What should a lady write to get a date?
February 18, 2014 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Men of Mefi who have ever messaged a lady on OkCupid, what specifically made you want to message her, in her profile?

I hope this is not too chat-filtery; I really do have a specific question here.

I'm looking for something in the written portion of the profile that was appealing to you. Regardless of whether or not she messaged you back. If the answer is genuinely just "her pictures, her age, the fact that she was a non-smoker, her height, that she had no kids" or whatever, that's fine, but that's not what I'm looking for. I don't want a magic answer; I just genuinely have no idea what is or is not appealing to men reading profiles. I am pretty clueless so any advice would help.

I'm really wondering whether it's better to be earnest and overly sincere, or funny and breezy. Also wondering if the length of the profile is a positive or negative. If there is any general, sensible advice on what is more appealing than not appealing in an OKCupid profile, for a straight woman, that would be appreciated. It's completely possible I am doing something hugely wrong without knowing it. I am really leaning towards, it's better to be kind of brief, boring, and unoffensive, but that is just my feeling. I would also be interested to hear if anyone (male or female) went completely balls-out crazy and detailed and free and let their entire personality hang out there, and if that approach actually paid off for them.

Basically, how do I do OkCupid right? How do I avoid doing OkCupid massively wrong?

I realize this is going to vary a lot person by person, but I feel like there's probably some general advice that I'm missing.
posted by stockpuppet to Human Relations (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a profile up? Can you make it public and link to it?
posted by Slinga at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My vote is for funny.


Funny is situational. My own profile is ridiculous. When I lived in NYC and LA I got tons of messages from women. In Minneapolis I don't get nearly as many, and the messages I get are from people who don't seem to get it.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 7:37 PM on February 18, 2014

If you're looking to find out why men write to women based on the written content of their profiles, I'm betting that answer will vary on an individual level so I'm not sure how much the answers here would help you. It depends on what kind of man you are wanting to attract.

Honestly, in terms of reasons why men respond to profiles (if you are not caring about the quality/compatibility of the man, just volume of replies) the two largest factors, I believe, are the woman's photos and her age (not sure which is a bigger factor). I think men only pay attention to what is written after considering those two other factors. (by and large)

This is also a really hard question to answer concretely without reading your profile, though I am somehow guessing you'd rather not post it here (which is understandable, just makes this an almost-impossible question to answer, IMO).
posted by bearette at 7:37 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be Yourself is solid advice in most situations, and this is no exception. My only caveat is length: keep it trim if possible; stick to the highlights. Leave things to be discovered in person.

My profile (male) was as much of an expression of my personality as I could make it and I responded to women who showed their personality as well. While I didn't get loads of responses or attention, the connections made were genuine and awesome.

As a woman on OKC you'll get a lot of attention no matter what your profile says (generally, from what all my female friends tell me). The question then isn't "what's going to attract men," but "what is what is going to attract the kind of men I want to be with."

Of course it helps if you know what kind of men you want to be with, what qualities you value most in a partner. Sometimes you don't know, and that's okay — my time on OKC was great partly because it helped me clarify those big questions.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2014

I had a profile up back when OK Cupid wasn't even just a dating site, it was more like Facebook back then. I wasn't even looking for someone, I was in a long term relationship. So my profile was just a "let it all hang out, maybe I'll make some interesting friends" kind of thing. Then I ended my relationship but didn't change a thing on my profile because I wasn't ready to date yet. And I met someone anyway, and we've been together over 7 years.

TL;DR - just be yourself. That way you'll meet someone who likes you the way you really are.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

For one, I think I mostly wrote other people because while I could trust myself to be a thorough searcher, I couldn't necessarily trust the people I was looking for to find me.

Then I crafted my profile to have details that I thought would be interesting to people whom I wanted to be interested in me. On top of this, I wanted to ward off people who I likely wouldn't be interested in, i.e. the "hey baby" messages.

So that's me -- I was willing to go get the signal myself while keeping down the noise.

