Dear Tell All: A few months ago, you wrote a column about online dating sites ("Nerd Seeking Nerd," 10/29/09). Do you have any advice for creating an effective profile? I'm not the greatest writer and I'm a little shy about posting my picture on the web.
Dear Available: Your online profile is your opportunity to sell yourself; your big chance to make yourself sound as exciting and interesting as possible. So you have to think like a marketer.
Take a product like Spam, for example. Spam has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. At best, it's a poor excuse for a salt lick. But if you check out their website, they've somehow managed to turn Spam into something hip and cool, like a happenin' friend you'd love to hang out with. There are slogans like "crazy tasty" and "make lunchtime happy-time." There's a Spam fan club, a Spam museum, even a Spam shop filled with Spam products: Spam flip-flops, Spam air fresheners, a Spam bobber and a Spam three-legged pig, which frankly, startles me. I mean, you've got to wonder what happened to that fourth leg. I don't want to spam you with Spam, but there's even an adult section, which is presumably where you'd go if the site made you so excited that you wanted to be more than just friends.
So when you're writing your profile, don't be afraid to use a little marketing spin. Be yourself - don't outright lie - but play to your strengths. If you're an insomniac, say you enjoy taking moonlit walks. If you have a touch of ADD and the emotional maturity of an 8-year-old, say you have childlike exuberance. If your friends call you Reeko because of your persistent gas, say you're known for your effervescent personality.
By all means, include a photo. The authors of "Freakonomics" cite a study that analyzed over 30,000 profiles on mainstream dating sites. They discovered that a man who doesn't include a photo gets only a quarter of the responses of a man who does, and a woman without a photo gets only one-sixth. As they put it, "A low-income, poorly educated, unhappily employed, not-very-attractive, slightly overweight and balding man who posts his photo stands a better chance of gleaning some emails than a man who says he makes $200,000 and is deadly handsome but doesn't post a photo."
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.