What I Encounter As An Online Dating Consultant
Did you know that there are over 3,000 dating sites and apps out there?
It seems crazy, but honestly, if you name any group of individuals who may one day want to seek one another out for companionship and sex, then there’s likely already a dating site for them. Sea captains? Check. Morticians? Check. Bronies? You asked for it.
You should consider yourself lucky that you can get away with having just OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble on your phone. But in my profession as an online dating consultant, I receive endless notifications of godawful messages from some of the most godawful users across some of the most godawful dating apps ever conceived. All just to make your dating life better.
I wish I had an easy answer for what it means to be an online dating consultant. Most of the time, it means I’m helping companies make their dating apps less shitty, or in the best case scenario, I’m telling would-be founders to pick a different idea to work on. No, seriously, we don’t need a 47th Tinder clone.
I also consult for individual daters who need help either getting into relationships, getting out of relationships, opening them up, and occasionally closing them again. As it turns out, relationships are pretty complicated.
But none of that really captures the magic of what I get to see on a daily basis. So for this post, I want to show you some of the most elegant, beautiful, mesmerizing, and excruciatingly painful morsels that I’ve come across during my last 5 years as an online dating consultant.
And yes, before you ask, I actually get paid to do this.
A day in the life…
For starters, I see a lot of bad dating messages. Like, alot a lot. So many that in 2011 I actually made a website dedicated entirely to those terrible messages:
But it’s not all bad! I also see a lot of GLORIOUS replies to the world’s terrible messages:
Some of the messages are so comically bad that they actually border upon, dare I say, poetic…
For the sake of my work, I’ve had to try out literally hundreds of dating sites and apps. I’ve even had to attempt dating across apps that are definitely not intended for dating (sorry, Yelp!).
Sometimes, it works out surprisingly well. Other times, it makes me want to repeatedly bash my head against a wall...
I become irrationally excited when people send me their online dating messages and date stories. Some individuals are just unbelievably talented when it comes to messaging. Here’s an example of an emoji and food pun-savvy friend of mine moving from Tinder to texting to meetup to followup without missing a beat.
Emoji game on point. But her food puns were the stuff of legend:
Gouda respeck the guy flour pudding up a gourd fight, but brie’s bunstoppable…
In my years experimenting with different types of profile text, I’ve discovered that incorporating creative asks into your profile can lead to receiving much better messages (e.g. “In your first message, mention xyz”). A profile without much text will likely result in some combination of boring, useless, and generic messages (or creepy ones if you’re female). Case in point:
However, if you add in something creative, like a request for a nerdy biology joke in the form of a haiku, you’ll be surprised at how willing people on the internet are to let their creativity shine.
Overall, my experience across so many dating apps has taught me one very important thing: the world of dating is increasingly fusing with the world of social networking. We log into our dating profiles using Facebook. These same dating profiles are now, in many cases, public in search engines. There are even live events dedicated to making fun of people who don’t yet realize this new reality in which the things we say on the internet can get publicly rebroadcast in realtime.
As a result, it behooves us all to be more aware of the day to day realities of interacting with one another in this modern, interconnected world. Yes, to a certain extent, this means being prepared for internet trolls and creepers. But for all practical purposes, a little authenticity and a sense of humor will go a long way.
Some people have asked that I address the topic of sexual economics and gender-based discrepancies in user experience / behavior across dating apps. Well, from my experience, I’ve received fewer than 10 overtly sexual messages from non-spambot women despite over 5 years of being on over 150 dating apps as a male user. Contrast that with the day in 2013 when I created a female profile on a dating app and received 100 messages in the first day, 25+ of which were overtly sexual, and several of which made aggressively sexual/violent threats.
It’s difficult to properly draw conclusions from these experiences, though. Are men more desiring of sex? Are men more willing/shameless about sending sexual messages? Maybe men are less at risk of having their sexuality exploited and therefore less aware of how threatening an overtly sexual/aggressive message can be perceived? Or (I dread the thought) maybe men have actually had success with such messages ~1% of the time, and the resultant variable schedule of reinforcement is enough to reinforce and solidify this behavioral pattern? Thoughts?
About the Author…
I’m Steve Dean, an NYC-based online dating consultant.
I offer customized consultations to individuals who need help with dating & relationships, as well as dating sites who need help with product strategy and growth.
I like to write and podcast about dating, relationships, and how to get connected to awesome jobs, roommates, and events. If you’d like to keep tabs on what I’m working on, you can follow my Patreon page, or connect with me anywhere: