I don’t go to the gym on January 1st, and it’s not just because I’ve had a glass, or three, of champagne the night before. The gym is PACKED on January 1st with dozens of new members crowding on cardio equipment and weight racks determined that this new year is going to be THE year that they take control of their fitness. If I give it a few days, the numbers dwindle to manageable. If I give it a month, the status quo of gym attendance has generally been restored. If you were one of the hundreds of thousands that joined a gym the end of December and have spent the first week of 2019 trying to better your health, I applaud you…but I will really stand up and cheer if you’re still there in March!
The start of the year is a time to take control of all kinds of areas in your life that you want to see improvement in during the new year. And gym membership isn’t the only thing that ticks up the first week of January. January 6, 2019 was projected to be the busiest day for dating app sign up of the entire year. Dubbed “singles Sunday” by some popular apps trying to drive new memberships, it was picked as being the prime day to log on as the holidays are over (a heavy time of the year for break-ups), new year’s resolutions are being made, and there’s a little more than a month until Valentine’s Day. If you’re looking for a better love life in 2019, now’s your moment to get online!
The first time I signed up for an online dating website, I did it as part of a potential game for my sister’s bachelorette party. I found the game on Pinterest, and the idea was that you used profiles from a dating website for a “dating game” style party game. In order to get said profiles, I needed to have a profile, and so without thinking much about it, I went onto Match.com, put up the picture on the left, wrote a few clever sentences in my bio, and then started browsing for the cutest guys I could find. It was not supposed to be anything serious, nor was it supposed to lead to dating or a relationship at all.
What I didn’t know at the time was that though Match.com says, “It’s free to look…” what they don’t tell you is that looking is about all it’s free to do. You can look at profiles and “wink” at pictures, but to see contact information or message other members you need to pay. I had no intention of paying for the service, and no intention of messaging anybody, so I didn’t care at the time, but what I didn’t anticipate was that people would start messaging me. Three days after signing up, I had over 50 messages piled up in my inbox, none of which I could read or respond to.
It was a friend who eventually offered to pay for my initial membership because she was dying to know just who was messaging me. As a birthday present that year, she wrote the check for my three-month membership and made me promise I would go on at least one date with someone I met on the site. I updated my information and chose a few better pictures (pictured below…side bar, not looking at the camera in your pictures is an interesting strategy!), and began to sift through the messages from men who had reached out to me. It was…a mixed bag to say the least. I had guys asking me to help bring them into the country. I had guys who seemed generally nice, but were no longer interested because I had waited too long to respond. I had guys that admitted they were just looking for a “fun night.” I had guys that seemed genuinely interested. It felt like a meat market and completely overwhelmed me, but I eventually sorted through the men that had reached out to me, and reached out to a few matches of my own, and found a handful of people who I was interested in meeting in person.
There was Scott, a trumpet player in the Army band who lied about his height on his profile, and showed up to dinner at a very nice restaurant looking dapper in a suit, but a full five inches shorter then he claimed. He would later be a true gentleman and walk me to my car expecting no more than a shy hug, but then follow it up with a second date in which he got completely trashed and then sent dirty text messages all night about what he wished he would have “had the courage to do”😳. There was Brett, the helicopter paramedic who had a macabre sense of humor and shared with me over our first cup of coffee that he had once been a boy scout, a fringe benefit (he considered) of which had been first introducing him to pornography at summer camp. And then there was Brian, who revealed to me on a quiet walk around the lake in Winona that he was missing part of his intestines, and while that physically limited him in some capacities, he otherwise lived a full life and hoped that I wanted to be a part of it. We dated for two months.
My sister and brother-in-law eventually met Brian about two weeks before he would break up with me for “being perfect in every respect, but not really doing it for him physically.” Dude, I wasn’t the one missing part of my intestines. It wasn’t like he was wracked with physical prowess!
It was at that point that I decided to take a break from the online dating scene and regroup. What had started as a party game had turned into a birthday present promise and an eventual relationship and breakup, and I needed to decide if I wanted to go back the internet route or try to find love the old-fashioned way. And while I sorted through my options, I read books. If you’re in the online dating scene, I can’t recommend the following titles enough: Not a Match: True Tales of Online Dating Disasters; Love at first Click; and, Data. A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match. Reading about other people’s experiences validated the things that I disliked about the online dating process, and also encouraged me to see the silver lining of my own experiences. I had never had a truly horrible experience. I met people whom I was incredibly non-compatible with, but I had never been harassed, stalked, or cat fished. I’d had uncomfortable conversations, but never felt unsafe or threatened. Compared to the way some others were doing it, my first effort looked like a smashing success.
