Because We’re Friends…

Sit down, Bloggernacle… you’re about to get dating advice from a gay man.

Seriously.

And by dating advice, I mean dating advice… Not courtship or relationship or marriage or sex advice. Just… dating. Because, well, I’ve had some experience in that department. And if you believe what you see in movies and on television, gay friends are duty-bound to help their straight friends when it comes to these things.

Now when I say that I have experience in the dating department, I’m not kidding…

My first date was when I was 14—we met at Huntington Beach. She was a beautiful Italian-American girl and I asked her to a movie. Her big brother came with us and sat one row back. I was a perfect gentleman.

I had two more dates (Junior and Senior Prom) before my mission.

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Since my mission, I’ve been on nearly 1,500 dates. I’d wear this as some sort of badge of honor… but let’s face it: my dating game is on fleek—but my relationship, courtship, and marrying games are all sorts of sad.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you… or, more specifically, your dating profile.

It’s 2017. If you’re single and serious about dating, you have a dating profile. There are dozens of different platforms out there… each with their own culture and with their own ecosystem. And while the platforms come in every shape and size… you do not. You are the constant across all of them. You’re a well-adjusted adult who knows a little bit about what makes you happy, a few of the things that people like about you, and a smattering of things that get in the way of first, second, or third dates.

So let’s put together a dating profile that plays to your strengths…

Let’s Start with Safety

Male or female, straight or queer, safety is important. It’s important because anyone can be a victim of someone willing to hurt them—identity theft, fraud, digital scamming, robbery, assault, stalking, and rape. No matter who you are, putting yourself online opens you up to the possibility that a horrible person will target you—or someone you love. Yup: stalking you to get to your internet naive grandmother is a real thing.

Data Safety

Don’t share data that can be used to identify you until you’re ready to be identified. That means not using your actual name, naming your employer, sharing your e-mail address or Facebook profile link, or trading phone numbers. It means scanning the photos you use for identifying information (is your address or license plate in the photo—are you wearing a t-shirt with your employer’s name on it). It means using the same care with your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts, if they’re linked to your dating profile.

Use the application to communicate. Insist on that through the first date (but only if there’s going to be a second). Sharing data should be at least as rare as swapping spit. ;)

Most of all: listen to your gut—they’re just not worth it.

Location Safety

A lot of dating apps now mark your profile with distance information (156 feet away… 34 miles away). Some allow you to turn off this feature (some only allow you to turn this off if you pay for their “premium” plan). Think carefully about turning this on—and check frequently to ensure that the app hasn’t changed that setting without your permission.

Don’t think that just because it says “5 miles away” that you’re not identifiable… because you are, thanks to a little thing called “triangulation”…

I Can Find You

Let me give you an example… Let’s say that the object of your affection (Shane) lives in Sugar House (Salt Lake City, UT) and works out near Jordan Landing (South Jordan, UT). And let’s say, for the sake of this experiment, that you work at Murray High School (Murray, UT)… you’ve been careful, and haven’t named your employer, but you have mentioned that you’re a teacher.

Now check out this map… Shane is at home and chats you up. You mention you’re at work. Shane looks on the app and it says that you’re “five miles away”. You could be anywhere along the edge of the top circle. Shane starts work later than you, and he heads to his office, out by Jordan Landing. You and Shane chat after lunch. The app now says you’re “six miles away”. You could be anywhere along the edge of the bottom circle. But Shane isn’t stupid… he knows that you’ve stayed put while he has moved around. With a few clicks of the mouse, he knows that you’re somewhere where those circles overlap—specifically at the points where the edges of the two circles touch.

And would you look at that: Murray High School is right there.

(Cue stalker music.)

This would work for any other place: your school, your gym, your home… with Google maps and Google Street View, it’s even pretty easy to take visual cues from photos you post.

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Sorry to be a downer. But your safety means a lot to me.

