Cha-cha-cha-CHANGE

Well folks, I’ve had a wonderful time helping you find love as Lovebug! However, my business is growing up a bit, and with that expansion comes a new name and website.

Please head on over to TheHeartographer.com to check out the new blog, hire me, or to sign up for my free newsletter with loads of free advice and tips.

Thanks for reading and working with me all these years, and I look forward to seeing you in the new place soon! ♥

Dating profile of a professional diva

A pal of mine recently tweeted a link to RuPaul’s Plenty of Fish Profile, and I just have have HAVE to share it with you. Pics aside, let’s look at an excerpt, i.e. the entire “About Me” setting, at the time of this writing:

About Me

I was 8 when my sister suggested I also use a capital letter “P” when signing my name and I have ever since. When I meet a new person they usually notice my height, my smile and my laugh. Anyone who wears false eyelashes between 9am and 5pm is a motherf%king genius in my book and if you wear a wig, hairpiece or merkin, I bow down to you. I believe white pumps are the sign of a true hooker.

My favorite quote:
WHEN YOU HEAR THIS IN THE CLUB
YOU’RE GONNA TURN THIS SH*T UP
YOU’RE GONNA TURN THIS SH*T UP
YOU’RE GONNA TURN THIS SH*T UP
–WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

You can call me he, you can call me she, you can call me Regis & Kathy Lee. Just call me.

Source: POF, via LipSyncForYourLife

Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how you inject some levity and personality and flair into an online dating profile. Be playful. Be gently profane. Add some insight and some genuine soul. Hats/wigs off to you, RPC.

The inevitable Manti Te’o post

Look, these are as good as my graphics get in a rush! :)

In light of the Manti Te’o scandal(?), I felt like I should weigh in but I wasn’t quite sure what to contribute. I have no idea whether the guy was lying about whether his online relationship with Kekua was a hoax or not, and the ultimate truth or fiction determination isn’t what interests me most in this story. I’m no sports expert, and I know even less about college football than about the NFL. But what I *do* know about us online relationships. Even though Te’o and Kekua allegedly communicated via Facebook and later phone, I think we’ve still got some salient points to explore here, so let’s dig in.

Imaginary girlfriends serve their purpose. Once upon a time, an fake (or even super long distance) significant other would be the height of patheticness (pathetitude?) on the playground or in the office. But if you think about it, even before the Internet, we had pen pals. We had the “girlfriend back at summer camp” trope. There’s something safe and special and intimate about a confidante one only communicates with in writing, or during separation, or in wishful thinking. It allows you to get through the painful awkwardness of still being single (and possibly a bit scared, or just not ready) when other people are taking the dating plunge around you.

Dating in real life can be scary, messy, and demanding. And realistically, while we might think of a college-age dude as being all grown up and ready for some action, many young adults don’t even begin to explore grown-up adult relationships until they leave the nest and fly away to university, where they escape parental supervision, and perhaps their more conservative community at large, and they attend parties with the opposite sex for a couple years until they feel comfortable enough in that setting to actually start dating. And in the face of that messiness and fear, TONS of women (and an increasing number of men) seek emotional connection, flattery, and straight-up practice at romantic interactions via online dating sites. That’s a big part of why it can be so maddening to move from flirty back-and-forth to actual dates in an online dating medium; plenty of Match.com members are in it more for the ego boost than the actual date, whether they’re aware of it or not. Regardless of the online medium used, sometimes we just use it to get the boost of some kind of romantic connection without all the strings attached to in-person romances.

Put yourself in Manti’s cleats for a sec. He’s a college kid balancing a major role on a high-profile team, demanding academics, friendships, and perhaps logistics like having to pack his own lunches and do his own laundry for the first time. Perhaps retreating into the glow of an online, sight-unseen relationship was easier to manage, emotionally and logistically, than getting entangled in a full-on relationship with someone he’d have to see around campus, for example. And how would his fans be reacting if he’d gotten a one-night stand pregnant at some boozy Notre Dame party, or gotten an STD whose results were leaked to the public, or passed that STD on to a media-hungry sorority girl? Perhaps there’s a certain safety and prudence in keeping it online when you’re in his position. (Which is linebacker. I looked it up.)

