attractive to me but he has a great, meaty profile, it can turn my decision in his favour.
posted by orange swan at 9:30 AM on February 7, 2005

Also keep in mind that your profile (or for that matter, any introduction to a woman) isn't simply about your "specs" -- it isn't really just an opportunity to describe yourself. It's an opportunity to help someone feel something about you -- and tell them how they might feel with you. Don't be merely cerebral and descriptive. Don't just talk about yourself and your interests. Talk about stories and possibilities.
posted by weston at 9:31 AM on February 7, 2005

It's not the profile's word-count, it's whether it says anything. I've seen plenty of profiles, long and short, that were (1) nothing but clich├ęs, (2) an unrealistic shopping list or (3) a defensive rant against previous responses. In none of these cases is anything revealed about the person posting the ad, and that's telling. But you can reveal a lot about yourself in a sentence. Conversely, a 600-word ad that mentions your political philosophy -- and presumably other things -- may reveal you to be a bit of a blowhard, which is not necessarily how you want to market yourself.

Providing plenty of information to rule out bad fits is not a bad strategy -- beats the "long walks on the beach" approach -- but you want to make sure that that is in fact what you're doing. And you will get much fewer responses -- it's like applying for 300 jobs and getting two interviews, or applying for 10 jobs and getting two interviews: the selection process is at a different stage.

Remember, you're essentially providing an answer to the unspoken question, "Why should I bother responding to your ad?" This is an exercise in marketing yourself. It isn't easy: few people have enough self-knowledge to do a truly good one.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:31 AM on February 7, 2005

Oh, anon, tell you what. If you want, send me the text from your profile (using some generic hotmail address and editing out revealing details if you want to stay anonymous) and perhaps I can make some useful suggestions. I'm a professional editor (and a 31 year old single woman), so perhaps I can be of some assistance. I swear I won't Canadianize your spelling:-) My email address is on my user page.
posted by orange swan at 9:37 AM on February 7, 2005

Am I not getting any contacts because women...

You're not getting any contacts because you're the man and you have to be the one to make contact. It ain't right, but that's how it (usually) goes.

Short, long, doesn't matter. Be yourself (with emphasis on the upside) and contact every woman you're remotely interested in. Some will reply. You'll meet some of those. You'll like a couple of those. And if you're lucky, one of those will like you back.
posted by callmejay at 9:53 AM on February 7, 2005

Cut the profile to 100 words, and send the rest of the info divided between two or three emails, once you've started a conversation.
posted by anapestic at 9:57 AM on February 7, 2005

Girl profiles always get more hits.

And anon, an atheist libertarian? That's hot in my book.

My personal profile -- feel free to steal it, I've got more boys than I could ever use -- is at personals.theonion.com, username littlepopquiz. Check it out. Sometimes a creative conceit can go a long way. That particular personal ad actually led to my meeting a few celebrities who had been browsing them for fun and actually liked mine.
posted by u.n. owen at 9:58 AM on February 7, 2005

Anon: You do have a picture on your profile, right? A picture speaks a thousand words, you know. No picture = I'm not secure enough with my looks to show you. Get a clear full-body picture of yourself (and only you) in your favorite environment. Add 8 to 10 lines of text. Voila!


1) My best friend is a beautiful 30-yo woman who hangs out on LavaLife. She receives well over a dozen introductions each day. First, if she doesn't like the guy's picture, she deletes him. Second, if his profile doesn't capture her interest between sips of coffee, she deletes him.

2) I met 2 women through eHarmony and corresponded with a 3rd. eHarmony strictly matches people to their personality profiles and their preferences. All three were each the perfect vision of myself (if I were female). UGH!!!

Why is it important to say you are an atheist libertarian. IOW, you don't go to church and you are politically MOR. Just like 80% of everybody else. Don't sweat it.

So, open your mind on compatibility, keep your text short and your picture sweet.
posted by mischief at 10:01 AM on February 7, 2005

If I may extend this question, do online personals ever lead to real life meetings? Is it weird when you meet them, or do you talk on the phone first? Do you get a lot of hits, or none? Is it possible to just find a drug friend, or does everyone want LTR?

It just seems I could meet more people during one night of Mardi Gras revelry than months of internet relationship fishing. Maybe I should just give it a try for fun. Or angst.
posted by five dollars worth of thank you cake at 10:18 AM on February 7, 2005

Personally, I think it depends on your goals. If you know exactly what you want, describe it at whatever length you need and someone will eventually see it.

