How to find a good man via online dating

Oct 22, 2023
Older woman doing online dating

Hint: It means not doing what the apps tell you to do

Are you doing online dating?  If so, good on you! 

It's a great way to bump up the number of potentially good men you come into contact with, which obviously increases your chances of finding a great partner.

But don't rely on the algorithm to find the man for you!

The thing is, what the apps are trying to optimise is keeping you active and on the site by presenting you with the possibility that you're going to meet someone who's super-attractive.

So with the swipe-able apps in particular, you’ll tend to get shown pictures of the most superficially “hot” men (who are being competed over big-time but don’t necessarily have what it takes anyway) or the guys who are the most active online (and are perhaps “players” and not looking for a full-on relationship).

And humans being humans – we tend to judge very much on the photo and are unlikely to delve deeper before swiping left or right.

The more traditional sites, the ones that you’ll tend to be able to peruse on your laptop or desktop, they’re a bit better in that you can glean more information about a person in their profile, but in terms of matching you with someone who’ll make you happy – frankly, the algorithms don’t work.

Let’s just think about it. What information are they going on? The algorithms can only take into account qualities they can reliably capture like height, weight, age, job, self-rated attractiveness, salary, education, musical tastes, films you like… That must be the case because these are the things we tell them about, but these are not things that will give you any idea of someone’s potential for being a good partner for you. 

The things that do matter – kindness, warmth, humour, honesty, loyalty, emotional stability and so on – these are qualities that can’t be assessed by the algorithm.

Even the more sophisticated sites that rely on extensive personality questionnaires and suggest they’re going to match you with someone highly compatible – they don’t work either because matching simply on the basis of personality is nigh on impossible. Anyway people don’t necessarily tell the truth in these questionnaires. Men are highly adept IRL at “putting on” a higher “Agreeableness” score (aka propensity for empathy and kindness) than they actually have when they first meet a prospective partner – so what hope is there for online questionnaires!

What the apps are encouraging you to do then is to choose on the basis of photos and a bunch of traits that don’t really matter in the long run (and these could be fabricated anyway). This means you're probably screening out guys with far more relationship potential - men with the qualities that actually matter. 

Yes I know you'd like someone tall and good-looking, but maybe you'd be prepared to compromise a little bit on these if it meant you could actually be with someone really great. Please tell me ‘Yes’!

So is online dating a waste of time?  

Absolutely not. But you've got to know what you're doing! 

There are 3 things to think about here:

1. For one thing, it’s worth making sure to sign up to the kind of site that allows you to search on and view men’s profiles – not those where you have to just take what you’re served up with.

You need to take responsibility and track down the promising men yourself. Don't rely on the algorithm.

2. Then, read men’s profiles. I know it’s tempting to judge them on their photos first, but really – don’t! In fact if you can find a way to block the part of your screen that the photos appear on, do that and read the profile first. It won’t tell you everything you need to know to decide if he’s a good prospect, but it will give you some impression of what he’s like, and you’ll find out a lot more than if you’re just swiping through pictures.

And if they haven’t written much on their profile? Well that tells you quite a bit too.

3. Then, be prepared to make the first move. Yes of course it’s ok for women to send the first message – it’s the 21st century for goodness sake! Take charge of your future and choose who you want to talk to. You’ll usually get a better outcome. 

Nobel prize-winning research demonstrated mathematically that a woman who initiates a match gets a better quality mate than those who wait to be chosen. 

So what are you waiting for? Have a trawl through those profiles and get messaging with someone who takes your fancy! Good luck!

Mairi Macleod PhD