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Beth Underwood: Some unspoken rules we should maybe discuss when it comes to online dating


Believe it or not, I’ve been known to toy with the notion of internet dating from time to time. Frankly, I’m not sure how people meet these days, otherwise.

Oh, sure, there’s always bar hopping, bumping into Mr. Wonderful while walking the dog, or running into Prince Charming in the produce section. But I think we can all agree the odds of those meet-ups are slim and nil.

That said, I’m still not convinced internet dating will ever be for me. Maybe I’m too selective. Maybe cyber love is something that happens to other people. Or maybe I’ve seen too much… namely in the form of online dating profiles.

Which brings me to my best advice for those of you brave enough to test the waters of online dating — it’s Valentine’s Day, after all. So if you’re reading this and wondering where you’ve gone wrong, these words of wisdom could change your course and set you on the path to true love. Or not.

Let’s start with that profile photo. A first impression is a lasting impression, after all.

1. Don’t post blurry, dark or otherwise indistinguishable photos. Doing so means you’re a. totally clueless, or b. trying to hide your true identity. In either case, don’t go away mad, just go away.

2. Keep your shirt on. No one wants to see your naked chest, nor do we care to see you bench pressing 300 pounds, no matter how proud you may be. Put some clothes on and act like you’ve got some sense. And save the weightlifting poses for the gym.

3. Don’t half-cut out your ex-whatever from the picture. Unless you’re sporting a third arm that happens to have long fingernails freshly manicured in hot pink polish, take a new photo. You and I both know you have more options. Use them. Which leads me to the last photo rule…

4. All this isn’t to say you shouldn’t post a photo. In fact, you must post a photo. Assuming you want to meet a real person. Otherwise, you are once again suspect (see rule #1). Don’t, however, post a photo of your truck or your dog or the house down the street. If you’re on a dating site, chances are excellent you own a smartphone. And if you have a smartphone, it has a camera. And speaking of smart, those who view your photos didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. No lame excuses, please.

Now that we’ve covered the dos and don’ts for the candid camera, let’s move on to the second type of first impression: the written word. Assuming you made the cut on the photos, you’ll need to make sure to follow these rules, as well.

1. Use a spell-checker. It doesn’t get more straightforward than that.

2. Write in complete sentences and learn the difference between there, their, and they’re.

3. And for the love of all that’s good and decent, and right, refrain from using “lol.” Period.

4. Avoid phrases such as “not looking for drama.” This is a strong indicator that drama is your typical modus operandi.

5. Keep it real. This isn’t a quest for Barbie, and I’m willing to bet you aren’t Ken. That’s right, I said it. Statements like, “prefer a size 4 who looks like Jennifer Aniston” will land you plenty of eye rolls, but very few dates.

6. If you’re not using your real first name, think through your user name. Names like JeffandTina, Playboy, or Sinkingindebt will go over like a lead balloon. Or at least they should.

There you have it — the unspoken rules that we’d all be better off speaking when it comes to online dating, just in time for the day of hearts. Adhere to these, and true love could be but a mouse click away. Then again, you may be better off in the produce aisle. I’ll be over by the bell peppers, so be sure to say hello.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.


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