Another 'critique my online dating profile' question...
January 2, 2013 10:38 AM   Subscribe

New to the online dating game. Late-20s female, London-based.

I've recently joined Guardian Soulmates (seems to be the main player here). While I've received a fair few 'likes' and a number of messages, NONE of the men I have 'liked' or sent messages to have responded. They seem to look at my profile and then go away!

Individually the non-response could be a for a whole host of reasons and of course I don't expect everyone to be interested. However, the complete lack of responses makes me wonder whether there's something in my profile that's inadvertently off-putting. I don't want to make my profile artificially broad simply to get more interest. But I'm not sure whether I'm sending the wrong message to men I might get along with. They ones I'm contacting seem to have similar interests to me so it's a little surprising that none of them are interested at all.

Here's my profile.

One thing I'm wondering is whether I come across as more wholesome than I really am. I am genuinely into all the outdoorsy and nerdy stuff I mention in my profile. I also frequently go to bars and restaurants but didn't specifically mention it since I feel it's a given. Maybe I should?

Generally, I'm not to sure how the whole thing works. Could it be English men are put off by women making the first contact? Seems ridiculous, we're all there to find dates... And is it better to 'like' someone or to send a message? The messages I've sent are a couple of sentences and reference the recipient's profile. Nothing heavy.

Thanks for the advice!
posted by MrChuckles to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that stuck out to me is that the photo looks sort of professional. Not like professionally done, but like you look like you're wearing office attire. It looks like it could be your company headshot or work ID photo. I don't know what's typical for British dating sites, but in the US in my experience people tend to post photos that are a little more relaxed. Often it is pictures of them in the act of having casual fun times (vacations, parties, being silly with friends).

You come off as really really serious, what with the photo (you're not even smiling!) and the namedropping of Nabokov and Rilke.

You also spend a lot of time talking about solitude and all your hobbies you like to do alone that you "prioritize".

The portrait I get is of someone who might not be that much fun to hang out with and who probably would rather be alone.

Caveat: I'm sort of aware that British culture is more reserved, so for all I know every other woman on there has a super-serious corporate head shot style photo, and everyone loves talking about how all their hobbies are things they prefer to do alone. But from an American perspective, this stuff really sticks out to me.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 AM on January 2, 2013

Female U.S. here. The only vaguely off-putting thing that I see is the Riilke school of relationship philosophy. I mean, I like men, but my first instinct on seeing that would be, hmm. Other than that, you seem like a dear.

I am taking a break from online dating because it can be quite exhausting, but one thing I did learn is that it is really a matter of making some sort of significant contact with other people and sorting through those interactions.

W/o knowing the messages the guys sent that you ignored, could you perhaps lower the bar a bit but ONLY in the initial stages? Sometimes people who don't have a solid game in terms of charm can have a good thing going on.
posted by angrycat at 10:52 AM on January 2, 2013

Your profile is so well-thought out that it reads as high maintenance. Bear in mind, as another U.S. female I am not your target audience, but I would shorten the "About Me" to the essentials, and tone down the requirements in "Who I'm Looking For." You can cover that stuff on the first date. Basically make it easy for them to read and identify with. I would also broaden the age range; it looks a little picky. Otherwise you're clearly a catch, and the picture is fine. Good luck!
posted by tooloudinhere at 11:02 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to give you an honest assessment, in a a polite way, so please take it in that spirit, ok?

i found your profile to be a little.... off putting and a little... pretentious or maybe high maintenance is a better phrase. I'm not exactly sure how to put my finger on it, but i didn't get a great picture of you, just lots of cultural references. In a way perhaps that is a picture of you, but i think what has happened is that you've sent a few messages (knowing the text of those would help) and those guys have come along, and thought wow, she sounds very smart and interesting.... and she wants alone time.... and who's rilke? and nabokov? and so they think you are over complex and wander on the the next profile. I know i am underselling my gender a little, but in the 28-35 set worldwide those that can quote the poet and novelist you've namedropped would number in the low low single digits percent. I think if you went back over this and added two paragraphs at the beginning, outlining more who you are and what you are looking for in more direct language, and perhaps more candidly discussed what exactly about rilke's letters attracts you, in your own words, you might have better success.

for what it's worth, i would have responded to a note from you... so perhaps the notes themselves and your approach in them are key still.

all the best luck, i hope you find someone amazing!

and basically tooloudinhere has said much more succinctly what i was driving at.
posted by chasles at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might have better luck on OK Cupid as I think it could possibly be more your style.
posted by adamvasco at 11:19 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

You look lovely and I'd want to be your friend if I still lived in London, but it does come across really serious and very intelligent, and I think British men would be intimidated to be honest. It looks like you have your whole life sorted out and will only slot in a man if you think he fits in with your philosophy.

