It’s been a long time coming, but the online dating section is finally here. If you’re thinking about signing up, you’ve probably got some questions - and online dating is one of the things I most frequently get asked about on my column.

There are a lot of guides like this on the internet, but they all seem to be aimed at a particular demographic - and they’re all very heavily skewed toward monogamous people searching for The One. Ifthat stuff doesn’t tend to ring true for you and you’d like to figure out how online dating can work for the rest of us, you’re in the right place.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know about that we’ve not covered here, feel free to ask me by commenting on this article or by sending in your questions to [email protected]!




Is online dating right for you?

I’m going to get this out of the way quickly: there are people who find that online dating isn’t quite right for them. Some of us aren’t great at forming intimate relationships online and others are wary of meeting people face-to- face too quickly if they’ve only connected virtually - and either of those things are surmountable.

If they both apply to you, though, this might not be the best way for you to look for new partners.

The success rates are pretty good, though. There’s an ever increasing amount of evidence to suggest that massive numbers of couples are getting together via the internet, with some sources saying it’s now the second most common way for a couple to have met.

You basically need to take one of two tacks for it to work out: you either need to put effort into developing a genuine connection with someone online, or commit to meeting them offline ASAP. If at leastone of those things appeal to you, internet dating is well worth a try.


How to write a killer profile

Now for the hard part: writing your profile. If you feel like you don’t know what to say, you’re not alone; hell, I sometimes freeze up trying to write things like that and writing about myself is my job. The idea of trying to sum up your entire self in three hundred words is pretty horrifying; how will they understand the nuanced depths of your very soul if all you can think of is your predisposition toward drinking fruity cocktails and taking walks in rainstorms? The trick to it is realising that you don’t have to.

You’re never going to fit all that stuff in, and it wouldn’t make sense to a stranger without the context of having met you anyway. You’ve got to write something, though, and there are a few simple rules of thumb for figuring out what that something should be:

● Write well. You don’t need to be Dostoyevsky, but decent grammar and a look over your text with a spell-checker is worth its weight in gold.

● Keep it brief - really brief. The best profiles are 200 words or less; nobody is going to want to read your entire life story at this point. Save it for the second date.

● Eliminate cliches as often as possible. Everyone likes watching sunsets and wants to date someone who has a good sense of humour; what have you got that not everyone does?

● Be clear about the things that define what you’re looking for with online dating. This is especially important for queer people and for those of us who have chosen non-conventional relationship styles: otherwise you’ll spend your entire time doing nothing but explaining to people that they’re not the right gender for you or that you’re not interested in “to the exclusion of all others”.

Received wisdom tells me that people like to have examples when they’re being given advice, so in a fit of self-revelation I’m going to show you what I mean using the “self summary” part of my own dating profile:

“I can down a pint in one, apply lipstick perfectly with no mirror in a moving vehicle and walk in six-inch heels. I write about sex for a living, because somebody’s got to. I like musicals and glitter and gin and debauchery. I want to be Jennifer Saunders when I grow up. Queer, kinky, poly. I can and do enjoy excellent sex with people of all genders, but I only fall in love with women. I suppose I'm what you might call an "experienced submissive", and I wouldn't be happy in a vanilla relationship for long. I'm secondary partner to two people and I adore them both, but in terms of capital-R- relationships I'm currently single. I'm a bit of a hippie under all this eyeliner.”

That wasn’t so hard, now, was it?


Figuring out who to message...

Once you’re out there in the online dating pool, you’ll want to start looking for people who mix well with you. It’s better not to just sit back and wait for the messages to flood in; they might, especially if you’ve signed up as a woman who is interested in men, but your chances of finding the right people are higher if you’re proactive about it.

Honestly, the trick to picking who to message is not to be too picky about it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of scrutinising every photograph they’ve posted and trying to imagine what their bedroom face would look like or scouring the far corners of their profiles for a hint of something that might put you off, but it’s not particularly productive. A lot of people don’t come across as well in text as they do in real life, and we all know people who are super attractive in person but you’ve still never seen a good photograph of them. If someone looks like they tick your basic boxes and could have some potential, drop them a line and see what they say.


...and who to message back.

There is, of course, a particularly complex social minefield involved in online dating - particularly if you happen to be a woman who would like to meet a man. If you haven’t yet been introduced to Bye Felipe, you should go have a look; it’s depressing and glorious all at the same time. My personal least favourite are the ones who kick off because you don’t respond to their messages within ten minutes and then get really really vile about it. Someone once told me that he’d post all my usernames and photographs to a lot of really sinister-sounding forums if I didn’t beg and grovel for him not to. I don’t know if he did or not - I blocked him right away and nothing ever came of it - but it freaked me out a lot more than I would have imagined it might. They’re not all like that, but there’s a whole range of irritating situations you could find yourself in if you went along with the idea that it’s rude not to reply to every message.

My advice here is simple: ignore those bitches. Dick pic you didn’t consent to? Ignore. Pestering dude who seems to think you should do nothing but respond to messages all day? Ignore. Someone who is obviously not your type and hasn’t bothered to look at your profile for long enough to figure that out? Ignore. If you struggle not to give in and reply to their bullshit, block them; you can’t worry about it if you can’t see it.

I mean, if you wanted to win some internet points and you had a spare half hour you could always troll them instead; god knows it’s good for a laugh and some of those women are geniuses. On the whole, though, I’d recommend pretending they don’t even exist.


Meet early, meet often!

The real trick to online dating is getting it offline as quickly as you can. There’s so much you can’t tell about a person from reading what they type on a screen: there’s a deep sense of who you are that we’re only really able to pick up on face to face.

You’re all sensible adults here, and I’m not going to give you a lot of patronising advice about public places and telling a friend where you’re going. Be sensible about it, sure - but don’t set the bar for who you’re prepared to meet up with too high. It’s just a drink; if it doesn’t go well you’ll simply never have to see them again. And if it does, well - the rest might be history.


Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellery. Find her at her website or @see_abi_write.



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