Meet-up Safety

This brings me to meet-up safety. Here are the basics:

  • take a screen grab of your date’s profile before you head out.
  • a friend should know where you’re going and that you’re going out with someone you “met on [dating app]”, where you’re going, and when (more or less) you’ll be done.
  • you should get to and from your first few dates on your own.
  • you should meet some place public and well-trafficked.
  • you should stay some place public and well-trafficked.
  • you should check in on social media
  • if they’re game, get a photo of them—and make sure your photos are synced with the cloud
  • enable the password on your phone and have your phone fully charged.
  • when the date is over, let your friend know all about the date.
  • if the first date went well enough for a second date, share your contact details
  • if the first date went well enough to stay in contact (but not well enough for a second date), consider inviting them to find you on Facebook, since you won’t be using the dating app to chat anymore.
  • if the first date didn’t go well, take a moment to disconnect with them on your dating app—delete your chats, unmatch them, and block them. In most apps, one or more of these will clear your communications and will prevent them from contacting you again (or scanning your chats for information they can use to get a “second chance” with you).
  • People reboot/restart/reinvent their dating profiles regularly… so even when you block them, they will likely pop up in a few month’s time with a new profile. This is a chance for you to try again—but most likely it’s a chance to just pre-emptively block them. If it’s really meant to be, they’ll move into your ward—and even then, feel free to block them.

Your Handle

Don’t let being cute or witty get in the way of being useful. There are a couple kinds of handles:

  • the name
  • the interest
  • the location tag
  • a combination

And every handle performs (whether you want it to or not) a few functions for the people on the other side of the screen:

  • gets your profile noticed and remembered
  • gets your profile screened

The Name — “Veronica”, “Mitch”, “DJ 2016”

This is a common choice—it’s easy for people to remember and avoids a lot of the silly pitfalls that many people fall into. Of course, don’t use your real name—or even a name that’s easy to “decode”. Use the name you’ve always wanted to have… or a name you’ll give your first child, or the name of a childhood friend. Use a name that you won’t mind being called on your first date. And don’t worry… if they’re worth a second date (or the friend zone), they’ll get a kick out of learning about your real name and the thoughtfulness you put into your alias.

The Interest — “Surfer”, “Hiker”, “DogLover”

You’re going to talk about your interests in your blurb… but if it’s a Really Big Deal™ you can just put it out there, up front.

The Location Tag — “Salt Lake 1986”, “Tokyo/Berlin/London”

This is especially useful if you travel at all frequently. Put your “hometown” in your name—it’s the fastest way to advertise that you may just be passing through (I can’t tell you how many people I chat-up on dating apps, who are just sitting at the airport on layover). And some people really like layover or vacation dates—so you might as well make it clear!

Getting Noticed & Remembered

Sometimes you want to be noticed for something that is truly unique about you—put that in your handle and stand out in a crowded field. And once you connect, you still need to stand out in their list of love interests. Heck… some people take a while to work up the courage to say “hi”—and they may not be able to save or favorite you without you getting a notification… so your handle/picture combo is the only way for them to find you again. Make it easy to remember.

Getting Screened

Sometimes you have deal-breakers that you can use to thin the number of inquiries in your inbox. If you have dogs, you’ll want to find a dog person. If you’re in town for just two weeks, and want to grab ice cream—but aren’t looking for true love—put that in your handle (DJ 2016 TRAVELLING).

Your Picture(s)

Profile

Your handle and profile photo are your brand. They should put your best foot forward and should remain pretty static (use your photo album for variety). Use the same profile pics across apps… and if you’re reentering the dating pool after an extended absence, consider using the same handle and profile pic you had when you exited the dating pool (you can update it in a couple weeks).

Dos & Don’ts

  • Do smile.
  • Don’t wear a hat or sunglasses—your face should be clear.
  • Do have someone else take the photo.
  • Do zoom out… the closer in you zoom, the more it feels like you’ve got something to hide. If you’re uncomfortable about your weight or your height or anything else, there are ways to take flattering photos—do that; don’t hide.
  • Do share your photo with a friend who will give you their honest opinion.
  • Do check the photo for identifying information.

Photo Album

Your photo album (or whatever it’s called in your app) is an easy way for you to highlight things that are important to you and things that might set you apart.