I did Soulmates a while ago and met some nice chaps, nothing came of them but I wasn't on for long and it was ages ago. I remember that making contact with them didn't really work too well, I had to let them come to me a bit.

I would suggest

a) change the rather scary quotation at the top - that is quite intimidating and scary (sorry!)
b) make the profile more inclusive - I've recently got into rambling and would love to share my new found love of the English countryside with someone special, even if we end up messing around with head torches; I'm as happy in my own company as I am with crowds of people and love having a balance of both in my life, that kind of thing
c) I like the photo - keep that

Good luck and sorry if this comes across at all negative - you seem absolutely lovely and you will find that chap out there plus meet some really nice people. Good luck!
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:23 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I disagree with chasies. Plenty of people know Rilke and Nabokov, much more than low low digits. I get the feeling from your profile that you wouldn't bother dating anyone who wouldn't know those names even in passing (not a bad thing -- those names are a must for me and many others!), so maybe that's a good litmus.

As for mentioning outdoorsy stuff, bars, restaurants, that would work well. If you mention activities you like, it makes it easier for others to picture what it might be like to hang out with you.

Heck, I'd hang out with you. But I am a girl. So.

Edit to add: I agree with losing the quote.
posted by mochapickle at 11:25 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would you consider changing your username? I feel like ChucklyCheese jars with the content of your profile and (not sure about Soulmates) sometimes the username and photo is the first thing people see, so you might be only drawing clicks from the 'ChucklyCheese' section of the population, which would only slightly overlap on a Venn diagram with the 'Rilke quoting' section of the population.
posted by pink_gorilla at 11:32 AM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Caveat: I'm sort of aware that British culture is more reserved

See: Friday night after the pubs close. The actual difference is that British people are often uncomfortable with self-marketing, and this is one of those situations where I think of the LRB's personals: "Smart, self-sufficient person seeks similar for convivial solitude. Box 359."

I am old(er), British and taken, so for what it's worth: I don't think the photo needs changing, and I think London is big enough to have a decent pool of Rilke and Nabokov devotees. However, that profile is laden with daunt: I can imagine someone reading it and thinking "what's there for me?" -- not in a selfish way, but in the sense that relationships work to satisfy some kind of need. It's like a very well-constructed door without a handle or a doorbell.
posted by holgate at 11:37 AM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're an American. Or you sound very much like one.

That's your biggest hurdle with British men. And cut the bio by 85% at least, and change main pic with one of you in relaxed attire and environment - and smile.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:48 AM on January 2, 2013

I don't want to make my profile artificially broad simply to get more interest.

This is the key here. If it's tue that quality is more important to you than quantity, and your current profile is a good reflection of your personality and what you're looking for (which internet strangers can't know), then the only problem here would be your perceiving a lack of messages or dates as a failure, rather than simply the vagaries of fate or the system working by weeding out bad matches before they get as far as an actual date.

And that's an understandable feeling -- you've put yourself out there by making a profile, and it's natural to want the validation of people responding to it. Maybe it would feel better to have people messaging you, even if they weren't people you had any interest in. I can relate. But it might help to ask yourself whether you'd prefer to spend time weeding through and rejecting messages from the type of person who would be put off by a mention of Nabakov or whatever.

So ultimately I think you want to ask yourself whether you want to use the web site to widen or narrow your potential dating pool, and that's going to dictate whether or not you might want to tweak your presentation. But really there's nothing wrong with it, and I'd urge you not to take the nitpicks to heart.

Although as I hit post, it occurs to me to say that since I don't have a profile, I can only see the one photo of you, so I don't know whether your other photos include any full-body shots. If they don't, I think that's an important thing to have.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:50 AM on January 2, 2013

London-based American woman of 32 here - I think your profile is fine. I have found there is very little rhyme or reason to who replies to messages and who doesn't. Personally, I say carry on as you are.

I'm on OK Cupid, and there seem to be a lot of London men on there who would mesh pretty well with you.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 11:51 AM on January 2, 2013

(Or to make it more of a positive critique, perhaps a little less philosophy and a little more idiosyncrasy.)
posted by holgate at 11:53 AM on January 2, 2013

I'm an American woman, so I'm not your target audience, but I do like women.

