In online dating, differentiating yourself is key

  • Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Let’s start with a blank canvas. First, we’ll draw me at a trivia night or singing the national anthem somewhere. Then, we’ll add a heart to the picture since I’m in the field of dating. And finally, let’s paint on a big smile since it’s a permanent fixture on my face.

Now, let’s paint my friend Cassie. She has an oven mitt on since she’s an excellent baker. And then we’ll add a sheepish grin because she has a playful and sometimes clumsy side. Lastly, we can’t forget her alarm clock because she gets up at 5 a.m. for work every day.

These two pictures look pretty different, right?

Now, I’d like to describe myself:

I’m a fit, intelligent and attractive person who likes to have fun. My family and friends are the most important things in my life, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people. I would love the opportunity to travel more and find the time to see the world. I like to get out and have a good time but also enjoy a night in with dinner and a movie. I would love to meet someone who makes me laugh, knows how to treat people right, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Ok, Cassie – your turn:

I’m a fit, intelligent, and attractive person who likes to have fun. My family and friends are the most important things in my life, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people. I would love the opportunity to travel more and find the time to see the world. I like to get out and have a good time but also enjoy a night in with dinner and a movie. I would love to meet someone who makes me laugh, knows how to treat people right, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Wow! We are so different, yet we sound exactly the same. It’s amazing … or is it? When you peruse the online dating sites, many of the profiles say some variation of the exact same thing. (I actually took this profile directly from Match.com as I was searching for a client the other day.) What did I learn about this person? Nothing. It’s actually pretty remarkable – this could be me, and this could be Cassie. Could it be you, too? I’d venture to say yes.

In online dating, differentiating yourself is key. You want someone to be able to paint a picture of you in his or her mind rather than painting a generic person who could be just about anyone.

Some common phrases to avoid are:

• I am funny. Same for smart, loyal, fun, etc. (Actually say something funny or smart, and give an anecdote as to how you’re loyal or fun.)

• I like to work hard, and I like to play hard. (What does this really mean?)

• I can’t believe I’m doing this. (Ok, ok. We’re all in the same boat.)

• It’s hard to write about yourself. (What else is new?)

• I’m really spontaneous and open-minded. (When we describe our friends, do we really say, “Wow – she is so … spontaneous, isn’t she?”)

• I’m just as comfortable in a dress (or tux) as I am in jeans and a T-shirt. (It’s better to share what you like to do and where you like to go.)

Let’s try this again. Cassie, please describe yourself:

My 10th grade cooking teacher told me I was unique – I guess she was right! When I’m not at work, you can often find me baking (I guess she did influence me a little), waking up with the sun, or on the bike at the gym reading The Wall Street Journal. (I’m a cool nerd – I promise.) I’ve been lucky enough to visit five countries in the last two years, and next on the list is Argentina. Interested in learning tango? I also love trying new restaurants, but I’m pretty content catching up on my Netflix with some chicken pad Thai (my fave) and a glass of Shiraz in hand.

I’d like to find someone who takes his work seriously and has goals in life but knows how to loosen his tie at the end of the day with a Guinness with some football on in the background (Go Terps!)… and if he remembers to open doors for little old ladies, I think I’m sold.

This person is unique. This person is quirky. This person has idiosyncrasies. Now we have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind picture on our canvas. I’ll take it!

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