Is anyone else wigged out by that apostrophe?

Bubbles are easily burst in person. Many online daters subconsciously string out their pre-in-person communication because they’re not looking forward to the inevitable disappointment of discovering that their Internet paramour was deceiving them, and actually has forty extra pounds or ten extra years or laughs like a baboon or simply shares no chemistry or conversational fodder with them in person. Disappointment sucks. Sometimes people let things go on when they know they probably shouldn’t, because the possibility of love is more tantalizing and exciting than the letdown of that attraction screeching to a halt when reality sets in. Manti would not be alone in this behavior.

So, what does this mean for YOU? How can you avoid being “duped” à la Te’o during your own forays into online dating? (I know you’re not a Notre Dame linebacker, but perhaps I can still help.)

Maintain a healthy dose of skepticism, and don’t engage with creeps. If someone sounds or looks too good to be true, pay attention to that flag. Exchange photos and relevant details about your lives, while remaining prudent and safe since you have not yet met this person. Don’t use your real name (first or last, but especially not both) in your profile or username or the email address you exchange at first. Drop off communication if someone rubs you the wrong way or seems fishy. If things really get bad, and you feel stalked or harassed, report the user and consider wiping the slate clean with a new account. You shouldn’t feel so attached to your dating profile that you couldn’t just delete it and start over fresh if you needed to. After all, if any of those winks in your inbox were REALLY into you, they’d either follow you to your new identity when you communicated the shift, or you’d already have exchanged contact info with them. Nothing dissatisfies a scammer more effectively than your refusing to engage or participate.

Practice basic safety. Don’t give out your address before you’ve met! Meet in a public place! Don’t loan people money! Don’t use your work email! Don’t go on dates at weird times in weird back-alley clubs! Don’t fail to tell someone what you’re doing and where you’re going! Don’t leave your cell phone at home, don’t drink too much or take weird drugs, keep tabs on your drink, don’t get pressured into hopping in a car or staying over or being dropped off or taking things too far for your comfort or ANYTHING you don’t want to do. Even if you never ever hire me, or anyone like me, read through my online dating safety tips or Google up some other basic online dating safety tips, and actually follow them. The Internet is still a relatively new way to connect, so it requires some new protocols, unglamorous as they may seem. We consultants are just bursting with free safety advice because even if we don’t get the honor of having you as a paying client, we want you to know how to stay safe.

And above all else:

INSIST ON MEETING IN PERSON. This one is so easy, guys! Sure, it’s possible your potential date would send a double, but now we’re in “rejected Alias plot lines” territory, so let’s focus on realistic outcomes. If someone keeps saying they want to meet up and then always cancels or reschedules, you’re done. (Twice is bad news; three times is too much.) If someone stands you up, you can gauge their reaction and choose to drop contact with them. If it seems like someone is dodging you or just playing games, well, they probably are. You are the agent of your an dating destiny, and you’ll never truly know if you have a possible connection for a real in-person relationship with someone until you meet them in person and get a feel for that chemistry. Despite everything I said above defending why Manti might have been A-OK with an online-only thing, the reality is that most online daters want to meet up in person eventually. If you make it clear that’s what you want, but someone is making that difficult, it shouldn’t sit well with you. Stand up for yourself! If you refuse to engage with fishy or just plain wishy-washy daters, you’ll eventually only make connections with people who treat you well, respect your time, and value your honesty just like you value yours. Yes, it can take a LONG time to find those people, but it’s usually worth it in the end. And you get much better at making connections with people you might actually be compatible the more you practice.

Happy dating!

