I joined the lovely ladies of the LRMC for their Saturday afternoon workshop, Online Dating: It Works! and left a little more optimistic about romance in this digital age. Here’s a rundown of helpful hints I got.

First of All

You have to check out OKCupid’s trend blog. It has charts and graphs that show you how people’s profiles can reveal things about their sexual habits. For example, how much more likely a person will enjoy giving oral sex based on their meat consumption, or the chances a person likes it rough based on their taste for oatmeal. Not sure how legit these infographics are, but if you’re looking for something specific in the sack, can’t hurt to give this a read.

Setting Your Standards

Our online dating guide, Ms M (who found her partner of 2 years online), explained that she set solid guidelines for her suitors: No dudes with pics standing in front of their car, without their shirt off, or standing in front of the bathroom mirror with their iPhone. She was up front about it on her profile, too. A first date had to be at least 75% awesome or no deal. Be firm with your standards, but listen to your gut. If you genuinely cringed through every minute of the date, then bail. If you feel like there could be something there in a few more tries, give it another shot.

Photos Do’s and Don’ts

Think about what you’d want to see an ideal partner doing in a photo and let that be your guide. You want to see a person out doing things they like, socializing, traveling. The kind of pictures you put up will likely attract people who identify with those activities. So don’t use that pic of yourself white water rafting if you really never do it and just want to attract an adventurous dude with ripped abs. You’ll just be turning down invitations for extreme sports all summer. Keep them pretty recent, include a fair amount of glasses/contact shots, and show your true, babe-matic self.

Making Your Nickname

Even making a name for yourself on a dating site can be hard. It might feel like you’re reverting back to the age of ICQ or something (baby69xxx anyone?) But people do judge people based on their nicknames. Incorporate a fun part of your identity into your name and keep it casual (Ms M was cityexplorer7).

Profile Descriptions

Crafting the perfect profile can be annoying and time consuming, but there’s no way around it. People will be more likely to message you the more you describe about yourself. Sit down with a friend, have some drinks, and they can help you write and edit it.

As for content, be yourself. Be honest about your personality traits, likes, and dislikes. The point of your profile is to “sell yourself.” Self deprecating in a funny way can be effective, but do describe your good qualities – no one is going to know you have an awesome sense of humour unless you straight up say it. It might feel weird listing all your awesome traits, but having a profile that’s too vague or minimal will work against you and make you look generic. A profile is a work in progress. As you search other profiles, you’ll get ideas you can snag.

Be Ruthless

It never hurts to be up front about what you’re looking for/don’t want in a partner. OkCupid has a “you should message me if” box in your profile that can be a tool to your advantage. If you’re looking for something casual, say it, if not, say it. Listing your deal breakers doesn’t make you a jerk, everyone will appreciate your honesty. It’s a lot easier for everyone when people are transparent. Take the same attitude onto the first date: if it’s less than thrilling, remember that there are so many people online. Don’t settle. When in doubt, “we don’t have that much in common” isn’t a mean thing to say.

First Date Tips

– Bring cash so you can bounce right away if need be.

– When you keep it to drinks, you have the opportunity to bail after your pint, or if you hit it off, you can extend hang time to another round or dinner.

– Always tell a friend where you are.

– Have a “life line” in each end of the city you can get in touch with if the date goes awry. Or, you can go over afterward and talk about how horrible it was.

– Don’t feel like you need to save up the first face to face date for a real winner. It might be a better idea to use the duds as your first experiences.

Wait It Out – Chivalry Might Not Be Dead

One online dater divulged that he would wait until the 3 or 4 date until he paid the whole bill because he wanted to wait to see if he actually liked the girl enough to be a gentleman. The first few dates were straight up, just an interview. How … romantic? Alas, in the world of random meetings off the internet, it makes sense. Lesson to be learned from this is that some people may not reveal their chivalrous side until a little later in the game.

For other workshops like this, check out what the LRMC has on the docket this summer.

~ Kait Fowlie