Online Dating: Where to Start, Building your Profile, and Communicating Effectively

Whether you’re casually swiping, actively seeking a committed relationship, or hankering for a good ol’ hook up, online dating offers a plethora of options to suit your needs.

If you’re new to the online dating world and unsure where to start, here is some advice to get you set up for success. You can also find my podcast episode about online dating here!

Proceed with Intention

Before diving in, reflect on your dating goals and what kind of relationship you’re looking for. Having a good understanding of your intentions will help guide your decision on what app or website to use and how to “market” yourself. There are no hard and fast rules here; you can have casual hookups while also dating in pursuit of a committed relationship, but personal clarity will help you avoid sending mixed messages to other daters and demonstrate that you know what you’re looking for. If you’re unsure about why you’re diving into the dating game, perhaps a little introspection is in order.

Which App or Website to Use? 

Online dating is accessible through chat rooms, meetup groups, social networking communities, convenient phone apps, classifieds ads (RIP Craigslist casual encounters), and paid-subscription websites. With all the options to pick from, the decision can be overwhelming. Once you’ve identified your dating intentions, narrow your options to sites/apps that cater to your needs. A simple search on Google or the app store will help you with this (i.e. queer, kink, divorcees, single parents, casual), but many individual apps or sites are acceptable for a range ages, genders, or sexual orientations. Compare the different bells and whistles of each one. Start with a couple options and test them out before you spend any money (many have free versions!) Whether you’re looking for a bang, a bae, or a bacchanal – online dating offers a flavor for most.

Bacchanalia by Auguste Léveque

Create Your Dating Profile

Before you read this piece of advice, imagine the fabulous writer of this blog (me…hi!) looking down at you sternly while pointing my finger in your face and saying “Don’t be fu*king lazy! Spend time on your profile!” It’s ridiculously surprising how many people do not put effort into writing a thoughtful dating profile. Follow this advice and you will surely stand out amongst many. Remember when I told you to proceed with intention? This is where you put those thoughts down into little typed-out words called sentences. It’s not too difficult, I promise.

  • State clearly what type of relationship or situation you are looking for. Don’t waste other people’s time by making them guess. Avoid using statements like, “I’m not sure what I’m doing here.” Lacking clarity of reason is a clear sign of insecurity and immaturity. It’s completely OK and encouraged to state that you’re specifically looking for something monogamous, or casual, or kinky, or discrete etc.
  • Express your personality because – you’re awesome! What hobbies do you enjoy? What is important to you in a partner/hookup/friend? What are your values, goals, and beliefs? What is attractive to you in other people? Where would you like to take someone on a first date? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, inject humor, and ask for what you want; vulnerability isn’t always easy but you can learn a lot about yourself when you put it out into the universe. Side note – this should go without saying but be HONEST. Lying about yourself is not only unattractive but will probably backfire on you.
  • Use a mix of photos that communicate multiple aspects about your personality. Saucy selfies are great and all, but full-length photos are an absolute must. Group photos are OK if you’re easily distinguishable, but if it requires squinting realllllly hard to guess which one you are? Um… boi, byyyyeee. Use current photos that are no more than one year old. And for goodness sake, if you absolutely *must* use a bathroom selfie, wash the damn toothpaste off your mirror first.

Initiate the Conversation 

It was always my personal preference to only “swipe right” on people who spent time on a well-delivered profile. I credit this tactic for mostly being able to avoid unsolicited genital photos and harassment from shitty people. The likelihood of quality reciprocated communication was higher if I could easily see that they were invested in the process. Opening the lines of communication, however, can be an intimidating aspect of online dating and leave some paralyzed in fear. First, you have to understand that rejection is part of the process but you won’t know until you try.

I’m not sure if this is more typical with straight men, but initial messages have a tendency to be quite lackluster. It took me five minutes of indiscriminately swiping this morning to fill my inbox with examples like these:



“Hi, how are you?”

“You’re hot.”

“Good morning, beautiful!”

“Hi.” [five minutes later…] “Hello?” [five minutes later] “Hey what’s up.”

You can see where this is going. There is a serious lack of creativity happening here and frankly, it’s irritating. Just because you’re online and not face-to-face does not excuse a lack of effort when initiating conversation. (I’d love to hear from some queer or non-binary folks on whether their experiences are similar!)

PSA – It is unacceptable to send anyone unsolicited nude photos without their consent and I fully support any receivers of said unsolicited photos to put them on blast via social media.

Draw inspiration from their profile – it’s that easy! 

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, find something intriguing about their profile/their pictures/their interests and take it from there. An introduction doesn’t have to be a novel, but you should invest some effort. Here are a few examples:

“I’ve never been skydiving before but it looks really exciting! Where did you go and how was the experience?”

-OR- “Your smile is really great and I find your sense of humor attractive. I’m interested in learning more about you. What are you looking for in a relationship?”

-OR- “I have seven cats, too! We should grab some coffee and talk about how much we love our cats! Did I mention that I have seven cats?”

Don’t feel terrible about yourself if someone doesn’t respond or rejects your attempt at connecting. People have all sorts of personal things happening in their lives at any given time or may already be emotionally invested in another person. Move on and don’t give up!

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

If you’r serious about online dating, there’s no sense in overloading your match feed with as many people as possible. Would you be able to juggle 30 potential intimate partners in person at once? I highly doubt it. My suggestion is to keep your feed open to no more than 7-10 people at a time. Put forth an effort to those you’re attracted to and see where they go. If you’re no longer interested, be straightforward, tactful, and close the match. This opens room in your feed for new potentials!

Set Up Your First Meeting 

You’ve been chatting online with someone and are interested in meeting, but how do you take it to the next level? Don’t wait too long to initiate this next step; if they’re long distance, set up a Skype introduction. If they’re local, don’t be afraid to request a meeting over coffee, lunch, happy hour, whatever! Your first date doesn’t have to be an extravagant dinner – laaaawwwd knows that can get expensive if you’re dating frequently! Again, there are no hard and fast rules here. When my now-husband and I met, our first date lasted for nearly 12 hours and ended at my house, so… All I’m saying is that a quick meeting to see if there’s a spark is perfectly acceptable and time efficient.

Initiating a first date is going to look differently for everyone and will depend on what you’re looking for, your previous experiences, and your comfort level. Safety and precautions are a good idea, even if you’re looking for a simple hookup.

Have fun with the dating process and treat each other with respect. Ghosting someone is unnecessary and being honest about your feelings will only help you grow for the benefit of future relationships. Hopefully online dating can offer many of you a great opportunity to meet new people and engage in some personal growth along the way!

Bad Advice

It wouldn’t be the Bad Relationship Advice Blog & Podcast without ending with a piece of bad advice from Alyssa! I left you a nugget of bad advice on the podcast last week, but here’s one more that has actually happened to me: If you crash a wedding while on a first date, drink from their open bar all night, and then your date gets arrested for a DUI on the way home, be sure to drive to the county jail where they’re being held and try to get them out. But if their dad shows up and the introduction is a giant ball of embarrassment and confusion, lose their information and pretend it never happened.


  1. This is the best online dating ‘how to’ I have read. I appreciate how it was open to various types of users/intentions.

    I especially like the advice on limiting your connections to 7-10, to encourage yourself to be attentive to each potential match, and adding new as others do not work out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you break it down! Cause man online dating can be exhausting as heck! You hit on every single point! One of my friends scolded me for never posting a full body pic! I thought it would attract the wrong kind of guy but if I decided to give online dating another whirl I know to include full body pics and more than one.
    I enjoyed reading your post!


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