More specifically, I hobby-dropped a lot and tried to give a preview of the heavily verbal humor I tend to trade in; if any of these things was unacceptable to someone I thought was promising, then we've both just saved time.

I also made my photos extremely conservative and let the questions do the talking. But this was because I was looking for someone thorough and data-driven, and looking to avoid people for whom I was just 'generic young woman, copypasta serving #83'.

No idea if this is good advice: I quit okc because mate-shopping was such a timesink.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a woman, and I've been dating my boyfriend, who I met on OKC, for about 10 months now.

I was completely myself in my OKC profile. I pretty much "let it all hang out" in terms of my personality but I didn't say anything about how my last relationship had been abusive, so I didn't necessarily disclose everything about myself - I saved that for the actual face-to-face dating part - but I wrote the profile pretty quickly, and just tried to be myself as much as possible.

I think that actually as a woman you have a gigantic advantage on OKC. I think that the number one thing that I personally did right was that I picked guys that I liked the sound or look of (or ideally both) and I messaged them first. That really worked for me. I also answered a lot (300 or 400) of questions and was really picky about only messaging guys with whom I shared a 95% or more compatibility score. I didn't really respond much to the guys who messaged me because nine times out of ten it was a garbage nothing message anyhow. I got a TON of those "hay baby whats up lol asl" messages on there, and very few thoughtful "I looked at your profile and liked this about it" messages, at least from men who initiated contact with me.

I don't think you can really "do it wrong" and you can always just change your profile up if you feel like it's not working for you.

Also check out the now-pretty-much-defunct OKC blog for some interesting data-driven tips about profile pictures, first messages, and other stuff.
posted by sockermom at 7:42 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm female, but bear with me.

I notice that I get a lot of messages if I write a sort of contrarian-yet-light comment of some kind in my profile. The "thing I'm afraid to admit" space is good for this, but you can put it in anywhere.

For a long time my thing I was afraid to admit is that I still find the film ET terrifying. Almost every message I got was about that, usually men confiding their ET fears to me.

Right now it's something silly yet contrarian about Commander Riker ("He really knows how to sit in a chair"), and again, almost all my messages have to do with the dude's opinion of Riker or Star Trek:TNG in general. (Great shibboleth if you know you want to date someone nerdy, btw!)

So I would say -- take a stance on something! Better if it's a somewhat light-hearted stance, and not politics or religion. But if you make an assertion, you can bet dudes will send you a message to agree or disagree.

In general, anything you do that invites comment is going to get you messages, and then dates if you want them.

Also, I have recently had really good luck at initiating contact myself.
posted by Sara C. at 7:57 PM on February 18, 2014 [21 favorites]

I'll take what may be a little bit of a contrarian view here. I think you should fill out your profile but not sweat it too much. Because I just don't think you can get much useful information about real life compatibility (apart from the big issues like politics, religion, life goals, etc. which tick the basic boxes of what you want in a partner) from a profile. I think the key thing with online dating is meeting as many people as you can. The people I've had the best relationships with are ones I probably would never have picked based on an online profile and some people who seemed perfect (in my mind) in every way on paper were people I could not stand to be around IRL and probably would never have picked had I met them at a party or something.

So, my thought is, fill out your profile and give all the relevant, important information about yourself that people would probably like to know, but don't agonize over it trying to be the funniest, smartest, cleverest (or whatever) person on OKC. When guys message you, if their profile is acceptable (even if it doesn't set you on fire), set up a time to meet them. Message guys with acceptable profiles and try to meet them as soon as you can. The attraction and easy compatibility that can happen between two people IRL is something that cannot (imo) be captured in an online profile or photo. If you're worried a guy won't like you because your profile doesn't have that certain je ne sais quoi he's looking for, then hey, you've dodged a bullet! Because people can't be adequately summed up in an online profile and anyone who thinks they can is a person you don't want to date anyway. It's a numbers game. Try to meet as many people as you can. Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 8:34 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My advice? Definitely be real - don't try too hard to be this or that. As for serious vs silly I think you can and should mix it up - I want to know that someone cares about something, but also doesn't take themselves too seriously. Do not be boring, unless you want to attract boring.

