Online dating is a chance to weed out some of the people that might otherwise waste an evening of your life. Keep an eye out for these red flags to make the most of every in-person meeting.
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I have something of a love/hate relationship with online dating. I love the convenience it gives me, allowing me to learn more about someone before deciding if I want to even talk to them. But I also hate how easy it is for people to put up a faade and hide important things.
As easy as it is for someone to pretend to be something they?re not online, it?s not impossible for you to suss out those who are probably trying to hide something. So what red flags should you be looking for when you?re dating online?
Whether you?re on OKCupid, Bumble, Tinder, or others, these are the things I look at.
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Lack of photos
If they have no photos at all, that?s a huge red flag. Unless they?re a Secret Service agent, some kind of super top-secret military personnel, or something along the same lines, there?s no reason to not show their face. And let?s be real ? the number of people who have some kind of top-secret job is pretty small.
But it?s not just a complete lack of photos. If they have photos, but none of them are of their face, that?s a red flag. If they have a bunch of group photos with no individual photos and they don?t identify who they are in the group, that?s also a red flag ? they are clearly trying to make sure you don?t know what they look like. Ask yourself why.
Other photo tricks that raise a red flag for me include using filters on all their photos, photos that are clearly of them when they were many years younger (and perhaps not as heavy, wrinkled, or gray?), and photos that are inconsistent. Inconsistent photos are ones that vary in age, or where a man sometimes has a beard and sometimes doesn?t (or if you?re looking for women, ones where she?s sometimes a blonde, sometimes a redhead, and sometimes a brunette) ? these are red flags because you don?t know what to expect. You might be pleasantly surprised or utterly horrified.
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Limited or no bio
When they don?t bother to fill out anything at all in the bio, I won?t even give it a second glance. If you can?t find the time to fill out even one thing on a dating profile, you don?t have time for a relationship.
A limited bio isn?t any better. While not every section of the bio requires a fully researched college essay, most are better with at least a couple of sentences. And some sections, like a ?Who I am? or ?What I?m looking for? need more than just a couple of sentences. You?re trying to find a romantic partner! Not filling out the bio is like applying for a job without filling out the application or sending in a resume.
If they?re not willing to put in the effort of giving me a glimpse into who they are so that I can decide whether or not I?m interested in them, I refuse to put in the effort of trying to pull that information out of them.
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The bio is a long list of don?t?s
?Don?t message me if you?re not at least 5?5?. Don?t message me if you?re overweight. I don?t like brunettes. If you don?t like dogs, hot wings, or football, just leave me alone.?
We?ve all seen them: the bio that?s just a big block of what they don?t want. It?s pretty obvious they know what they don?t want ? but what do they want?
It?s not too difficult to figure out why they?ve done this, and why it?s a red flag: there?s clearly a lot of bitterness there over old relationships. Whether it?s what they wanted and didn?t get, thought they had and then found out it wasn?t real, or they?re still pining for someone they?re hoping to replace with a lookalike, you don?t want to get tangled up in it.
We all list a handful of don?t?s in our profiles. We don?t want a smoker, or we don?t want someone who doesn?t like pets because we?ve got 5 dogs and 3 cats, or we already have kids so anyone who doesn?t want kids need not apply. But if that list is all they can come up with to write about when they?re looking for someone to date, they might not be ready to date. They might want to look for the site where they can be matched with a good therapist to help them work through their issues instead.
Another version of this is the one where they trash a whole gender, race, etc. All men are cheaters, or all women are golddiggers, etc. If they?re unable to separate one bad experience from an entire segment of the population, they?re going to blame you for things you?ve never even done. Who needs that?
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A bio that?s too good to be true
Great job, gorgeous house, expensive car, lavish vacations, always having a good time and living a grand life. Sweet, charming, funny, intelligent, kind, compassionate and generous to a fault. They?re everything you ? and every other single person out there ? has been looking for. They are that elusive perfect person, that unicorn that everyone wants to find.
Why the hell would that be a red flag?
