This is my list. Other women’s lists may differ — although I bet there’s a lot in common.
This started as a Facebook thread. I was lamenting the sad fact that someone I’d begun messaging with on an online dating site had proven himself to be completely illiterate. Hell, here’s the original post:
So I’m on this dating site and this guy’s profile looks interesting to me. Short but nicely written and says the kinds of things I want to read. So I strike up a conversation with him in the site’s messaging system. After four exchanges, I realize that the guy is clearly unable to write, spell, punctuate, etc. His messages to me are so bad that they’re beyond illiterate — it’s almost as if this whole thing is some sort of joke. Is it wrong for me to be completely turned off? I don’t expect perfect grammar, but I do expect communication that doesn’t need to be deciphered before I can respond to it. I want the guy who wrote the profile, not this moron.
I got a bunch of comments — from both men and women — and the string of comments morphed into me sharing a list of about a dozen things I considered a real turn off on a man’s online dating profile. The more of these I see on a profile, the less likely I’ll be to either initiate or even respond to communications with an offender.
Before I launch into the list, I need to say a few things. This is my list of the things that bother me. Another woman’s list might be different. A few women who are desperate enough to hook up won’t care about any of this stuff. But guys — is this the kind of woman you want? Don’t you want to attract someone who’s a bit more discriminating in who they’ll hop in the sack with? If you don’t care, then this list isn’t for you anyway; move along.
One more thing. I’m sure that guys reading this will agree that many of them apply to women’s profiles. Ladies, take note!
Now for the list. To make my list easier to consume, I’ve separated it into categories.
Your profile picture is the first thing a woman sees when she looks at your profile. It should clearly show what you really look like. Head and shoulders is good for a primary photo, full body (clothes on, please) should be somewhere in the collection.
I want to make it clear here that I’m not just interested in great looking men. As more than a few of my friends have pointed out, my ex-husband was not someone who would turn the average woman’s head, with male pattern baldness that was already advanced when I met him 30+ years ago. Still, I looked beyond appearances and found something I soon grew to love inside him. (Not sure what happened to that.) Looks are only part of what makes a person.
What I’m mostly looking for in a photo is a man who takes care of himself, has some pride in his appearance, and has a great smile. And, as we all know, a person’s appearance often gives some insight into his personality; for example, a man with long, hippie-like hair is probably going to be kind of hippie-like, no?
Anyway, here are my turn offs:
1. No picture.
What are you hiding? Are you The Elephant Man’s stunt double? While not everyone can be a Calvin Klein underwear model — I wish! — don’t be ashamed of who you are. A nice photo can really catch a woman’s eye.
The other question I wonder — and I admit that this is a bigger concern to me — is who are you hiding from? Your wife?
Simply stated, if you don’t have a photo, I have to assume you’re hiding something. I don’t want to have to go on a date to find out what it is.
2. Old photos.
I really don’t care what you looked like when you went on that cool trip to Paris in 2005. Or when you played in a band in college. I care what you look like now. Sharing old photos is akin to lying. Your photo should show what you look like. Not what you used to look like.
Photos shouldn’t be more than two years old. Period. Delete the old ones, add new ones. Adding photos is a good way to get a fresh look on the same site, anyway. Win-win.
On the same vein but not deserving its own category: blurry, over exposed, under exposed, or extreme closeup photos. Also, group photos where it isn’t clear which member of the group you are.
3. Cropped couple photos
I can’t believe I even need to list this, but I do. Guys actually do this. I’ve seen more than a few photos of a man who clearly has his arm around a woman who has been cropped out of the photo. Seriously?
4. All photos are selfies.
But seriously, don’t you have any friends? If all your photos are selfies, I can only assume that you don’t.
Everyone with a cell phone these days also has a camera. The next time you’re looking presentable while you’re out with your friends, hand your phone to a friend and tell him/her to snap your picture. Take a few and then use the best one (not all of them). Was that so hard?
(Oh, and there’s a special place in hell for any man who uses vacation photos taken by his wife on a dating site when he’s still married to her. Did you get that, honey?)
