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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Selling Yourself in Online Dating

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Online Dating: How to Sell Yourself
Selling Yourself in Creative Ways

How do I sell myself in creative ways when it comes to dating?

The timing of this question is excellent, as perhaps you have recently seen a news article about Tim Goggin.  Tim is a single, 32 year-old from San Diego who created a five-minute infomercial to introduce him to single women in his area (see video below). According to Tim, he developed this video stream as a last ditch attempt to find suitable romantic prospects. It seems that many previous methods like speed dating and different online dating sites all failed him.

The media has taken to Tim to some extent -- no doubt the underdog factor is weighing in here. Moreover, Tim makes a nice human interest story. But I have to step in and cry foul when the media suggests that Tim’s approach is “the potential future of dating: promoting yourself via the web.”  I guess the reporter that broke Tim’s story has never heard of matchmaking services like “The Right One” or the old 80’s television game show called “Love Connection.”  Video profiles are actually a thing of the past; not some fabulously new innovation that will take over the future of matchmaking. In fact, many online dating sites already offer video chatrooms, and furthermore, it is not uncommon to find Metacafe or YouTube links to personal video streams included in online dating profiles. No one yet knows whether video presentations have any advantage over the standard text and photo-based profiles. That said, I truly wonder whether previous methods failed Tim or whether Tim failed at using those methods. There is an important difference here.

If Tim’s personal profiles or speed dating etiquette were anything like his video content, I can understand the lack of success he has experienced. I am not picking on Tim per se, but his situation is fair game for a simple case study. Tim might get lucky (no pun intended) with his new video approach, but any success is likely to be due to his new “celebrity-like status” rather than the substance of his romantic appeals. Five minutes does not sound that long, but Einstein’s Theory of Relativity states that a bland five minutes will feel like an eternity. Many singles today (especially women) have short attention spans while online; they insist upon instant gratification. They will quickly glean or screen information to see if your photograph (i.e., physical appearance) catches their eyes and whether you seem intriguing from romantic or psychological standpoints. Frankly put, online dating profiles serve as personal advertisements and the individuals behind the profiles often do not have the luxury of five minutes to make a great, first impression.  Being creative for the sake of being creative is a waste of time in my opinion. It is more important to give people what they want to see in a clear and convincing way. What exactly do people want to see in profiles?  They often want to see a paragraph that quickly speaks to who you are and what you are seeking in a relationship, they want a clear and recent head shot, they want to see additional photographs that show body type and they want to sense your personality in your writing.

I strongly suggest limiting your creative impulses when creating a profile. That said, there are some things you can do to personalize your profile and messages:

  • Add color. You can select different colored backgrounds for your profile or sometimes even your email messages through an online dating site. Remember, from a safety perspective it is best to use email and IM tools offered by the online dating site versus your own personal email account. Your identity is simply better protected.

  • Add texture. Consider trying different fonts for your messages and IMs, or take profile photos in clever or eye-catching settings. Do not sacrifice clarity for cleverness or creativity. In other words, first and foremost present a great close-up shot that is recent. The setting is secondary.

  • Keep it Simple Stupid (“KISS” principle). Give information in your profile in sound bites. As imaginative and innovative as humans are, they cannot constructively handle or process more than about five pieces of information at any given time. This is one reason why telephone numbers in the US have no more than seven digits and why excessive multi-tasking can be ineffective. For best results in most situations, present material or information in chunks if your aim is comprehension, retention and impact. Therefore, keep your points or themes ideally limited to three (but not more than five) points. Not only is it easier for someone to understand and remember three points; it’ll be easier for you too. Also keep this principle in mind when communicating with people in general. For example, organizing long e-mail messages into three smaller paragraphs is more reader-friendly and impactful than presenting a single lengthy paragraph. People in cyberspace respond best to brevity and clarity, at least for initial messaging.

  • Add dimension. Rotate your profile content on a regular basis to keep things fresh. The content should ideally give prospects different views about who you are. Showing people different facets of yourself in words and photos is a great way to advertise yourself without bombarding people with too many details upfront.

  • Add the Ability to Get More Info. Finally, consider creating a fun video of yourself that people can access from your profile. Rather than the video being your main source of information, have it simply serve as a source of “additional info.”  There are many free sites where you can upload videos to share with a few people or anyone.

Lastly, let me reiterate that if you want to stand out -- really stand out -- then I recommend doing the basics of online dating extremely well. And by all means, if you insist on venting your creative urges, then bounce your idea(s) off some friends of the opposite sex to see if your thoughts on really on track for attracting someone, or whether your idea will instead derail your goals.

Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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