[TALK LIKE SEX] Building an Effective, Safe Online Dating Profile<br />

   Online dating is more popular now than it has ever been. More people are turning to dating sites and social media outlets to find that special someone. While this might have been taboo 15 years ago, Match.com released studies in 2010 that found that 1 in 5 couples met online.

We live in the Information Age, a time when we have almost immediate access to a wealth of information from random trivia facts to personal addresses and places of employment. It can be a daunting task to separate fact from fiction in online interactions, especially because people can create completely fake personalities. The popularity of the MTV show Catfish reminds us that not only do people still fake each other out online, but that we’re still oddly fascinated with online hook-ups.

There are safe ways to find your special someone online, and creating an informative, accurate dating profile is the best way to do so. Here are some tips:

Know What You’re Looking For

Are you looking for a long-term love or a casual hook up? Are you looking for a kinky person into exploring BDSM with you, or do you just need someone to occasionally hang out at the movies with? You should decide this before putting together any dating profile so that you know where to look and what to expect. There are niche-dating services that focus on religious beliefs, sexual orientation or racial/ethnic preferences that might help you zero in on a preferred group of people; this might prove to be an option worth exploring. You’ll get more out of the experience if you begin with focus and a plan.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Initial physical attraction is usually what sparks an interest in getting to know more about someone, so you want to make the best presentation of yourself possible. Of course, it’s what’s on the inside that counts in the long-term. But most people aren’t interested in moving from friends to lovers if the physical attraction isn’t there. Your picture should be a clear digital image taken within the last six months (so your high school prom picture from the Clinton years won’t work). You also want to avoid group photos, since the profile is focusing on you, not your best friend and play cousin.

If you only use a picture of your face, it can seem like you’re trying to hide your body; maybe you’re not in the shape you used to be and feel some kind of way. Only posting your body might suggest you’re selling your best asset, which can take focus away from your personality. I recommend a clear upper body photo, with your face included.

Your picture should be a clear digital image taken within the last six months. You also want to avoid group photos, since the profile is focusing on you, not your best friend and play cousin.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Whatever you say online, you ought to be prepared to back it up. Being dishonest about things like location, age, body type or career makes little sense. If you plan to meet someone and build a relationship, these are vital aspects of who you are that simply cannot be fudged. You can opt not to disclose certain things that you deem too personal. Many services ask a series of questions designed to help you narrow down your search by measuring compatibility with others who have similar profiles.

Make clear what you’re after. If you’re adamantly against dating a smoker, make that known immediately. If you absolutely cannot manage a long-distance relationship, set your location parameters according to what’s feasible for you. Don’t leave too many blank spaces though, because people are drawn to profiles that give the most information and provide a better sense of who the person is.

A First Impression Is a Lasting Impression

Your online dating profile is the first impression you will make with anyone who might be interested in you. Be mindful of the language you use and be sure that your spelling and grammar are on point. If given space, give a short narrative of what you’re looking for in a mate and what you’re bringing to the table. While you don’t have to list all your high school activities and college clubs, it doesn’t hurt to sell yourself a bit. This is your time to shine and brag a bit, and it may be the only opportunity someone has to make a decision about getting to know you better, so go for it.

Whatever you’re seeking, you want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and being safe while doing so. Be mindful of those who ask for too much info or say too little in their first communication. There still are some dangerous people out there looking to scam those genuinely looking for love. It’s up to you to be proactive and be discerning. Above all, be yourself, be honest and have a good time!

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York