Dos & Don’ts

Follow the rules above, and…

  • Do have a variety.
  • Do update these regularly.
  • Do go outdoors.
  • Do have photos of you with friends (if you can order them, have group photos after solo ones, so browsers know which one is you without much effort).
  • Do have photos of you doing things you love to do.
  • Don’t post selfies.
  • If you must post selfies, for the love of all things holy, please clean the mirror and make sure the room you’re in is tidy (and yes, I zoom in on selfies to see what people are reading).

Your Blurb

Smart daters will read your blurb to find something to say in that first, awkward message. You want to date smart folk… so give them something in the blurb that they can open with.

Dos & Don’ts

  • Don’t leave it blank.
  • Don’t talk about how hard it is to write a blurb (no one cares).
  • Do use proper spelling and grammar.
  • Do keep it short. This is an appetizer, not the whole meal.
  • Do mention two or three things you love to do (hike, movies, knit, travel).
  • Do mention any deal killers—but don’t call them deal killers (I’ve got kids, I travel for work). In all honesty, there are very few actual deal killers out there; most things can be worked through. Listen to your gut… then check your gut with a friend.
  • Don’t share identifying information.

Your Stats

You don’t have to fill out all of those stats. You’re a person, not a product. If you care about the height of the people you date, put your height out there. If you care about the weight of the people you date, put your weight out there.

Your Chats

Your chat session should be a little bit like a date… you should put effort into your chat so you can figure out if a date (or further chatting) is in the cards.

The First Message

The first message is hard, don’t be embarrassed that you struggle with it—just don’t get stranded there. Read their blurb. If they’ve put any time into it, there should be something you can use to start a conversation.

If they have a lame blurb or—worse—no blurb at all, check out their photo(s) and look for something interesting to talk about there (location of the photo, a logo on their t-shirt, the activity they’re engaged in). If you can’t wring anything from a photo, avoid the temptation to comment generically on their appearance (you’re pretty/handsome or you’re sexy).

The first (you’re pretty/handsome) is just code for “you light up my brain”—do some soul searching and figure out why they light up your brain. I find that I’m immediately drawn to people with kind faces, easy smiles, look at ease in their skin, or strike me as a little nerdy. So instead of calling them handsome, I’ll say something like “it looks like you smile easily—that’s a rare quality”, or “you come across in your photo as someone who’s really comfortable with themselves, I like that”.

The second one (you’re sexy) is just code for “you light up my genitals”. Ew. Don’t. Just… don’t.

If they don’t have a photo or a blurb… why are you even bothering? Move on!

Rhythm

As hard as first messages are, follow-up messages can be just as tricky—they’re the bridges to understanding and (hopefully) a date… make them productive.

There’s actually a rhythm to a good chat session:

  • Person One: Asks question
  • Person Two: Answers the question… and then some
  • Person Two: Returns the question
  • Person One: Answers the question… and then some
  • Person One or Two: Asks question seeking deeper understanding
    • Continue seeking deeper understanding for a few questions, at least… move on if it ever becomes stale.
  • Person One or Two: Opens a new topic with new questions…

So let’s see this in practice:

  • Shane: Do you like movies?
  • Diana: I love movies! (And here comes the “and then some”…) I just saw La La Land last night—it was wonderful, though the opening dance scene was a little odd.
  • Diana: How about you?
  • Shane: I like movies… though I prefer concerts. The most recent movie I loved was Arrival.
  • Shane: What about the dance scene did you find odd?

This pattern allows both people to learn more about each other and to signal their interest. If you don’t ask follow-up questions, you’re likely signaling to the other person your disinterest or your inability to fully engage in a conversation—and who wants to go on a date with someone who can’t hold a conversation?

Hard Topics

In addition to using “and then some” answers and asking interesting follow-up questions, another tool for fostering active conversations is to withhold judgment… this is something I’m actively working on in my own dating. We all have opinions about things—sometimes very strong opinions—be sure you explore their opinions before going off on a tear. And it’s not just politics… I find that I’m entirely too quick to have opinions on what people do for work or whether or not they went to college. I’ve learned (the hard way) to let people lead-out on these conversations:

  • Christian: So what do you do for work?
  • Shane: Retail. (Notice Shane didn’t elaborate!)
  • Christian: (I refrain from editorializing…) Do you enjoy retail? I hear it’s really demanding…
  • Shane: I enjoy it. I like that every day is different. The hours, though, are hard—I miss my weekends and holidays.
  • Christian: It’s great to find someone who loves their work. Are you on the floor? In management? Or maybe you design the displays? I’d love to hear more…
  • Christian: And what about the hours? Is that something you’re looking to change? Or is it just part of the retail life? (I went for the deep dive—and may even get a chance to see how he handles hard things.)

