You could cast a wide net and sign up for every single dating site. Or you could follow our flowchart and find the one designed to pair you with the woman (or man, or costume-wearing sex slave) of your dreams.—Andrew Richdale
2. YOU’RE ONLINE! NOW GET OVER IT.
It’s a little weird at first, trusting a computer algorithm to pair you off. But three weeks (and six dates) from now, you’ll realize that online dating is, for better and worse, just like regular dating—and not, sadly, like ordering a pizza online.
DON’T BE THAT GUY
The Dude Who’s Allergic to Shirts
ABOUT HIM: Just a normal guy who sleeps naked and believes the Paleo Diet is “the greatest invention ever since myself. Haha, jk ;)”
SAYS HE’S LOOKING FOR: “A girl who’s into sports and being fit.”
IS ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR: C cups or bigger.
SAYS HE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “Cookies ‘n Cream Promax bars, endorphins, music where the bass drops. ”
THE FIRST THING PEOPLE NOTICE ABOUT HIM:”It’s so weird—people ALWAYS tell me I look like Jake Gyllenhaal, but I don’t see it. You?”
SAYS HIS DEFINING TRAIT IS: “Loyalty.”
HIS ACTUAL DEFINING TRAIT: Calls everyone “Son.”
SAYS HIS DEEPEST FEAR IS: “Sharks!!!”
HIS ACTUAL DEEPEST FEAR: Seeming gay.
YOU MIGHT BE HIM IF: You’ve practiced making your pecs bounce.
The Feeler of Feelings
ABOUT HIM: “I’m a dreamer, plain and simple.”
SAYS HE’S LOOKING FOR: “My muse, my Helen of Troy. A woman who wants to stay up all night smoking Gauloises and talking about Keats.”
IS ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR: A woman who will listen to him talk all night. While listening to music. That he wrote. About his ex, Heather.
SAYS HE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: “My guitar, summer-weight scarves, Jeff Buckley’s last album, my demons.”
HIS FIRST MESSAGE: A 1,200-word letter noting his darkest fears (“dying alone”) and why he hates Starbucks (“cocky baristas”).
YOU MIGHT BE HIM IF: “This is embarrassing, but I sobbed during The Vow” appears in your profile.
ABOUT HIM: “I’m not like all those uptight douches with their snoozy banker jobs and lame date plans.”
SAYS HE’S LOOKING FOR: “No more boring girls!”
IS ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR: Anyone.
SAYS HIS MOTTO IS: “I work hard so I can play hard.”
WHAT HE ACTUALLY MEANS: “I spend Friday nights doing vodka shots and watching porn until I pass out.”
HIS FIRST MESSAGE: “You into mavericks?”
HIS DIRTY SECRET: He’s a banker.
YOU MIGHT BE HIM IF: You’ve ever done a magic trick at a bar.
ABOUT HIM: ” ‘Suuuuuuup?”
CAREER: “Currently underemployed. Like, WAY underemployed.”SAYS HE’S LOOKING FOR: “A chill girl who likes watching movies and laying low.”
IS ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR: A chill girl who likes watching movies and laying low. And who looks like Kate Upton.
FAVORITE MOVIES AND TV SHOWS: Harold & Kumar, Smurfs 3D, David the Gnome, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Cops, The Price Is Right… [Ed note: Remaining 193 redacted for space.]
YOU MIGHT BE HIM IF: You’re reading this and thinking, “Whoaaaaaaa, man! That’s totally ME!” right now.
3. CHOOSE A NAME (YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN “DAVE NUTZ69″)
You can and should be a nice, funny guy when online dating. Just don’t be NiceGuyRandy22 or ComicMitch37. Show, don’t tell, as a brothel madam maybe said once.
Also, there’s a specific place for you to talk up your hobbies, and it’s not your handle, ILikeSexnSoccer. Wouldn’t this same sentiment—”I enjoy playing soccer in the park, and an active sex life is important to me”—sound less caveman-ish in your actual profile?
A good bet? Your initials and a couple of numbers. Like: JPL64. It’s boring, but dating-site handles aren’t eligible for the Pulitzer. (And if they were, DingDong 9InchWong would take it every year.) All a username has to convey is “I’m not crazy.” Your profile can take it from there.—Lauren Bans
4. SAY IT WITH US: NO MORE BATHROOM SELFIES
Advice from GQ photographer Eric Ray Davidson and Hollywood stylist Ilaria Urbinati on how not to botch profile shots.