Personally, I think solo selfies are kind of juvenile. It’s one thing to snap a shot of you and your friends at the ball game or beach, all bunched together making faces at a camera for fun, but it’s another to hold the camera at arms length in your bathroom or bedroom to shoot a photo of your face with a clear view up your nostrils. As for mirror selfies, I find them especially offensive. Kind of creepy, in fact.
5. Shirt-off photos (especially selfies).
You’d better have a build like a Calvin Klein underwear model if you include shirtless photos in your profile. I’ve seen too many shirtless photos of guys who really need to keep that stuff covered.
And when the photo is a selfie, you’re sort of admitting that you wouldn’t show it in public anyway.
Remember, you’re trying to attract a woman, not disgust her.
6. Harley fan photos
This is strictly personal preference.
If more than one of your photos or your only photo is of you with your Harley Davidson — especially if you’re wearing Harley clothes — I am not going to be interested. I ride motorcycles but I’m not at all interested in the Harley mentality and its black and orange trappings. I ride motorcycles because I like to ride, not because I like to park a shiny chrome bike in a parking lot after riding a mile or two to have some beers with my friends. I could probably out-ride most of the Harley guys out there and I’m sure I have more motorcycle miles in more states under my belt.
Now put a photo of you standing next to your sport or sport touring bike with a sleek leather jacket and jeans on and you’ve got my attention. Let’s go riding!
Your profile description is where women look next. They want to see what you’re all about. They want to know what you like and what’s important to you. Once your profile photo got a woman’s interest, this is where she’ll go to see if you might be compatible.
My turn-offs here are a mixture of basic no-nos and personal tastes.
7. Poor grammar, spelling, etc.
Okay, not everyone has perfect grammar. Hell, I’ve been writing for a living since 1990 and even I don’t have perfect grammar. I don’t actually expect perfect grammar, either. But I do expect a guy to be able to string together correctly spelled words into a coherent thought that resembles a punctuated sentence. For pete’s sake, we have spellcheckers and autocorrect that practically do the spelling for us!
I can’t help judge a person’s intelligence by the way he/she communicates in writing. I’ve even blogged about that. If you come across in your profile as being illiterate, I’m not going to be interested in you. I’m looking for more than a warm body in bed. I want someone able to think, communicate, and sustain a conversation.
And again, I’m not talking about a few little mistakes. That’s to be expected. No one is perfect.
8. Brief/Incomplete profiles
Dating sites usually give you plenty of space to describe yourself and the kind of woman you’re looking for. A sentence or two concluding with a statement like, “Learn more when you meet me” is a cop-out, plain and simple. Chances are, those two sentences haven’t given me a reason to want to meet you.
Dating sites also usually have data fields with multiple choice options to describe yourself. While I don’t expect you to share your income information or other information that you might consider a bit more private than you’re willing to share in a forum as public as a dating site, I do expect you to provide answers for fields such as your marital status, height, body type, education level, religion (or whether it matters), number of children (if not grown), and whether you smoke or do drugs. Why would you leave out any of this information? This is pretty basic stuff a potential date needs to know.
9. Using LOL more than once in your profile (or in messages)
Are you a man or a 15-year-old girl sending a text to her BFF?
I cannot think of a more overused text abbreviation than LOL. While it’s tolerable in conversations on social networks and texting when you see or read something that really makes you laugh out loud, do you find your online dating profile or messages to me so funny that you’re actually laughing out loud while writing them?
I’ll give you one, and that’s only because you might have learned it from your daughter when she was 15.
10. Inaccurate Profiles
If anything you include in your profile is not true, you are a liar. Period.
That includes truth stretched beyond all recognition.
You love to travel, huh? When was the last time you were away? And no, visiting your kids in Spokane doesn’t count. Someone who really loves to travel takes at least a trip or two a year.
You love to work out at the gym, huh? A guy who really loves to work out at the gym wouldn’t look so dismal with his shirt off (see #5 above).
You love fine dining and wine tasting, huh? Then what’s with that photo of you and your friends at the sports bar guzzling Bud Light?
Do you really want to attract a woman with a lie? What do you think will happen when she discovers the truth?
While it’s true that people who are desperate enough for companionship will overlook lies about age, physical condition, hobbies, etc., are you one of them? Do you want to attract one of them?
