I have been using the internet to communicate with other gay guys my age since I was fourteen-years-old. What started as a means to explore my curiosities in the privacy of my bedroom has matured into a means by which I have met romantic partners. In the early days of internet dating you were warned not to share too much detail about your life for fear of being taken advantage of but as we have become more comfortable with this digital medium we are more open to sharing our phone numbers, private pictures, personal stories and even our home addresses.

When I was eighteen I signed up for one of the few gay dating sites that existed at the time. The internet was the only access I had to the big gay world but because I was still in the closet I was reluctant to use a real profile picture for fear of being outed. Like many other questioning, young gay guys, I established a false profile, using an image that I found online. I created an alluring persona of the ideal “straight-acting”, high school jock and used this disguise to communicate with other guys. Luckily though, I quickly realized the pointlessness in pretending to be someone you are not, both digitally and in real life. Although my fake profile allowed me to comfortably chat to other gay guys (something I could not do while I was still in school) I knew that these relationships would never eventuate into anything more than an internet fling. I deleted my accounts and stopped using the internet for chatting until I was comfortable enough to establish a profile that reflected the real me, with genuine pictures included.

Since then I have met some great guys through dating websites and apps. Along the way I have also learnt some valuable lessons about online dating, the most important of which is honesty. Pretending to be someone that you are not is pointless in the long run. Sure it may allow you to escape the reality of your life in the moment but ultimately it’s a dead end and people inevitably are hurt. I also strongly believe that we should only be in relationships with people who love us for who we are and not for who we think they want us to be. The best way to attract these people into your life is to be honest from day one, and this means being honest in your online profile too. Exaggerating your height, body type or income may increase the views on your profile but what happens when you meet your love interest in person and he realizes that you are not a six-foot-two footballer with a six-figure salary? Such superficial things as body type and salary should not even matter in a loving relationship but they will become an issue if you have lied about them from the start.

While honesty is certainly the most important rule in online dating, here is a list of 7 practical ways to improve your online profile that will hopefully lead to happily ever after.

  1. Use a face picture in your profile – While sunsets are beautiful and headless torsos are nice to look at, when it comes to online dating people want to see who they are talking to.
  2. Use a recent picture – take down that hot picture of yourself from Mykonos in 1998 and put up something recent. Sooner or later you are going to have to tell your potential date that you’ve put on some weight, lost your hair and don’t fit into your speedos anymore.
  3. Complete all fields within your profile – online dating is not the place to be mysterious and coy. People want to know the facts. Leaving important fields blank such as your age and what you’re looking for will make it harder for you to attract the right guys.
  4. Complete all fields within reason – while it’s important to complete all fields as per point number three, remember to keep it relatively brief. Nobody has the time to read your autobiography while cruising the hundreds of profiles online. If your profile looks like the opening chapters of a Tolstoy novel then you probably should do some serious editing.
  5. Don’t use profile pictures of you with your friends – you may think that uploading a picture of you in between two of your best looking straight friends will increase your desirability but the opposite is true. You’ll just end up with guys yearning after your hot mates.
  6. Distinguish yourself from others – think of an interesting anecdote or a humorous story that reflects your personality to include in your “about me” section. This will help you stand out from all those other profiles that feature way too many adjectives.
  7. Avoid being racist/ageist/discriminatory – if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it in person then don’t put it in your profile. Racism and various other forms of discrimination disguised as “just my personal taste” is no excuse.

And remember to always be nice to others. We’re all online for various reasons but in the end we’re just trying to find someone to love. Let’s make that journey a little easier for one another while not forgetting to have fun.

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