Three boneheaded online dating moves to avoid

Story highlights

  • Breakups spike right after Cupid's big day, according to unofficial Facebook data
  • When encountering an online date offline, don't be creepy about it
  • Online daters shouldn't ignore safety and common sense, but should reveal some basics
  • There's less success on online dating sites when using a poor user name
Ahh, yes, February 15, the joyful day when singletons can finally collapse in exhaustion after weeks of maintaining a nonchalant front. Finally, you think, finally, the incessant stream of hearts and cupids and reminders that romantic partnership is the apogee of human achievement will come to a merciful end.
And then you voluntarily read to the second paragraph of our weekly netiquette column, silly! That's right, we're here to take you waist-deep into that cesspool of romantic endeavors and bad decisions: online dating.
Because if you survived yesterday single, you might be gunning to circumvent a repeat performance in 2013 (i.e., another year of you listening to Alanis Morissette and sobbing softly in your bedroom or, conversely, having a faux-peppy who-needs-men night with your gal pals, swilling salmon-colored drinks and shooting hateful glances at the couples in the bar).
And if you're in a relationship right now, don't rest on your laurels quite yet: Breakups spike right after Cupid's big day, according to unofficial Facebook data, so you just might be back on the market soon.
We've told you what not to do with your first message to a prospective date. We've told you what not to do with your photo. Yet real, live online daters continue to find bizarre and almost impressively original ways to turn us off.
Read on for three totally boneheaded online dating moves we've actually encountered (AKA, weird things no one warns you about when they're persuading you to make a profile).
Watching you on the street
"Not to be creepy, but ..." began an actual first message from an actual online dater. "... were you sitting on a bench at such-and-such intersection at about 6:15 last night? I'm not hitting on you, I just like to think of online dating as a city-wide game of Guess Who." Yes, we were at said corner, and we were unaware we were being watched by a peeper on the street.
The incredible thing is not that said dater recognized a human from the site -- in an urban area, where folks are bumbling around in their own overlapping circles, of course you'll spot people whom you recognize from their profiles.
The key is to not acknowledge it in a creepy way. (A clue that you're not adhering to that guideline: You begin a message with, "Not to be creepy, but ...")
In this instance, for example, if the dude wanted to go on a date, he could send a friendly first message (not mentioning the unwitting run-in). Then, if things were rolling along after a few dates, he could mention it in a fun, "You won't believe how serendipitous this was!" kind of way.
Or if he couldn't wait that long, he could send a cute Missed Connections-style message: "I think I walked by you in Union Square yesterday! Your purple peacoat was stunning. I see you're a big fan of 'Parks & Recreation' -- have you checked out 'Party Down'?" But just announcing, apropos of nothing, that he has superior facial recognition skills? Kind of weird.
A friend told a tale of a girl he'd been messaging who eventually stopped responding. A few weeks later, a new note in his inbox: "Hey, were you at the Caveman concert last night?" (Indeed, he had been. Without the benefit of knowing a girl was watching him like Mel in Flight of the Conchords). If she was loving his vibes in person, she certainly could have walked up to him in between sets and said hello. But since she'd already dropped the message volley like a hot potato, probably best to let sleeping dogs snore.
Another friend stopped messaging with a dude online when she got a weird feeling about him from his notes; a few weeks later, he spotted her at a Thai restaurant and marched right in. With apparent disregard for all social mores, he sat down at the table with her friends and asked when they could plan a proper date.
The recommended course of action here is obvious: Since she had already rejected him online, he should've respected that and let the girl and her friends finish their pad thai in peace.
Moral of these stories? Don't be scary. Online dating is nerve-racking enough when you're all squirmy-scared of rejection and awkward first-date conversations. Having to worry about weirdos jangling up to you at the supermarket? Not necessary. (Oh, and if you're the creep-ee: Block 'em on the site, or if they're approaching you in person, make an excuse and hightail it out of there. Safety first!)
Revealing nothing about yourself
It's a strange power play, leaving your profile free from pictures and with only the pithiest write-ups; it says, "You may need to advertise yourself like a heifer all gussied up for the state fair, but I ... I will make no attempt to sell myself to you. Instead," it tacitly blathers on, "I will decide whether you look interesting enough for me."
Maybe that works for some people (probably those seeking the weakest and most damaged goods). Our take: Having an online dating profile and leaving it totally unpopulated just makes you look like you have no good qualities to trumpet. Oh, and sending along a photo with your first message? Still silly. How come everyone else has to show their cards from the start, while you get to keep yours close to your chest? It reeks of insecurity, a gross, musky smell reminiscent of Axe Body Spray and tears.
Choosing a stupid user name
A recent German study found that people with ugly names have less success on online dating sites. Researchers came to that conclusion by tracking profile views on a gloriously German-looking dating site where users go by their real first names.
But thank God you live in a country where you're free to pick your JDate handle!
So why, why, why would you pick something ugly (MoldyBill) or embarrassed sounding (JustBrowzin228)? There are so very many cards stacked against you in finding love (see: a montage of your February 14), so pick a simple username, write an honest profile, and pray to the good god Eros for better luck next year.