As for length, be thoughtful but keep it relatively short.

I agree that a "strong" opinion on something that isn't too heavy is a good hook.

There's not a lot you could do that would be majorly wrong. The most I would do if someone said they were looking for "a partner in crime" or "oops, I guess that's more than six" was to roll my eyes but I still messaged them.

Just as a data point - I went on dates with 16 people before meeting the awesome woman I'm with now (and she messaged me first).
posted by O9scar at 8:45 PM on February 18, 2014

Best answer: I am really leaning towards, it's better to be kind of brief, boring, and unoffensive

Please, please, please don't. Just put actual things of substance in your profile that give people something to try and relate to and then message you about. I can not express how frustrating it is when someone's profile looks like this:

About me: Don't know what to write here!!! I'm so bad at these!

What I'm doing with my life: Living it! I work 9-5, ask me in person!

Favorite music/movies/etc: Everything!

Most private thing I'm willing to admit: That I'm on a dating site!!!

On a typical friday night I am: Out with friends!

...You get the idea. I seriously can't tell you how many shitty profiles I see like this. Also avoid things like how you "like to laugh", "like to have fun", "love your friends and family", "great sense of humor" - everyone likes these things. Please write quirky things about yourself, your goofy fears, your neurotic thoughts, your actual favorite movies and music, the details of your perfect friday night. There are people out there who most likely can relate, that's the point of putting it all out there on a dating site.

Don't worry about being funny or weird, just give people something to work with, or else you're going to get a bunch of boring/creepy "hey sup" messages and that's it. I mean you'll get boring/creepy messages anyway...but if your profile is blah, then you'll get entirely those messages and not even the occasional substantial one.
posted by windbox at 8:47 PM on February 18, 2014 [28 favorites]

Best answer: I am a guy who has messaged women before on OkCupid. A good sense of humor is one of my most valued qualities in someone I'd want to date BUT I'd message someone whose profile seemed sincere and not funny ten hundred times before messaging someone whose profile seemed funny and not sincere. Putting up an online profile feels really vulnerable to me and I get negative vibes from people who treat that too flippantly and answer questions in "funny" ways that obscure rather than accentuate their personalities. Sincere and funny is good, especially if it means you're sincerely funny.
posted by threeants at 8:48 PM on February 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Also, consider that stated preferences can affect more than just their intended audience. If you write (for example) "please don't message me if you don't know what a comma splice is", I'm going to get a negative impression of you as judgmental or uptight even though I can copy-edit like a pro. I saw a ton of this sort of thing on OkCupid and it was a huge turnoff.
posted by threeants at 8:53 PM on February 18, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: For me (a dude who dates men and women), I've grown to accept that it's so damn hard to figure out how people's self-representations relate to their actual existence. That being said! What I appreciate is:

- A little self-mocking but also proud and kind humor. Stuff like "I'm a dork and I fall apart when I see a dog." I mean that's totally just the type of person I'm attracted to, but it's also a good way to come across as funny and confident but also relatable.

- Concrete suggestions of ideal activities, like "hey message me if you like camping, I like camping!"

- If there's a section you don't love or a point you have trouble making, just leave it out! Mid-length to slightly shorter profiles are my favorite.

- Leaving out the "ugh I'm on a dating website" type stuff. I don't know, we're all on this kind of wretched dating site, whatever! I think that's the equivalent of being at a party and having somebody roll their eyes when you walk over. That being said, I have the feeling that MeFi as a whole will skew closer to digging sardonic vibes whenever possible..

