Online dating
  • Dating apps can be tricky - I definitely wasn't getting the most out of the experience. According to the Knot, 19% of brides reported meeting their future spouse online in 2017.
  • To get some help, I spoke with relationship expert April Masini, who took over my profile and re-vamped it to help me get more meaningful connections on Hinge.
  • She also gave me some pointers about how to keep a conversation going when it might be dying out a little too quickly.
  • For more stories go to Business Insider South Africa.

Dating apps and online dating in general are continuing to gain users. There's almost an overwhelming amount of options out there, and that's just choosing which apps to use, let alone picking someone to actually go out with. I, myself, was having little success in the online dating world.

So, to gain some clarity on what I could be doing better, I turned to April Masini, a dating and relationship etiquette expert. Clearly, I needed some help.

Here's what my profile looked like before, was I doing it right?

Here are some screenshots of my profile before I spoke with Masini.

  • I do get a lot of responses about the "emo kid phase" prompt - turns out lots of people appreciate Fall Out Boy's 2005 masterpiece "From Under the Cork Tree." But the conversation usually fizzles out after that. I was curious to see if Masini would have advice for keeping conversations going.
  • I'm also holding a beer in that first photo - I'm 23, no big deal - but it's still unclear what the rules are regarding drinking on social media. Plenty of people are still scandalized by the idea of having a photo with alcohol in it, while others have become de-sensitized. Hinge does give you the option of checking off whether or not you're interested in people who drink, so maybe having a drink in a photo is okay?
  • Surprisingly, a lot of people also relate to "Sexy Can I" being a timeless bop. But again, the conversation fizzles out. I definitely needed a professional's opinion.
  • Masini's initial words of advice: first impressions count

  • "Your profile is your first contact with someone who could be your life partner," Masini said. "As in everything, first impressions count, so give some thought to your profile photos." In that vein, I asked just how acceptable selfies are. I have a few on my profile.
  • "If you want to project a casual image, then use a selfie," she said. "If you want to give the impression of someone who is a perfectionist, have your photos professionally done. Selfies aren't right or wrong - but they project an image you should be sure you want."
  • I decided to keep at least one of my selfies on my profile, since I'm definitely not trying to give off a "perfectionist" vibe.

Generally speaking, Masini continued, "your profile is an ad. It's meant to make someone want to learn more about you, so keep that in mind when you're creating an online profile. And think of your [first lines] for the profile as a newspaper title. Be unique. Grab attention."

I decided I was going to keep candid picture of me laughing, as shown above, and my first quote about my "emo kid phase." Those describe me pretty well, and have already been getting me plenty of responses.

And my beer-holding photo?

"It's definitely okay to have photos with alcohol if alcohol is part of your life. Remember, you're advertising yourself to someone, and if you want to post a photo of yourself at a Champagne brunch, or a winery tasting room, or having a beer at a barbecue - and that's part of who you are - then post away!"

Dating apps are a visual medium: photos should be both face andfull-body shots

Now it was time to consider what needed changing. Masini explained that, for better or worse, dating apps are primarily a visual medium. She recommended that photos be "both face AND full-length/full-body shots," and that I should have as many photos as possible to give someone a complete picture of who I am.

So, two new full-body shots (the above!) were added.

I also asked about the protocol for having photos with other people, as opposed to just solo shots.

Masini explained, "the assumption is that you have friends. So, therefore, you don't need to show those friends in your profile pictures." If you're generally a social person, however, it's "natural to have photos of yourself at these events with others."

No false advertising

In the spirit of full transparency, I also took out the photo of me with my old, red hair. I don't look like that anymore!

"No false advertising. No misleading photos," Masini told me, "Why would you set yourself up for rejection? It will kill your confidence and tick off the person you've mislead. So keep it honest."

Plus, I think that new photo is funny (above on the right), and shows my sense of humor, which is important to me, and selling your trueself is what's key about dating profiles.

I asked Masini what photos she thought I should avoid putting on my profile at all cost.

"Avoid photos that are over-the-top," she said. "Sexy, flirty photos are great, but don't cross the line into too revealing." She also recommended staying away from posting too many photos with your pet, and said to stay away from posting pictures with your kids (in my case, not relevant), or your parents.

When it comes to conversation, ask people for advice

Now that my pictures were all sorted out, it was time to ask for help with the conversation prompts on my profile. I asked Masini what tips she had for keeping conversations going, or just starting them in the first place.

Her first suggestion: "Ask for advice ... People love to give advice, and when you ask for it, you're giving life to the dying conversation." Her next piece of advice was to "bring up something contemporary - in a question." My 2008 Ray J song response isn't exactly contemporary, so it was time to change that as well.

"Bringing up something new," she said, "by way of a question, is a great way to share your feelings about contemporary issues, hear [the other person's], and ask each other questions about your opinions on the issue."

There you have it, above are my two new questions. I changed one of my questions to ask for travel tips for my upcoming trip to Chicago, which you can see in an earlier screenshot - and I've already gotten responses about it. There's a lot to talk about between explaining why you're going, what kinds of things you're interested in seeing, etc.

And for the contemporary question: What's more contemporary than "Game of Thrones?" It's quite possibly the biggest thing going on in the world of entertainment right now, especially the recent 83-minute-long battle episode. Pop culture is important to me. Whoever I'm dating needs to be able to at least hold a conversation about it.

Overall, these two new conversation starters have already been better than my previous ones. My conversations are lasting longer than usual. I haven't met up with anyone yet - but I've actually made plans to, which is more than I can say for my past few months on Hinge, when the conversation died out almost immediately.

The results: it's been nothing but a positive change

In review: I switched out an outdated photo of me with my old, red hair, and two selfies that were run-of-the-mill, and, in the name of transparency, added two full-body shots. I also added a photo that showcases my personality more, and actually has my current hair color, and I've asked potential swipers more contemporary, engaging questions. And it's been nothing but a positive change.

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