Experts say right now could be the perfect time to spark a meaningful connection.

By Dr. Jenn Mann
Aug 19, 2020 @ 4:32 pm
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DEAR DR. JENN,

I am newly single and just joined a few dating apps. This pandemic has made me realize I would really like to find my soulmate, but I feel clueless when it comes to setting up my dating profile to find the right guy — how much is too much to put out there? What kinds of photos should I use? On top of it all, I'm pretty conservative when it comes to social distancing and going out, so I feel like I need to choose my suitors carefully. All of it is giving me a lot of stress. Where do I start? —Looking for Love In the Time of Coronavirus 

DEAR LOOKING,

Many relationships have become a casualty of the virus — just look at all the celeb breakups in the past few months. The good news is that the online dating world is more active than ever right now. (Recently, Match Group which owns Tinder, OK Cupid, Hinge, and Match, reported a surge in new subscribers.)

While the virus has changed the way we are dating, courting, and getting to know each other, if you play your social distancing cards right, this could actually be an ideal time to meet your mate. The virus has forced us to really spend the time getting to know each other before taking the risk of a socially distanced, masked date, and it's also put the idea of getting physical too soon off the table. In other words, someone has really got to be special. This all works to your benefit, especially coming off of a breakup.

So, dating apps: Some are more known as hook-up sites, whereas others are more geared towards people looking for a relationship. Do a little homework about the sites you're on (by asking other single friends or good old Google), to make sure they cater to the type of relationship you are looking for. Once you determine you are working with legit relationship-oriented sites, it's time to hone your profile skills.

Here is what I recommend for setting up your dating profile and finding success with online dating.

1. Mention Your Quarantine Status

A new dating profile trend is actually listing your viral or antibody status. Much like a guy advertising in his bio that he's completely clean of STDs, this information coming from a stranger probably shouldn't be trusted. Plus, not only is the accuracy of antibody tests still under question, but a positive COVID test result isn't always a guarantee. (You can be tested for COVID on Monday and then pick up the virus on Tuesday and walk around thinking you are negative.)

So while I don't recommend sharing viral status info, I would recommend sharing your quarantine status. You want to find someone who is on the same page as you — and is prepared for a long drawn out courtship before there might be any physical contact or even a distanced date. Sharing this information will help to keep expectations in line and also screen for compatibility.

2. Include the *Right* Kinds of Photos

Dating apps are a highly visual medium for dating where decisions happen quickly. Having the right number of quality photos (between three and five) that are eye-catching and attract the kind of partner you are hoping to find are key. According to Lauren Frances, an online dating consultant and author of Dating, Mating & Manhandling: The Ornithological Guide to Men, “Having current, clear, and alluring photos are the number one secret to success. Fuzzy, out of date, and ‘moody’ pics are a no-no.” If it's been a while since you were on the apps, be sure to change up your photos to reflect who you are today.

Here, some other types of photos to avoid on your dating profile.

  • Nix the selfies, which can come across as too narcissistic.
  • Don't wear sunglasses in your shots. Corny as it sounds, eyes are the windows to the soul and sunglasses can look as though you're hiding something.
  • Avoid bikini shots, unless you're just looking to hook up.
  • Avoid group shots. It's important to make it easy for him to see you and get excited about you. In this fast dating world, people don’t take the time to figure out which one you are — they just swipe left.
  • Don’t include shots of you with people that could be mistaken for a boyfriend or girlfriend. (I don’t care how much you love your brother. Keep him out of the shot.)
  • Ditto for shots where you clearly cropped your ex out of the shot. Yes, we all have a relationship history but we don’t need to see the arm of the person that was there before us.
  • Don’t include pets in your shots, as much as you may love them. You should be the focus, not your cute puppy.

So, what does that leave? Focus on shots that show off your interests. For example, if you are a runner, include one of you crossing the finish line. Not only will this attract potential partners with similar interests, but it also gives suitors an easy conversation starter.

3. Use Your Dating Profile As an Ice-Breaker

Even the most experienced and active daters are a little nervous the first time they reach out to someone. Make it easy. Give lots of easy conversation starters in your profile. The words you use reveal a lot about who you are and can serve as door openers. Use them wisely.

You can also use your dating profile to ask an ice-breaker. “I am working my way through Los Angeles takeout, what’s your fav?” Mention a movie you've been wanting to see or a band you love so they have an opening.

4. Focus on the Positive

On dating apps and sites, people are looking to keep it light and fun, even in a pandemic. This is not the time or the place to bare your soul. Keep text short and light and get straight to the point. A divorced male friend of mine once wrote a dating profile that basically described what went wrong in his marriage. (“I don’t want someone who is going to lie, cheat or use me for my money,” he wrote.) Learn from his mistake and keep talk of exes out of your profile.

Be positive and create a visual. Talk about what you like, not what you don’t like. “I hate camping and the outdoors,” just sounds negative, even if it is true. “I love sharing a good movie and making new pasta dishes,” sounds fun and creates a vision of a date, or even a life together. This is the time to really showcase your personality. Instead of saying you're adventurous, share about the time you jumped out of a plane. Bonus points for corresponding photos.

5. State Your Romantic Goals

Are you looking for a hookup? (Let it be known, I do not recommend this in a pandemic... you are safer getting cozy with your vibrator). A long-term relationship? A husband? State what you want. According to Frances, “If you don’t want hookups, and are looking for LTR’s, or marriage and families, state that. You DO want to scare the wrong men off, and they’ll just move on to the next girl.”

Some women worry about sounding desperate, but you can state these goals without sounding needy. The right man who is ready for those things is going to respond well to them. Make sure that your photos are aligned with your romantic goals. If you're looking for a husband, maybe don’t post a picture of you dancing on the table at your best friend's bachelorette party. Even if you look hot, this might be a turn-off to a man who is looking to settle down.

6. Screen Well — and Trust Your Instincts

My advice with dating apps is to cast a wide net and then develop the savvy to weed through interested parties and screen for compatibility. Online dating is a numbers game. You are guaranteed to get a high ratio of frogs to princes, but it's important to get rid of potential suitors who do not align with your goals — and to do it quickly. If you’re looking for a relationship, you can immediately eliminate anyone who makes sexual innuendos or asked for naked pictures/bikini shots right off the bat. Look for men who are showing interest in the unique things you have posted in your profile, and avoid the guys who send standard cut/paste responses to every girl he matches with. Look for people who ask questions about you and are forthcoming about themselves. These are more likely to be people who are putting thought and care into their dating life.

Once you have a match that interests you, start with text messaging. If things are going well, move to the phone or to an online date. Speaking on the phone gives you a better sense of who they are, what their energy is like, and if you have a rapport. Once you are speaking on the phone, trust your instinct. If someone doesn’t sound like a good match, sounds creepy or you just have a gut feeling, listen to that. Too many women don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or feel a sense of scarcity so they go on a date that their instinct told them not to. This can be dangerous, and at the very least, a poor use of your limited dating time.

As your inbox fills up and you start to get excited about fresh new candidates, make sure that you stay true to your health and safety philosophy. Do not let anyone push you into meeting in person. Make sure you decide on what your dating protocol will be in advance so you have clarity and keep yourself safe.

In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sex and relationship questions — unjudged and unfiltered.