I made the choice to go back online, but to do some things categorically differently. In some ways, this made my second go around more difficult because it required me to be more active and invested in the process of finding, reaching out to, and eventually communicating with people online. Trust me, it’s much more fun to be the pursued than the pursuer, but it’s much more empowering to go after what you want instead of waiting and hoping that the one you want finds you in a sea of a million pixellated faces.
As I’ve been happily married now for almost four years, I can now pass these tips and tricks onto the next generation of online daters in hopes that you too can beat the system and win the game in time for Valentine’s Day! From the time I signed up online the second time, to the day I sat down on my first date with my husband, was two months. It was six monthes after that we were engaged, so use these tips wisely. There’s power in the process!
Send messages…A LOT of messages. The current average response rate on a dating app is between 14-17% for men responding to women, and 5% for women responding to men. That means, sorry guys, men have it harder when it comes to getting a message back from someone they have contacted, but both men and women potentially have to reach out to a lot of people if they want to get responses back at all. At the time I rejoined Match.com, the site average for message responses was 10%, so I resolved to send 10 messages a day to people I would want to hear back from in hopes that I would get one response. Some days I got more than that. Some days I got none. Either way, the people I reached out to were all people I hoped would reach back, so when someone did respond (and statistics were on my side that someone would), I was generally pretty excited about it. I didn’t sweat the rest!
Know the message formula. There are lots of tips and tricks about writing a witty and clever opening message, but here’s the formula that was given to me and worked!
Hi __________________, (Use their name here and it won’t just feel like you copied and pasted the same message to every match!)
I noticed your profile and thought it was cool that ___________________ (Name something specific…not just “you’re hot! Then, say something nice about it.)
A little bit about me ____________________. (Share something nice about yourself. Bonus points if it’s something you have in common with each other).
Hope to hear from you soon,
(And then sign it with your real name)
This is the actual first message I sent to my husband:
Hi there BetterBuilder,
I noticed your profile and thought we shared some common interests. It’s really impressive all you’ve already accomplished in your career and building your business. You also mentioned being able to travel more and spend time with family. Are there places on your bucket list you’d like to see?
A little about me. I’m a high school English teacher who loves to write. I like to be outdoors, preferably when it’s warm out, to go for hikes and long walks, or just sit in the park and read a book. A few years ago I started running long distance races and finished my first marathon this past fall.
Hope to hear more about you,
Understand that everything you do on the site affects you matches. Here’s a fun fact about most dating website’s algorithms. You might tell the site that you’re looking for single, white males between 25-30 who have at least a bachelor’s degree. But let’s say during your browsing of profiles, you’ve clicked on a couple of single dads, or you’ve clicked on the profile of a 45-year-old divorced Russian man, or you’ve searched through profiles of some African-American guys, the algorithm will start to ignore your stated preferences and start emphasizing the variations in your actual searches. Why is this important? Because if there are some actual deal breakers in your potential relationships, not only do your preferences need to reflect that, but your behavior on the site needs to reflect that. Most people don’t know that, search freely among profiles, and then can’t figure out why after a month or two, their matches start to deviate from their stated preferences. Online dating is a game of “matching as you do, not as you say.” So click accordingly, and also realize that what you said you were attracted to, might not match what you’re actually attracted to when you start looking.
Don’t take it offline too soon. This is my last tip, and in some ways I think it’s the most important. A lot of conventional wisdom says that you must meet the person in real life to know if you’re actually compatible, and that’s true. However, if people slowed down a half a beat and spent a little time getting to know someone through messaging first, they could, perhaps, save themselves a lot of time and bad dates by not going out to meet someone with whom they could have easily discovered they weren’t compatible. It costs nothing to spend a few extra days or weeks exchanging e-mails before deciding if you want to meet or not. If the person you’re messaging with isn’t interested in investing that time in getting to know you via e-mail, what makes you think they want anything more than the physical when you meet face to face?
I’m partial to this strategy because Josh and I emailed every. single. night. for six weeks before we finally had our first date. I joked at the time the only way our relationship wasn’t going to work out was if we got together and there was zero physical chemistry. That would have been tragic, as it’s obviously an unescapable part of any relationship, but from our communication I was already pretty sure that I we should be together. In the weeks leading up to that date we exchanged 92,579 words. I know because for our first anniversary, we had them bound into a book. That’s as modern of a love story as you’re going to find, and it was a foundation that couldn’t be rushed. With a million people to match with, it might seem like the perfect time to move through partners quickly, but if you really want to give yourself a chance, I can’t emphasize slowing down enough!
If love is on your wish list in 2019, I wish you the best of luck. There is no more noble pursuit than that of finding your person, and given that it’s 2019, there’s a really decent chance your person is waiting on a dating app or website. The best way to play the game is to know the rules, so study up, plan a strategy, and then get ready to hold on tight. It’s sure to be a whirlwind, but with any luck, January 6th will be your last “single Sunday” in a long time.