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January is a boom month for the online dating industry as millions turn to the internet to find love. But composing a profile that makes you sound fascinating and unique is harder than it sounds. In the process, millions of people will try to summarise their characters in just a few paragraphs. But anyone who browses a few profiles will quickly become very familiar with a handful of phrases. This betrays its author's discomfort about using an internet dating site, says William Doherty, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota.
For him, it shows that there is still a stigma to online dating. Dating coach Laurie Davis loves laughing at this generic assertion. She is paid to rewrite people's dating profiles and this is one of the phrases she sees - and urges her clients to ditch - time and time again. Other meaningless phrases, she says, include: "I'm a glass half-full kind of person. Davis says the problem with phrases like these is that they don't help with the main purpose of the profile - they're not "prompts" that act as conversation-starters. I love laughing too. The anonymous "single mother on the edge", who writes Gappy Tales, writes in her blog that she would "take a vow of celibacy" if she saw this phrase one more time.
Covering too many bases is a particular bugbear of Ben England.
The year-old marketing director was only on Guardian Soulmates for one month before he found his girlfriend. But he had enough time to be irked by descriptions in profiles that were consciously trying to please everyone. In his blog, Everyday Heartbreakhe takes particular displeasure at someone who lists liking going to public lectures at the London School of Economics - along with stripy tops.
Some people may even go as far as to specify they are after a Bonnie to their Clyde - or vice versa. This is an attempt to be light-hearted, says Doherty. It keeps popping up because most people have a limited vocabulary for expressing what they want romantically, he adds. Lists of descriptors such as smart, attractive, romantic, thoughtful, trustworthy, sexy, passionate, fearless, honest or friendly are labelled "empty adjectives" by dating coach Erika Ettin.
She says on the advice blog for the dating site Plenty of Fish that the problem is that these words "can't be proven until someone gets to know you". For example, rather than saying that you're funny, say something that you find funny. People may say they're funny, but how?
Is that humour going to resonate with a potential partner? People say they're kind but unless they demonstrate that, it's meaningless. Davis also takes issue with starting sentences with "My friends say Along with its cousin - "I like Sunday brunch in the pub with Chocolate man seeks vanilla woman papers and trawling round bric-a-brac markets" - this is a potentially bland description of weekend leisure time.
Doherty thinks this kind of stuff is appropriated from romantic comedies, novels and reading other people's profiles. England highlights this as one of his top meaningless phrases.
Find me someone that doesn't think their friends are important to them," he says. His point is that far too many people put their likes as things that it's very rare to dislike. Usually accompanied by a fulsome description of a high-powered, achievement-filled and cosmopolitan life. Doherty says this is alling that "I'm not desperate, I'm not needy, I'm not lonely.
I'm a very happy, full person. My already rich life would be enhanced". He says people who say phrases like this are trying to say "being on here does not mean that I have deficits as a person". The reason people feel the need to state how good their life is is because they still feel uncomfortable being involved in online dating, Doherty suggests.
Variations on this are "I'm laid back" and "I'm down to earth. These stock traits are in so many profiles, I practically skip right over them. Plus, who would ever describe themselves otherwise, says Foxton. A variant on this is "I like cosying up in front of the fire".
It's a phrase that irks Match. She says people should avoid it. It seems to be linked with intimacy and they don't have the imagination to come up with what is meaningful to them. It's boring and shows no creativity. The key lies always in being specific, according to Gooding. So a typical description would be 'I'm a fun active girl who likes to hang out with her friends and watch movies'. So you've pretty much described everyone on the website.
But trying to demonstrate one's sincerity very often appears contrived. Normal people don't feel the need to prove themselves. As an anthropologist, Fisher says she understands that people are trying to express their love of nature, downtime and intimacy. But it doesn't help them stand out from the crowd. Dating coach Julie Spira concurs. She suggests on dating website Your Tango that it makes people look unoriginal.
England isn't a fan of profiles where all the photos show the dater in an impoverished country doing something mildly dangerous. According to him"we've seen it all before". Greg Hendricks echoes this complaint. The Muddy Matches blog suggests people bring this up time and again because talking about travel is also a good way to establish common interests, but it warns "don't jabber on about your trip for ages without drawing breath. Try to find out where you've both been and where you'd both love to go".
Attitude towards height is one of the most curious aspects about straight dating sites. Women looking for men often demand someone over 6ft and men often lie about how tall they are. Foxton says that when he was on his mission to date 28 women, what seemed to surprise them most was that he was exactly the height he had said he was. Dating website OK Cupid notes that this is the most lied about aspect on online dating. On average, it suggests, people are two inches shorter than they say they are. Fisher says men lie about two things - their height and their salary.
Women lie about their weight and their age to emphasise their child-bearing potential. Grammar fanatics are over-represented on some online dating sites. But it's not always advisable to advertise just how important apostrophe usage is to you. It's somewhere you're trying to find someone fabulous," says Davis. But Chocolate man seeks vanilla woman problem is deeper than that for her. Christian Rudder argues on the OK Cupid blog Chocolate man seeks vanilla woman while the ratio of men to women on straight dating sites stays stable as people get older, the male fixation on youth distorts the dating pool.
He says data from the website suggests that as men get older, the age gap they might countenance beneath them widens. So a year-old man might look for someone between 22 to 35 - up to nine years younger than him. A year-old might look for a woman up to 15 years younger than him, Rudder suggests. But the men's stated age range doesn't tell the full story. When Rudder looked at men's messaging habits, he found they were pursuing women even younger than their stated age range.
It's not a phrase to take at face value, he says. It's a good idea to be suspicious of anyone who has to assert that they are normal. An increasingly common statement on some dating sites. It's often a prelude to a list of varied and often esoteric interests from someone who is "achingly hip, unflinchingly bright and invariably bearded", as Guardian Soulmates daters are described on Bella Battle's blog.
It's not enough to be average. The first guy I went on a date with from Soulmates was into astronomy and 17th century harpsichord music. Why are you lying about something? It doesn't matter whether you met them in Waitrose in a club or on the internet. What matters is that you have met each other. Again, for Doherty, it indicates that people are still uncomfortable about looking for love on the internet.
This is changing, Davis notes in the Huffington Post. She cites Pew research to mark "the official demise of the online dating stigma". Plenty of Fish also gives a sense of the scale of online dating. It says its own data from Comscore from in the US shows they have 55 million members, 24 million messages sent per day, 50, new ups per day, and 10 billion views every month. Find out which online dating cliches our readers find most irritating. Three centuries of the dating industry.
Image source, Thinkstock. I'm new to this, so here goes I love laughing. Image source, Reuters. I like going out and staying in.
Looking for my partner in crime. I'm here for some good banter.
My friends say I'm… plus list of adjectives. Image source, AP. I like walks in the park, watching movies and going to the pub on Sunday for roast dinner. My friends and family are really important to me. My life is fab. I just need someone to share it with.
I'm easy-going. I like to stay in with a glass of wine and a DVD. I enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset.
I like travelling. The 6ft conundrum. Don't get in contact if you don't know the difference between "your" and "you're". Image source, Charley Gallay. I'm a year-old man looking for a year-old woman. I'm normal. I don't watch television. We'll tell people we met in a bar. This is dishonest and off-putting, says England. Published 14 FebruaryChocolate man seeks vanilla woman
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