Is It “Cheating” to Get Help With Your Online Dating Profile? —Suze

Images-1 by Suze

I can’t believe it’s already Friday, and my chance to plague 11D’s readers with questions and random thoughts is nearly at an end.  Got to grab it while I can. Thanks to Laura for the opportunity to guest blog this week.

A few years ago, Laura, among others, persuaded me to take up online dating. My secret theory is that she and my other married friends were feeling a deficit of comedy in their own lives and so decided to introduce it into mine. But I figured that I couldn’t do worse picking my own dates online than my friends had done in setting me up, so after some hesitation, I signed up.


I have some amusing stories but no outright disasters, and I met a lot of terrific guys I would never have known otherwise. One of them I’m still seeing.  Others have become friends.  Even the duds were entertaining in their own way.

In the time I was doing a lot of dating, I was frustrated by the sameness of most of the profiles, and frequently horrified by the mistakes: spelling, grammar, and just plain bad ideas (don’t volunteer that your ex-wife is a ho; don’t use a picture of you standing in front of your red convertible—it makes you look anxious about other possible shortcomings).  I was assured by my dates that the women’s profiles were equally bad, and a little research bore this out.  A lot of lovely, attractive, smart, solid people have no idea how to present themselves online. 

Then a former boyfriend (whom I met online) forwarded my profile to his female friends and advised them to make their profiles more like mine. My sister begged me to write hers for her. Another date asked if his sister could call me so that I could give her some safety tips; he was worried she wasn’t careful enough. I began to think that there’s a business here.

When I’ve floated the idea of a profile editing/writing service to some friends, a few have said, “That’s cheating!” (others think it’s a goldmine).  But you’d never send out a resume without having someone proof it, right?  And many people have their resumes written entirely by professional services.  A dating profile is essentially a personal resume, so why wouldn’t you get help, especially if writing and marketing are outside your expertise? 

I have twenty years’ experience as an editor, and in the course of that work I’ve done a lot of writing and marketing as well. I just finished a Master’s in English/Education (just in time for the hiring freeze in NYC schools).  And I have my own online dating experiences as well as a fair bit of research to rely on.

So what do y’all think?  Is it disingenuous to get help presenting yourself to advantage in your dating profile?   Do you know people who might use such a service? (There are already several operating, run mostly by dating coaches rather than by wordsmiths.) I’d love to hear ideas about what might make a business surrounding online dating a success (keep it clean!). And if anybody has the winning name for the business (including domain name), there’s a Tootsie Pop in it for you.

25 thoughts on “Is It “Cheating” to Get Help With Your Online Dating Profile? —Suze

  1. I would use it if it were cheap.
    As long as you’re not lying I think it would be OK. You’re just figuring out how to present yourself in the best light as opposed to misrepresenting yourself.

  2. “So what do y’all think? Is it disingenuous to get help presenting yourself to advantage in your dating profile?”
    I think it’s actually a service to everybody to bring out what is truly unusual and worthwhile about each individual. As I’ve heard and seen many times, the problem with personals ads is the cliches: as comfortable in jeans as in an evening gown, love walks on the beach, great sense of humor, etc. The cliches veil people’s real individuality and do a disservice to the people who are actually interested in the activities they mention. The classic example of this was my guy friend who loves ballet and other high culture stuff. He mentioned this in his profile, only to be electronically approached by a woman who said she LOVED ballet, only to eventually reveal that her only exposure had been elementary school and she didn’t know the names of any ballets. He took a different woman (who had said she LOVEd plays) to a Shakespeare performance. “Well, that was different,” she said afterwards.
    Anyway, I think what a pro should do is go for a higher level of specificity and detail (rather than “I love movies and books”) and coach the single to demand a higher level of specifity. If my friend had asked that second date what the last play she had seen was, he could have saved himself a bundle, saved his date three hours of tedium, and perhaps given real pleasure to a more deserving object.

  3. “Anyway, I think what a pro should do is go for a higher level of specificity and detail.”
    So that they explain just exactly what was wrong with their ex-wife instead of just ‘ho’.

  4. “I’m looking for a woman who understands just how wonderful I am. Unlike my ex-wife, all of the other women I’ve dated, my parole officer, and the ones in my anger management class.”

