Learning from NYC’s most popular singles

NY Magazine ran a fascinating interview with NYC’s four most popular OkCupid members—a straight gal, a straight guy, a gay gal, and a gay guy. Check out these (clearly highly stylized) swanky portraits:

New York's most popular singles on OKC

Don’t get too intimidated by their hotness! Remember that even though these ARE the most popular NYC profiles in their demographics, they were still all dolled up for a professional photo shoot here. Images from NY Mag.

I urge you to read the entire piece. It’s fun! But if you want to skip right to the practical takeaways, here are the tactics we can steal from these sought-after singles.

Put  effort into your photos.

Striking pictures that capture attention are going to give you an edge over your competition. And you can get great sexy photos without showing too much. I mean, just look at these four.

Don’t be vulgar

Even if you’re after casual sex, being vulgar or explicit often backfires. (This is different on sites that are more geared towards the explicit, like Adult Friend Finder; be contextually aware.) Realistically, I doubt the people who take on this approach are seeking out advice on how to refine their online dating game, but it seemed worth mentioning if I reach just ONE gross messager.

Love thyself; embrace thy base stats

It’s fine to be curvy! Or bearded, or not bearded, or tall, or shorter—you can totally own your physical traits even if they don’t conform to certain super-narrow attractiveness heuristics. There are certain situations where something might work against you, but you can help by making sure people know what they’re getting into, and seeking out people who are likely to dig you just as you are. (Note that Thomas decided listing his height worked better than failing to mention it, but he still targeted guys who were similarly shorter. I do occasionally advise straight guys to be cagey about listing their height, but I have them do this in tandem with seeking shorter women.)

Flesh out the details

Mention those eclectic interests or that atypical family background. Details like that help flesh you out as a whole person, and not just another profile.

Snappy usernames win

MyTiesAreSkinny may be the most apt username I’ve ever observed in the wild! (I’d have to meet the guy to confirm, though.) Every single one of these folks has an evocative, interesting username that tells you something about them as a person, or at least captures your interest. None of them are meaningless strings of initials and digits. More username help here.

Message thoughtfully

It’s OK to have a system for how you message people—but you should be playful, and tailor it to each recipient, and make it SEEM more thoughtful. It should never seem like your message was something you copied and pasted or reused. Even fairly innocuous templates like “Hi there! I see that you’re into _____ (detail from profile); wanna grab a bite of ______(food from profile) and see if we have anything in common?” is too formulaic these days. It worked OK in like 2009, but now it feels boilerplate. So you have to get more creative as the medium matures.

Learn the rules, THEN break a few

Some profiles are going to break a few of the rules. If you’re hot and fascinating and articulate enough, you can get away with, say, not showing a full-body shot. It helps if your profile offers other proof—if you talk at length about cycling and fitness, readers can better trust that you have a great body without having to see proof. But the way to break rules is to be awesome overall.

Humor works

It’s effective to pepper your profile with jokes. Sure, not every single profile is going to be humorous, but they help a LOT at breaking the ice and keeping the reader interested.

Cast a wide net, but act on your best prospects

Swipe left a lot on Tinder. Rate profiles highly on OkCupid. It’s OK to only start conversations with the promising matches first, but being open minded about generating that initial interest is key. (Most people are not perfectly encapsulated by whatever your first impression of them was anyway, be it a picture or a username or a match percentage or anything else.)


This is something that doesn’t always come easily to me, as a writer—which is part of why I like the constraints of Twitter. Here’s how NYC’s most popular gay guy puts it (emphasis mine):

“I’m going to a website, literally, when I visit your profile, and, odds are, your website is boring,” he says. “There’s nothing more off-putting than just a block of text. We live in a 140-character world. Easy to digest is what we’re going for.”

Profile pics need to pop!

Ditch that blurry group photo that barely shows us what you look like, and replace it with something with more personality. The Tyra Banks anecdote is funny, and a little rule-breaking—it’s OK for it to be a shot with more than one person, because a) Tyra is not his competition, and b) Tyra is immediately recognizable to the target audience so her presence makes his photo as quirky and fun as an offbeat facial expression would.

Don’t sweat the camera (to a point)

iPhone photos work just as well as professionally shot high-res ones, if the photo is thoughtful in terms of composition, intrigue, lighting, etc. (Crappy grainy old-school cell phone pics, however, are not OK—they make people think the pic is outdated.)

Ignore the red/yellow/green light

That stupid red or green message response indicator is more frustrating than it is helpful, because it’s one more metric for singles to over-analyze and feel like they have to game—so OkCupid should ditch it already. OK, this last one is a tip for OkCupid, not for you guys. 😛

Oh wait, here’s the MOST important one:

Being attractive or in demand does not necessarily mean instant romantic bliss.

Relationships can be hard to find; connection is subtle; chemistry is important; popularity is not everything; an onslaught of vulgar attention or an excess of options are sometimes just as frustrating as no romantic leads at all.

So please, everyone: no more assuming your hot friend has it easier than you, or is in a happier relationship than you. And definitely no more men assuming that women have it easier with online dating/dating in general, and no more straight people assuming that gay people have it easier.

This shit is tough for all of us; that’s why I’m here. Don’t lose hope if online dating hasn’t been working for you. A combination of self awareness, tweaks based on your experiences thus far, and patience to keep at it will help you out in the long run. But call me if you want a boost. 🙂

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