There's an unmistakable feeling that comes with making a new profile on a dating site. There's a bit of embarrassment, the feeling of mild shame that you're "looking for someone on one of these things," but perhaps also a glimmer of hope. "Maybe this time," you think, "I'll find the right one."
Dating sites have improved significantly since they started to get popular around 2003. With so many algorithms, percentages and questions used to help make matches, it seems as if these sites have more information available than ever to help you find a potential mate.
But what if the data you're mining isn't the right kind?
A study done by The Association for Psychological Science tells us that matches made using an algorithm do not necessarily reveal any increased compatibility or long-term happiness than relationships forged in the real world. In other words, those percentages could be right, but there are no guarantees.
Author Amy Webb, for one, knows just how wrong they can be. She recently released a book called "Data: A Love Story," which shares a few of her own disappointing experiences in the world of digital dating. Driven by frustration, Webb decided to try making a list of the qualities she wanted in a partner before she started browsing profiles. With a little bit of reconnaissance work -- including creating a fake male profile to learn what men reacted to -- she discovered how to crack the system and create a better profile, and she eventually found her future mate.
According to Webb, there are a few key errors that people make in the online dating process that can spell out disaster before they even have time to favorite a profile.
1. Not knowing what type of partner you are looking for.
Going to the grocery store hungry (and without a list) sounds like a really bad idea, doesn't it? Yet many people roll onto dating sites with no plans other than to click on cute photos. According to Webb, especially in a space as vast as an online dating website, it's essential to get granular about what you want before you start looking.
2. Putting too much information on your profile.
When it comes to how to represent yourself on the Internet, Webb believes that short and sweet is key. "People who write 1,000-word long profiles are over-sharing," she says. "They don't create the critical and necessary curiosity gaps which would compel someone to reach out and ask for more. You want to offer just enough information to cause an insatiable desire. That means short, pithy sentences with intriguing details."
3. Taking it too fast.
While it can be tempting to go running off into the sunset (or the bedroom) with the super hot guy on date No. 3, it's probably best to take your time. When it comes to online dating mistakes, Webb says that the most common error people make is forgetting that the dating part of online dating still happens in real life. "Online dating offers efficiency," she says. "But falling in love shouldn't be accelerated."
4. Ignoring the red flags.
We've all seen some of them and gone ahead anyway: the old photos, contradicting information or just plain weird messages. The key is not what potential dates say, but how they say it. "Emailing or instant messaging at odd times of the day or night, insisting on meeting in person immediately, and talking about sex right away (are all red flags). Those folks are typically not looking for a long-term relationship," Webb says.