Here’s your scientific guide to navigating the online dating landscape

Whether you’re thinking of plunging into the eHarmony world for the first time, or whether you’re looking to up your OKCupid game, if you want to find your perfect first date, you may be trying to figure out how to master the art of online dating. Or, rather, the science of online dating, as researchers have proven to us.

Recently, researchers Khalid S. Khan and Sameer Chaudhry boiled down a whopping 4,000 studies on online dating to 86 strong scientific papers that noted how certain online dating patterns led to a first date. Studying everything from profile pics to descriptions to private messages, the scientists found one particular pattern that helps people land a date, and before you get panicky, the science of online dating points to something we can all do: be ourselves.

Here is the ultimate guide, from choosing your screen name to chatting with your potential love, that can help you navigate the ever-tricky world of OKCupid and other online dating sites.

Picking your screen name

Don’t just throw any old letters together, because your screen name matters! First of all, make sure to make it start with a letter that is in the first half of the alphabet. Studies have found that this gives you a leg-up, likely because of alphabetical search engines. Secondly, don’t put yourself down in your screen name! You can show off that self-deprecating sense of humor when you start chatting, because it’s important to give a confident first impression.

The researchers also noted that guys have most success when they use screen names that signify intellectual prowess, while women have most success when they use screen names that suggest beauty, but take that with a grain of salt, because you should BE YOURSELF.

Choosing your photos

For your profile picture, don’t choose a brooding, smoldering pic. Instead, use a headshot with a real, crinkle-up-your-eyes smile! Will also help if your head is tilted slightly, and if you’re wearing red — at least for women, according to the study.

That said, for your gallery, you should have group shots that show you having a blast with friends and family. Bonus points if you’re in the middle of the photo rather than in the periphery, and if you’re playfully touching someone on the upper arm, because this suggests that you are of a higher status than the person you’re touching.

Writing your description

This one is all about balance. Don’t focus entirely on yourself, but certainly don’t focus only on your ideal partner. Make your description 70% about yourself and 30% about your ideal partner. But the most important part? Keep it funny and keep it REAL. If you lie in your dating profile, you probably won’t be successful, according to research.

Private messaging

OK, here’s where we get into the real stuff. You’re messaging someone you’re totally interested in — this can’t possibly be a matter of science, right? Wrong. Don’t give the subject of your interest a cheesy pick-up line. Instead, ask them an open-ended question that will start dialogue. For example: “What did you like about my profile?” Sounds kinda weird, but think about it: It encourages multiple back-and-forths and also a swapping of compliments.

Also, keep it mysterious. Don’t put up a wall or be a jerk, of course, but keep their interest by making the other person not so sure how you feel about them — at least, at first. But that said, you can still be eager. In fact, giving personal info during the first conversation is actually a turn-on! Just make sure to end every conversation on a positive note, and remember that you shouldn’t agree with everything the other person says (like saying you LOOOVE the Beatles as well when you actually hate them), but don’t deliver outright criticism. Again, in essence, be yourself and be honest, but kind and respectful.

Video chatting

Many may avoid this realm entirely, at least at first, because LBH: video chatting can be ultra awkward. But it doesn’t have to be, because science! Again, it comes down to acting like a regular human: Just make sure to use body language and gestures and change of the pitch of your voice (because it’s not natural to sit on your hands and stare straight ahead while speaking in a monotone robot voice, and people tend to find all of those things off-putting). Another thing? If you spill your drink mid-conversation, don’t be embarrassed, because that can actually help you make a good video chat connection, apparently! (Just don’t do it on your computer, since that could kill the conversation by, you know, breaking your computer.)

Oh, science. How we love you. For more tips, check out the whole study here.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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