Throughout recorded history, introverted guys have dreaded asking girls out. It's just the way we're built. But if you think it's tough to make a romantic gesture today, you should be glad you don't live in the technologically-challenged past. Guys used to have to physically approach females and, you know, talk to them to get dates.
This method took courage and required the guy to open himself up to rejection. It also favored extroverted guys, leaving many shy people alone on Friday nights.
Thankfully, technology has softened that dreaded first step. Online dating is here to help.
Pick a dating site
Hundreds of dating sites have popped up in recent years, but they're not all created equal. A site's usefulness largely hinges on how many members it has, so your best bet is to pick a popular one. Which site to use depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
If you want a serious girlfriend, use a pay site.
The best thing about pay sites is that the membership price weeds out people who aren't serious about finding a partner. Pay sites also tend to collect more information about you and use more advanced matchmaking algorithms.
According to Google, Match and eHarmony are the leading pay sites. Match has the most members, and it lets you browse without paying (however, you have to pay to interact with people). eHarmony is known for their personality-based matchmaking, and they keep their member profiles behind a paywall.
If you just want to meet some singles, use a free site.
Free sites have the obvious benefit of not costing any money, so they're a good choice for people who are just dabbling in online dating.
The top free sites are Plenty of Fish and OK Cupid. These sites are less polished than their paid counterparts, but they can still lead to dates. Plenty of Fish has the most users, while OK Cupid does more on the matchmaking front.
How to create a profile that will get you dates
Once you've decided which site to join, it's time to create your profile page. Every site has its own list of questions to guide you through the process, but two things remain consistent: you'll have to upload pictures and write a blurb about yourself.
For introverts, trying to advertise yourself to the opposite sex may sound about as appealing as a kick to the kidneys, but it's a necessary part of the process. Here are some tips.
Include quality photos.
In online dating, your profile picture is your first impression. It's the first glimpse potential matches will have of you, so a lot's on the line here. Post a good picture, and they'll look closer; post a bad one, and they'll move on.
Your main profile picture should adhere to a few guidelines. First, you should be the only person in the photo, so no friends, no females, and not even pets. Also, no weird camera angles or sunglasses or hats. The picture should show you clearly, with the upper half or so of your body for context. You should be fully clothed, dressed well, and smiling. If you can't find any pictures that fit the bill, have a friend snap a new one and use that.
Once you have your profile picture, you'll want to post a few additional pictures to the site. Stay away from shirtless photos and pictures of you with lots of beautiful women, because those are big turn-offs to most girls. A picture of you and your buddies is nice, because it indicates that you have friends. If you have a fun hobby like mountain climbing or kayaking, throw in one of those pictures. If you have more than one picture of you drinking, women will think you're a lush.
For the written portion of your profile, think about it from her perspective
Women are not the mysterious, baffling creatures pop culture often makes them out to be. When you boil it down, women want the same general things we want out of life: safety, comfort, fun, companionship, and a bright future. Accordingly, these are the ideas you'll want to reflect in the written portion of your profile.
If you're a regular reader of Primer, you're already a step ahead, because you're the kind of guy women are looking for. You strive to be an upstanding member of your community, and you try to better yourself every day. You care about your appearance, your career, and the morality of your actions. All you have to do is put this across in your profile.
So talk about the things you're passionate about. If you've landed your dream job, feel free to gush about it. If your hobbies are important to you, share your excitement about them. Be vivacious, and most importantly, be positive.
Know what to leave out
On the other hand, you don't want to sound too extreme. Political and religious views should be saved for after you've met the person. You should also leave out any negative baggage you've acquired over the course of your dating life, so don't write things like, “I can't stand it when girls…” or “Women are always after my money…”
You want to be honest in your profile, but not superfluously honest. A friend of mine who met her future husband on Match.com said she was glad he didn't mention his Star Wars toy collection in his profile, because it would have made her think twice about going on a date with him. Some details are best kept to yourself until you get to know her better. Other details may come across as more important to you than they are, which may scare off people who don't share that same intensity.
When you're done writing your profile, have a female friend read it and give you feedback. She'll let you know if it looks appealing, and what to change.
The phrase “online dating” is really a misnomer. Nothing you do on a site like eHarmony actually qualifies as dating. The goal of online dating is to set up real-life dates. That's what dating is. To do that, you need to pick a handful of potential matches and send out messages.
When picking out women to message, it's important to be realistic about your opportunities. If you're a 6 on the looks scale, don't just send messages to 10s. You should be honest about your own level of appeal, and message women in that same ballpark. It's also important to send out notes to several people at a time, so you're not putting all of your hopes on one message that may or may not get a reply.
To determine what to include in your messages, let's go back into the female perspective. In any first-date scenario, the woman is putting a lot more on the line than the man is. That's because guys are generally taller, stronger, and more likely to commit acts of violence than women. That means your messages need to sound innocuous. They shouldn't contain anything sexual, cocky, or overly forthcoming. Even calling a girl “cutie” is off-putting.
Confidence is great, and women are attracted to confident guys, but go easy on it in your messages. Sound humble. Sound interested in her. Mention common interests you found in her profile. That's what's appealing to women in print. You don't want to be bland, but you don't want to raise any red flags, either. It can be a fine line to walk.
If you get a reply, don't delay responding. Nothing makes a girl lose interest like waiting a week to hear back from you, especially if she's getting messages from others.
If you hit it off with a woman over messaging, you need to escalate the interaction at a steady pace. Many women are put off by a guy who moves too fast or too slow, so it's a good idea to go from messaging to texting to a phone call before you actually meet her. That lets the two of you feel closer before meeting for the first time.
Go get 'em, tiger
Here's where I have to level with you. Everything we just went over is the easy part. Online dating can help ease you into a first date, but no matter how shy you are, you still have to dress up, be fun to talk to, and have a good time regardless of how uncomfortable you might feel inside.
But that really hard first step of asking a girl out? You've got that covered.