Your profile is adorable, and you are adorable, and I would message you back if you messaged me because I find smart, well-read people extremely attractive. But I would never send you a message, because even though I'm a fairly smart cookie, the name-dropping intimidates me.

Now, if it's important to you to meet a dude who gets those references, by all means keep them in - but content yourself with a smaller dating pool.
posted by woodvine at 11:56 AM on January 2, 2013

I did the OK Cupid thing for awhile and here's what I learned: Keep at it. There's no rhyme or reason to why a person responds other that, in that moment, you look attractive to them. Now, I'm not telling you to CARPET BOMB the dating site, but I made a point of trying to send like five well crafted, personal messages to girls I thought were cool every week. I'd get maybe one back. Shrug!

Also: Chin up! It eventually worked for me and I've been dating an amazing, beautiful, smart lady who came from the internet.
posted by GilloD at 11:59 AM on January 2, 2013

I think the content is pretty good on the whole, you project a good sense of yourself as an individual, doesn't seem too cliched or by-the-numbers. I think there are two problems though.

The minor one is that it's a bit too wholly serious as others have said, try to put some fun stuff in there. I can't see your other pictures, but it's a good idea to have a variety there, preferably including some of you dressed up, others doing some kind of activity.

The main one though is that it seems a bit badly structured. Think of it as being like an article in a trendy magazine: you need an attention-grabbing headline, then a highlighted few sentences enticing the reader into reading more. At the moment it's a bit of a wall of text. The "And the bony box for thinking" bit really needs to be something with a wider appeal, that and the headline are what should be enticing the reader.

I didn't find OKCupid very useful in London, though it might be different for women. I met my wife on Guardian Soulmates, so it can work.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:02 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

No one has mentioned this, but I'd lean away from leading with the discussion of your friends. The profile is about you, and while it's great that you have a community I'd recommend you lead with facts about yourself, your interests, a joke, something more attention-grabbing.
posted by verbyournouns at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2013

I would make the text way less serious. Seeing a profile that someone has clearly spent a lot of time on gives rise to images of hours of desperate loneliness being channeled into writing and perfecting. I think you can cut more than half of the text without losing too much. Less text also means more chance that people actually read it.

Also, I think you know that you come off as really nerdy, which is cute, but maybe not what you want. It's a little bit like you're exposing your weirdest self and using that as a filter. I think you should play the societal game of acting normal just to show that you know what that is before slowly revealing yourself. Otherwise, it looks like you're clever, but antisocial. It's possible to be more normal while remaining funny and interesting — just look at some of the profiles that interest you: Are they more accessible than yours?

You have a very serious profile coupled with a very serious picture. Your picture looks like you're staring into my soul plotting to cut out my organs, and the text makes me believe that you're just smart enough to do it. I would change the picture to one in which you're actually smiling — maybe something taken in a social situation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:57 PM on January 2, 2013

Huh. I (guy, 30, london) would totally respond to a note from you, as would most of the nice single boys I know. Off the top of my head:

- slightly more emphasis on fun stuff, lighten in up a bit
- less serious picture
- absolutely agree with whoever above said that the disconnect between "chucklycheese" and the tone of the profile itself might be causing you problems
- Guardian Soulmates, despite being a paid site and having what you'd assume would be a default userbase of nice people, seems to have been a deathpit for everyone I know who's tried it, male or female. People seem to have had more luck on OKC.

Good luck!
posted by ominous_paws at 2:16 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was trying to write an analysis of exactly how much and why English people are so self-deprecating, but then I just realised all I had to say was that you probably do need a little of the "Well, I'm not so sure what to write" kind of attitude that most of the other profiles on Soulmates have. (Literally ½ of the ones I just looked at in my area had an "Um" or "Well,..." or started with a rhetorical "What to say about me?")

A couple of more specific thoughts:
  • No need to say "I'm serious!" about rambling, both because I actually found it hard to read with the proper intonation, and because it's a very normal thing to do, although rambling is a bit of an old people's word for it. "Walks in the country" works fine.
  • The "bony box" part of the Bellow quote comes across as scary. Bony boxes are pretty unromantic. The sentiment of the whole quote is great, of course: a voracious intellectual appetite combined with a heart is a great impression to give.
  • The reference to Rilke in what you're looking for is possibly a little OTT: "Rilke has some great things to say about having your own interests in a relationship. [Venn diagram explanation]." would be better.
But yes, this is a profile that, in combination with this question, has you come across as someone who you can get into very interesting, very stimulating and very fast paced conversations with very easily if you click. Which makes you sound great. Good luck with it.
posted by ambrosen at 2:36 PM on January 2, 2013

Get some smiles in your picture.