If you don't know what you want, describe yourself VERY BRIEFLY 'atheist libertarian that hangs out at coffee shops' is fine, and something general about what you want and include a flattering picture.

Whatever you do, DON'T spend a lot of time describing yourself. You're not the focus here ... you're male, hence a commodity that's in plentiful supply. I've always had the best success through ads where I describe who I'm looking for and say nothing about myself. Trying to make yourself compatible with as many women as possible is also generally a mistake that will lead to many failed blind dates.
(In fact, I'm now dating a beautiful, attractive and highly intelligent woman that I met through Craigslist personals. And I didn't describe myself at all in the ad, I just listed out things I found attractive.)
posted by SpecialK at 10:20 AM on February 7, 2005

I think something worth considering when you write your profile is how people tend to think about people as abstract personal ads and how they think of them as people.

So, if I were making up my shopping list of qualities I'd want in a man it would look something like this:
- educated professional with a reasonably stable job
- non-smoker, non-user, social drinker
- atheist
- socially liberal, especially queer positive because much of my social circle is gay
- well read but not dismissive of genre fiction
- likes live music, preferably in a americana / country vein
- writes coherently

If I read your detailed profile and find out you're all of those things except, say, you're a complete non-drinker and you listen to bad pop music, I'm likely to read it and say 'eh, no' and move on.

But if I read a slightly less detailed profile and only know that you seem interesting, when I meet you and am relating to you as a person, deviating from my mental shopping list isn't as much of an issue. The guy I currently have a massive crush (are adults allowed to have massive crushes? or do we have to give those up when we get our degrees?) on is non-country listening buddhist, and I still think he's perfectly adorable because I knew him as a person before I started evaluating him against the checklist.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2005

You've received lots of great advice here... cut it down to 200-300 words, max. Include a flattering picture. And especially listen to Weston's advice: it's all about what you make the reader feel. Laundry lists of quantitative info ain't worth jack.

Also, as a man, don't expect to get responses. Respond to the women, and then they'll check out your profile.

(and, yes, I met my wife on match.com.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2005

Pictures help. When I was using theonion.com's personals, I had a picture, I liked it better when the guy had a picture. Don't get a mug shot, though. Just a good enough picture of you, and usually the best ones were of candid, happy moments. Also, 600 words is a bit much. I met my husband online, and we started exchanging email over Eddie Izzard, coffee, and our mutual love of books. These things were in those "What would you take to a desert island?" questions, not the "essay section." Don't *really* put what you would take to a desert island. "CDs" isn't much of a clue. If you said, "My Interpol CD" or "Mozart" that would be more . . . useful. The "Essay Section" should, as Special K pointed out, be used to say all the positive things you want in a girl. Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:41 AM on February 7, 2005

I've tried out the online personals thing, and my experience has been humour goes a long way. I had more women respond to my profile when I tried to add some humour to it. It's not just one-liners; there's a bit about me and a bit about what I'm looking for. Oh, and a pic.
posted by bachelor#3 at 10:48 AM on February 7, 2005

Long can work, but you have to be really good. A friend of mine actually wrote a FAQ on Usenet personals and recommended taking all the space you think you need. It worked for him.
posted by kindall at 10:52 AM on February 7, 2005

Jacquilynne raises an important point: you want to let prospects get to know you as a person before you rule yourself out by turning the whole thing into comparative shopping lists.

Definitely shorten your profile. When I was doing the online-dating thing, I was always trying to prune mine, to make it say more with less. I'd also point out that I tried several different services, and the one that encouraged the sketchiest profiles (Nerve & Spring Street affiliates) resulted in the most interesting dates. And a marriage.
posted by adamrice at 11:08 AM on February 7, 2005

A two sentence profile is worse than an overly long one, in my experience, but also a lot more common. But jacquilynne's point is true; too much information can put you on a "no" list for something that in real life might end up being completely unimportant.

I fattened up my spring street profile a while back and got fewer responses, but that isn't necessarily bad. Before that I had more first dates, but exactly the same number of "potential interests" (ie, none :)), so it may be better to filter out ahead of time, unless you enjoy first dates for their own sake, just as an excuse to get out of the house and be social or something. But if that were the case, you probably wouldn't be so particular in your profile, so, I wouldn't necessarily sweat it...