I’ve discovered, over time, two things that are important to me: being goal-oriented (I used to think I valued upward mobility) and curiosity (I used to think I valued smarts). So I want to find out if Shane has these… retail has an undeserved reputation for being for high school kids and slackers. But retail can be every bit as challenging and financially rewarding as other careers. So I follow up with questions that give Shane plenty of opportunity to talk about his work… which gives me plenty of opportunities to look for connections and spot concerns. This is equally important when someone trots out a glamorous or high-paying job.

An aside: I love asking people about work and family—I find that the way people discuss these topics are really telling about their inner life.

Troubleshooting

There are a couple situations that are trickier than others:

  • Rebooting a chat that’s trailed off.
  • Giving folks who didn’t reply to the first message another chance to reply.

Rebooting

You’ve found someone and have had a couple great chats with them… but for whatever reason, you haven’t chatted in a while. This happens all the time to me—and, more often than not, the chat died because life got in the way. When this happens, it’s usually just a game of seeing who acts first to reboot. Rebooting is pretty easy: label the obvious (“Wow! It’s been a couple weeks!”), then pick up where you left off in the previous session (“How’s your week been?”) or pick an interesting new topic (“Any plans for the weekend?”).

I find rebooting is easiest at milestones (pending weekend, return from an extended trip, or a major life event).

If the reboot doesn’t get a reply, give them a day or two to respond, and then follow up with something a little more heartfelt and direct (“I really enjoyed our last few chats, and I’d like to pick them up again…”). Then… wait.

Second Chances

You work up the courage to make the first move and… crickets. Wait a day or two, then come back with something fresh take. Go through the steps and find something else to say. If you still don’t get a response—but still want to try again—wait until you’ve got a milestone moment, and give it a go (“I just returned from vacation, and was going through some of my old chats… thought I’d say hi!”).

Your Visitor Log

Some apps tell you who has visited your profile. This is a gold mine. Seriously… they saw your profile—they may have been searching for someone just like you!—but they didn’t say anything. Let’s be honest: how many times do you visit a profile before you work up the courage for that first message? Yeah. A half-dozen? A dozen?

Beat them to the punch and say “hi”. If they come back again, but don’t say anything, give them a good natured “welcome back!”.

Common Phrases

They’re not “lines”, they’re just things I find myself saying regularly. If you date often, save yourself some time and keep a list of phrases you use frequently—put them in a notes app, or save them as a keystroke in your smartphone. Here are a couple of my go-to phrases:

  • So tell me a bit about yourself. What sort of work do you do… what do you do to unwind… what are you passionate about? (A nice, open-ended question. It’s started many wonderful chats.)
  • Sorry… In-app or in-person only. (For when I’m invited to text with someone, directly.)
  • It was your profile pic that caught my attention… but your write-up that prompted a response. :-) (An easy opener—follow it up with something specific about their write-up.)
  • I co-founded a couple software companies, which derailed my plans to work in the State Department… today I manage marketing for a regional non-profit and I’m involved with a couple of local causes. (This is how I describe what I do… it’s just vague enough.)
  • Oh—I love it when a friendly new face pops up in my visitor log! (Follow this one up with something about their write-up or photo.)
  • You’re a little way from home—hope you enjoy your stay in Salt Lake City! Let me know if you’d like any recommendations. (I like the occasional easy, no frills date with someone visiting from our of town… this is a great way to break the ice.)
  • I don’t think I’ve seen you around—are you new to town… or just the app? (It’s hard being new—be the first person to say “hi”. And if you’re mistaken, blame their amazing new profile pic.)
  • I enjoyed your write-up and I’m thinking you’re someone I should know. :-) (Straight-forward… follow it up with something specific about their write-up.)