Talk about something that you would do with a person you meet on this dating site. Are you going to be reading DFW on your 3rd date, or what? I doubt it. Reading is cool, but seriously, that isn't something people do with each other on their first few dates.

Change your username. It doesn't really fit your angle on there, and Google will send it back to this question, which is weird.

Hope my perspective helps!
posted by oceanjesse at 2:53 PM on January 2, 2013

As everyone else has said, online dating is a crapshoot: no one knows anything & some bloke will probably see your profile tomorrow and think "That's the girl for me!". I'm just a bloke on the internet who managed to get married before online dating was a thing, so take everything I say with as much salt as you prefer...oh, and you sound great, but then

That said, some immediate thoughts: Your photos are not great. Your cover shot is ok: it would be better if you were actually smiling but at least we can see your face. Going left to right on the rest of them: 1) on the deckchair, face obscured by sunglasses. 2) This one is lovely! Maybe try making it your cover shot? 3) Your back to us, in shadow: no idea where you are or what you're doing 4) It's a cat! Oh, and you, presumably, but I can't tell. 5) Glam hair! (What's the message with this one? You still manage to look serious, even when having fun?) 6) Out of focus, in a pub? 7) From the knees up, you look great! 8) out of focus, terrible light, but a smile! 9) In a restaurant somewhere?

I can't work out why half of these photos are here: What message are you trying to send with them? I'd ditch most of them: maybe try making (2) (the one of you sitting outside with a cup of coffee) your cover shot because it's more open & friendly?

As for the "About Me" section, well you include a paragraph on the importance of solitude on a *dating site*. This comes across as slightly...ambivalent? Obviously you want to make it clear that you like to have space & time to yourself away from the relationship, but could you do so in a way that doesn't make any potential suitor feel that they're going to have to compete with your library for your attention?

I think what's really missing is any sense of what you want in a partner, or out of a relationship. Something for a potential suitor to hang their proverbial hat on in other words.

ps. Can't hurt to try OKCupid while you're at it?
posted by pharm at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013

Oh, and the Google results for that Saul Bellow quote currently has your profile as the *first* link. It may be a bit too obscure?
posted by pharm at 2:58 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've tried online dating in the US and in the UK. I get way, way more attention in the US. This seems to be down to cultural differences: up until recently, there wasn't a British 'dating culture' in the traditional sense, and there's still a certain reticence in the UK dating scene. This doesn't reflect on you; it's just a tough crowd out there. I doubt it's down to you making the first move, either: that might cause a few raised eyebrows in other places, but London guys - particularly Guardian readers - would probably just be glad they didn't have to.

Your profile does seem really serious, and (I know this is nitpicking) your username isn't too intriguing. I'm curious about the messages you're sending. It's great that you're making references to people's profiles, but what's the tone? Are they lighthearted, flirty, intriguing? A lot of the messages I receive are along the lines of 'I see you like [thing]. I like [thing] too. What do you think of [thing]?' Which is, you know, fine, and shows that they've read my profile - but it doesn't intrigue me. Conversely, my favourite ever initial message began with the following:

"I wasn't going to message you but then you used the word triumvirate and spelled favorite with a "u". I'm a bit smitten. It's the little things that get me."

The guy then went on to ask me a couple of questions about things I mentioned in my profile and we talked a fair bit (though it never led to a meeting). If he'd led with 'Hi there, you seem like an interesting person' - well, I probably wouldn't have responded, because I get a ton of those messages. It's all tone.

Also, nthing what everyone else has said about OKCupid - there are a ton of guys on there in the London area.
posted by littlegreen at 3:59 PM on January 2, 2013

I'm a bit older than your target and American, but here is my reaction:

- No idea what that bony box quote really means. I'd be absolutely intrigued if you brought it up in conversation for discussion, but here it is just hanging out intimidating me. And I'm a pretty adventurous intellectual.

- Your essay makes it sound like you have a life already full with friends and and a need for some solitude. I'd really suggest with leading in a way that makes an opening for how someone you meet could add to your life.

- The second paragraph is where you give some specific interest tidbits that are helpful in feeling like you can relate to someone, but it starts off with another sentence about your friends so I had to re-read the profile a couple times to really register what you have here.

- Leave out the part about prioritizing alone-time unless you are really trying to tell potential dates that you'll only say yes if you hadn't already thought of a 'me time' activity for then.

- Tell me what is so great about museums that you'll leave your usual haunts for them!

