6 Online Dating Mistakes You Need to Avoid

While online dating has become ubiquitous, it’s still tricky to navigate. And even though each of the many dating apps available comes with its own set of rules, features, and terms, there are some universal rules you should follow to have a better experience.

Let’s review some of the biggest errors that everyone should avoid while looking for a match online.

1. Neglecting Safety

It’s easy to get sucked into excitement when you connect with someone who catches your fancy on a dating app. But it’s important to remember that users can easily fake their information and pictures on their dating profiles. At best, this is a lie to attract more people. At worst, you could fall victim to an online dating scammer or even get into an unsafe physical situation.

Be smart and don’t let yourself get into a bad scenario. Talk with potential matches for a while before you agree to meet them in person. Ask to talk with them on a video call, or at least on the phone, before you meet up. If they make excuses for why they can’t, that’s a sign of a fake dating profile.

If you do agree to meet up, make it in a public place where you have ways to exit if needed. Don’t meet at your house, their house, or a remote location. Transport yourself to the site of the date so you can leave when you wish. It’s also smart to let your family or trusted friends know where you’re going, and roughly how long you’ll be there, so they’re aware if something seems off. You should also avoid drinking too much on a date, which makes you vulnerable.

Be sure to protect your privacy on your dating profile, too. Consider using an alternate email address or Google Voice number to keep your real information hidden. Don’t reveal your full name to people before you’ve gotten to know them.

Hopefully, you never run into someone who’s using online dating to find victims, but it’s a real threat you can’t ignore. These tips are even more important if you’re using a free service, where the barrier to entry is low.

2. Using Phony Pictures

The top photo on your dating profile is the first way that people see you. It’s important to make it awesome so that potential matches are intrigued and want to know more.

While using blurry photos or pictures with multiple people in them is bad, you can go too far in the other direction, too. Doctoring your photos or using the single best picture of yourself isn’t a fair representation of who you are. If you spend hours in Photoshop to create the perfect set of pictures to hide your flaws, what is your date going to think when they see the real you?

Don’t use outdated photos, either. If your favorite picture of yourself is 10 years old, that’s not a good snapshot of who you are today. Ask a friend to take a few pictures of you with your smartphone camera, or look through pictures you’ve taken while doing your favorite activities. People who are looking for a companion on dating websites want to see an honest representation of you.

The best profile photo is one that shows you as you naturally are. Have a variety, such as a headshot, a full-body shot, and a picture of you doing something that you love. If someone sees those and doesn’t have any interest, they aren’t the one for you anyway.

If your photos need a boost, check out the best profile picture tools.

3. Lying on Your Profile

It’s easy to hide the truth in your pictures, but lying on other parts of your profile isn’t wise either. One of the basic tips of online dating is to fill out your profile; a blank page doesn’t give potential matches enough to go off when they’re evaluating you.

But when you do this, you should answer prompts honestly and don’t fudge the facts. If you’re a little overweight, don’t claim that you’re slim. Don’t pretend to enjoy certain activities if you despise or haven’t even tried them. Lying isn’t a good foundation for any relationship, and eventually, these falsities will come out.

The right person will love you not just because of traits they like about you, but despite your flaws. What’s more, something you hate about yourself (perhaps freckles, the way you laugh, or your passion for 1950s movies) could end up being something your match loves about you.

Don’t try to disguise who you are; it’s exhausting and will waste both of your time.

4. Sending Boring or Creepy Messages

So you’ve finally found someone whom you find attractive and you want to send them a message. This is another critical step that’s easy to screw up. The best advice is to come up with something they haven’t heard a hundred times already.

Starting a conversation with “Hey” or “What’s up?” is boring and shows that you put about two seconds of effort into it. Don’t introduce yourself with a five-paragraph writeup that goes into way too much personal detail, either.

Ideally, you should bring up something you found interesting in the person’s profile so they know you’ve read it. Bring up an interest you have in common and end with a good question to provoke a good response. Avoid “yes or no” questions, as you won’t have much success if your message is difficult to respond to thoughtfully.

Make sure that you also don’t give off a creepy vibe in your initial messages. Don’t ask for personal information, tell them that they’re exactly what you’ve been looking for, or send weird pictures. This will scare people off.

Be yourself and see what comes of it. If someone doesn’t reply right away, they could be busy with work or travel. Give them a few days and don’t obsess over waiting for their response. If they don’t have enough time to respond to you, move on.

5. Being Too Picky or Idealistic

The world of online dating lends itself to some interesting challenges. When you find someone in person, you don’t have a stack of other potential matches to compare them to. Online, because you’re looking through a list of profiles and pictures, it’s easy to get selective and obsess over finding the perfect person. Don’t do this, or it will turn into decision paralysis.

If she likes jazz music and you prefer country, that’s not a reason to forgo contacting her. Instead, think about the foundations of a relationship: does she live in the same city as you? If you thrive on having intelligent conversations, does his profile suggest that he’s interested in the same? Do you have similar religious beliefs?

Don’t compromise your values, of course, but understand that you looking for someone who perfectly matches your vision of an ideal mate is impossible.

This holds once you’ve agreed to meet them, too. Even if their profile seems great, you’ll learn so much more about someone from the way they act in person. Here, you’ll notice how often they laugh, their tone, if they check their phone too much, and other important details that you can’t ascertain from an online profile.

Once you’ve gone on a few dates and it’s going well, resist the temptation to think that you’ve found your soul mate. You very well could be entering a great relationship, but building one takes time. Don’t obsess over the idea of dating someone; get to know the person you’ve met and evaluate if they’re a good match for you.

6. Not Using the Right Dating Service

You probably know that there are an absurd amount of dating websites and apps. When you’re not having much luck meeting people, the reason could be that you’re not using the best service for your needs.

Dating websites and apps differ in their user expectations. Free dating sites are often more casual than paid ones, so if you’re serious about finding a match, consider paying to join one. Consider using a service that caters to others of your race, age group, or religion.

If the app you’re using isn’t working out, try one of these alternative dating apps:

  • OkCupid is one of the largest free dating sites. It prides itself on its matching algorithm and interesting questions that fuel it. Recommended for those who want to test the online dating waters for free.
  • is one of the largest paid dating services. It uses a chemistry personality test to find people whom you’re likely to click with.
  • SeniorMatch aims at older singles. Nobody under 40 can join and it focuses on those who are 50 and above.
  • EliteSingles is a dating site for professionals. It’s advertised for those who want a serious relationship; over 90% of members are 30+ and hold at least a college degree.

What Are Your Online Dating Rules?

Along with the regular challenges of dating, doing so online adds some unique issues. Hopefully, these tips help you navigate the world of dating on the internet and pursue some potential matches. Dating can be frustrating, but eventually, you’ll find someone who makes it all worth it.

Once you do, there are resources that will help build up your relationships, too.

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