Why Am I Bad At Online Dating? Here’s What You’re Doing Wrong

You probably know at least a few happy couples who met through online dating, so why does it feel like such a waste of time for you? Whether you’re brand new to it or have spent years swiping and matching only to still be unhappily single, there is still hope. Here are some of the mistakes that may be holding you back from meeting the love of your life online:

  1. You’re playing it safe. The first rule of dating is to put yourself out there. Going on first dates, admitting you like someone, and falling in love is scary, and you will feel vulnerable along the way. But if you try to stick with “safe” options or wait for people to approach you, you will waste a lot of time and probably end up disappointed and jaded with online dating. Expect to feel awkward and exposed, and you’ll be moving in the right direction.
  2. You judge people by their photos. Online dating favors physical attractiveness. It’s easy to be distracted by the eye candy–guys baring their perfectly-sculpted abs and women with symmetrical faces gazing longingly at you from carefully angled selfies–but these are almost always dead ends. Physical attraction is one of the key components of compatibility, but it isn’t everything. If you can’t find a match that is as good in person as they seem online, start focusing on non-physical clues to a person’s character.
  3. You need to up your photo game. Luckily, there is now iron-clad data to help you strategize which photos to include (and exclude) in your profile. For example, party photos are only in 18% of successful profiles, while 87% of people are more likely to swipe right on a smiling photo than a non-smiling photo. And no matter how many selfies you see, statistics show that people are much more attracted to candid shots than they are to mirror selfies.
  4. You use generic pick-up lines. If you’re making the first move after matching with someone, good for you! You’ve succeeded at the first rule of dating (putting yourself out there). Sadly, however, you will not get much credit for reaching out to people. To stand out from the crowd, you have to be strategic in what you say. “Hey,” or “Thanks for matching :)” does not cut it. Tailor your introduction to the person’s profile. Make it personal. If they feel that you are genuine, they will respond.
  5. You’re not using a portrait as your first photo. Humans are hardwired to connect with people’s faces. A person who’s swiping through profiles is making split-second decisions based on the first photo they see, and if they aren’t intrigued by that photo, they’ll move on to the next profile without hesitation. Choosing a portrait (obviously it doesn’t need to be a professional shot) will draw people in.
  6. You judge people too quickly. If you can’t seem to find a single eligible person online, try slowing down and changing up your preferences. With so many profiles to wade through, you may be eliminating people before you can make solid judgments about them. Linger on profiles long enough to pinpoint what it is that turns you off. Similarly, when you meet someone in person, give them time to grow on you. A first date is rarely indicative of a couple’s viability unless it’s a complete disaster.
  7. You’re overextending yourself. The best thing about online dating is also the worst thing: there are so many people to choose from. If you try to pursue four or five people at once, you will spread yourself too thin and be unable to build a relationship with any of them. Focus instead on one or two people at a time so that you can give each potential romance the attention it requires to blossom or fade. Though counterintuitive, this is the most efficient method.
  8. You overthink it when things don’t work out. Another consequence of having so many options is constant rejection. If you expect everyone you like to see how amazing you are, your self-esteem will plummet. Online dating is notoriously unreliable. People constantly cancel dates last minute and leave you hanging on unanswered texts. Nine times out of ten, this has nothing to do with you. There are just too many options and a lot of people aren’t there to find a serious relationship.
  9. You get sucked into never-ending messaging. Taking too long to meet IRL is a common and romantically fatal mistake. If you spend days messaging a person and learn everything about each other’s childhoods, favorite tv shows, and careers, you will feel like you know them, only discover that they do not live up to the impossibly perfect projection you have created when you finally meet. Even worse, you will have nothing to talk about because you’ve already texted about everything.
  10. You don’t know what you’re looking for. Because there are so many options, you need to start your online dating process with a goal. Are you looking for a long-term partner? A casual fling? A future co-parent? A variety of new people just to have some fun? If you don’t know what you want, your experience will erratic, frustrating, and unsuccessful. You won’t find someone who fits your needs if you don’t know what your needs are.

How to not be bad at online dating

  1. Keep an open mind. You probably have a pretty strong idea in your head of what you think you’re looking for when it comes to a potential partner. There are definitely some non-negotiable qualities, of course — that’s called having standards — but you should be willing to give people a chance. You might meet someone who’s not your usual type but who you have amazing chemistry with. Don’t rule people out too quickly.
  2. However, be judicious with your matches. If one of your matches is waving some serious red flags, you get a nagging feeling that something’s not right with them, or you’re just not feeling it, don’t feel bad for cutting things off. If you’ve been chatting for a bit, the courteous thing to do would be to tell them that you’re moving on, but that all depends on the situation. Do what’s right for you.
  3. Be as honest as possible on your profile. It’s tempting to leave out some pretty major parts of ourselves or our lives on our dating profiles or to embellish a bit to make ourselves look more impressive than we are. Don’t do that! You’re amazing just as you are. You’re also a human being and don’t need to be perfect. Be who you are without shame or worry about what anyone else is going to think. If someone judges you for it, they’re clearly not worth your time.
  4. Don’t keep things online for too long. If you’ve met someone and you’re really vibing, make plans to meet in person as quickly as possible. Being together face to face is the only real litmus test to tell if there’s chemistry and potential between you. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs if it’s just not going to work.
  5. Take a break from time to time. Sometimes online dating can be overwhelming and frustrating. When that happens and you feel like you’re reaching breaking point, that’s a sign that you need to take a break for a bit. Maybe that’s only a couple of days or maybe it’s a couple of months — only you know how long you need to stay away. However, taking a breather is really important, so make sure you’re doing it.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.