I totally identify with the tone of this question -- I mean, we're all just trying to connect and not fuck up that connecting, right? That being said, just always keep in mind that you don't need to perform any specific thing to attract people. I mean, that's probably a bad way to go about it, because then you attract people on terms other than your true, relaxed, happy self. It can sometimes feel impossible to be earnest in a space like OKC, but I think if you just focus on writing just enough engaging things (again, some funny down-to-earth descriptions, concrete suggestions for activities) you can leave out the over-writing, crafting of extensive self type descriptions, which are generally offputting and overwhelming to begin with. Good luck!
posted by elephantsvanish at 8:56 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Thirdly (finally?), flesh the hell out of your "message me if" section. This is the section where you literally have the opportunity to spoonfeed people excuses to get in touch with you. Even something as simple as "feel free to say hi if my profile interests you for any reason; I love talking to new people!" would strongly increase my likelihood of initiating a conversation.
posted by threeants at 8:57 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Be real, and be specific. Lots of women might like hiking, but if you say you like hiking Mount Monadnock, that gives a guy a better conversational hook. Likewise if you cook, what's your favorite cuisine? You don't have to say a ton, but a generic profile will breed generic responses. Funny is good, as long as it's authentically you. When I was on OKCupid, I liked when there was something interesting in someone's profile that I could write a quick response to. I never expected to hear back from everyone, but I wanted to let people know that I'd read their profiles, and could relate to what they were saying. If I couldn't find that common point, I tended to move on.

Of course, the woman I ended up with messaged me first. She was equal parts breezy and serious, and addressed major points up front (religious differences, and the fact that I have kids from a previous marriage). She got my attention, we chatted, and met up pretty quickly. That was the other lesson that I learned--don't spend too much time messaging back and forth. Decide if someone's worth meeting (or not), and go for it. I had a lot of first dates, and very few of them were bad, even if they didn't lead to a second date. I thought of them partly as research.
posted by SobaFett at 9:08 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, what threeants said. I totally used the "message me if" section as a screening tool, and got a lot of responses that referenced that section specifically.
posted by SobaFett at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2014

Don't use a formula or follow directions. Don't try to bd someone you're not. Just answer the questions in a way that you enjoy reading back to yourself, because you made yourself laugh or really liked how you phrased something. Make your profile be the profile that makes you wish you'd read a profile for a guy that was exactly the same. Make it appeal to you, and anything that doesn't, rip it out.

Also, do it quick and change it over time on a whim.
posted by davejay at 11:10 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

The most important thing you can write is what you put in the text box after clicking "Send a message." Really. As a woman on OKC, you will do much better writing a short note to people that catch your eye (especially if it says no one has messaged them this week) rather than trying to have the perfect lure in your profile.

When I look at a profile, I'm looking for reasons we would spend time together (shared interests), similar views on sex and sexual practices, some humor, and a lack of deal breakers. What those things are will vary for you.

Have good photos and change them often. Your default picture is the thing that will make most people click or not click on your profile to read it. Enlist some friends to help select some good ones. Changing them up will both increase the amount that their algorithm shows you to people and catch people's eye who might have not been drawn to previous ones.

If you're overweight, don't hide it in the pictures. If there's not at least one full(ish) body shot, most people will assume the worst.

But seriously, put yourself out there and contact men. You'll have some rejection and flakes but that's just part of dating.
posted by Candleman at 11:35 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Too bad I dont have a profile anymore, I could show it to you as a counterexample to the "all women get tons of messages." I didn't, although I did get enough for the time I had (not much), and had a decent response rate from dudes I messaged.

I never really asked anyone for advice on my profile, but one of my more blurty friends told me it was "the coldest profile he'd read" and that I might want to warm it up a bit. Me, I just thought I was being straightforward and blunt about who I am.

I never did change the profile, I quit in frustration/because I was moving soon/got sick of first dates. (And then my now-partner moved to town, and we got together 6 months later, and I moved a few months later..sigh). Online dating did not work for me, and I think it's because I do start out cold. I need time to get interested, and real-life social circle works better for me.