WSJ article – “Hacking the Hyperlinked Heart”

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a fantastic article entitled “Hacking the Hyperlinked Heart.” The piece was adapted from Amy Webb’s upcoming book ”Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match,” which I can’t wait to read. Many pieces and books about online dating frustrate me (AHEM, The Atlantic—I’ll be ranting at you soon), but this was a truly fascinating set of insights from a gal who’s nerdy-minded like me but with a better and more determined data-driven approach to her dating dilemmas. Ugh, I swear I’m not trying to sound like a weird Hallmark card about online dating with all that alliteration. It’s been a long week(end)! :)

Amy wasn’t meeting the kinds of men she wanted, so she took matters into her own hands:

Drawing on my background in data analysis, I set out to reverse engineer my profile. I outlined 10 male archetypes and created profiles for each of them on JDate. There was JewishDoc1000, the private-practice cardiologist who hated cruise-ship travel, and LawMan2346, an attorney who was very close to his family and a former national debate champion.

Please take some time to click through and read the whole piece. Amy’s experience was so interesting, and it revealed trends I never would have expected and that I think most online dating metrics/analysis powerhouses also haven’t caught, such as (spoilers!) women lying DOWN about their height. No wonder I had a hard time at nearly six feet tall and vocal about it. :)

This is perhaps my favorite more “random” observation she made:

It’s really hard to be funny in print—especially if you’re naturally prone to sarcasm. I found that people who thought they were being funny in their profiles weren’t. Instead, they seemed angry or aloof.

So true. Humor is one of the most powerful ways to stand out online, but you HAVE to be careful. Consider having a friend (or, you know, me) read over your attempt at sardonic wit so you don’t accidentally scare off potential suitors.

I find most online dating exposé pieces to be contrived in that they’re usually seeking to prove a flaw in the system, but this was a seriously awesome read with a different and ultimately more positive approach. What I wouldn’t give to pick her brain over lunch or drinks! I’ve already pre-ordered her book on Kindle, and I NEVER do that. :)

The WSJ also did a follow-up blog post answering some reader questions, too. You can find Amy on Twitter if you’d like to follow more of her interesting data discoveries; you can find her book on Twitter; and you can check out her book’s site for more developments. AND you can read the NYT Book Review piece, too!

Crazy Blind Date by OKCupid

Have you guys toyed with Crazy Blind Date, the new OKCupid service? No pics, just pick a time and place and agree to meet up. Forbes covered this launch, and OKCupid wiped the photos from all regular online dating profiles on Tuesday to promote the new service. From the Forbes piece:

For both men and women, the main pain point is the amount of investment required to turn digital flirtation into real-world dates. But the two sexes see that problem somewhat differently.

Women, who are in the minority on the site, get hit on relatively a lot, which means they spend a lot of time vetting suitors to separate the weirdos from the worthies. Men, meanwhile, complain about how long it takes to convince women that they’re the latter and not the former. The result: The typical user, male or female, can spend hours a week on the site and still end up with no plans Saturday night.


You can tell they had fun with the graphic design. :)

This is absolutely true in my experience, though I don’t fit that mold and I know lots of women who don’t. I often have to push my male clients to stay upbeat and aggressive-yet-not to overcome the obstacle of pursuing women who take FOREVER to move things from conversation to action. (Thankfully, my awesome female clients tend to be the sort of women who don’t want to toy around indefinitely with the back and forth, which I suspect is part of why they seek me out in the first place.) I love that OKCupid’s founder is pushing people to overcome their many excuses and hurdles, and just get out and DATE!

There are some security issues, of course, but none that good common online dating safety can’t overcome. This is like a less Grindr-y version of geolocation dating apps; I think nudging people to use their online dating profiles to actually get out there and connect is awesome, especially if you’re lonely or antsy and haven’t made plans on a free night. I have to wonder if anyone will be taking advantage of this on Valentine’s Day… if so, I sure would love to hear how it goes! :)

Just remember, kids—hormones are fun and all, but setting up dates all super-speedy like this can lead to both parties taking things further physically  than either one intended. So just because you decide to go on a Crazy Blind Date, don’t necessarily hop in the sack if you wouldn’t otherwise feel ready. A date can be just a date (and an invitation to hop in the sack down the road if you click. Don’t worry, I DO want you to get some, just on your own terms).