Your Other Profiles

You probably have more than profiles on more than one platform/app. Keep them consistent… use the same profile pic, the same blurb, and the same stats. It makes you easier to find and it helps you stay honest. When you update one profile, make sure to update them all. Also: think twice (or three times) before opening a second (concurrent) profile on the same app.

Facebook

Facebook is absolutely, positively a dating app. If you’ve buttoned up your profile tight? Consider allowing friends of friends to see your posts. Make sure your blurb—what everyone can see—gets the important information out there. And consider filling in your relationship status (single). :-)

Let’s be Honest…

Honest with Others

This shouldn’t have to be said, but you want other people to fall in love with the real you. Keep your rounding to a minimum. Have honest photos. Have honest interests. Your first date shouldn’t be an extended mea culpa. Some numbers are harder than others… I’m short and stocky and middle-aged—and while I don’t publish the exact numbers, I do make it clear that I am, indeed, short, stocky, and middle-aged. Being honest doesn’t mean you have to publish all your details… but the details you do publish should have a close relationship with reality.

Honest with Yourself

Let’s start with deal killers… I’ve found, with time, that I have fewer deal killers. In part, no doubt, that’s because I’m lowering my standards (loneliness is a strange motivator). But, more importantly, it’s because I’ve learned that there are very few things I can’t work through with someone. If you have to talk about deal killers (in your blurb, for example) lead with the things you love about others—the deal makers.

For what it’s worth, my deal makers are: kindness, thoughtfulness, curiosity, health, and being goal-oriented. If I were straight, I’d expect to marry within the Church. That’s not likely, as a gay man, so I’ve settled on finding people who will respect my faith and encourage me to remain engaged in my faith community.

And now the hard one: “looking for friends”…

It may be possible, but I’ve yet to find anyone married or otherwise exclusive on a dating app that was actually just “looking for friends”. Dating apps are for dating. If you’re married or otherwise exclusive and you have a profile (active or not) on a dating app, it’s time for some serious self-reflection.

Why is all this important?

I really do believe that marriage is instituted by God to bless his children. Marriage—loving, healthy marriage—is the Lord’s university. Dating is how we get there… and, these days, dating apps are how we get to dating.

And to everyone putting themselves out there… I wish you luck and strength and persistence.

Of course, dating isn’t for everyone. Some people are taking a break, others have moved passed dating, and others, still, have just never felt called to it. And I get it: after 1,500 dates, myself, it may be time for me to take a break for a while. For all of you, I pray you find other meaningful ways to connect with those around you.

Comments

  1. This is a treasure trove of great information and support, Christian–wise counsel and time-earned wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to share it. Perhaps I could have avoided the What’s-Wrong-with-Your-Uterus-Date had I known more of this!

    p.s. I look forward to the day you find Mr. Right and can share your insights on courtship and marriage, too.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    A very impressive and helpful primer for our simple readers born of extensive experience. Thanks for sharing your wisdom from the trenches.

    Any specific insights or guidance on specifically LDS sites? Is disclosing TR status a thing, for instance?

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    *single (I’m on my phone on a train; sorry for the unfortunate typo.)

  4. Interesting; thanks for this primer, Christian!

    I realized, reading this, that I’m probably among the last cohort of people who never internet-dated. When my wife and I got married, online dating existed, but it was still a relatively new thing, new enough that those handful of people I knew who had gotten together through some dating site or another still half-apologized for doing it. Within a couple years after we got married, though, that apologetic subtext (rightly) disappeared.

  5. Totally wrong generation for me, but this sounds like a lot of fun (and work).

  6. D Christian Harrison says:

    Retx: Tell me about it.

  7. D Christian Harrison says:

    I posted this at midnight, and completely forget the sections on Facebook, Common Phrases, and Visitor Logs.

    Post updated with missing sections.

  8. Kathleen Petty says:

    I am exhausted even contemplating what dating involves these days, and I am so glad I will never have to participate, the experience of death being closer than having to look for another love interest.

  9. Angela C says:

    “Looking for for friends” = “Looking for hookups.” “Looking for friends” = I will never commit, and I will later remind you that I was just looking for friends. Run away!

