In a previous post, I discussed the challenges of putting together a dating portfolio that attracts the type of potential partner you’re looking for. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’re faced with a new task: sorting through the responses and deciding which ones to pursue. Any visitor to an online dating site will see a great deal of variation in the profiles (beyond the fact that everyone likes “quiet dinners” and “the beach.”) Here are a few tips to help you through the process.

Scanning the Photos

Just as potential dates look at your photo first, that’s where you should start. A few points to look for:

Clothes. A good socioeconomic indicator. A number of candidates can be eliminated on this basis alone, if their clothing seems too far afield. If you’re interested in a successful corporate type, a man who looks as if the last time he put on a tie was at his wedding may not be the best choice. Likewise, a series of very formal-looking outfits may indicate that this potential partner is not as “artistic” or down-to-earth as you’d like.

Settings. A man who posts only photos of himself with cars and motorcycles is saying something about his lifestyle and perhaps his level of maturity. Others may post only pictures of themselves in sporting mode: running, fishing, tennis, sailing, or all of the above. If you’re not athletically inclined, you may want to pass.

The fib factor. As I noted in my last article, almost everyone fudges a little on their photo or profile. A significant subset exaggerate their descriptions of themselves—unless, of course it’s true than 99% of the men over 55 on really are “athletic and fit.” Often, you can get an inkling of how far a profile is from reality by a careful look at the photo.

Instant discards. You’ll quickly develop criteria for rejecting potential dates based on their photos. My personal suggestions: men who include pictures of themselves with other women, in really funny hats or sunglasses (surprisingly common), and anyone in a “wifebeater” T-shirt. (They call them “wifebeaters” for a reason!)

You’ll immediately want to eliminate anyone whose picture or written profile strikes you as suggestive or creepy. Even in the older age bracket, there are plenty of men who are trolling for brief sexual liaisons, and any hint of this should signal caution. There are certain words, that, if overemphasized, should raise a red flag, including obvious ones like “sexy” and “passionate,” but even words like “warm” and “responsive,” depending on the general tone and context. Though the sites attempt to maintain safeguards, they are no substitute for paying attention to your gut and using plain common sense.

Reading the Profile

The tone of a profile may be the easiest and most important way of discerning what kind of person you are dealing with. Having written one yourself, you know a certain degree of leeway can be granted if the tone of a profile sounds a bit like an ad—because that’s what it is! Nevertheless, it’s possible to pull this off without sounding too self-congratulatory or narcissistic. A few points to keep in mind:

Saying too much or too little. Both are red flags. Anything that is overemphasized (“successful, independently wealthy, well-traveled, top-level CEO with multiple homes”) is a flag that he may be protesting “too much,” and that there is a problem in that area—if only that he may care too much about this. And, of course, any profile that reveals no interest in the other person or lists “no preference” about the kind of woman he wants to meet is a tip-off that this going to to be all about him.

“Gaps” in the emotional resume. A potential date with serious “gaps” in personal life experiences should be approached with caution. For example, many women I know won’t date a man over 50 who has not been married. I generally agree that it’s a sign of something amiss when a man of this age has not attempted to make a commitment. It’s also surprising how often you come across never-married men who might be gay. Needless to say, don’t go there.

Inconsistencies in the profile. Even fiction reveals something about the writer, and a liar can often be spotted by inconsistencies in the profile. According to one researcher cited in the New York Times,   online dating liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns, more negative words like “not” and “never,” and fewer negative emotions (“sad” or “upset”), and tend to post shorter profiles overall. Be forewarned.

Of course, you have to take a chance on someone, and if your standards are impossibly high or rigid, you won’t meet anyone. But if it sounds like I’m suggesting that you eliminate a lot of candidates, I am. Being efficient is important here, and wasting time on the “red flaggers” will slow you down.

On the other hand, if you trust your gut and judge the profiles with caution and common sense, you’ll find that enough of them still hold promise. People over 55 are the fastest-growing American demographic in the world of online dating, and I think that it’s been a particularly beneficial social arena for this age group. It takes work, though, to find someone this way: an active commitment, emotional energy, and a lot of patience. But of course, things worth having usually do.

Next: Making the connection.

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  • Gina December 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Really great info!