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Five fact-based tips for better online dating

We’ve come a long way since You’ve Got Mail. In '98 the idea of meeting someone online seemed novel and weird – now it’s the norm. Dating may be more convenient when you can do it on your phone but some do’s and dont's still apply. First up: don’t do a Tom Hanks and lie about your identity. Only Meg Ryan will be pleasantly surprised by this.

It’s a fine science.

Some may think that online dating is just a game of luck (and the ability to take an intensely attractive selfie) but apparently there are a couple of things you can do to raise your stock. One study suggested that screen names starting with letters early in the alphabet had the most internet-to-real-life success (it also means your name will appear at the top of search listings and won’t get lost). Another tip is to aim to write 70% about yourself and 30% about what you're looking for in a partner rather than banging on about yourself ad infinitum. Also: profiles mainly about your love of hiking and boasts about your peak physical fitness don’t attract as much attention as you’d think.

The first impression.

It’s those first few moments of messaging someone online that can spell success or result in disaster. Looking at the rights and wrongs of typing those first flirty messages, OkCupid analysed over 500,000 first contacts and their reply rates. They found that using slang or grammatically incorrect language in a first message (like ‘ur’ ‘ya’ and ‘cant’) resulted in a reply rate under 30%. However, ‘haha’ and ‘lol’ were received more favourably. But don’t be tempted to be dull – choosing an unusual greeting like ‘hola’ or ‘howdy’ had an almost 50% reply rate, as opposed to a measly 25% with the old-fashioned ‘hello’.     

The importance of the selfie. 

If you’ve got any kind of social media account you know how important your avatar is. Like it or not, it’s your introduction to the rest of the internet. But how important is the selfie to online dating and is there there a ‘right’ kind of selfie? A survey of single Americans by Match.com, found that 61% of online daters think that the most attractive selfies are natural and without filters, while 39% think that funny selfies are the ones that catch their eye. Maybe employing some sort of natural prop is the way to go. Dare we suggest an eggplant?

Be straight. What are you here for?

Hey, we’re all consenting adults here. When it comes to online dating there's no need to be coy about what you’re looking for – whether it's a committed relationship, casual (safe) sex or just some steamy chatting. The more honest you are the more likely you'll be to find someone with which you're compatible. However, research by the American Economic Review has found that people aren’t always completely forthcoming when it comes to online dating. More than half of studied users stated a preference for long-term relationships but more than 20% of their profiles stated they were “just looking/curious” because it sounds less committal (all in all, these kind of users only make up 4% of all online dating activities as a whole). Stop wasting time and start talking straight, pals!    

Don’t overthink it, okay?

Sure do’s and dont's of online dating are swell, but don’t get too caught up in trying to tick every box. New York Magazine, backed up research by the British Medical Journal, argues you should write your dating profiles in simple language as it appears much more attractive than a person trying to show off a curly vocabulary. And when it comes to message length, the briefer the better. OkCupid’s Christian Rudder found that quick-response messages between 150 and 300 characters fared way better than lengthier replies. If you’re still feeling unsure remember one thing: in comparison to ‘offline’ daters, online daters are more likely to have a full-time job, be educated, and break up with people without the use of technology. Swipe right, compadres.