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Don't Be OKStupid

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

I recently responded to a Craigslist ad seeking administrative help in a home office. You can already see where this is headed, I'm sure.

I'm considered a bit of a pro at sexual innuendo myself, and I'm rarely duped. Call me old-fashioned, but when I read an ad that describes requirements such as "light filing," it just doesn't scream "I want to pay you for sex."

Being a creepy-nice hybrid man, Gary politely responded to my email, telling me that though I had convinced him of my potential, the kind of work he sought for his "home office" might not be what I had expected. He wished me luck and I recommended that he be a little less covert. C'mon, Gary—say you need someone "willing to go the extra mile" or something! Don't make Gary's mistakes when trying to get a little extra "w" in your www dot.

Profile like a pro. A dating site username like "FunGuy12" doesn't communicate that you're indeed fun or living beyond AOL circa 1997. Use a name. It could be your middle name for discretion. Just aim for more appeal than "AwesomeWomanBlossom."

Which is worse: making your profile picture a professional headshot, a self-portrait taken by cell phone in the mirror, or the cropped-out-ex's-head-but-left-the-arm-around-the-shoulder? Choose flattering recent photos taken in everyday situations that showcase both your face and figure. Friends' choices can be objectively helpful. Change your primary photo monthly to attract a variety of people.

Don't over-adjectivize, use emoticons or abbrevs. "I'm fun-loving, adventurous and totes adorbs! :) ;)" is weird. If you were on an in-person first date and your someone spoke that sentence, followed by a big grin and a wink, you'd be calling for the check. Spell-check! Saying "I love to lean new things and read historical novles" defeats your purpose.

Avoid negatives and desperation. Listing more "don'ts" than "dos" appears bitter and judgmental. "No commitment-phobes" can show a history of moving too fast while "Seeking someone in search of a long-term relationship" openly states your wishes.

When making initial email contact, avoid auto-responding with cut-and-paste. Personalize by hinting to aspects of the other person's profile. Mention common interests and specifics that drew you to that profile. "You're hot and I'm hot" doesn't count.

Don't focus on the visual. Telling someone you like their pictures is a nice way to say you like what you see without needing to be virtually reminded that "My eyes are up here." The anonymity of the Internet doesn't mean over-sharing is okay. Omit anything related to your childhood or past relationships and highlight all your glowing, non-creepster attributes in five sentences.

Don't include your full name or phone number. Be safe and unassuming. Make an email address just for your online dating and always have a phone date before meeting in person (in a public place). Prearrange a mid-first-date phone call with a friend who will give you an "emergency" to attend to if needed.

Getting a bunch of responses is exciting, but juggling too many suitors may leave the right person slipping through the cracks. The great thing about online dating is that we all know why we're on the site. Our intentions are made clear in our profiles and if you're not feeling it, a swift "I don't think we're a good match" early on is expected and considerate.

Finally, unless you're looking for your own Gary, don't use Craigslist. I'm not sure what's more offensive about Craigslist's "seeking" section—the misplaced pictures of generic sunsets or the straight-up crotch shots. As with sex toys, you get what you pay for with dating sites. Freebies are rarely better than a Facebook account, while the paid sites attract people more serious about finding a partner—sexual, romantic or both. Rumor has it that certain sites have more success for certain folk—such as OkCupid for lesbian/bi/queer women or...well, that's the only one I know. Have a stand-out horror or success story with a particular dating site? Help me share the knowledge.

Email the.vspot@hotmail.com.

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