600 words does sound like a lot though. Someone might be able to pull it off and still sound interesting, but it could definitely come across as petty, obsessive, or just plain boring.

Oh yeah, no pic & forget it.
btw, I (& other women) do browse and respond to male profiles because that way we get to be the choosers, and not just filter through options passively.

why is this anonymous, anyway? I don't like answering questions where I'm admitting to something that is apparently too embarassing to admit to!
posted by mdn at 11:54 AM on February 7, 2005

"why is this anonymous, anyway?"

Good question, I was wondering the same thing. Hiding behind the internet is no way to get dates.
posted by mischief at 12:29 PM on February 7, 2005

The answer is that there's no right answer. I just dug up my old spring street ad to see what it looked like, and it was much less detailed than I thought I remembered. What it did have was a (so flattering it verges on perjury) photo, a catchy headline, and a brief intro to my character. It turned out that the headline was all it took to make my now-wife cough up the $20 to send me a note. Some people will tell you it's the headline, some people will tell you it's the content, some people will tell you it's the picture. Mostly, they're all right. Pictures are important (I almost didn't write back to the aforementioned wife due to the absence of a photo in her profile), headlines are important, it's all important.
Browse some ads. See what the ones you want to respond to have in common and try that. Unless that common factor happens to be nudie pics.
posted by willpie at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2005

Do tell us how much email you get from atheist libertarians claiming to be 'anonymous', u.n.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:39 PM on February 7, 2005

What bachelor said. It's a while since I've been on a dating site, but I remember being struck by how few people use their profiles to actually demonstrate a sense of humor. If it's important to you to define your (non) faith and politics in your profile I think it's also important to demonstrate that you don't take yourself too seriously.

Also, I am a guy and I got more dates through women responding to my profile than the other way around, but I guess it depends on what you're looking for.
posted by teleskiving at 4:17 PM on February 7, 2005

"I got more dates through women responding to my profile"

FWIW, I get one about every two or three months that I don't initiate.

Except those babes in Russia who write just about every other week.
posted by mischief at 5:40 PM on February 7, 2005

Is is ok if the rest of us use your profile to spruce up our own, u.n.owen?
posted by notsnot at 9:35 PM on February 7, 2005

I had really great luck with the online dating services, meeting about two dozen women, and I was lazy and didn't initiate any contacts myself. While I think my photo was good, what really worked was being fairly verbose in the profile.

I generally didn't say much about myself but I did put in a lot about what I was looking for in another person, and used those bits to cast a reflection on myself and my tastes. And, I suppose it was a good strategy because it only attracted the more literate people and because there wasn't much about me, preserved the mystery while being clear about what I wanted and also made the reader feel as if the focus was entirely on her and not on me. It certainly helped avoid any appearance of vanity or self-centeredness.
posted by pandaharma at 12:26 AM on February 8, 2005

"made [her] feel as if the focus was entirely on her"

Exactly! ;-P
posted by mischief at 4:16 AM on February 8, 2005

a) 600 words is too long.

b) You should never discuss religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin. Take out the entire part about being an atheist libertarian. As a similar but perhaps mor jarring example, would you post something like "My income is $150,000 per year and I live in a $900,000 home and drive an $86,000 car, and am seeking someone of the same socio-economic level?" Even if true, I think that'd be only slightly less appropriate.

c) The above posters are right in saying that you should spend more time writing about, and maybe thinking about, who you're looking for.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:12 AM on February 8, 2005

You should never discuss religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin.

unless it's important enough to you that you want to date like-minded people, or at least people who aren't jarred/upset by your qualities. Spring Street has religion as a category to fill in. I know I'm not gonna click with someone who's an unqualified christian/catholic, or who would be upset / not respond to me because I check the 'atheist' box.

"Libertarian" can be kinda vague & hard edged; I'd only suggest using it if you're into ayn rand, as that's the sense it tends to throw out there for a lot of people. Atheist will also sound pretty intense to some portion of people.

It is true that you will reduce your pool by making such strong statements. Consider which qualities you would reallly think of as dealbreakers, and if you're flexible, ie, wouldn't mind dating a catholic, then you should probably skip the religion ID. If you consider it pretty central, then just know you're most likely cutting out the catholic girls when you note your atheism (which perhaps they would have accepted if they met you first & felt a real connection, etc).
posted by mdn at 2:01 PM on February 8, 2005

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