And yes, passing off old photos as recent is lying.
11. Saying that you’re looking for a beautiful or sexy woman
Duh. Doesn’t every guy want a hot woman?
But by saying that’s what you’re looking for — especially if you list that first or only list that — you’re telling me a few not-so-pleasant things about yourself:
- You’re shallow. Looks are more important than anything else.
- You objectify women.
- Brains don’t matter. You don’t care what a woman has between her ears as long as she looks good on your arm or services you in bed.
- You’re in it for the short run. What happens as a woman ages and isn’t as beautiful or sexy anymore?
I actually saw a profile today where the only thing in the description was that he was looking for a beautiful, sexy woman. That was the only tidbit of information he felt worth sharing about himself. And no, he wasn’t a Calvin Klein underwear model, either. Are guys like this ever?
Related: Saying that you don’t want “a fatty” or an “ugly woman.” Same bulleted list applies.
And, for the record, yes I’d like a hot stud. But you won’t find that tidbit in my online profile. I don’t objectify men.
12. Saying more than twice in your profile how important your family is to you.
I get it. You have kids and maybe even grandkids and you love them. Fine.
But if you feel a need to mention it more than twice, I have to wonder how many times I might be dragged to your family gatherings or stuck babysitting your grandkids. I didn’t have kids for a reason: I didn’t want them. While I don’t mind spending some time with kids, I’m not prepared to take over the role of mother or grandmother for yours.
Obviously, this is a personal preference. There are women out there who might love being around kids. But still — do you really need to say it over and over in your profile? Isn’t there anything else you’re interested in that doesn’t involve your family?
This is one of the things that falls under my “three strikes and you’re out” rule.
13. Mentioning your important relationship with Jesus Christ or God.
There are special dating sites for people who have found Jesus. If your relationship to your deity is so important to you that you need to mention it in an online dating site profile, you should go to one of those sites. That’s where women who would appreciate your love for Jesus Christ will be.
Related: Finishing up your profile description with “God bless you” or stating that one of your favorite books is The Bible.
Again, this is a personal preference. I’m not religious at all and would not be happy with someone who was very religious.
14. Mentioning that one of your favorite things to do is to go to the gym or that you work out more than three times a week
Really? You spend so much time working out at a gym but you can’t hook up with a woman there?
And while I don’t expect (or even want) to take up all of a man’s free time, he’ll have a lot less time to share with me if he’s at the gym five days a week after work. I hope he doesn’t expect me to go with him. I have better things to do with my time than play with exercise machines.
I see this gym-love so frequently in dating profiles that I’ve come to suspect that there’s a blog post like this somewhere telling guys to include that line just to impress women. News Flash: Most women in the 40+ crowd aren’t impressed.
15. Going into more detail about what you don’t want than you provide about yourself or what you do want
Profiles like this read like laundry lists from negative people. I can use them to read between the lines. Everything a guy says he doesn’t want is something he’s had in the past that he didn’t like. And, for some reason, he thinks that by listing them, he’ll avoid them.
All he’ll do is avoid any self-respecting woman who wants a man with a more positive outlook on life and dating.
16. Hinting about (or even outright stating) the problems you had with your ex
We’ve all got stories about our ex-partners or ugly breakups. (Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve got whoppers.) If the baggage your ex left you with is so bad that you have to mention it on a dating site, you need a therapist, not a relationship.
This includes comments that make it all too easy to read between the lines. You want a “faithful” woman? What guy doesn’t? When you make a point of saying that in your profile, you’re telling me that your last partner cheated on you. I don’t want to hear about it. If you can’t get past that on your profile, will you drag it into conversation on a date, too?
Personal preference again: I want a strong man, not one who needs constant reassurance and other mommying.
And I definitely don’t want a play-by-play of your ugly divorce on one of our first dates. (Guaranteed mine is uglier and I don’t want to talk to you about that, either.)
17. Saying how hard you work and how important your job is to you.
I work pretty hard in the summer months, work less hard in the spring and autumn, and spent most of the winter trying to keep myself busy with fun things. Because I’m a freelancer and business owner, I don’t have any set hours. That means I can do fun things between work just about any day of the week any time of the year.