1. No Mirrors Allowed
DAVIDSON: “A selfie with your dog in the park might work—you look like a real person. Otherwise, it’s hard to take a self-portrait, especially in the mirror, without looking like a vain asshole.”
2. Up Close-ish and Personal
DAVIDSON: “People need to see your face, but shooting up close with a wide-angle lens makes your nose look bigger. Have whoever’s shooting step back just enough to get a three-fourths shot of your body.”
3. You Want to Go Gray
URBINATI: “White can wash out in photos, so if you’re in shape, a simple well-fitting crew tee or Henley in gray is flattering and effortless. To look more put together, try dark jeans, a slim-collar shirt, and a well-tailored suit jacket in gray—it reads more casual than black, less preppy than navy.”
4. When All Else Fails, Raid Facebook
DAVIDSON: “If your pals are on Facebook or Instagram, there’s probably some photos of you on there that you like, and you won’t look as if you’re posing or trying too hard.”
5. JUST BE YOURSELF(-ISH): THE ART OF THE PROFILE
Displaying your guts by completing questions like “On a typical Friday night I am…” and “I’m really good at…” will make you feel self-conscious and absurd— and that’s normal. Relax, don’t overthink it, and remember that what you’re putting up is the equivalent of first-date banter. The process is a mild inconvenience, not a confession or a trap, so just chalk it up to the cost of being proactive. Be honest and succinct when describing yourself. This sounds like some type of Yoda koan, but try to talk about what you like, not what you’re like. Don’t call yourself any of the following: witty, ambitious, down-to-earth, or humble. Mention a few TV shows, movies, bands, and books you enjoy, but take it easy on the esoteric poetry, eight-year-old Bay Area rap lyrics, and the word I. See, your profile isn’t meant to make a stranger fall in love with you. Once you’re sitting in front of her with the less-than- 15-percent hair loss that she’s handicapped your photo for, then you can really get to know each other—as two hormone-leaking, masochistic adults who want so badly to be in love again.—Mary H.K. Choi
6. OR IGNORE ALL OF THAT
You want to say you’re an oenophile or fluent in Klingon? Go for it. The beauty of online dating is that it’s stocked with people on the ends of the bell curve—the kind you’d never find normally. So let your freak/geek/pedantic-wine-lover flag fly.
7. STUDY UP: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE WEIRD WOMEN YOU’LL FIND ONLINE
The Woman with a Crazy Life (That’s So CRAZY!)
“My life is CRAZY. I have AMAZING friends who love to ski and drink too much Chablis! I have a CRAZY job and travel ALL THE TIME: Little Rock, Reno, Raleigh… You name it, I’ve been there! Sometimes I think I should slow down, because I just wanna live in the moment. Can YOU be that special speed bump?”
The Sexy Headmistress
“I’m an ambitious 36-year-old with a high-profile job. I run marathons on Saturdays and triathlons on Sundays. I very much live in the moment. Can you handle me? Sorry, couch potatoes and guys making less than $276K. DON’T WASTE MY TIME.”
The Meta-Profile Girl
“Here goes nothing: I’m a 29-year-old gal who just moved from Boston. I have a job that sucks, but I won’t bitch about it too much. (Okay, maybe I will.) I’d like to tell you I hang glide and build soup kitchens in Haiti, but last Saturday I got drunk at home and watched an entire season ofGossip Girl. I guess that’s me ‘living in the moment.’ God, I’m such a dork.”
“Why do we connect? What causes solitary beings to want so desperately to be close to one another? Perhaps love is another form of gravity, a cosmic force bringing us together whether we like it or not. To submit to it is to live in the moment. My name is Paulette. I enjoy tandem bicycle rides.”
“How would I describe myself? Smart, funny, driven, intelligent, athletic, inquisitive, loyal (SO loyal), fabulous, organized, a bit nerdy, living in the moment, caring, spiritual, open-minded, occasionally stubborn, and above all else, fun! I am a questioner, a daughter, a sister, a sinner, a saint, a passionate lover— a bit of everything! I think that about covers it.”
