How to do online dating

How to write a great online dating bio. Also how to write a great first message that works.

Like with everything, some people are into this idea, others not. If you are into the idea, here are some tips. But firstly ….

It’s for over 18s

You have to be over 18 in order to set one up. I know, you can have sex at 16, get married at 16 IT’S SO UNFAIR. It’s to protect young people from some harms online (more about this at the end). If you’re under 18 there might be some useful general tips here about you though.

Online vs offline

Online dating can tell you quite a lot about someone before you meet them but it is just a starting point. Knowing lots about someone before you meet them doesn’t guarantee that you’ll fancy them in person (or that they’ll fancy you). You can really ‘click’ with someone in real life without knowing much about them.

So be careful about getting too serious about someone before you meet them. Although sometimes really big time relationships just happen online. Also if you only date offline, don’t read too much into ‘the click’ cos things might change when you get to know them.

Which is the best site?

There are tons of dating sites out there. Some are about finding ‘one true love’ or a soul mate (if you believe in that). Others are more about ‘hook ups’ or casual sex (if that’s your thing). Some are mainly about the photos, others are more about peoples’ values and beliefs. Others help you to meet new friends.

Some are for groups of people (eg sites for religious daters, or men who want to have sex with men, or women for women). There are some which are more like online communities rather than specific dating websites. These might be for people who are into various kinks or different sexualities (eg asexual folk wanting friendships or romance). Some are free and some aren’t.

So I can’t advise you which one to pick cos I don’t know you. Do your research. Ask your friends which one they’re on. Or ask the kind of people you want to meet where they are.

Create the best profile

How you construct your profile depends on what website you’re using. Some are all about the pictures and key words. Others invite you to write about you and others ask you a ton of questions to match you up with other people. You might find it quite easy to do or a bit more of a challenge. Maybe do it when you’re having a ‘helpful self-esteem day’ yeah? You could also give yourself a big up.

Don’t worry about getting it right first time – it’s ok to go back and change pictures and text. Also it’s never going to be perfect so give yourself a break. Summarising yourself perfectly isn’t possible and even if it was it’s never going to fully represent you in real life. (Same is true for the people who you’ll meet). Here’s how to make yourself look and sound as good as possible.

Pictures that work

Upload a nice picture of you. Pictures are so people see if they fancy you or not but also to show someone what you’re like rather than just telling.

Selfies are good cos you can spend ages getting it just right. Make sure it’s clear and in focus. Do whatever pose you feel comfortable doing and whichever tells the story of you (eg sexy or funny or serious or dressed up).

Maybe also use pics of you doing whatever it is that you might enjoy doing (hiking, rock climbing, bowling, table tennis, zombie cos play, Jager-Bombs). If someone else is in the picture you might wanna get their permission first or blur them out with your mad MS Paint skillz first.

If you use pictures on your dating profile that are online elsewhere remember that it’s possible to search images to find you. For instance someone might be able to find your facebook account, or your work profile.

Make yourself sound great

Lots of people find this bit tough a) because it requires you write nice things about yourself and b) because *you* are such a big subject that it’s impossible to summarise us into three witty and informative paragraphs.

What’s more important – what you’re into or what kind of person you actually are?

You can just write about what you’re into – that might give people a clue about what kind of person you are but don’t just rely on lists. What’s more important – what you’re into or what’s inside you? Check this list – which of these are you and which aren’t you? Think of examples for why you are those things to help you write your bit about you.

Bish online dating who are you and who do you want to meet

Try not to think about what you think is going to attract other people. Be the subject of your own story, not the romantic interest (object) of someone else’s. This can be tough to do (especially if you feel like you aren’t attractive to people) but it’s so so important.

Self Awareness vs Self Put Downs

It’s mostly a good idea to show your best you but I think it’s important to be authentic. Think about how you can show what a real, self-aware and cool person you are. For example:

  • “I’m really really into eating all the tasty foods (so I sometimes care more about this than my jeans size)”
  • “I’m really into being super toned so I tend to watch what I eat.”
  • “I’m more of a ‘let’s drop everything’ kinda person person rather than a planner.”
  • “I like to make plans to do awesome things. Being impulsive isn’t usually my thing so sometimes I need a bit of prodding”

So rather than thinking about you like ‘I’ll show the good bits and hide or apologise for the bad’ try to be more like ‘this is me, I’m trying to be a really excellent, hot human’. Make sense?