And with that, have a lovely weekend!

Lessons from “Nice Guys of OKCupid”

OK, settle down, class. We’ve all seen the “Nice Guys of OKCupid” Tumblr at this point. Right? OK, just in case, here ya go. Basically, this Tumblr exists to point out certain types of hypocrisy and misogyny in certain publicly viewable online dating profiles. I don’t want to get into a whole mess of discussion about this phenomenon or these guys or sexism in profiles in general, because frankly, those people rarely become my clients. So let’s just take a minute to just sum up the basic lesson we can take away from this little phenomenon.

DON’T BE A NEGATIVE NELLY.

That’s it. Seriously. So simple. When you whine and complain about ANYTHING in your online dating profile, misogynistic or not,  you come off as a negative person who is likely not going to appeal to most singletons trying to find a romantic connection. Focusing on the positive really is a better tactic  (or if you must be a tiny bit negative, playful self-deprecation is your friend). Generally speaking, women tend to complain more than men in their profiles in a “you must have X and you must not be like Y” fashion, and men tend to do the self pity slash lashing out weirdly at the very women they wish to date thing. Both types of complaining are bad, folks. And moreover, just plain inefficient!

So repeat with me, class. Do we whine and bitch and moan in our online dating profiles? Everybody together: NO! Do we make jaded jabs at women or men that we haven’t even met yet, or make assumptions about their negative qualities when we know absolutely nothing about them? NO! What we do is, we write honestly and charmingly and humorously about ourselves while trying to remain flattering and forthright, and we put a little personality into it, and we trust that things will come together for us eventually if we attempt to reveal an actual glimpse into the best version of ourselves while remaining humble and optimistic. And maybe we book the help of an expert such as Virginia if we find the whole process overwhelming. ;)

In summary: Be nice! Love yourself! Love others! And never write the phrases “nice guy” or “friend zone” in any publicly viewable medium, ever! (I get a pass because I’m just one more person being whiny and complainy here, but I’m trying to help you. I swear I am.)

Love,

Virginia

Be specific!

I’ve been watching a lot of streaming TV on my iPad ever since I inherited it from Grant, and there’s this one eHarmony ad spot that keeps playing over and over. (I can’t find a link, so please comment if you can.) It’s with a tall blonde gal named Briana, and she says she’s looking for “a deep relationship” with someone who can “make [her] laugh,” and “who can have a great time with [her]” — and that’s it. Those are her qualifications. Argh! I know I’m a pickypants about this stuff because I’m an online dating consultant and all, but come on, Briana! Give us more than that. :)

The problem is, this may sound great on TV, but in a written profile it comes off as way too generic. EVERYONE on eHarmony is looking for a deep relationship, with someone who can make them laugh, and have a great time with them. That’s like saying you’re seeking a meal that is filling and nutritious and also tastes good. Not enough info!

So here’s my little Virginia Pro Tip, daters. ALWAYS be specific. List specific books or movies or musicians or comedians that you love. It’s so much clearer than just stating even a genre. Whenever possible, conjure up a specific image instead of just a bunch of general statements that could apply to most single people — other daters are usually quite bad at this, so you’ll totally stand out from the crowd AND give a better window into your personality!

Offline connections with online dating peeps

A few months ago I was unloading some empty boxes to a couple who also worked at Amazon and was about to move. We all carpooled to my house after work, and it came up in conversation that I was an online dating consultant. The gal was like, “Oh really!? I’m friends with the guy who founded Cupidtino!” That totally cracked me up; I’ve always chuckled over their Mac-fan-inspired online dating site, and I love that I now know an actual person who could put us in touch. And that interaction got me thinking… I actually have a few peeps in the online dating site development industry, too! I suppose that shouldn’t surprise you, but I do think it’s kind of funny that these are people I met through totally non-Lovebug-related avenues.