The “Possibly Foreign, Possibly a Spam Profile” Woman
“Hello I am funs human from Romania. I move here four years ago and make many good friend but not find special lover. Could YOU be lover? I have two daughter and they need wood for fire. I LIVE IN MOMENT.”—Drew Magary
8.SKIP AHEAD TO HER FOURTH PHOTO
The first one involves a copious amount of cleavage, which is what got you to click on her profile in the first place. The second shot is a selfie from overhead, with a 50 percent chance of duck face. The third is from a vacation she took four years ago. But that fourth photo—it’s the full-body-shot real deal.
9. MAKE YOUR MOVE
No pressure, but that first message is as do-or-die as it gets in online dating. We asked Grant Langston, senior director at eHarmony, for a few guidelines to keep her from clicking delete. First, he says, be brief— two paragraphs, tops. And be the right kind of funny. “We’ve found that subtle self-deprecation works great,” says Langston, “and that a joke works out terribly.” Mention a common interest from her profile—we both like skiing!—but save the anecdotes for your first date. Which, lastly, is your job to set up. “The biggest complaint we get from women is that guys don’t pull the trigger and ask them out,” Langston explains. You can’t woo her via letter, so grow a pair. The worst that could happen is she says no and your crippling insecurities send you into a tailspin of drugs and despair.—Andrew Richdale
10. …AND DON’T MAKE IT A PERVY MOVE
It’s counterintuitive, but mentioning a woman’s looks in your first e-mail comes off as creepy—like you’ve started fapping. Compliment her ironic Kanye shades, sure— just not any part of her actual body.—Julianne Smolinski
11. DISABLE THE INSTANT CHAT FUNCTION
You want to suck the air out of a potential first date? Blow through all your conversation topics beforehand with an hours-long emoticon-filled chat session. Besides, no lady has ever been swept off her feet by a pop-up box that says “Yo.”
12.ALWAYS HAVE THAT EXIT STRATEGY
LET’S BE HONEST: Online dating is a numbers game, and the majority of people you come across aren’t going to work out for one reason or another. Here’s your getaway plan for every step along the way.
ESCAPING…THE FIRST MESSAGE: It seems dickish, but if you know you won’t jibe with someone who messages you, just click delete. The alternatives— brutal honesty or the soft letdown—only sting more and waste your time. Besides: Effortless rejection is one of online dating’s great achievements.
ESCAPING…A BAD FIRST DATE: Dinner is too much of a time commitment and coffee is for work associates, so you’re asking her to have a drink with you. That way, you can order a second round (she’s cool) or feign exhaustion after your first Negroni (she asks if you really believe in that whole Holocaust thing).
ESCAPING…THE UNWANTED SECOND DATE: You were bored, but she’s eager for round two. Don’t just ignore her message—text her and explain directly (but gently) that it just didn’t click for you. Hell, you can use those words exactly.—A.R.
13. IT’S A WEBSITE, NOT A BUFFET
For years, friends told me that online dating is the best thing to happen to casual sex since the Pill and the best matchmaker since Mama. When I finally logged on, I found out that they were right: It’s all of that. And too damn much of that. The number of profiles I could scroll through was overwhelming. It was a Whole Foods of my own sexual imagination—and I was shopping on an empty stomach. I’d end up on five or six dates in a week, sometimes scheduling Saturday brunch and dinner dates like a football player doing two-a-days to get in shape. What would Pavlov say about a machine that lets you click a button and in return you might get the love of your life or a night of great sex? It’s hard to stop pressing that button. Sure, I had some apocalyptically bad dates, but most were a blast. And then I started to hear it: that rote, robotic tone in my voice as I told that hysterical anecdote about the road trip to Nevada. For the twentieth time. The sheer mathematical volume was turning me into an asshole. I started watching women and seeing patterns instead of people: Why do they always talk about yoga? I got exhausted by friendly curiosity: If you ask another question about my job, I’ll scream. So I made a rule for myself: two dates a week, tops. And I’m retiring the Nevada story.—Logan Hill
14. REMEMBER TO, YOU KNOW, HAVE FUN
Not to get all Louis C.K. here, but online dating is some radically underrated, the-future-is-now stuff. You’re sifting through hundreds of women that have been chosen for you by a computer, then e-mailing them seconds later to set up a date. Best-case scenario, you get a girlfriend. Worst-case scenario, you get a few crazy stories—”Yeah, she actually said, ‘Lick my donkey’ “—that make you the most interesting guy at the bar. So relax and enjoy yourself. Oh, and go easy on the dick pics.