What Does (And Doesn’t) Work In A Dating Profile

How much of yourself should you reveal on a dating app?

It’s always tempting on a dating profile to show a “cleaned up” version of who we really are: safe, pedestrian, polished; and hide the quirky, the nerdy hobbies, the bits that make us a little weird to some.

And to some degree, that’s a good thing.

Yet when I look at own behaviour on Tinder, I also know: I get excited whenever I see someone who shares my nerdy side.

Ok, at first it starts with: “Am I into their look?”

But it quickly becomes: “And what else?”

Do they share my abiding love for Studio Ghibli films and Japanese anime, movie soundtracks, or the brilliance of Bill Murray, The Office, and Arrested Development? Suddenly now I’m doing a spit-take and wondering what kind of fantasy woman my brain is writing for me in this reverie I must have drifted off to in the middle of my working day.

And yet…

There is always an irresistible urge to conform when writing our own profile.

There are well-worn trends to that seem universally accepted: get a photo with an adorable animal, maybe one of something active like surfing or rock climbing so I look more outdoorsy and extroverted than I really am, maybe one of me wearing a suit even though most days I work from home and am rarely out of jeans and a T-shirt.

And this is often because we ask ourselves the wrong questions when it comes to online dating.

We ask ourselves, “what will most people be attracted to?” instead of, “what will my ideal person be attracted to?”

We also tend to ask, “what do I want to say/show off/be angry about?”, instead of, “what kind of person do I want to attract?”.

So with that all said, here are some useful good and bad things I’ve noticed through my profile-trawling over the years:

Things that are scary:

  • Bitterness

Ever seen these on a profile?

“Not looking for hook-ups!”

“No cheaters!”

“Sick and tired of dating boys, just want a real man”.

These all scream: I’ve been burnt.

Maybe we have. But is our past now going to be the burden of our brand new shiny would-be partner? Is the first impression we want someone to have of us one of being mistrusting, fearful, and…pissed off at men/women?

By the age of at least 30, we can all accept that just about everyone has a few emotional scars. We’ve had the bad dates, the bad relationship, maybe even the bad marriage, and it rightly makes us worry that we could be about to buy a ticket for the exact same ride again.

But it’s still on US to work through that bitterness and come out with a fresh slate.

In short: fix the trust issues before you start.

We sign up for a clean slate, a new story, a person who will make the world colourful and bright and exciting again. Be that for someone else.

  • Negativity

Standards are great. But intensely telling someone, “if you’re a cat person, swipe left”, “no tattoos!”, or “don’t swipe if you have no sense of humor”, is…a little much.

Yes, you might hate cats. But is it the thing you want to lead with? Is someone going to regale the family with the moment they fell in love with you over your mutual hatred for felines?

Naturally, if you express your pet-hates (excuse the pun) with a playful tone then, you may just get away with it.

But as a general rule: hearing what other people “hate” and “can’t stand” is a turn-off. It says nothing interesting about us and puts people on the defensive. Plus it will just encourage them to lie and say they’re a dog person anyway.

  • Insecurity

Self-deprecation can be funny, if it’s about you transforming into a human garbage disposal when presented with Reese’s peanut butter cups, or your penchant for ordering useless potato alarm clocks on Amazon.

But actual self-loathing? i.e. about your body, your looks, your relationship history, your neuroses…it reads badly.

Again, I think it’s important to ask ourselves: who do I actually want to attract? Presumably adjectives to describe such a person may include: emotionally healthy, well-adjusted, fun, positive, great teammate, thoughtful…etc.

Man or woman, we want people who reflect back to us how we feel inside. Don’t give him a reason not to see you as a goddess from the moment he swipes right.

Things that attract: 

  • Curiosity and passion

Picture any person you find irresistibly charismatic.

They may not be nauseatingly optimistic (some people find optimism annoying after all), but they probably have passion. They probably are intensely curious, or driven by a burning desire, or just have a joy and playfulness about life that you want to be around.

There are many people who can make themselves physically hot. But the people you actually enjoy talking to and want to meet in person – that’s about how they make you feel. Or how you imagine it will feel to be around this person.

Usually it’s an emotion: they seem fun, they seem clever, they seem interesting, they seem driven.

Anything we do to convey these qualities makes us stand out from every profile of yet another mirror selfie or glistening Bali swimming pool.

  • A profile that isn’t generic

When we date, we’re only looking for ONE person who totally gets us.

That means it pays to show our quirks. Our dorky hobbies. Our little idiosyncracies so that when someone compatible sees our profile they think, “where has THIS person been all my life??!”

That only works though if we are specific.

We can all say we love books, movies, travel. Etc. But which movies? What’s your favourite place in the world? Are you born for the city, or prefer a leisurely countryside retreat? Every detail we give paints a picture that may be someone else’s idea of a masterpiece.

Say what you love, and you’ll start finding people who love it too.

  • Saying what you want

You should also say what you want.

As opposed to saying what you hate, saying what you like in a person is VERY effective.

It tells someone immediately how to impress you, it shows you have standards, and it sends out a bat signal for the kind of people who really “get you”.

For example, you could write:

  • “If you’re fun and kind then we’ll get along”
  • “Turned on by anyone who can talk about physics and read The Wall Street Journal with me”
  • “If you also love family, The Office, and fish tacos…apply now.”

Anything that communicates qualities that excite and inspire you is also gold for getting people to start a conversation, because it actually tells them what you like to talk about.

  • Leading with fun (not being cool)

Trying to be cool easily turns into looking cold.

For men, it’s trying too hard to be James Bond with steely resolve and an unwavering grimace. For women, it’s trying too hard to be the ice-cold “model”-type with zero emotion and an impenetrable stare.

If there’s one thing dating has taught me, it’s that being fun is cooler than being cool. Fun is the person I can laugh on the phone with while I’m on my couch watching Netflix. It’s the person that I can imagine smiling when I call. Or whom I feel safe sending a silly emoji to.

Yes, the occasional challenge is attractive. But if it’s ALL challenge, most people prefer to swipe left and look for an easier match.


What are your biggest turn-ons and turn-offs on a dating profile? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 Responses to What Does (And Doesn’t) Work In A Dating Profile

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  1. Lucy says:

    Your next post has to be “what does and does not work in an online dating message?”. Should women ever send the opening and if so, what’s the best way to capture a man’s attention?

  2. Maike says:

    Guys who do not smile in their pictures. I don’t get why there are so so so many guys who Look so seriös, not one ounce of fun in their life, or they have a Look like they are going to nur der someone. Why? Why would anyone want to go on a date with someone who apparently has no pictures where they smile and are having fun?

    Having said said I also obviously I agree with the negativity or bitterness, which is a huge turnoff as well, but most dont have anything written anyways.

    And maybe this is also why I have been on tinder and bumble for 6 years though can count the number of guys I went on dates with on two hands…oh dear.

  3. Dana C says:

    Biggest turn off on a dating profile as a man with his shirt off. This either tells me he’s insecure or he’s looking for a one night stand. Another big turn off is a person who is not telling the truth in their profile. I went on a date with a guy claiming he’s 5’7 . Biggest turn on is a guy who puts time and effort into his profile and can be a little cheeky.he shows up on the date and he’s 5’4I am 5’7Biggest turn on is a guy who puts time and effort into his profile and can be a little cheeky. And the search goes on. I have yet to meet a quality guy from online dating. Bummer. Was so hopeful.

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