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{Single Saints} Online Dating for Beginners—or for the Experienced Who Want Better Results

I always said there was probably a reason people who graduated from BYU or BYU-Idaho single were, well, single. There was obviously some major character defect that, whether immediately apparent or carefuly buried under onion layers that need only be peeled away to make your eyes water, prevented them from being dateable and marryable.

Then I graduated.

Single.

I like to think that, besides my workaholic tendencies that prevented me from dating for much of college, I do not have any such glaring personality pimples. But where’s a girl to meet a guy once she’s out of the feeding frenzy of BYU-I-do?

Thus began my online dating odyssey.

I’d always been intrigued by the concept, but, of course, no 18-year-old signs up for a dating service. Now with almost 24 years under my belt, I felt I could maintain my dignity while experimenting with the concept. Well, mostly, anyways. I did get my fair share of jibes from friends and family members. “How do you know he’s not really a 40-year-old stalker?” my mother asked when I told her I was going out on a date with a guy I met online.

Surprisingly—and thankfully—most of the people I encountered on LDS dating sites were like me: relatively normal, interesting and fun people who just hadn’t met Mr. or Mrs. Right yet. My inbox stayed predominantly free of would-be privacy perpetrators, and my ego swelled with the number of good-looking guys knocking at my metaphorical door (and, as messages progressed to real-life dates, my literal door as well).

Of course, there were plenty of screenname variations on niceguyforu and ready_for_eternity, plenty of statements about playing for keeps and parents hungry for grandchildren, but they thankfully were in the minority. Some even played off the stereotype: one guy had a post-it note in the corner of his profile picture begging, “Please date me so my mom will stop calling.”

From this experience, though, I’ve met some amazing guys who have blown me away, and I’ve also learned a lot about what will attract people to your profile or send their cursor quickly clicking to the back button.

1. Be complete. Most importantly, put up a profile picture. It doesn’t matter how amazing the rest of your profile is—without the picture, no one is ever going to see it. I know, I know, then someone you know will see your picture and know your dirty little secret. I won’t lie, it’s happened. I’ve seen (thus far) two guys I know from real life online. But it’s kind of like when someone catches you with your eyes open during a prayer—they’ll only know you’re doing it if they are too. Fill out any interviews available, take the compatibility tests, list your interests, and, of course, fill out the greeting. A personal description that says solely, “message me if you want to know about me” is not going to get any responses, because there’s nothing to hook the person looking at your profile to make them want to know more.
  
2. Don’t be negative. Peppered among the stellar studs are the jaded jerks who constantly try to poison any romance that may be budding in the fair land of cyberspace. Comments like one guy’s “I enjoy online dating but as you can see, nothing has really come of it. I continue to trudge forward through the murky waters of dating. One downfall of it is never getting a reply to anything; I guess that is what makes up some of the murky.” While he totally gets kudos for his appropriate use of a semicolon, the pessimism has me running for the sunlight of the hills. What terrifies me more is that he prefaced that statement with “I realized how negative I sounded on this…. So here is round two.” It can be good to say what type of people you are and aren’t attracted to in order to make this whole search for eternal romantic bliss possible, but forceful “don’t expect ___ from me” and lists of major turnoffs are a major turnoff. And let’s be real here: we’re all slightly embarrassed we had to resort to the still somewhat stigmatized world of online dating because we apparently can’t find someone in real life. But don’t create your profile with the screenname icantbelieveimdoingthis.
  
3. Do be positive. Maybe this sounds like the intrinsic other side of the coin to the above point, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. A lack of negativity does not a positive person make. Everyone loves happy, enthusiastic people. One guy who sent me a message was totally not my type: he was a 25-year-old manual laborer with a high school diploma who liked video games; I am a 23-year-old career woman with a bachelor’s degree completed and graduate school in the plans. But because of the gregarious enthusiasm bursting from the message he sent me, I was interested, and I replied.
  
4. Be different. Don’t dwell on the things that make you the same as everyone else. According to cyberspace dateworld, everyone is easygoing, everyone loves having fun, and everyone likes to do things outdoors. Show off your uniqueness. Don’t hide your quirks. They will make your profile stand out and will transform you from cyborg to endearing, from intimidating to dateable. And you just may find someone who shares your undying passion for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle memorabilia.
  
5. Be honest. Don’t say you’re really active when you’re not, yadda yadda. Ninth commandment, anyone? Don’t try to fit the mold of what you think everyone’s ideal mate is like. Be yourself and you’ll save yourself (and your potential mates) tons of work and awkward dates because no one will have to deal with a reality shock. Expect rejections if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not; insincerity can be detected online, and even if not, definitely in person, and heartbreak can ensue. If you put your real self out there, you’ll attract the right kind of people—the ones who would be interested in your real self and whom you would be interested in as well.

Click here to read the second installment of this article.

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Kaela Worthen is the associate editor at LDS Living. A self-titled "ultimate grammar nerd," she also battles serious addictions to news and food websites and a compulsion to dance to the radio while driving.

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