Online dating is a lot like selecting a flavor of ice cream—there are lots of choices, but one isn’t necessarily as good as the next.
Imagine that you’ve walked into an ice cream shop that boasts a hundred flavors. The endless possibilities can be quite exciting at first. There are the old classics, like chocolate chip cookie dough and strawberry! But then, wait—there’s piña colada ice cream and ice cream with pieces of chocolate-covered bacon! Suddenly your head is spinning because you can’t make up your mind, and so you blurt out the next flavor that you see. That’s how you end up holding a cone of wasabi ice cream, unsure of whether your tears are due to disappointment or the corrosion of your tongue.
It’s great that in 2015 we have so many options of both potential dating partners and ice cream varieties. At the same time, it can be quite stressful to pick from the many choices. But unless you want two scoops of ice cream or are into polyamory, you’ll have to do just that.
The key to success in both ice cream purchasing and online dating is to have an idea of what you want in advance. Sweet or salty (in both ice cream and people) is a matter of preference, so before you plunge into the realm of online dating, take stock of your own preferences.
Project Evolove, a dating site that employs both Myers Briggs personality typing and an assessment of what it terms “dating instincts,” explains a common theory about which personality types are most compatible in dating. The gist of it is that Judgers should pair with Perceivers, Extraverts with Introverts, while Intuitives should stick with their own kind, as should Sensors. The Feeling/Thinking dimension is the one area in which mixing or matching is considered equally likely to result in success. Of course, these are not unbreakable rules, just some guidelines to get you thinking about what you are looking for.
Now, it can be tricky to glean a full four-letter pesonality type from an online profile, so for our purposes we’re only going to look at the four main temperaments—Idealists (NF), Rationals (NT), Guardians (SJ), and Artisans (SP)—and what sort of things to expect in their written profiles, as well as their pictures.
Idealists (NF) – These individuals might have careers in non-profits, counseling, teaching, writing, sociology, and other areas that allow them to employ their intuition, empathy, faith in humanity, and general cuddliness. Keep a look out for pictures of volunteer activities and a mention of the desire to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others.
Rationals (NT) – These thinkers often work in the sciences, engineering, medicine, or law—fields that allow for cool logic and don’t necessarily require a high degree of sensitivity (You’ve been warned). They are likely to have opinions, which they often enjoy defending to the death (I’m looking at you, ENTPs). Thus, mentions of philosophical or political theories and ideals often pop up in their profiles or in early conversations, as does their desire to discuss, analyze, debate, and sometimes even change their minds about the issues at hand.
Guardians (SJ) – Working in business, the military, analytics, or for the IRS, people of this temperament are often traditional and appreciate jobs where there is a clear power structure, especially if they end up on top. Words like “dependable” and “hard-working” are likely to pop up in their profiles, as well as indications of traditional values, such as a desire to be a wife/mother or husband/father.
Artisans (SP) – Despite the name, not all Artisans spend their days creating their own Sistine Chapels—although some certainly do—and people of this temperament can be found in medical assistant positions, in schools, in restaurants, and as contractors. Artisans tend to live in the present and be spontaneous, so pictures of their sky-diving excursions might appear, along with a passion for sports and other athletic pursuits.
In addition to the four dimensions of personality type, you might also want to consider the Big Five personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, and neuroticism. Admittedly, most people probably won’t be flaunting their neuroticism in their profiles (i.e., “I love taking long walks on the beach and then freaking out that I’m going to get a third-degree sunburn that will develop into an inoperable melanoma, resulting in my slow and agonizing death”). Agreeableness is another facet of personality that can be hard to accurately read from an online profile. If we were all as “chill” and “easy to get along with” as we claim to be online, then instead of wars we’d have dance-offs and rap battles to settle international conflicts. People tend to downplay their flaws online.
You’ll just have to wait until you’ve been on a few dates with the person to figure out their levels of neuroticism and agreeableness. After all, isn’t learning a person’s really irritating quirks the most fun part of dating?
For now, we’ll look at indicators of extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness.
Extraversion – Lots of pictures of the person in big groups or at loud and crowded places would be a clear indicator, as would describing oneself as a people-person. However, there are other more subtle clues as well. Does the person own a dog? According to one study, self-identified “dog people” are more extraverted than “cat people.” Pay attention to the person’s hobbies as well, as solo ventures such as painting, writing, bicycling, or Netflix-binging might indicate introversion.
Openness – The previously mentioned study also found that cat people often score higher on openness than dog people do, and they are likely to be more liberal politically, based on a survey performed by TIME. Other indicators of openness include a love of travel, a tendency to try new foods, and an expressed interest in learning about other people’s views and lifestyles. However, much like with agreeableness and neuroticism, people are more likely to showcase the positive side of openness and not publicly announce if they are actually close-minded bigots.
Conscientiousness – Spelling and grammar errors in a profile provide a huge flashing sign that indicates the person is not especially conscientious. Additionally, a highly conscientious person is more likely to talk about what he or she is looking for in a partner in their profile, rather than just about his or herself, as more conscientious people tend to put more thought into exactly what type of person would make an ideal significant other.
The final step before you go forth and find your one true love (or just the next person you’re going to go get sushi with) is to consider which dating site is the best fit for you. Project Evolove looks at personality types; OkCupid calculates percent compatibility and allows for an extensive profile; eHarmony purportedly offers the most intense compatibility screening of any mainstream site; Tinder believes that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Whatever style works best for you, you’ll find it, and in the process, hopefully leading you to find 'The One' or maybe even 'The Five.'—it is 2015 after all. I might be a Judger, but I’m not judging.