I was married to a 9 to 5 slave who spent all of his vacation time going back to New York to visit his family. Although he had many opportunities to build a lifestyle like mine, he apparently preferred the steady paycheck, corporate grind, and the rut he dug for himself. It took a real toll on our relationship in its final days.
As you can imagine, the last thing in the world that I want is a relationship with another guy so caught up in his work that he has no time for a life.
So yes, this is personal preference. If you’re spending so much time working, what time will be left for us? Will you even find time to date?
The few dating sites I’ve been to all have an onsite messaging system that makes it possible to communicate with a potential date without giving away your email address. I always exchange at least three or four messages with a guy before agreeing to meet him (in a very public place, of course).
Messaging does a few things:
- It helps break the ice in an effort to determine whether the other party is interested. Some guys just don’t respond because they’re either not interested or already dating someone else.
- It helps learn more about the other party. A little conversation can go a long way to help determine whether someone is worth meeting in person.
- Set up a date.
Guys could use some improvement here, too.
18. Initiating contact with an inane or open-ended comment.
Last week, I got a message from a man that just said, “hmmm interesting”
What’s the response for something like that? I couldn’t think of anything so I didn’t say anything.
Two days later, he messages me again with “We have five things in common Wow”
I read his profile. I couldn’t see five things we had in common. I did see that he mentioned several times how much his family meant to him and how he expected his partner to spend a lot of time with them. I replied (as kindly as I could) that I was not a family person and he could find a better match than me. Then I wished him good luck and happy new year. I never did find out what the five things were.
Here’s another exchange:
Him: Love your Christmas party pic very nice
Him: your welcome
That’s it. Is he serious or just throwing around compliments? (I’ll gladly take any compliment!) He didn’t leave me anything to move forward on, so I left it at that. It’s funny because I liked his profile and had considered making contact with him but this short exchange changed my mind.
What’s the problem with it? Well It indicates to me that either the person isn’t very imaginative or simply doesn’t want to put any effort into that first contact. Either way, it’s a turn-off to me. Hell, my profile is at least 500 words long and describes a lot of the things I like and do. If you think we have enough in common to make contact for a possible date, why not zero in on one of those?
19. Saying something in a message that proves he didn’t read my profile
My user name on a dating site is IFlyHelis. One of my profile photos is me standing next to a helicopter. My profile mentions the memoir I’m writing about my season as a Grand Canyon helicopter tour pilot and the fact that I’m prepping to build a helibase. I even include “flying” in my list of interests.
Yet I still get first contact messages from guys saying “Do you really fly helos?”
My response: “Yes.” It’s not worth putting more effort into it since he obviously didn’t take the effort to read my profile.
20. Failing to maintain a minimum level of literacy in messages
This goes back to my original Facebook post and what I mentioned in #7 and #9 above.
A message to a potential date on a dating site should not resemble a cryptic text message sent by a 15 year old girl. Yeah, I get it: you’re accessing the site with your cell phone. But honestly, that’s no excuse for sending me messages so full of misspelled words (or typos) and so lacking in punctuation that it takes me five minutes to decipher before I can respond.
No, I don’t expect perfect grammar, full sentences, and flawless spelling. But I do expect something that I can immediately read and understand. Something that assures me I’m dealing with an intelligent, articulate adult and not some prepubescent kid trying to hook a date using photos of his dad.
That’s my list — so far. I’d love to get feedback from women and men sharing their pet peeves from dating sites. What do you think? Have anything to add?
To the guys reading this who are guilty of one or more of these offenses, please don’t think I’m attacking you as a person. I’m not. I’m just pointing out what I’ve seen and experienced and what my opinions are.
And before you comment to bash me about my opinions, read the Site Comment Policy. And then think about what you were going to say. If you’re guilty of these things and are taking offense, lighten up and rethink this post in the spirit in which it was intended: as constructive criticism. If you’re not doing as well as you’d like on dating sites, maybe you can use some of these points as tips to improve your profile and message communication. If so, please do stop back here and let me know how it helps.
I also want to point out that I would never blog anything negative or embarrassing about a specific, identifiable person I met online or dated. We’re all in the same boat — well, sort of. And I’m not one to rock boats when I’m a passenger.