So for you? Be real, be warm if you can, and if OKcupid doesn't work out, there is dating after the internet.

Oh, and words can be misinterpreted. My favorite was the guy who on the first date thought I was joking in my profile when I said the first thing people notice about me is my unicycle. Dude, unicycles are very noticeable.
posted by nat at 11:52 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely agree with not giving bland, generic responses like "Music: I like everything (except country)! It depends on my mood!" and "Then it wouldn't be private anymore would it?"

Give specifics about your background, interests, hobbies. It gives others a lot of things to draw on when writing to you (and for conversation later if you meet up). And guys won't have to resort to asking you the same formulaic questions.

And yeah, show some personality and humor, but don't make it come off as forced.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:11 AM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be specific, terse, pithy. Don't fill space with filler material everyone writes. Say who you are as clearly as possible.

Poems have gotten to me. Minor overlooked details. Things that you're struggled with. Things you find beautiful, fearful, worthwhile, disappointing, funny, sad. Bits of truth, but not too many and not too long.
posted by ead at 12:18 AM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are funny & breezy then your profile needs to reflect that somehow. Same if you're earnest. No point appealing to people who like it light if you tend toward seriousness.

I like reading and am happy to read profiles of any length if they're interesting and well written. I may not be in your target audience though. If you're a succinct kind of person and you want to appeal to guys who like that, then it wants to be on the short side probably. I don't like really short ones as a rule because they tend to indicate someone who's not really that interested, but that's just me.

I'm looking for a partner and on OKC at the moment and it tends to be a combination of things that I find attractive. Good photos and plenty of them. Clever, non-generic responses and plenty of explanations in the questions. Humour can be great, really great in fact, but can also be offputting if it comes over as too cynical or smartarsey. Wry and slightly self deprecating humour really appeals to me.

Basically I think you have to get across how utterly fantastic you are without saying it in as many words. You have to somehow be that in your profile. It's not easy for most of us, but you can keep changing it so don't feel like it's important to get it right the first time.

If your profile really reflects you, then you have the best chance of attracting the kind of guys who are looking for someone exactly like you.
posted by mewsic at 1:18 AM on February 19, 2014

I mention dinosaurs in nearly every section of my profile. (This was unintentional; I just really like dinosaurs.) I have received a handful of messages that specifically say "I like that you managed to talk about dinosaurs in almost every section of your profile." I have received many, many more messages asking me what my favorite dinosaur is.

I also have an old picture on there of me with a cake I found on a bridge on a rainy day. Just sitting there, bridgecake. I've received a pile of messages saying, "hey, you found my cake!"

You want content in there that gives folks easy talking points to respond to.
posted by phunniemee at 5:54 AM on February 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

As a woman who dated men and women, and who is also now going on a year with a man I met on OKC, I had a strong reaction against people who flooded their profiles with text--everything from the nonsensical essay ("I'm so not taking this seriously, LOL, see if you can jive with my 'random' sense of humor") to the paragraphs and paragraphs listing every single band you like or have ever heard of, every single movie you've enjoyed, every single food, etc.

What is helpful is to list just a few. I got interesting conversation leads when I listed just the 2-3 artists I was into at the moment, or just one director whose work I enjoy--not his entire filmography.

...And that's actually how I met my now-boyfriend: that favorite director of mine happened to be a friend of his aunt's, and the next thing I knew, we were having an effortlessly flowing conversation. One that, so far, hasn't stopped.
posted by magdalemon at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2014

I think you need a grabby (no pun intended) headliine. My "winning" headline was "I Want a Sunday Kind of Love." Obviously, this is a reference to the Etta James song but my hope was that a man responding to me would be: a) a music fan b) a blues fan and c) someone who knew the rest of the lyrics (so they knew I was looking for something long term). The rest of my ad was pithy and light. Worked out just fine ... 3 years and counting.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:03 AM on February 19, 2014

Common interests, mostly. If she mentioned in her profile/showed in her pictures that she was into a bunch of things that I was also into or just thought were cool (and if she was in my age range, I thought she was cute, etc.) then I'd generally message her. That and a sort of vague feeling that she and I had similar life philosophies.

