Online dating coach: Here’s how single techies can find love

Photo via Flickr user Don Hankins.

Photo via Flickr user Don Hankins.

Editor’s Note: On Monday, we wrote about entrepreneur Jeff Reifman’s contention that Amazon.com is ruining the dating scene in Seattle for straight men, by hiring a disproportionate number of men in the city. We asked Virginia Roberts, an online dating coach and former Amazon employee, to share her thoughts on the situation. 

We all know that the tech industry has a major problem with gender imbalance, and we may have all whined over the years that Seattle is a tough town for singles. But I don’t believe those things are the root cause of Jeff’s dating frustrations, especially when it comes to online dating.

Virginia Roberts.

Virginia Roberts.

Dating is changing

Singles are getting more and more comfortable with online dating. Thus, sites are flooded with non-geeky, non-Internet-savvy users. These rookies write crappy profiles, post lame bathroom mirror selfies, and blast out tons of poorly composed one-liners instead of taking time to thoughtfully message a few great connections.

Lazy behaviors worsen the overall online dating experience, teaching singles that dating sites are full of losers who waste their time. No wonder singles encounter a lack of excitement, drive, connection, or commitment from the people they meet online.

Mobile is changing, too

Distraction in the smartphone age goes well beyond online dating, with every push notification or incoming email. Our fleeting attention spans are already under assault from many sources; this effect is felt in dating, too.

Combine the rise of mobile flightiness with online dating interfaces like Tinder, and it’s no surprise you get lower-quality engagement. Tinder clearly emphasizes looks, proximity, and easy app access over compatibility, lengthy conversations, or careful profile setup. That means a larger number of casually arranged online dates feel like a shot in the dark, with little established intimacy.

matchcomBetter dating yields better results

The most successful singles learn to improve their dating game. They showcase their personalities and interests. They spin their potential defects (super geeky day job; Game of Thrones mega-nerd) into assets (prosperous career; reliable HBO subscription). They tweak their grooming and communication to adjust for what attracts their desired partners. (They’ve already been doing this over time, as evidenced by the decline of the archetypal sweatpants-wearing greasy-ponytailed programmer.)

If you’re scratching your head on how you can make these changes, fear not! Here’s your handy shortcut to improving your dating life:

  • Spend time figuring out what you truly value in a romantic partner.
  • Cultivate activities that put you in the presence of those people; regularly reassess activities if you aren’t getting the desired results.
  • Get online; spend time crafting a well-written, thoughtful, funny, personal dating profile.
  • Enhance it with attractive yet realistic and fun photos that showcase your personality and lifestyle.
  • Spend time answering questions and seeking out matches via various search methods.
  • Craft charming, succinct, funny, direct messages for the people who most catch your eye.
  • Enact dating behaviors (such as calling first, following up quickly, or suggesting specific dates/venues) that engender more enthusiastic dating responses from the people you most enjoy.

I guarantee that dating won’t feel so hard when you make small concerted efforts in the ways that are most likely to be effective at pairing you up with someone you click with.

And hey, if you’re still struggling, you know where to find me — in sweatpants and a greasy ponytail, coding my site and enjoying Game of Thrones with the husband I found on Craigslist!

  • http://jeffreifman.com/consulting Jeff Reifman

    Virginia, thanks for writing your follow up. I think it’s full of good advice – much of which I’ve aligned with in the past, some new. I especially try to stay engaged in activities that I enjoy. For me, I think the numbers have made it quite an uphill road … and I haven’t managed to overcome the inertia … and as you say technology has made it harder (and easer) for us to interact well, but it has to be carefully managed – I think that is also one of your best points.

    • http://theheartographer.com/ TheHeartographer

      Thanks, Jeff! I do think the pace of change is kind of frustrating for us all. Even as an old married lady (heh), I still find that scheduling social outings with people I already know is getting harder, largely due to how we communicate (or fail to do so). Tech is WONDERFUL but we do kind of have to work harder to figure out how to not let it get in our way!

      One point that didn’t make it into the article due to space constraints is that the dating problems you cite aren’t unique to Seattle. I work with clients all over the nation and sometimes world; the same frustrations of distraction and lack of compatibility or commitment are present from singles of all genders, even in cities where the balance tips towards more single women. It’s curious, really. I’ll hear from women complaining about the gender balance in those cities, but I’ll also hear from men who are in much the same boat you are. I think some of this folklore we tell ourselves about cities is a little bit self-fulfilling prophecy (combined with availability heuristics and so on) and some of it is obviously backed up by data, as you eloquently showed—but there’s just so much more going on than sheer numbers!

      Side note; Amazon *definitely* has a major impact on our fair city… right down to some gross city planning elements. Ever walked through that campus and smelled the strong eau de sewage rising from the grates? I feel like the influx of employees there is really taxing the basic infrastructure around SLU! I hope their new developments plan and scale better. Time will tell. :)

      • http://jeffreifman.com/consulting Jeff Reifman

        Sewage – hadn’t smelled that one. Tonight, I separately spoke to a man and a woman who both expressed difficulty dating in Seattle. The man agreed that Amzn has a big effect. The woman just said it’s always been hard for here.

        • http://theheartographer.com/ TheHeartographer

          I’ve long wanted to give talks at Amazon about work-life balance and dating/having a social life. On the bucket list, especially after my years there! (Note; GeekWire missed that I was a contractor, not a full-timer. Still left me twitching, though!)

    • http://www.appsforyoursuccess.com Jeremy J Whaley

      Also Jeff grow the beard out. JK

      • http://jeffreifman.com/consulting Jeff Reifman

        I know, seriously. Do you have any recommended tats as well?

        • http://www.appsforyoursuccess.com Jeremy J Whaley

          No just on piece of advice on that not tramp stamp.

    • Slaggggg

      Gheez guy are you still whining about this? Do you think girls want a guy that complains what a victim he is all the time? Here’s a quarter, buy a clue.

  • http://timandjeni.com/ Timothy Ellis

    Or you could do what this guy did: How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love

    Most of these guys complaining about the dating scene are software engineers, right? ;)

  • http://twitter.com/luckylou Luis Antezana (luckylou)

    It’s a little odd that the article is largely about optimizing the online mechanics of dating, as opposed to what matters most—optimizing your own self: personality, well-being, worldliness, sensitivity, fashion, cultural awareness, etc.

    The problems I hear all my single girl friends (intentional space between girl and friends there!) talk about have nothing to do with the technology of it all. It’s all about the quality of the men they meet. The guys in this town have a lot to learn, according to them. I’m sure there are some complaints in the other direction, too!

    • http://theheartographer.com/ TheHeartographer

      The thing is, most of the people who are self-aware enough to select into paying for my help are awesome people who have done a lot of self optimization, but are failing to communicate it well to potential dates. Does that make sense? They join book clubs and lose weight and volunteer and all this stuff that seems cool and hopefully both helps them meet people and helps them be more worth dating, but it just doesn’t pan out and they don’t know how to describe their new benefits without seeming like a jackass. That’s where I come in—and really, the best way to do this is with a humblebrag and with great photos illustrating you partaking in activities, etc. (Doesn’t hurt to keyword the heck out of the media section on OkCupid, either!)

      For what it’s worth, this issue of being cool but not telegraphing it is uniform across gender and orientation in my clientele, but that doesn’t mean my slice is representative of all Seattle singles. I definitely draw limited personality types! :)

      The people who are actually not very cool or interesting or date-worthy are rarely aware of it, and/or motivated to do much about it. That’s a huge generalization, of course, but that’s what I’ve found in my 10+ years of experience in online dating! Goes for both men and women, by the way. It’s a resistance to change thing.