Among my considerable talents such as stone-skipping, liar’s dice, and kitten-rearing, I drew some attention from single friends of mine a few years back by being an exceptional online dating profile writer. Several of my female friends would send me their profiles for me to proofread and improve upon. One even asked me to create hers from scratch. I crafted an excellent one for her, posted it, and within 24 hours she was getting significantly more attention. Of course, the way that I crafted it painted a picture of someone who was more like me than like her. After one or two dates with bizarre and quirky gentlemen, she scrapped it and wrote her own.
The trick to a good dating profile is to make it stand out. Go to any dating site, and you’ll see page after page of time same cliches and styles. Here, I won’t even look:
I’m new around here and I’m looking to meet someone special. I’m in decent shape, and I like music, museums, and having fun! I’m totally comfortable hanging out at a bar, or staying in and watching a movie. I love good food and sharing it with someone great. I’m an interesting, caring, and genuine person. Hit me up soon!
Mine might look like:
I just moved to Philly where I’ll be working as Assistant Curator of Ancient Antiquities, in the newly created Myspace Wing at the Penn Archaeology Museum. Ok, that’s a lie, I have a crummy desk job, but I do occasionally get out an ultra-fine brush and excavate peoples’ myspace profiles. It’s like a time warp back to 2004. Everyone here so far has told me to pick a side in Pat’s vs. Geno’s, but I’d rather start a feud of my own. Maybe Abyssnia vs. Dahlak or Auntie Anne’s vs. the scary pretzel guy on the side of the road. If we got enough feuds together, we could have a tournament of the best places to eat. In that vein, I’m seeking someone with a white board and killer penmanship.
The problem with the former example is that it describes almost anyone. And to prove it, I give you the Not Test.
Take any online profile and turn every sentence into the negative. If the profile becomes meaningless or makes you look like a sociopath, then your profile isn’t really saying anything about you:
I’ve been around here for a while, and I’m not looking to meet anyone special. I’m in terrible shape, and I dislike music, museums, and having fun! I don’t like hanging out at a bar or staying in and watching a movie. I hate good food and never share it with someone great. I’m an uninteresting, uncaring, and disingenuous person. Hit me up soon!
See, nobody dislikes music. Or fun! By definition, you can’t dislike fun! Otherwise it wouldn’t be fun.
On the other profile I crafted, turning the sentences negative may produce bizarreness, but it doesn’t change the overall picture you get of the person who created it.
Now, I’m happily in a relationship, but this idea of the Not Test came up last night in a completely different context. I was considering who I market my music to, and was tasked with coming up with a list. There were some good ones like:
- Listeners who like to hear the lyrics of songs
- Listeners who like the accordion
But I also found myself listing:
- Listeners who like live music
- Listeners who like interesting music
I realized that these types of statements don’t really say anything about these people. It should be no surprise that they also fail the Not Test. Very few musicians target listeners who dislike live music or boring music. If I’m going to list out who I want to reach, I need to find specific and meaningful descriptors; things that set me apart from other performers. I need to play on my strengths and find people who are interested in what may be a niche market.
When we try to define what it is we do in any context, whether it’s for a resume, web bio, or grant proposal, we need to find ways to show our meaningful impact and value so we can stand apart from the crowd. Be specific. Find and use your own unique voice. Don’t be afraid to push some of the boundaries of what is expected of you and how you and others define you. You’ll find that your standing out usually attracts more people than it repels. Particularly, it attracts the kind of person who is interested in hearing what you have to say. That in turn opens up new opportunities to strengthen or clarify what it is you have to offer and adds further uniqueness to your offerings.
Otherwise you’re just the person who likes to have fun.