It’s Saturday night and I am three gin and tonics deep into conversation with one of my very best – and happily coupled up – friends.
The talk inevitably leads to when I, a fairly average looking and socially awkward introvert, will get back on the ‘dating scene’.
And of course, a little giddy from a questionably coloured fishbowl concoction, I find myself once again downloading Tinder, watching with hiccupy anticipation as the familiar app uploads.
See, I’m bad at describing myself. And at making small talk with strangers. Plus, I panic too much sometimes to even respond to potentially interested dates, making me look rude which in turn causes further anxieties.
So I’m kind of unable to use this modern dating beacon without a lot of help and encouragement from friends. And come Sunday morning, I tend to delete it rather than try and figure it all out in the sober light of day.
I need outside help if I am ever going to become a ‘successful’ dater, and not just from well-meaning mates.
And so I contacted Christina Leong, a skilled relationship and dating coach who has previously worked as a professional matchmaker for an elite matchmaking company. If anyone can help me out on those three key aspects of Tinder – the pics, the bio and the chat – she can.
When it comes to those all important pics, I have previously just tried to stare ‘seductively’ upwards into the lens.
I’m not exactly sure where I learnt what constitutes a seductive face, but it is weirdly difficult to translate this expression to my actual face and sometimes makes it look like I’m taking the piss a bit.
Why do all the men climb f&cking mountains and 'seek similar' …bugger off with your mountains #tinder
— Miss B (@thetrueMissB) February 10, 2019
According to Christina, much more thought than this needs to go into selecting photographs, which should clearly signal your ‘intention’.
Christina explained how, ‘what you give out, you get back in return’ – which makes an awful lot of sense – and advised I opt for a professional photoshoot if possible:
Just have it done professionally, with one photographer that can really capture your personality. Because that’s so important.
One person who can really capture your personality, and you can put those pictures on your profile.
Now, I unfortunately don’t have the time or the spare moolah for a professional photoshoot, although apparently this you can find some very affordable and talented photographers out there.
However, I do have my lovely UNILAD colleagues Lucy and Anne-Marie who both have impressive Instagram skills and hopefully know me well enough to ‘capture my personality’.
They were kind enough to take pics of me where I try and exude a little of what I’m about. Usually I don’t like smiling in photos, even though I’m quite a happy person in real life. So in the name of showing my true non-seductive-but-friendly personality, I decided to opt for a big ol’ grin.
However, I knew that no matter how much of my inner self I could project through simple pics, this wasn’t enough to stand out in the vast world of online dating.
After all, the dating app universe often appears inhabited by people who are all permanently at wedding receptions and beach holidays, forever bungee jumping and scuba diving without fear or deadlines.
I decided to ask Christina what sort of things I should include in my pictures (besides myself of course). How could I tell the story of who I am in just a few snaps? How could I compete with the girls climbing up Mount Everest while cuddling koalas?
So obviously if you’re in your twenties, then you want to come across a bit like you’re sociable, you’re approachable, you’re fun, you’re out meeting new people. And you have things going on, you know?
So you want something that gives out the vibes that you are approachable and fun and sociable. So pictures with your friend group, out at social events.
Travel is always good, you know, pictures of travelling. Something that you do with people, and you want activities showing that ‘oh actually, I really like that person you know. They seem to be quite sociable and experiencing new things, new activities, I’d like to get to know that person’.
Duly noted. Luckily, I have recently had a fabulous Friday night out where my hair looked okay-ish and so I didn’t need to resort to photoshopping myself into any pictures of random people out clubbing.
Sadly, the extent of my current travelling plans consist of riding the Greater Manchester Metrolink, which – although often a colourful and enlightening experience – I doubt would spark the mood for amore.
Christina advised picturing the sort of person you want to connect with when considering your profile picture. She gave the example of including pictures of you out walking in the countryside if you are looking for somebody outdoorsy.
I do indeed like a good walk in the countryside. And so I decided to upload a picturesque picture recently taken during a walk in the woods, hoping this will signal my ‘intention’ for a fellow nature lover.
I decided against uploading a picture of myself in my muddy wellies and wind-frazzled hair. For me, this is fourth date territory. I also shamelessly included my cute dog to separate the dog from the cat preferrers.
Then it came to writing my bio, which for a professional writer I am surprisingly bad at. I usually list things I like (dogs, books, homemade pasta) and try and sound as much like a ‘normal’ person as possible.
However, according to Christina this might be a little bit much; making the profile all about me instead of putting any focus on the sort of person I am looking to attract.
I would say, tell a story about you. Be short, sweet and punchy, and a bit funny!
A sense of humour is always good. If you’re not sure how to do that, perhaps just write something short and sweet.
Have a look at it, and get your friends to check it for you. That’s so important, because your friends know what you’re like, and what kind of person you like as well.
So get them to check on that as well. Also check on the grammar as well, it’s always good to have a third person.
Luckily, working for a media organisation I have plenty of sub-editors and English pedants to consult with in this regard. But a relatively sober friend will also do.
Now, Im not exactly a natural born comedian so I reasoned it was best not to attempt any out-and-out jokes or puns – although all power to you if you go down this route!
However, I’d like to think that I’ve come across as the sort of good humoured, positive person who could put a potential date at ease.
According to Christina:
Avoid writing in a passive language as well. It’s so important to have a profile that comes across positive because when people read that, they want to know more about you as find out more about you as well.
If you put a lot of passive language, like ‘I like this, I don’t like that’, ‘do not contact me if you are so-and-so’, it will really put people off as well.
They are actually putting the focus on what they don’t want, and that really puts people off and not actually attracting the right people they are hoping to meet.
— apassingarrival (@apassingarriva1) February 13, 2019
— John paul rosales™ (@pjrm009) February 14, 2019
— Jasper (@JasperTheDug) February 14, 2019
So, with my profile all set up and ready to go, the trickiest bit was yet to come. Chatting to those I’d matched with, without resorting to an endless, dreaded loop of ‘hey how are you?’ and ‘how was your day?’
I would say, give a compliment. Acknowledge that person. When you come across a profile that you really like, and you match then you just give a compliment and share one thing that you like about their profile.
Because that’s building the connection. When you get a really personal message, a compliment that’s specific to you and what you wrote on your profile, that really grabs your attention.
I personally always get a bit nervous complimenting people about their appearance, worrying about seeming a little forward.
One time a match complimented me on my ‘lovely freckles’ (very nice!) before enquiring if they were all over the rest of my body. I honestly felt like he was planning to wear my skin, and I’m conscious about coming across as similarly intense.
So I copped out a little bit by complimenting one of my matches on his splendidly fluffy choice of dog. Hopefully, I will eventually progress to being able to compliment somebody on their nice eyes or cool fashion sense, but this may take further work to perfect.
So off I go to face my new matches, armed with oodles of new dating knowing, crossed fingers, and a few jangled nerves. I wish you all the best of luck, whatever your plans for dating may be!
Find out more about Christina Leong and her infinite ocean of dating wisdom, check out her website.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.