Does Online Dating Work?

As an online dating photographer and consultant based in San Francisco, I have worked with numerous people over the years with respect to their profiles, photos, bios, app choices, wardrobe, first impressions, vocal tonality, date ideas and more. But before I jump into assisting folks who reach out to me for help, I evaluate their current status with respect to demographics, mental state and personal history to see if online dating is worth pursuing. Online dating is not for everyone but with that said it can be effective if you know how to approach it, know what it can/cannot do and know how to improve your marketability to others.

In the year 2019, it’s almost harder to find someone who has not tried online dating than those who have – that was not the case 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. The stigma around dating apps has dwindled as people’s lives have been busier, more apps have flooded the market focusing on relationships rather than the casual hookup, and as more and more people have embraced how they met and shared their success stories.

Despite the growing numbers of users and success stories, there is a growing sentiment around the frustration, ambiguity and horror stories around scammers, cheaters and catfishing that flood the media. Everyone has heard a success story from a family member or friend who met their significant other within days of creating a profile but rarely do people share their misery about spending years on the same dating sites with little to no success.

Online dating can be brutal, there are a number of factors that contribute to success or failure including:

-Location

-Gender

-Age

-Height

-Appearance

-Mental Health

-Photos

-Approachability

-Wardrobe

-Career

-Education

-Politics

-Lifestyle (Smoking, Drinking, Diet)

-Kids

-Ethnicity

-Religion

-Writing Skills

These are just a sample of criteria people are considering when looking at a profile IF they manage to get past your main profile photo. These are 17 line items – SEVENTEEN! That is a lot of information to process in a few seconds or even minutes. Some of these can be nice-to-haves vs others are viewed as deal-breakers. It goes without saying that offline efforts are less discerning and less judgmental but when it comes to online dating, you are being compared to dozens of other people in the stack. With offline efforts, you are usually evaluated in isolation on fewer factors.

Online dating sounds awful – doesn’t it? Yes, on the surface, it sounds exhausting and tedious. Even if you manage to find someone who fits your criteria, then comes the validation. Did they lie about their age? Are the photos old and the person no longer looks the same? Did the person lie about being single? These are items that require some in person verification only after some messages exchange and dates agreed to. Many connections never lead to a date. They fizzle, others end abruptly while some end before they even start.

I can trace most discontent of online users into three buckets: lack of options (location, demographics), lack of quality people (bad dates, lack of chemistry, misrepresentation), or lack of traction/engagement (no likes, no matches). This is no different from offline complaints but what is different with online dating is that judgment is usually applied more quickly due to availability of options on arrangement of concise, brief profiles. 

It’s easy to try to correct the problems with more apps, more swiping, re-arranging photos, more messages – items I call a volume approach. Like in a basketball shot, people don’t necessarily become great with taking more shots, they work on their technique, they look at where they take shots and they often times get help from coaches. Online dating is a personal matter and I estimate over 80% of people either never get help on their profiles and the ones that do, get bad advice. See this article on Photofeeler about asking friends for advice. 

When viewing a dating profile for the first time, I look at their photos, their bios, their app choice. I then ask what their intentions are, what their efforts have been to date to meet people offline or through apps. I look at their social life, friends, career, appearance, and see what state of mind the person is at. It is very difficult to meet someone if you are struggling to keep your life together intact. Everyone is always working on themselves or should seek to improve aspects of their lives but it is hard to sell someone on you if you can’t sell yourself to yourself. Much like a resume, you don’t want to create a poor initial impression to someone you are trying to impress.

For one reason or another, some folks will have a challenging time having success with dating apps but rather than focus on a volume approach, focus on what you can control and influence. Look at what your photos, bio and app choice signal. Are you creating the profile for yourself of the person you are looking to attract. Does your profile suggest someone who is looking to add someone to their lives to grow, learn, explore and be vulnerable or is your profile suggest you are hiding something, are insecure or are not sure what you want?

Just because setting up a dating profile might be quicker and easier than approaching someone at a bar or cafe doesn’t mean it is going to yield success. Online dating requires patience, effort, feedback, awareness as well as leap of faith, due diligence, being present, giving people a chance rather than trying to judge people too quickly. These skills are also needed for offline efforts – there are no shortcuts to dating apps, they will not do the work for you. They are merely introduction apps – they can’t screen people for you. Online dating requires self-reflection – are you being unreasonable? Are your deal-breakers really deal-breakers or are they preferences? 

You attract who you are, not what you seek. Don’t worry about others – focus on what you can control, what you can influence. Don’t blame matches, don’t blame apps, don’t blame your height or your weight etc. If you are someone who makes a great first impression in person, meet people offline. Dating apps are not like DoorDash – they are not ordering apps, they are merely introductory apps. You can’t cut corners and you can’t rush things – you have put in time to let things unfold naturally with pressure. If are not ready to take the time to get to know people or let people get to know the real you, dating woes will only compound.

It’s important to remember that even though dating apps provide an opportunity to meet more people outside of your daily routine, it also invites more competition. You no longer are being analyzed in isolation, you are being compared to the person before you in the stack, existing matches. Dissect every piece of your approach and see where you can improve upon because if you don’t others will in their profiles.