One thing that really turned me away was a sense of hostility or negativity. I mean, yes, I get that online dating sucks and that life in general is full of annoyances and stupidity, but if that was such an important part of her worldview that she felt the need to state it in her dating profile (which, let's be honest, is essentially a sales pitch -- the goal is to highlight the best things about yourself) then I would pretty much always move on no matter what.
posted by Scientist at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2014

(I'm female) There's this show I really love and my profile used to just mention that I liked it. It's popular enough that I'd get lots of generic messages saying 'oh I like it too' from guys I obviously had almost nothing in common with. Eventually I changed it to 'tell me what your top five episodes are and why.' Men really took that and ran with it and I got tons of interesting responses. And it made a great lead-in for further discussion. (Of course, once they told me their top five they invariably wanted to know mine too. It was really enjoyable to nerd out with strangers over it.) Anyway, I think if you ask an interesting question that requires some thought, once someone reads it, they can't help but start thinking of what their answer might be. And once they have it, they'll be compelled to message you and share it.

I also mentioned that there was this really offbeat museum in town that I'd always wanted to go to but could never convince anyone to come with me to. I got tons of people saying "Me too! We should totally go there!" (Funny enough, I never did end up going there. But nice to know if I'd wanted to go with someone I could have.) Seems like this would work with any offbeat place or food or activity you can think of.

The other nice thing about the above two examples is that they select for people who you share interests with, without being too alienating. I got lots of responses saying stuff like "I've only seen that show a couple times, why do you like it so much? You've made me curious to give it another chance," or "That museum sounds really weird and I can't believe I never knew it existed."

And of course very much what everyone else said, be yourself, honest, not pretentious, etc.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 4:21 PM on February 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm female and have, I think, pretty good luck with okc. I don't get a huge number of messages, but not-huge is still far too many to respond to (because okc is very much a secondary thing in my life right now). And judging from conversations with other people, I get a far lower percentage of "let's have sex" copy/pastes than most. My profile is very much not inoffensive and boring. Not that it's offensive, mind. It's just really clear about who I am and what I like and what I do. It definitely covers both funny and sincere, but not in a calculated way-- I just wrote it. And it's looooong. As a result, it's a *great* filter. I get messages from guys who have some idea who I am and think I sound cool rather than completely random people. It's nice. I'm looking for casual things right now rather than a Serious Relationship because I've just gotten divorced, and I've found a couple of really stellar guys I can see once every week or two and really enjoy hanging out with. Considering I've only gone out on 7 okc first dates, that's pretty good.

Don't worry about scaring people off with your profile. Those aren't the people you're looking for anyway. It's more time-efficient to skip meeting up with ten people who will bore you, and instead just get a drink with one who is likely to be genuinely interesting. I don't think there's a downside to being very obviously yourself on okc. Trying to be bland in your profile is its own sort of numbers game, and I don't think those usually work all that well. I infinitely prefer quality of responses to quantity, and I feel that revealing more of who you really are is much likelier to help you find someone compatible. I don't message (or message back) people with bland profiles myself.

People often start conversations with me by responding to things I said in my "what I'm looking for" section. I was, I admit, quite explicit in that section (yes, that kind of explicit). BUT. A lot of them start out by saying that they might not fit this criterion or that, but they still think we might get along because of something else. I did include a "message me anyway if you think it might be fun" line, which helps.

You can only meet so many people, and, online as in real life, it's a crapshoot. An amazing person may send a boring first message, just like an amazing person you meet at a friend's party might be having a bad day, and the two of you never connect, even if you could. You can't control for everything. But I think you maximize your chances of finding someone awesome by letting people see who you really are. YMMV. But my approach has worked really well for me.
posted by Because at 2:31 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

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