For help navigating the stars and swipes of online dating, we turned to Alma Rubenstein (datedoctoralma.com), a Portland-based dating coach whose online roots run deep: she met her first love on Match.com nearly 13 years ago.
1. Pick your platform. Should you sign up for a free service like OkCupid or Tinder (which Rubenstein insists is no longer “just a hookup thing”), or shell out for Match or eHarmony? What if you make at least $200K per year? MillionaireMatch.com could be for you! Are you seeking a firefighter or flight attendant? Hustle over to UniformDating.com. “There’s something for everybody,” Rubenstein says. “It’s good to shop around.”
2. Secure some killer photos. Rubenstein says four should suffice, provided they meet a few basic requirements. Make sure you’re smiling (“show your teeth!” urges Rubenstein) in at least one, and include a full-body shot. Avoid sunglasses, hats, and helmets, and—no matter how adorable—don’t crowd your photos with your kids or your pets. As for the words, Rubenstein suggests asking a friend (ideally of the gender you want to date) to give your profile a read before you put it out there.
3. Scrutinize those profiles. It might seem obvious, but Rubenstein implores people to read, for real, a potential date’s profile before sending a message—a cut-and-paste missive does you no favors, she says. And when you’re reaching out, find some common ground (you both play tennis!) or ask a question (what was it like to grow up in Alaska?).
4. Don’t dawdle. “By the third interaction, someone should be asking for a date,” Rubenstein says. “People aren’t looking for pen pals. You don’t need to go back and forth about your life and your dreams for months.”
5. Face them, Internet style. Still not ready? Consider sussing out your potential date over Skype or on FaceTime. “You get to see what they look like, you get to see their gestures, you get to see what they sound like,” Rubenstein says. “And you get to see where they live—is their place a wreck? Is all their furniture from the ’80s?”
6. Take it offline. Once you’ve put their profile to the test and have given their wallpaper borders and eyebrow twitch a pass, the good news is, you’re ready to take it IRL. The bad news? You need a whole new set of rules for that.