Also don’t assume that people will agree with you about your ‘flaws’ – what they see isn’t what you see they are seeing.

There’s a great post about this by Arched Eyebrow.

As for how you write it: if you’re wordy and have lots of thoughts, write like that. If you’re funny, write like that. If you like to get to the point, write like that.

Who do you want to meet?

The advantage of online dating is that you can be really specific about who you are looking for. The disadvantage is that you can be really specific about who you are looking for.

Sometimes people might be so focussed on their ‘type’ that they don’t see the potentially excellent human in front of them.

You might be like ‘this is my type,’ ‘they need to be into this,’ ‘they need to believe in this’ but sometimes you might focus more on this rather than on the potentially excellent human on your screen. So allow a bit of flexibility now and then and you may surprise yourself (and may increase your chances of a date where you feel ‘the click’).

If you aren’t really clear about who you want to meet, that’s ok – BUT DO spend time thinking about who you want in your life. Have a look at the list above and think about who you want to meet. Remember this is your rom com so write your own story.

Sending a great message

Depending on which site you’re on, you may be able to ‘like’ people. Some people do this because they genuinely like someone and want to chat to them, others ‘like’ loads and loads of people because it increases their chances of meeting someone.

Same goes with messages, which means that some people send lots and lots of messages – however this means that they are more along the lines of ‘hey how r u?’ which is a bit like saying ‘I can’t really be bothered to talk to you but you’re hot enough.’

Some people think they can write the perfect message but I think it’s more important to be real rather than playing some kind of game.

Really good messages are often funny or light-hearted, personal and show that a bit of time has gone into it. A good message might show that someone is genuinely interested and is remembering that it’s a person behind the words and pictures.

You’re Going to Get Rejected

Not everyone is going to want to message you back, in fact most people probably won’t. So if you’re someone who sends messages you should probably prepare yourself for the fact that some just don’t wanna.

Not everyone is going to like you. If you’re not for them, they’re not for you.

Don’t pester them, just take a ‘no thanks’ or no response on the chin and try again with someone else. If you’re finding that kind of rejection hard, remember that there are tons and tons of reasons why you might not be for them. Maybe they’re really busy, maybe you look like their ex, maybe you’re not wanting the same things, perhaps they hate your favourite band – whatever. The most important thing is just to accept it, be graceful and move on. No matter how much you think they’re for you, if they don’t like you, they are not for you.  You’re not entitled to date them.

If you’re not into the person liking you or sending you a message, that’s cool. You aren’t going to fancy everyone online but remember that (sometimes) it’s a human at the other end feeling a bit of rejection so put yourself in their shoes. Remember that just cos someone isn’t for you doesn’t give you the right to be nasty to them or to make fun of them *does stern peering over glasses face*.

Safer dating

Much of this is common sense and a lot of dating sites have very good advice on how to stay safe. Get to know them a bit first – what ‘a bit’ means is your call. Be sure that they are who they say they are. Trust that they are not going to hurt you and will respect you (they may also want to suss this out about you too). It’s hard to say how you will find this information out – a bit of chat should help you. Some dating websites have longer profiles than others – just looking at pictures doesn’t really tell you a lot. You could perhaps do a search for them online – if you want to feel less creepy about that you could ask them if that’s ok first.

If you’re new to online dating you might want to ask a mate who is more experienced than you to have a look at someone’s messages or profile. Be careful if people want to chat off-site (eg via phones) straight away. It’s probably a bad sign if people ask you for money or if people offer to give you money.

It’s a bad sign if someone is putting you down (negging), or is being rude or inappropriate – there are usually ways to report people for doing this. You can also block, hide or filter these people. Sometimes this can be upsetting, so do to talk to someone if you’re feeling threatened or creeped out.

If you do agree to meet then meet them in a public place (make sure you know how you are getting there and most importantly how you are getting back). Tell a mate where you are going and who you are going to see. During the date make a point of texting your mate in front of them – if they are totally cool with that this is a good sign.

More about how to date and safer dating here.

Got any great tips you want to share?

(Thanks to my awesome friend Kirsty for her awesome advice)

Please leave a (nice) comment below if you like or ask me a question here.

© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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