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Date & Relate
by Sara Hodon

Online Dating Tips:
The Five W's of Online Dating

When writing a news story, journalists construct their articles using the Golden Rule of reporting—the 5 W’s, though for the purpose of this column, there are now 6.   This helps the reporter get right to the heart of the story and lay all of the facts out right from the start, rather than making the reader wade through paragraphs of less-important information.   The 5 W’s can also apply to your dating situation, particularly if you’re constantly wondering “What am I doing wrong?”
The reality is—you may not be doing anything wrong.  There are plenty of factors that can result in lackluster results from dating sites.  But should you want to take stock, here’s how to take a journalistic approach to your online dating strategies and examine the facts:    

(W)ho?  Who are you hoping to meet?  Once you have a good idea of what type of person you’re looking for, that will make it easier to narrow down the candidates and attract the right one for you.   All of the dating sites have a list of traits that you can choose from when browsing through profiles.  Take this seriously, but don’t be so specific that you only get a handful of matches.   If the profiles you’re being given on some of the general dating sites aren’t quite to your taste, perhaps you should look into a niche dating site.   If you’re talking to more than one person, ask them if they’d like to meet.   You may feel an instant attraction to one of them.  You may not.  Keep things casual until you decide that you want to take it to the next level with one of them.   
(W)hat?  What are you including in your profile?  It’s hard to strike a balance between “fun and easygoing” but not sounding like a pushover and “I definitely know what I want and won’t settle for anything less!” without sounding demanding and controlling.  Say enough about yourself to draw some interest, but not so much that you have nothing to talk about on dates.  The worst possible thing you can say in a profile is “Hard to know what to say about myself” or “Not sure what to write.”  Try to come up with an attention-getting headline, as well.  Think about what draws you to certain people’s profiles and try the same approach.   Change up your profile and photos occasionally.  Older or more inactive profiles tend to get buried at the bottom of search results.      
(W)hen?  When are you going to change your online dating strategies?  What about now?   If you’ve been part of the online dating game for some time, you probably have a good mix of both horror and success stories.  Maybe you just need a break from the online dating sites.  You may decide to bow out of the dating scene altogether for a bit.  You have more than enough going on in your life to occupy your time without adding the stress of dating and relationships to the mix.  Sometimes a break can really help.  Put your profile on “inactive” and tell your friends that you’re going into dry dock for a few weeks, and focus on the other activities in your life—work, friends, family, and your other commitments. 

(W)here?   Where are you looking for dates online?  If you belong to more than one site, take a look at which ones have generated the most successful matches for you.  Or, if you only belong to one site, why not post a profile on one or two others and see what happens?  I would usually have active profiles on an average of two sites at any one time.  Obviously, my site usage depended on the kinds of matches I received and the guys I heard from.  I’d heard good things about LavaLife, but as I browsed through the profiles I didn’t find any guys who lived closer than an hour away, so I didn’t bother posting a profile.  There are enough sites on the Web these days to accommodate virtually every type of dater, so you’re bound to find one that suits you. 
(W)hy?  Why stay limited to finding the love of your life online?  True, it can be difficult to meet other singles depending on where you live, but don’t rule anyone out.   During my last dating frenzy, I had quite a few people who wanted to set me up—so many, in fact, that I found that I was taking a break from the online dating scene without even realizing it.  I did go back to my membership on a dating site a few months later, but it was nice to have a break and meet people through other means.

Ho(w)?  How are you going to handle all of these matches once you take stock of your approach to dating?  (OK, so that was a bit corny.) In all honesty, though, online dating does have a lot to do with luck and timing.  If you’re getting many of the same singles in your searches, either change your profile up a bit, expand your search field, or take a breather.  After a few weeks, there may be a whole new batch of profiles from people who can’t wait to meet you!


Date & Relate is published every Thursday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Sara Hodon. She can be reached at

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