Well, think about it for a minute. If they?re so incredible, so perfect, and have such an amazing life? why are they still single? There are really only two reasons why they?re still single:
Mr. or Ms. Perfect is looking for Ms. or Mr. Perfect themselves and failing to find a second unicorn
The bio isn?t entirely true
Which one do you think is more likely? Sure, it?s possible that this person really does exist and really is that great, and they?re just looking for someone as wonderful as they are. But it?s much more probable that who they really are is much less incredible and they?re not living a life even remotely close to what they present.
We all want to put our best foot forward on a dating site, so you shouldn?t expect to see them spilling all their dirty laundry. But if you don?t let yourself be blinded and you pay enough attention, you can tell the difference between someone putting their best foot forward and someone lying through their teeth and hoping it will lure you in.
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Their first message calls you babe, sexy, beautiful, etc.
This happens more to women than to men, I think, but it can easily apply to both. You get that first message from a match, and you?re excited. Then you open it, and it says, ?Hey beautiful!? or ?Hi gorgeous!? or ?You?ve got such a sexy smile.?
And just like that, your balloon pops and you?re left holding a ribbon that flutters toward the ground.
There are several problems with this. First is they have no idea how you feel about being called those little pet names. For me personally, I don?t mind it from someone I?m seriously dating, or from a friend calling me sweetie or babe, but anyone else bugs me.
Second is that it sets the wrong tone. Things like sexy, beautiful, gorgeous, etc., give the impression that your looks are the only attraction. If your looks are the only attraction for them, then they?re probably just looking for something physical.
The last, and perhaps biggest, problem is that it doesn?t use your name. Many sites now allow you to put your first name. Even if they don?t, you have a visible username. Whether they call you by your actual name or your username, at least it shows they paid attention to you as an individual. When they call you babe, sexy, etc., it first shows they didn?t take the time to get your name. Down the road, if they still don?t call you by your name, it could mean they use the pet names as a way to avoid getting names wrong among the many people they?re talking to.
Whichever of these is the reason, it doesn?t bode well for a future with this person.
Image by PDPics from Pixabay
Bad grammar with no explanation
I?m a writer, so I?ll admit that bad grammar can get under my skin no matter where it is. But I can overlook a misspelled word, a missing period, or a slash that was clearly supposed to be a question mark.
When a profile is filled with misspelled words, missing or incorrect punctuation, and poorly structured sentences, that?s a huge red flag to me ? and it should be to you too, even if you?re not a writer.
This one comes with a disclaimer, though. Sometimes they have bad grammar because English isn?t their first language. They might have moved here from another country and only learned English as an adult. They might have grown up with a family who only spoke another language and still struggle with using English correctly. They might have a learning disability that significantly hinders their ability to write well.
But if that?s the case, you?ll usually see something that clarifies that. They?ll flat out say something like, ?Please excuse my mistakes. I have a learning disability/grew up in Poland/lived with my grandma who only let me speak Spanish.? Or they?ll tell a little story that clues you in.
If their profile is just littered with bad grammar and nothing that explains it, there?s a good chance it?s a scammer hoping to take advantage of you.
And even if it?s not, imagine trying to carry on a conversation with them. I don?t know about you, but I wouldn?t last two minutes with someone who tells me, ?I sale boats for a living,? instead of, ?I sell boats for a living.?
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One-word answers when chatting
?How was your day?? ?Fine.?
?What are you looking for here?? ?A relationship.?
?What kind of music do you like?? ?All kinds.?
One to two words in every response is not just annoying, but also show a total lack of interest in the conversation. If you ask how their day was, they can say fine, but if they?re interested in talking, they?ll share a story or two or ask how your day was. They?ll give you details about what kind of relationship they want or give you the names of their favorite bands when you ask about music.
Short answers like that are a waste of time for both of you. You can certainly try asking questions that require more words to make sure it?s not you but don?t waste a lot of time on this.
Another problem here is when they take forever to come back with those short answers. If it takes them two days to reply, they?re not that interested. In fact, given that most online dating sites also have apps that notify you when you get matches or messages, if it takes them more than a few hours, you might want to reconsider. While an immediate response isn?t always reasonable, more than about eight hours is too long for a word or two. And if you see that they?re online between when you sent the message and when they responded, without replying? Write them off.
I would love to hear what your red flags are when you use online dating sites!