First off, there’s Zoosk. This is an awesome app and service that’s run by a pal of mine Shayan. I guess you could say we met in a proto-online-dating kind of way. Remember Orkut? He reached out to me on Orkut, and I was kind of brokenhearted over this other guy and not ready to date. I told Shayan so on our first pseudo-date, but we got along really well and we kept going on friend-dates over the next few months and explored lots of awesome Seattle cuisine along the way. We drifted after that and he moved down to the Bay Area, first to do some other start-up stuff and then to eventually found Zoosk. I love keeping tabs on his tech industry goings-on, and I’m excited to see what this interesting entrepreneur comes up with next. I think Zoosk started as more of a way to connect singles via networks like Facebook, but it’s a “Romantic Social Network [that] helps you boost your romantic life or help friends and family find romance in their lives.” Cute!

My other weird online dating start-up connection is Nick Soman of LikeBright. Nick and I went to high school together, and he was in my kind of geeky extended posse even though he was a year ahead of me. When I went to college on the east coast, my high school BFF Briana and I took a quick day trip to NYC before we road-tripped home. The very first café we set foot in contained Nick and a handful of other people from Bainbridge High School. (True story; I ran into three other people I knew that day in New York Freakin’ City.) Then several years later, I was working a contract in Amazon’s Kindle group, and I kept hearing about this awesome guy Nick Soman who had just quit his Amazon job to start up an online dating company. WHAT?!

So I had coffee with The Infamous Nick, whose start-up office is literally across the street from Amazon. He told me all about LikeBright, and we shared stories and insights and I swore up and down that I would totally write this blog post that I wrote like seven months later. Never too late, right? Anyway, I’m excited about a lot of the stuff LikeBright is doing because a) I know the awesome guy behind it, and b) I think they have the right approach to helping connect people who are a little skittish about online dating in general. He and I nerded out a little bit about how we view online dating and singles’ data, and we had a lot of opinion overlap. I think Nick and his business partner have a great perspective and are making a fantastic service that fosters trust and connection in a way that no other service has succeeded in doing yet. I kinda wish it had existed back when I was single, but then again, I wouldn’t have this satisfying consulting practice if it had all been easy for me!

Sexy home office AND wedding pics!

Man, I know I’m overdue with a Loveb.log post these days—for shame! It’s crazy that we’ve now lived in our gorgeous new home for over a year, yet I’ve never mentioned my home office or posted any pics. Clients! This is important! We no longer have to meet at a Starbucks where every other patron’s ears are burning with questions about your love life!

The amazing Erin over at House of Turquoise featured my home office on her lovely blog, and I’m grateful for the chance to share and get feedback from her savvy and helpful readers. Pop on over and take a peek, or check out this lil’ preview:

And can you believe it’s never occurred to me until now that you guys might wanna see my wedding photos? I mean, to be fair, my husband Grant is truly my best sales story, and we met on CRAIGSLIST of all places. If that’s not a can-do online dating consultant, I don’t know what is! Anyway, pics (and a preview of one of my faves):

Enjoy, and have a lovely post-holiday weekend!

Bryn Mawr love!

I really should’ve blogged about this ages ago — I’m terribly delinquent in my Loveblogging. (Does it make it better if I tell you that it’s because most of my writing energy is going into thinking about turning my online dating advice into a book? Let’s hope yes.)

Back in March (GOD I’m delinquent) I was interviewed by the fabulous Alicia Bessette in the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, in a series about Mawrters who work in the Internet age. Alicia did a great job, and I just love that BMC profiled different, emerging types of professions in this strangely digital age. Like a sap, I’m totally getting the print copy framed for my Lovebug office.

Yes, an office! I’m remiss in not showing it off here — but I still have a little furniture-enhancing to do. Pics soon, I promise! For now, enjoy the Mawrticle (see what I did there?) and happy dating. ♥