When you first arrive at an online dating site, you can browse through profiles without entering any information about yourself. The amount of information you can see about each user depends on the site. Some sites allow users to restrict access to their profiles to paying members. Photos might not be displayed unless you have a paid membership. This helps preserve anonymity, since a co-worker or family member can'’t accidentally stumble across your profile. They’'d have to pay for a membership to see a picture of the person they're reading about.
When it’s time to make your own profile, you’ll start with some basic information. Are you a man or a woman? Are you looking to meet a man or a woman? What age range are you interested in? Where do you live? (Some sites just ask for a zip code, while others may allow you to choose form a list of cities.) This is generally the same information you provide to perform a simple search, or “browse.”
Basic profile information may also include your birthdate and a valid e-mail address. Site administrators will communicate with you through this address, and some sites allow messages from users to be sent to your e-mail anonymously. When they send you a message, it is routed through the site’s system and redirected to your e-mail without the other user ever seeing your address. Some sites use their own internal messaging system. If you’re especially concerned about privacy, it’s easy enough to create a free e-mail account somewhere and use it solely for your online dating contacts.
Indicating your physical attributes is usually the next step. Height, weight, hair and eye color and body type are common pieces of data, while some sites ask about piercings and tattoos. At this point, the process becomes increasingly detailed. Interests and activities, favorite sports, authors, music or movies, how you like to spend weekends –- these topics are all fair game. More personal questions might involve whether or not you have children, whether or not you want children, your religious beliefs and your political views. Pets, occupation, income and living situation are usually on the list as well.
Next, you’ll be asked to answer many of these same questions a second time, but instead of indicating your own traits, you’ll be describing your ideal date. The site will then use this information and the information you provided about yourself to find suitable matches that you might want to contact. Most sites will also allow you to write about yourself in a more freeform manner -- a chance to get across more of your personality than a series of pull-down lists can offer.
Posting a photo of yourself is another important step. Most sites report a huge increase in responses to ads that have photos posted. There will usually be guidelines as to what sorts of photo you can post, and there might be an approval process before it actually gets posted. In general, avoid posting revealing photos, don’t post photos with people other than yourself in them and don’t post glossy, “glam” photos. Although you want to look your best, try and make sure the photo is accurate to how you currently look. If you’re 35, your high school yearbook photo isn’t a good choice. If you recently dyed your hair purple, try to get a photo that reflects that.
There’s one last rule that needs to be mentioned, and it’s an important one: Don’t put personal identification information in your profile. This includes your address, phone number, social security number, full name or place of employment. You might meet people on the site that you’ll want to share some of that information with down the line, but it should never be public knowledge.
Now, let's go through some helpful tips on creating a profile that encourages people to contact you.