    Srsly, Christian, this is a great PSA. You should write a book! And I am so, so glad that I did my dating before the internet age. Although maybe it would have been easier to find guys I liked if the internet had existed. I’m not sure. I always struggled, particularly in Utah, to find anyone that I liked or who liked me.

  10. As someone who is on the horizon of having (getting?) to date again after a very long break, this is timely, terrifying and very informative. Thanks.

  11. Asking for a friend. (Seriously! I’m about to celebrate my 40th anniversary, very happily, and besides I’m barely coping with Facebook.) How do people signal progressive or nuanced Mormon? (Pick your term–you know what I mean.) It seems to me that Mormon-to-Mormon dating must be full of assumptions and stereotypes.

  12. D Christian Harrison says:

    “Let’s grab a coffee, or… you know… a beverage of your choice.”

  13. This is just amazing. I’m happily married, but so much of what you’ve written here about Internet safety, and trying to be your best self applies to all of us.

    I find that a lot of the best advice I get is from the gay people in my life.

    Sure wish we could find a way for you and that future husband of yours (lucky guy!) to be fully embraced by our church. I’d be elbowing people out of the way to get to sit next to you guys. To say nothing of the amazing marriage and family lessons you’d teach…

  14. D Christian Harrison says:

    You made my day, Leona! <3

  15. Sue Bergin says:

    Married people who are so happy they don’t have to endure dating or online dating, please check your privilege. We single folks don’t need to hear this YET AGAIN.

  16. Please read affection and humor into my post above.

  17. D Christian Harrison says:

    Phew. I was worried.

  18. “Let’s grab a coffee” illustrates the How Much Has Mormonism Changed thread, elsewhere on BCC. I get it, it makes sense, it’s a useful signal. In 2017. But last time I was dating (sorry, Sue) a comment like that would have signaled being so far outside Mormon circles that “Mormon” is an irrelevancy.

  19. D Christian Harrison says:

    For whatever it’s worth, I say “let’s grab a coffee” all the time… and I’ve never had a coffee (unless you count the stuff mom made for me, when I was a kid). It’s a useful turn of phrase.

  20. Rachael says:

    This is some great advice. I am going to have my daughter read this, especially for the safety tips.

    Also, for more on what not to do, I recommend checking out @provoguysamiright. There are some text exchanges on there that would be funny if they weren’t so overwhelmingly creepy.
    Here’s a link to a FMH spotlight on them, with an interview and some screenshots for those who don’t have Instagram. http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2016/05/the-women-of-provoguysamiright/

  21. charlene says:

    thanks for this detailed guide! This should be the basis for a YW/YM/YSA/AdultSingle lesson. It’s been about 10 years since I did the online dating scene, and it’s obviously gotten a lot more complicated.

    BTW, Kevin, I totally identified with being one of the “simple readers.”

  22. Hillary says:

    This advice is just common sense. The fact that this has to be laid out in one of the longest articles I have seen in BCC in a long time indicates to me that people have no common sense anymore when it comes to dating. And honestly, I don’t want advice from someone who has had 1500 dates. I want a real and eternal relationship eventually so until anyone has modern day, common sense, practical advice as to how to achieve that then I am not interested. My goal isn’t to be a serial dater.

  23. Rachael says:

    Wow, Hillary, that was harsh.

  24. Hillary, I can’t figure out why you might be single.

  25. “people have no common sense anymore when it comes to dating.”

    People never had common sense when it comes to dating.

  26. D Christian Harrison says:

    Or ever, period. Calling it common sense is the cruelles​t of ironies.

  27. D Christian Harrison says:

    Dug: Hillary’s comment was astonishing. No need to compound it with personal attacks. : /

  28. Hillary says:

    I do realize my comment is harsh, astonishing, and abrasive. All I can do now is say I acknowledge I shouldn’t post my immediate reactions when I am triggered by something. I know there are people who will benefit from this article while I personally need something different in my life right now. Peace.

  29. D Christian Harrison says:

    That is the perfect response, Hillary.

    <3

  30. BHodges says:

    Comprehensive and impressive. Dating has changed so much in the past decade, it seems.

  31. This is a well thought out, and nicely written piece. I am glad to see how in depth you went with each section, definitely highlighting the most important parts.