Free Online dating: using the net to land a worthwhile catch.
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Charlotte couldn’t wait to meet her first internet date, Zack, a “comfortably well-off” 30-year-old “health professional”. His interests included sports cars and vintage champagne, he captained his own football team and was a young, 6ft 2in George Clooney lookalike to boot.
So she was surprised when a short, tubby fortysomething turned up. “Charlotte?” he lisped. She dodged the lip-targeted kiss. “I’m Zack. Well actually it’s Barry – Zack’s my online ‘handle’. Can I get you a drink?” Charlotte asked for white wine. “Right. That’s about five quid,” said Zack/Barry, holding out his empty hand.
The football team was a Fantasy Football team. The “sports cars” were PlayStation driving games. He collected champagne corks. “Health professional” was hospital van driver. His profile pictures had indeed been a young George Clooney – “I thought I’d get more interest that way!” he’d chuckled.
Charlotte was too polite to leave, but quietly vowed to never internet-date again.
Meanwhile Henry, the handsome doctor who would have been perfect for Charlotte, was at home, wondering why his internet profile had garnered no interest. He’d included everything he liked – cinema, theatre, travel, country walks, going out as well as quiet evenings in – and made optimistic assertions such as “life’s not a dress rehearsal”. He’d included no photo because he wanted someone who liked him for his character. He looked online again. Still no hits.
With an estimated 7.8 million British people logging on to dating sites last year (according to dating site parship.co.uk), internet romance has become common and even socially acceptable, particularly for the over-thirties, whose pool of potential partners is becoming ever shallower. So, if you’re looking for true love, rather than “divorced and need help with the kids” or “I want babies and you’ll do”, it’s important to create a good profile.
A photo is theoretically optional. But no matter how shy or unattractive you are, you must include one or no one will even look at your profile. Use a smiling, up-to-date shot in which you look only slightly better-looking than you really are, as seething resentment from a misleading picture can spoil an evening.
Upload supplementary photos to display your character, favourite activities and, if it’s a good one, your figure. Who cares if Mr Darcy singles you out because you’ve got great legs? It’s a start. Men might consider posing with a puppy or a piglet and should avoid the surprisingly popular “taken by themselves topless in the bathroom mirror” shot.
The narrative is tricky. Most cyber-Romeos and Juliets write guff that’s true for everyone. For example, about 80 per cent say they enjoy curling up on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a DVD as much as a night out. Even more say that they enjoy going on holiday. Most contain banal clichés (“life’s for living”). To stand out, you need to avoid all this.
Keep it short and original. An amusing few lines about bananas beats an essay on your life. Don’t say you’ve got a good sense of humour, prove it in your writing (if you can’t, you haven’t and you’re probably just good at laughing). Keep it upbeat: “I’ve been treated badly in the past” doesn’t sound like a fun date. Above all, include a conversation starter, perhaps by being enigmatic: “I’ve learnt to never work with animals” for example.
You’ll also need to write about who you’re looking for. Again, don’t state the obvious. Everyone is in search of someone kind and “comfortable in their own skin”. It’s much better to be direct and specific. Here’s a real example: “Must be comfortable in smart social situations. If you like nightclubs, grungy pubs or ‘chilling out’ then you’re not for me.” The remainder of your profile will be tick-boxes about your income, age, body type and so on. These can be used by others as search criteria, so it’s worth filling them in. You can exaggerate a little. Everyone understands, for example, that “A few extra pounds” means “Really quite fat”.
Above all, enjoy yourself, and don’t be downhearted if that perfect person doesn’t respond – it’s your internet profile they don’t like, not you.