I just read about DateSim.netTM, a service that is co-founded by Dr. Jennifer Harman that uses dating simulations to give objective feedback on dating skills. I think it sounds like a great idea, but the $500 fee is outside of my budget.
How about reviewing existing profiles on a dating website and giving suggestions? I’ve been on the same dating site for 4 years and have only been contacted 3 times – twice by obvious scammers and once by someone whose picture alone scared me to death, not to mention his inability to write a complete sentence. I remain on that website because it’s free. (I know, I know.)
Maybe I should mention I’m 55 yrs old, divorced 12 years after a 24 yr marriage, and have yet to have a first date. I’m not a ravishing beauty but I don’t scare dogs or small children. I’m 5′ 6″ 140 lbs, so I’m not bigger than most women my age. I’m self-sufficient and own my own home. It seems that the men in my age group, 50-65, are looking for young sexy starlets. Does a woman my age have any chance at all of having a date?
Great question. The way we present ourselves on the dating market, particularly on-line dating services like Match.com and Plenty of Fish, is tricky business. These on-line sites are not technically matchmaking services…they are essentially tools that you can use to market yourself to show how desirable you are.
Your profile needs to be attractive enough to capture and hold someone’s attention, because competition can be fierce due to the sheer number of people using on-line dating sites. Research has demonstrated time and again that the greater quality of alternatives, the less invested and committed people become.1 When there are so many alternative mates on the website, then your prospective date’s commitment to initiating and maintaining contact with you is lower. Add to that the fact that you are using a free dating site…members are even less invested than they would be if they paid a monthly fee. Therefore, success in these venues will not just come knocking on your door; you will need to work at it. To some degree, you get what you pay for.
Without seeing your profile, I cannot give you specific feedback about what you could improve to maximize your chances of breaking your first-date dry spell. However, here are a few things that I look for when I provide constructive feedback about internet profiles on my DateSim.netTM service.
- People often use search terms to narrow down the overwhelming number of profiles that appear on internet dating sites. Unfortunately, the more search options (age, hobbies, gender, income, etc.) that on-line dating sites offer, the more people search and make poor choices. In other words, when people have the option to search for a large number of specific traits, they look around more, spend less time reading profiles, and make profile selections that are further from their desired traits than when they do not have so many choices.2 Therefore, when someone specifies a narrow list of preferences or hobbies, you may not show up in a “hunter’s” search results. But, if you do, they may not spend much time reading your profile unless it really stands out (more on that later). My advice here would be to indicate not only your favorite hobbies, but also list those that you are interested in trying and doing with others. Put simply, you want to optimize the identification of your profile in the dating site search engine.
- Pictures are crucial. Indeed, heterosexual men rate the actual content of women’s profiles as half as important as the pictures women provide. Women rate photographs of men as equally important as what men have to say about themselves.3 You don’t have to be a model or exceptionally dashing to attract mates on-line. However, posting photographs that accentuate your positive features and minimize your more undesirable ones will help tremendously. For example, faces that are perceived as “average” are most attractive because they feel familiar to the perceiver, and symmetrical faces add to attractiveness ratings above and beyond averageness.4 Have someone take a bunch of photographs of you at different angles, part your hair different ways, etc. Then, select photographs that best present an average and symmetrical face. I also suggest polling your friends about your selections, as their judgment may be more objective than yours. The goal is to look your best, but be sure to select photographs that represent an honest, true portrayal of you. The last thing you want is to get to that first date and have your date think you look nothing like your picture. I wrote about profile photographs a few months ago in my Adventures in Dating column, and you can revisit that here.
- Make the content of your profile informative, concise, and entertaining. Remember that prospective dates sort through hundreds of profiles. Writing thousands of words in 1 rambling paragraph will make someone lose interest fast. Writing only 2 or 3 sentences will not give the reader a sense of who you are. Take the time to carefully craft a witty profile about who you are and what you are looking for. The personality traits you emphasize here can really help make you appear more attractive and appealing as well. Emphasize traits such as warmth and honesty, as these are traits that most people look for in prospective mates.5 You are self-sufficient and own your own home…great…I would write about that in a way that emphasizes your independence but also highlight ways that you are a generous person. (Unless you’ve adopted a lot of stray cats. Leave that out for now).
Finally, you raised an interesting question about age and partner preferences. Research has consistently shown that men prefer partners who are slightly younger than themselves, and rate physical attractiveness as one of the most important qualities men look for in a partner. What is important to consider here is that the desirability of a partner is associated not only with physical attractiveness but also with the likelihood of that person going out with you.6 So while a 55 year old man may want a sexy young 20-something starlet, his likelihood of landing her is not likely to be great. He may find women his own age much more desirable for a number of reasons, such as maturity, similarities in life experience, etc. Older women are also more selective than men and have a smaller dating pool; however, older men and women are likely to travel more than younger people to meet potential dates.7 So while the dating experience for older men and women is a little different than for younger folks, it is not impossible to manage. Different strategies just need to be utilized in order to increase your success rate, but that is a topic for another post entirely!
If you still have some specific questions about your personal profile or other dating issues, DateSim.netTM Club is a discussion forum where you can get almost real-time feedback from me, coaches, and other members. Membership is free!
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1Rusbult, C. E. (1980).investment model Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 172-186.
2Wu, P., & Chiou,W. (2009). CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 315-318.
3de Vries, J. M. A. (2010). photographs dating Marriage & Family Review, 46, 538-562.
4Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Little, A. C. (2007). The role of symmetry in attraction to average faces. Perception and Psychophysics, 69, 1273-1277.
5Fletcher, G. J. O., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). Ideal standards in close relationships: Their structure and functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 102-105.
6Bredow, C. A., Cate, R. M., & Huston, T. L. (2008). Have we met before? A conceptual model of first romantic encounters. In S. Sprecher, A. Wezel, & J. Harvey (Eds.), Handbook of Relationship Initiation, (pp. 3-28). New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
7McIntosh, W. D., Locker, L. Jr., Briley, K., Ryan, R., & Scott A. J. The International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 72, 67-82.
Dr. Jennifer Harman – Adventures in Dating… | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Harman’s research examines relationship behaviors that put people at-risk for physical and psychological health problems, such as how feelings and beliefs about risk (e.g., sexual risk taking) can be biased when in a relationship. She also studies the role of power on relationship commitment.