The 5 Online Dating Mistakes I'm Done Making

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
When I first started online dating, I made so many rookie mistakes. I chose the wrong site, put up the wrong pics, and said the wrong things. So, if you’re testing out the online dating waters and are looking for more than just a regular hookup, I'm here to help. Feel free to share your online dating missteps in the comments below; the best thing we can do is help each other navigate the difficult world of dating.
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Mistake: I Paid For Online Dating Sites
This made me a little neurotic and high-strung. Take, for example, the time I hastily messaged a cute guy two days before my membership expired. Since I wasn't planning on renewing my subscription, I spent the better part of 48 hours refreshing my inbox, over and over, as if my entire love life depended on it.
Initially, I thought that I would find more serious, relationship-minded men on the sites that cost money to join. I figured the kind of man I wished to pursue would be thinking the same thing. Then, I quickly realized that every site has its own share of creeps. There were plenty of men just looking for a quick hookup — even if they were paying to find it.
Once I ventured onto the free sites, however, I felt less pressure and was more comfortable navigating the online scene. The free sites, like OkCupid and Tinder, allowed me to cast a wider net and take some time to figure out what I wanted from online dating. Because I didn’t see every connection as one that I'd paid for, I was able to relax. I felt better equipped to let things happen organically. I know some of the free sites have bad reputations, but hey: One of my good friends met her adorable husband on a so-called "creeper site."
Mistake: I Used The Wrong Photo
I started out by only putting up one perfectly cropped, high-angle, breasts-and-face shot. While I received lots of messages, eventually I'd send along a full-body photo, and that's when things got weird. A lot of men went completely MIA, while others made it obvious that they only wanted to hook up.
Once I started putting up multiple full-body pictures on my profile, though, things got better, and most of the guys I heard from were sincere and interested in meeting me. Plus, when we did meet up, they weren't surprised by my size — which was super refreshing. There's honestly no point in hiding what we look like: We are the size we are, and the people who skip us because they see our full-body pics aren’t the ones we want to be dating anyway.
Ilustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Mistake: I Gave The Wrong Idea In My Profile
I was so confused by the online dating “lingo." I said things on my profile that made me seem, um, fast. I had no idea that if you say you're looking to “hang out” it really means you're looking to hook up. I was naive enough to think it meant going bowling! I was constantly offended when guys asked if they could "come over" before even getting my phone number.
My rule of thumb for answering the unavoidable “What are you looking for?” question is to exaggerate what you want. What I mean is this: If you're looking to date casually, I recommend selecting “long-term relationship” on the sites with that drop-down list of options. "Casually" dating is often read as looking for a hookup. I found that by saying up-front that I wanted a long-term thing (though I wasn't looking to find my future husband), the guys who contacted me were more or less on the same page. Neither of us was looking to play the field, exactly, but neither were we intent on settling down as soon as possible.
Mistake: I Waited Too Long To Meet In Person
I don't know that there's a prescribed amount of time between connecting with someone online and meeting in person, but I think sometimes people wait too long because they're too scared or nervous to take the next step. This can do more harm than good. I waited several months to meet my first online connection. By that time, we were talking every day, and although I felt like we had established a high level of emotional intimacy, when we actually met in person, there was just no chemisty. James (not his real name) was socially awkward, and I wasn’t attracted to him. That meant months of connecting went down the drain in about 15 minutes. If we'd set up a date sooner, I would have realized there was nothing there, and I could have moved on to pursue other potential partners.
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I learned my lesson, though, and now I try to meet a guy within the first week of talking. If he seems reluctant or cancels on me without a solid reason, I move on. I think that, for the most part, the stigma attached to online dating has dissolved, and with good reason; it's a great way to meet people. When you think about it, you're kind of just as likely to meet a weirdo in a bar as you are online.
Mistake: I Carried On Lengthy Phone Calls
It's easy to meet someone online, feel an initial connection, and then talk on the phone for hours. But, after a while, if those phone calls are replacing actual dates, what's the point? You've got to wonder if the person you're messaging and texting constantly has a fear of commitment — as a recent New York Times article suggests. How else can you explain the lack of interest in the physical encounter when the virtual connection is so potent? I get that talking to someone in this way with a degree of consistency can help stave off loneliness, but it's important for me to remind myself that just because a guy is finding comfort with me and our lengthy phone conversations, it doesn’t mean that he wants to pursue an actual relationship. As I said above, I’d rather meet in person for 15 minutes, even if it turns out we’re not compatible, than spend hours on the phone. That's just time I’ll never get back.
When it comes to online dating, there really are no hard-and-fast rules. But, I'm familiar enough with the process to believe I've gained some wisdom from my experiences. You have to do what feels right to you, but if things aren't going as planned, you might want to ask yourself if you're making some of the mistakes I did. You can hear more of what I have to say about online dating in my YouTube video.