- The last bit of your essay sounds very utilitarian. I'm apparently only getting your message because you are "here to increase my exposure to datable people". I'd lose this whole paragraph - we all know that there are lots of reasons someone with many friends is going online to find a date instead, but no need to put out reminders.

- I like the Rilke thought, but the presentation is pretty intimidating. Academic with citation. This may be a great filter for the sort of guy you want, but I think you could capture the sentiment in a more open way.

- All of the "what you are looking for" items seem a bit generic, kind of like a horoscope. Perhaps its just me, but I react better to really specific or especially playful language. Rather than than "a wee bit silly" perhaps "Think a perfect date might include a game of leapfrog in Trafalgar square". On that note I love the little (< = maths) note at the end for just this reason.

I hope this is all helpful. I think you seem lovely and certainly would respond myself to a similar profile, so all of this is offered in a spirit of constructive response.
posted by meinvt at 5:27 PM on January 2, 2013

Reading your profile, what jumped out at me is that you sound a little defensive. It comes across like "yes, I'm on this dating site - but I'm not desperate or anything because I have loads of friends and love spending lots of time alone."

For the same reason, I would probably delete these two sentences: "I'm here to increase my exposure to datable people. When I go out I tend to become engrossed in conversation with people I already know."
posted by RubyScarlet at 9:36 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Based on friends' experiences, OKCupid here is useful if you are non-heteronormative or kinky, less so if your aim is to meet someone for more than a casual fling. Assuming you want a relationship rather than casual dating, it doesn't seem to be the most useful site here. A couple of friends of mine have met lovely people through it, but it seems the exception rather than the norm. Of the men I know who use it, two of them at least are people from whom one should run away very very fast. I was on it very briefly and I only seemed to encounter creepy guys or text speak sex solicitations, and a friend of mine who uses it has had a lot of dates that were so poor that they weren't even amusing anecdotes.

On the other hand, I used Guardian Soulmates back in the day - one guy I met on there was a lovely guy who ended up happily married a year later (and is a MeFite as well), and the other is my partner of over five years. (Another friend of mine has met her lovely partner through, so that might be worth a try.) I think the profile is fine - the references seem to be genuine rather than dropped in to prove one's intelligence, and I don't think it's at all intimidating - sometimes these things can act as a filter.
posted by mippy at 2:48 AM on January 3, 2013

Thanks everyone! Appreciate you all taking the time to read my profile and give your thoughts.

I suspected my profile was a little misleadingly heavy, but not quite as scary or intense as some of you have interpreted it! I’m genuinely into all that stuff and yes I like to do ‘serious’ thinking and talking (albeit in a playful way), so felt it was a good reflection of me. Actually, however, I’m pretty good fun and clearly that doesn’t come through. I think I overemphasised the alone time because it’s something I’ve begun to relish in the last couple of years, now I’ve semi-retired from my wild partying days and less often spend all weekend in bed recovering from the night before. It seems some rebalancing is in order to give a fuller impression of my interests and personality.

As it happens, I’m not British nor American but from New Zealand. We’re worse than the English at selling ourselves and less skilled at humorous self-deprecation. Basically, I found writing the whole thing pretty horrendous and was grateful just to get something up that felt semi-ok. I’ll give it another crack, taking on board some of your feedback. Less serious, no terrifying/obscure quote (I really like that quote but maybe this is not the place!), new username (I didn’t put too much thought into that bit). Especially now this page is google-able (yikes).

Funny that the photo looks corporate. It’s self shot on my iPhone from inside my flat and I’m wearing a t-shirt. I chose it because my eyes are open and it looks like my face. The seriousness perceived by some of you may partly be due to your American perspective. We don’t toothy-smile as much over here (lack of dental care?). I tend to run away from cameras and pull an awkward grimace if caught so don’t have too many recent photos to choose from. Will do another trawl through Facebook or rope in a friend to take one for me. (Pharm, thanks for looking through the other photos. Erm, I really don’t think they’re that bad!)

Might give OkCupid a shot. I didn’t think it was popular in London and it’s interesting to hear that’s not necessarily so. For now one site is enough for me. This online dating thing takes time and effort and I don’t want to exhaust myself! Especially when there's reading and rambling to do.
posted by MrChuckles at 5:18 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

One more thing. The comments that I don't leave any room in there for romance are helpful. Reading it back over, I think you're right. It's tough to strike the right balance!
posted by MrChuckles at 5:33 AM on January 3, 2013

Best of luck!
posted by pharm at 4:53 AM on January 4, 2013

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