  5. MH, you have a rare talent. If I need to subcontract some writing, I’ll let you know.
    I think AmyP gets it right that the lack of specificity and reliance on cliches lead to a lot of bad dates because you really have no idea of who you are approaching. My goal would be to get daters to reveal enough of themselves to intrigue a good match. A good match is someone who is interested in the real you.
    I don’t get the lying thing, though it seems to be rampant online. Unlike with blogs and other purely online activities, the online dater is going to ultimately meet the receiver of the lies. She’ll notice that you are only 5 foot 4; he’s going to guess you aren’t 29. How is a relationship that starts off with a lie going to evolve?
    Someone who would write that his ex is a ho undoubtedly needs more than a profile makeover, but some people really are clueless about appropriate social behavior. A little coaching in the right direction can sometimes help a great deal.

  6. Well, I’d say the best argument is that it doesn’t actually matter, right? Presumably you’d find out pretty quickly if a person didn’t match their profile. It’s not like college admissions, where you’ve basically admitted someone on the basis of their work. You can always decide never to have the second date.
    [And, I had to forward this to Laura: August 6, 2009, 2:20 pm, NY Times “Well” column,
    The Pain of Being a Redhead
    By Tara Parker-Pope]

  7. Well, the nice thing about running a personal ad consulting service is that you’re almost certain to run into the love of your life through some wacky coincidence, right? If romantic comedies are to be believed.
    It sounds like an entertaining racket to get into. Except you might end up with ethics issues: what if one of your clients wants to lie?

  8. This is a great idea, as long as the polished profile still reflects the person it’s representing. The analogy to a resume is a good one.

  9. I too dated online. One particular site yielded really nice men in NYC, though none were a love connection they were all super interesting. My travails in Providence however were amusing–a gardener who smoked pot daily and a gentleman who didn’t understand what it meant to be a libertarian. Neither of the latter men were attractive–sorry, I don’t smoke pot and well, I tried subtly tell you what a libertarian was, but you are simply not a good listener.
    More recently a friend asked me help write her profile. I willingly agreed to help. Everyone should have a chance at love. Otherwise, it’s the poor guy from Pittsburgh (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/us/05shoot.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=pittsburgh&st=cse), which is truly heartbreaking.

  10. If that guy did find love, he probably would have shot her instead of three strangers. I suppose that’s an improvement.

  11. I met my wife through online dating (eHarmony.) I don’t think that it is cheating to have a little help with the profile portion.
    I think it might be unethical to add content that wasn’t there, sort of like the whole Rilke poem thing in “Kissing Jessica Stein.”

  12. I’m not sure that being lovelorn was the shooter’s chief problem. But yes, everyone deserves the best chance at finding someone special.
    I’ve thought, though, of the ethical dilemmas that might arise. As Marya points out, some clients might expect me to help them lie. I could not do that ethically, but there would be nothing to prevent a client from posting whatever he or she wished in the final profile. Also, I’ll likely know only what he or she chooses to share. My bigger concern is if I encountered someone I was truly worried about. Think of the Craigslist killer. Yikes.

  13. Thanks to everyone here for their thoughtful comments. When I launch, I’ll likely ask Laura to mention it, and she probably will ’cause she’s generous that way.
    I envision a blogging/community aspect to the site, a forum for discussion about navigating love relationships as well as about dating, and would love to have the lively 11D crowd weigh in.

  14. Nah, not really. As long as you represent you, and not fabricating a profile. Many free sites like pof.com and promatching.com give members free access to the members profile developing and contacting others. People can take advantage when they know they don’t have to pay. Fibbed profiles are easy to create. I think dating sites should be made paid, so that members are not just playing around with other members, but are seriously looking for a soulmate. My 0.02 cents.

  15. How is it cheating?? It’s marketing, and the brand is the human being… Brands do it: hire marketing agencies to build/establish their personality/image online. I mean that’s what I do for a living, so….
    Good idea. Do it.

  16. Great idea. But I think the ideal approach will often be similar to one used for college application essays rather than for resumes: You help people write their own profiles by (1) helping them come up with good profile material and (2) editing heavily.
    This way, people feel like their profiles are true to themselves and they are more comfortable asking for (and paying for) help.

  17. cool idea. setup an llc, put a site together, and get a contract to be filled out by your clients. Keep the cost cheap and dudes will be all over it.

  18. Thanks Theo. i hate having to pay monthly fees and getting bugged when i don’t and the free sites kind of scare me. this sounds like a good alternative to both. i will check it out.

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