In six months I have dated ten people. I’m either doing really well, or really terribly, depending on what way you look at my progress. I’m gonna go with terribly.

You see, I never did understand dating. It’s an alien concept to me, I suspect because I have little patience for entertaining the irrational notions of people who think it’s ok to compromise my feelings at a whim. Now that more and more relationships are being started up online, the game is even more different. Suddenly, people are faces in a shop window waiting to be picked, probed and whisked away to see how compatible they are. It’s very much a game of chance as it is a game of social skill.

plenty-of-fish
I’m really bored of this logo, now I think about it

I’ve found myself being entertained by the many men of Plenty Of Fish – a free dating app widely known and used, and more established than Tinder (for the time being). But there are catches. Here’s a few things I’ve learnt whilst out fishing.

Put effort into your profile

There’s nothing more off-putting than liking the look of someone, clicking their picture and finding they’ve only written “loves going out” in their bio box (going out? Out where? Clubbing? Pubbing? To the corner shop for a loaf and 20 Marlborough Lights? WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?) and their First Date suggestion is just “Somewhere”. Having no idea whether this person is up for taking you to McDonalds or Malaga kinda makes you not want to chance it. After all, someone so lacklustre with their dating profile probably serves as a lacklustre date. Unimpressive.

Making your basic details and expectations easy to glean is also helpful to you, not just the person checking you out. If someone’s thinking about dropping you a message, give them an idea of what you’re about so that if you’re not each other’s cup of tea, you can gauge that early on and no one’s time is wasted. Oh, and while we’re at it, treat any profiles with just one picture on them with caution (even more-so if that single picture is a selfie cutting out much of their actual features).

That said, perhaps refrain from writing your entire life’s story eh? We don’t need to know your family’s medical history until at least date five.

“Intent” is not the be-all-and-end-all

I have made the mistake of taking the “Looking For” and “Intent” sections of boy’s profiles very literally. I forget that 1) there are liars around, and with Plenty Of Fish being the UK’s biggest free dating app, there’s no reason for hit-it-and-quit-it boys to come across as being more nurturing than they really are. 2) Nothing that takes a combination of emotional, physical and mental involvement will ever be set in stone. 

If you’re looking for something long-term, then it’s advisable to message those with the same intent. But don’t put all your trust in that. This is ultimately still the traditional dating game after all, and whilst I don’t  for a second profess to know what the rules of it are, I’ve come to find that your own judgement and intuition are still your greatest dating assets. Use them as your guide to whether you want to devote your time to this guy/girl, not the setting of their POF profile.

Be picky

Following nicely on from that, unless you have endless money, time and resilience, be picky about who you go out with. It’s more likely that us girls will be the ones with the overflowing inbox as there a deficit of ladies on the majority of dating sites, meaning there’s less choice for the guys. If you haven’t clicked with a guy after a few messages, perhaps consider moving on instead of putting both of you through an awkward date. I shamelessly judge those who message me on ALL of the following criteria to inform my decision about whether we go on a date or not:

  • Warm demeanour 
  • SOMETHING to discuss or debate about, even if we don’t share the same opinion
  • Physical attraction. I hate the shallowness of this. But it’s applied to real life so may as well be applied here – would you go on a date with someone you met in a bar that you weren’t attracted to at all? No. So what’s the point in doing it here?
  • Correct grammar and spelling. See above point on shallowness translating into real life.

It’s easy to forget that though it’s flattering when someone messages you, sending a message isn’t difficult. Many of them are copy and pasting. Go out with someone you actually think you’re going to like, not someone who has nothing interesting to say but is quite pretty. You’ll save yourself much time, rejection and cash.

Messaging

I don’t reply to messages that just say “Hi”. I’ve laid myself out on a dating plate here and constructed a profile that gives away just enough about me to be alluring but not so much that you feel like you may as well propose immediately for all the mystery that’s left. If I’m gonna get out of my fleecy Primark dressing gown, put on a dress and drag my arse across the city to meet you, I expect at least to be asked how I am or how I came to be here.

Likewise, first impressions count. For the sake of knowing you put for best foot forward, pick something from your potential messagee’s profile to talk about, and do your best with a wholesome conversation. If they can’t get on with that, they’re probably a lost cause anyway. Move on.

Get out on a date – pronto

Found someone you like? Conversation flowing? Ok, time to flick it up a notch. Suggest going out for a drink/breakfast/safari and see if they want to switch numbers. Once, you’ve done that, sort out a date. Don’t spend six months texting them, getting used to the routine then being sad when they continue to flake out on you.

If you’ve ever seen the MTV series Catfish, you’ll know it’s scarily easy to think you know someone just because they text you at the same time every morning. Make all of your judgements in real life. If this one turns out to be a dead end, the good news is that someone else has probably messaged you in the meantime. Back to POF you go.

 

My personal experience of Plenty Of Fish in the last six month has, I guess, been reasonably positive, although each relationship I’ve entered into has inevitably ended in unpleasant rejection for either them or me. But then, my best friend joined POF for three days, dated one guy and now he’s her long-term boyfriend. It’s a total lottery. 

I can’t give you the formula for meeting the most genuine bachelor or bachelorette out there. But what I can tell you is that is all a lot less heartbreaking if you stay safe, take it easy and keep your morals close. That’s the best way to go fishing.

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